Friday, 30 July 2010

filed under the category of yuck

Welcome home...
When we came home from two days away there was a smell.
I was sure there was a smell.
The smell of rotten food.
Just that it was in the conservatory, where we don't normally consume food.
I looked, and couldn't find it.
I thought I was imagining things or that it was coming from the plant pots.
Still, I continued the search after bedtime.
And found the culprit (and remembered how it got there - I blame my 11 month old niece of course, who had played with it and left it just there, rather than taking it to the bin, as 11 month olds are meant to do)
Mental note: don't forget about gummed clementines.
Reassuring that I can still trust my sense of smell.
Sorry I couldn't help but share this with you, but at least I didn't use it for the Gallery theme of "nature", did I now?

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The dancer

Tuesday was wedding day. A midweek wedding in a beautiful Scottish location, only half an hour away from Glasgow. It wasn't Cubling's first wedding, but  the first time she had to contemplate what a wedding was. She was clear that she wanted to get married to, preferably to mummy, which we explained wasn't possible on a number of counts. Nevermind, there would be cake and a dance.

Most importantly for the dance, I'd manage to finish my first independent sewing project ever. Independent in the sense of not having a sewing tutor to answer questions. A project worked from a pattern all by myself. It took me a good while - not because the pattern was particularly difficult (it wasn't basic either though) but because sewing is still new to me and it's like deciphering a new language. Above all I wanted to make sure not to mess up and end up without a special dress for my special girl. Admittedly, there's a bit of transfer going on, it's not easy looking glamourous at 8 months pregnant when the dress you wanted to wear no longer fits. The least I could do is to have a pretty dress for my daughter.

Amanda at Kitschy Coo designed the dress and wrote up the pattern which (and I'm living proof) is fool proof. Lots of steps and images that give you a fair idea of what to do, but also the satisfaction of completed steps and opportunities to spread over a good few evenings. I'm sure I could sew it in 2-3 evenings now, but it took me a good bit longer. The fabric also came from her in her latest sale, and I absolutely adore the fabric for both sides of this reversible party frock. The colours may not go together perfectly (which isn't a problem as you can[t see the relevant other dress), but Cubling was quite an eye catcher for turning up in a second dress for the ceilidh. I left out the optional sash due to lack of time and actually quite liking the dress as is. It's a size 4 years, and there is still plenty of room and wear to be had out of it.

When I asked her today what she liked best about the wedding, it was the dance. And she particularly liked dancing in her extra special dancing dress.
Behold the dancer:

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A Force of Nature

There is no way I can miss this week's Gallery theme and yet having been away for a couple of days there I'm somewhat limited as to which picture(s) to choose.

Limited because to me the greatest force of nature is my daughter. Her intensity, and the way she interacts with nature, is what fascinates me. However, to protect her, my policy is not to show her face, a face that tells the story of her interaction with nature, which is the theme that I often explore when taking photos of her. So part of the story is missing, but part of it is told, and maybe sometimes leaving a bit to the imagination is not a bad thing and can sparkle the imagination.

There are many more photos of her running about, hiding in trees, climbing trees, balancing on fallen trees. She enjoys looking for rockpools and finding crabs, and generally exploring the seaside. She loves running through grass, planting, watering and harvesting. When she's outside, her character is balanced, her energy doesn't need to be channelled, she is in tune. It is a time for me to relax with her, and enjoy - rather than the two extremes we get indoors, between boundless energy and noise, or hours of down time in mummy's arms. When in nature, she is independent, confident and looks older than her age. When in nature she is whole.

So here is Cubling throughout the seasons, exploring, getting to know, getting to love nature:




Sunday, 25 July 2010

Outdoor Monday

There's been a lot of rain recently in Scotland. And I mean a.lot.of.rain. For two weeks, I didn't manage to do anything in my meagre garden, other than watching the plants grow and wondering if all that rain is responsible for the lack of bloom. Don't get me wrong, it's nice and green, but my harvest will be meek. My tatties aren't flowering and should really be ready to turn. My courgettes and pumpkins are pathetic, the strawberries haven't turned red. Thankfully there is a plentiful supply of lettuce and general greenery.

On Wednesday the gates of heaven opened particularly badly, with thunderstorm inclusive, and when I mentioned that I felt a tad sorry for Cubling for being outside all day today (she was at the forest kindergarten), the eyes of a colleague almost popped out in disbelief. I think I just about averted a report to social services... Cubling however loved the rain so much she refused to wear her waterproofs when I picked her up. It's true. There's nothing better than muddy puddles and mudpies if you're three. She'll be dancing with wolves next.

So the first signs of a dry spell were rather welcome. By me. Thanks to the Glasgow sling meet, we discovered the Children's Garden at the Botanics. As a true southsider, this fabulous oasis for children in the West End had so far entirely bypassed me. I really don't know how, but it has. It's a wonderful area of raised beds, orchards, herbs, vegetables and soft fruit garden with large picnic areas and a playhouse to explore. It's enclosed and very safe to just let your toddler explore without close supervision. Next to it is a swing park, closeby the kibble palace ("the jungle" according to Cubling) which is now finally in full growth again, as well as an additional glasshouse. I knew those, and also the wonderful walks along the beautiful river Kelvin, the big surprise for me was the children's garden. Cubling smelled herbs, collected apples that had fallen down and admired recently harvested potatoes.

Next up we went north east and explored her cousins' garden for the rest of the day. Finally, she was able to pick berries (something we'd planned to do on East Yonderton farm for a month now, and never managed to do due to the atrocious weather). Even for a child who doesn't eat fruit (much to my dismay), picking it is a delight. Shoes and socks were off in no time, Cubling likes to walk barefoot on the grass. Unlike my garden, this one has flowering sunflowers, pumpkin flowers, a variety of berries, vegetables and flowers. There is more sun further east (that's my consolation) and even if our own little patch can never be so full of delights, this garden is a great inspiration to do a bit better every year. Fruit picking to me is so satisfying, eating it straight from the bush, the feel, colour of it, the sense of collecting your own food, the way nature gives for free. More than that, it's childhood memories of my parents' rented garden, where we had strawberries, raspberries, and currants. Picking, jam making, eating. The treat of the jam making foam on a slice of bread, tastier than anything there is.

This post is part of Outdoor Monday, hosted by 5 Orange Potatoes, to celebrate and encourage all kinds of outdoor activities with children.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

And the winner is...

Oh yes I'm late announcing the winner of the A Hat in Time competition. Apologies all around. If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed that I did announce the winner about a week ago. Part of the delay was my fault, for life getting a bit too busy and simply forgetting when I had plan to draw the lucky winner. Then the winner was on holiday and lastly I tweeted about it and it took me a bit longer to post it here too. I tried this random generator thingy for the draw and despaired, my lovely colleague L thankfully volunteered to use the traditional way of drawing a name from a hat.
Which is rather fitting, don't you think?
Even if it wasn't a knitted hat. Darn, should have thought of that one!

So, the lucky winner is tamtata taaa!  Laura P. !!!!
If you're disappointed that your name wasn't drawn, you can of course still get your very own copy. A Hat in Time: 37 hats to knit and crochet is sold as a print copy (£7.50 plus postage), or an ebook (£5 on Lulu and $10 on Ravelry) and you can buy securely through the links on Remember all profits (that is every single penny) go to Save the Children towards their work in the UK, so you're not just getting a nice book!

You can also support the project by tweeting about the book, liking the facebook page and generally telling you friends about it. Did I say the book makes a lovely present for any knitters and crocheters you know?

Laura, congratulations and I hope you like the book!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Pelvic Girdle Pain in Pregnancy

Pelvic Girdle pain in all its forms, including SPD (sympysis pubis disfunction), is a curse. So many women suffer from it in pregnancy and it can be anything from annoying to extremely debilitating. I suffered from it when pregnant with Cubling, increasingly so, until I regularly missed my train home from work because I didn't manage to make the front train from the time the platform got announced (insert lots of cursing of the Scottish passenger rail system) to its departure.

My mistake then was that initially the pain was bearable and intermittent, and when it became debilitating and unbearable, I was so close to my due date that I couldn't be bothered asking for a referral to the physio. I really should have acted upon the first signs, simply because it often gets worse, and for some unfortunate ones, the pain will continue after giving birth (it didn't for me thankfully). As I went overdue, all I did was sit at home on a birth ball, feeling rather sorry for myself but also guilty for not managing to keep fit. The consideration of a home birth went out of the window because I knew if I had to be transferred, there was no way I could get down those 3 flights of old tenenment builiding stairs with that pain and labour on top.

This time, upon the first signs of any pain, I took action. Confusingly though, the type of pain I experienced was very different - what been pubic bone pain in pregnancy no. 1, one that is easily diagnosed, had become hip pain shooting into my legs this time around. Initially I thought I'd pulled a muscle by stupidly lifiting an 80 l bag of compost. When there was no improvement after a week, I self-referred to the antenatal physiotherapist, prepared to also dish out on an osteopath if needed. Whiile self-referral is a great thing, it still depends on your hospital when you get seen to. For me that meant waiting for one week to get called back, and then another two weeks for my first appointment. I was not pleased.

However, it was more than worth it and I can only recommend to anyone experiencing any pelvic girdle pain to seek treatment at the first signs. I was resigned to being in pain for the rest of my pregnancy, and that the pain would increase. It was a dire prospect, what with the pain starting at 26 weeks, and not being able to walk much more than 200 yards on a good day. Look at me now though: I'm 34 weeks pregnant and as good as pain free. I can walk for miles. I can run after Cubling again and don't depend on her willingness to stop when I say so (which she doesn't - this girl never stops, it's not in her nature). I can pick up things from the floor again, don't get annoyed about having to get up from a seat to get Cubling the milk she refused jsut a second ago because it it hurts so fricking much. Ok, I also have no excuse anymore that I can't do the dreaded household chores and pile them all onto Mr Cartside, ah well.

3 appointments, some gentle realignment and an unsightly but very effective support band later, I feel like a new woman. For the first time in this pregnancy, I feel good. Yes, I'm tired; yes I still have one head cold/chest infection chasing the next, yes; I have a definite lack of appetite but that's fine. I can walk and move and generally have fun with Cubling, do gardening, go for walks, do yoga, and simply feel more human again. Because, somehow, the thing that really got me into the lowest of moods was the constant struggle to keep that pain at a minimum, and the restriction on my life this entailed.

And that support band - it rocks. It may not be pretty (you can't see it though), but I feel light as a feather. See me skip through the rain?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Fair weekend

It's been Glasgow Fair weekend, so we've been rather busy doing family stuff. Thanks to Southside Happenings' weekly what's on at the weekend guide, we actually manage not to miss half of the excitement close to us. It's as if social media & co is finally making very local sense, things are happening and it's easy for us to find out when they are happening and what's good for a family event.

So on Saturday we made our way to the Science Centre which had a fair special on - that was 2 for 1 entry (definitely useful considering the hefty entry of £10 for adults and £8 for kids) and a good few outside events as well. The Science Centre is a fab museum, with more stuff to try out for the whole family than you can manage in a day, plus an Imax and a trip to the Glasgow Tower if you feel like it. The Science Mall (and once again, we only managed one out of three floors) is so very hands on and just fun, with special shows too (which we didn't even take advantage of), and there's even a new play area of a different kind for the younger kids. Of course, the older your children the more they'll get out of the science bits, but to be fair, even a three year old will have plenty of buttons to press and Cubling loved the echo tube (it was hard getting her out of it in fact) and convex/concave mirrors ("mummy, you look funny!!!), and she's still talking about the humunculus - a sculpture that emphasises by size the parts of the human body that send the most senses to the brain (Cubling was to be found on top of it as it was the perfect climbing size). The kids were loving it - both toddlers and babies, and the big people they brought. It's not a cheap day out, so we were more than thankful for the special deal.

Outside next to the Clyde, because of the fair weekend, there were fairground rides, a bird of prey display and most interestingly, a marquee with the people behind Galgael Kindship, an organisation which I'd heard of vaguely before, without knowing exactly what they were about. I was drawn into the tent because of the woodcarving items displayed at the front - one of my ambitions is to learn how to work with wood and I'm always rather drawn to any stall that shows woodturning or woodcarving. More than that, there were traditional longboats, lobster creels, and at the back to my utter delight, a wool display. Now, when I say wool display, this is an understatement. The display included everything from strands of wool of a variety of sheep to spinning wheels, felting and weaving displays. Basically the whole range of things you can do with wool. Unsurprisingly, I was in my element, but what was even better was the opportunity of showing Cubling every step from sheep to knitting/woven rugs/felted decorations. And better even, there was another German woman explaining it all in German to her. Galgael has a Sail and Oar event planned 14-15th August on the Isle of Cumbrae, which will celebrate maritime crafts and culture from the Celtic language regions.

Of course we were intrigued to find out a bit more about Galgael. They are all about connecting tradition and present, the urban and the rural, and create employment around ships in the former shipbuilding community of Govan. It all sounds beautiful, if a bit abstract, but it appears that the organisation has managed to develop skills and services that provide employment in Govan, or at least offer a creative and social setting for traditional skills and crafts. There are plenty of events happening too and I look forward to following both the main and the woolcraft blog. In fact, Galgael also may link in with a small idea I have, which is quite exciting.

The following day we visited the Big Lunch in the Battlefield area of Glasgow. The idea of the big lunch is to simply get together with your neighbours for a lunch. It can be as small or as big as you like; and the one in Battlefield was definitely a bit on the bigger side. Local businesses donated things, local residents brought food (or if they didn't, made a donation); there was free arts and crafts for children, face painting, hand massage, henna painting, local residents with musical talent getting up on a stage powered by solar panels and wind power, all amidst the Battlefield Community Garden site. Cubling went ever so slightly mad on the bouncy castle, delighted in the henna painting (even keeping her hand up for the better half of an hour to make sure it wouldn't smudge), and sat down to listen to the music being performed, while I had far too much chocolate cake. It even stayed dry for almost all of it, which is quite an achievement considering the weather we've been having recently. A fab idea and hopefully one that will spread. The website for the Big Lunch makes it really easy to organise one near you - so if you like the idea, make a note for next year and make it happen in your street!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

All planted up

A little while ago, I blogged about one of the projects that I'm involved in and promised an update. It's high time for it, especially because it was all rather mad and exciting. A group of 12 primary school pupils were on a mission to "replace litter and graffiti with flowers to make our community beautiful and tidy". We had just 4 weeks to make it all happen, and when I say 4 weeks, that translated to 90 minutes per week.

There were a lot of challenges, and even more fun. We went to a local garden centre during school time so that the children could choose what type of plants they wanted. They went there thinking flowers, then saw, touched, smelled herbs and got excited about fruit trees. So the plan was put together to plant a herb garden, a fruit orchard, and three raised beds with a mix of flowers and vegetables.

We also needed raised beds for defnition of planting areas and because the school grounds had very poor soil. These came from Glasgow Wood Recycling, a fab charity that makes reclaimed wood into all sorts of beautiful items (if you're ever in Glasgow, make sure to visit their shop, the Dear Green Place, for heaps of inspiration), who also provided us with compost, wooden bird houses and a massive (empty) whisky barrel.

Starling Learning, a charity providing nature and horticultural training to schools, helped us out with some gardening knowledge so we didn't mess things up. They also handily brought a van with all the tools needed, bought the plans from our shopping list and provided much needed encouragement during the early planting hours.

So here are some of the plants as they saw their new home for the first time:

Then the big challenge started. The school is a newly built school, on the outskirts of Glasgow, at the edge of a housing scheme. The views of the adjacent open land are lovely, the views of the scheme not so. The children are very proud of their new school, however, the decent sized school grounds are not ideal for planting a fruit orchard. We knew this but decided to tackle it anyway. So, the soil the grassy play area was about one inch thick, which was about the depth of the grass roots. Underneath: rubble. Building rubble, glass, unidentifiable stuff. It was backbreaking work to dig holes big enough to accommodate a fruit tree, and the rain didn't help. We ploughed on, with different tools, scraping away until finally, the first of 12 trees went in accompanied by big cheers:

Eventually, all six fruit trees found their spaces, and another 6 soft fruit trees too. We'd been warned that the land services lawn mowers are not interested in fruit trees, so to protect our plants, we fenced them in. Hopefully that will also protect them a little bit against ball play - the grass area is a play area and we were keen to keep it so, while still having a fruit orchard alongside the rather ugly fence.

Once the hard work digging holes into impossibly hard ground was done, the fun of filling the raised beds was just around the corner. The children decided on the best location for the raised beds - they should be visible to pupils, nursery children and visitors alike, and add some colour to the monoblock front of the school. There were many helping hands: the 12 children from the group who came up with the whole idea, support from P6 and the schools Eco Group, as well as some children from the 3-5 year room of the nursery which is also housed in the building. In no time at all the beds were filled and planted:

This was to become the herb garden:

More plants were carried to the raised beds:

And decisions were made where plants would look best:

The children, many of whom had never done any gardening before, got really into it. There was no stopping them. They learned about repotting, plant care, preparing soil, how to fill a raised bed. We discussed best location for bird houses for the next season, and made a plan for maintenance of the raised beds and fruit orchard. They also got right into the design for their raised beds, considering which plants should go where and what would look best. Even the more reluctant group members who were initially a bit worried about getting their hands wet and dirty didn't take long to get into the satisfaction that digging in soil and creating an oasis of beauty brings. The amazing experience was that children ranging from being autistic to hyperactive to extremely quiet all joined in and worked together with one end result in mind: to make their school look nicer and to leave a legacy for generations of children to come.

At 2pm on 24th of June, it was all done. "I never thought we could have done all of this in less than a day!" said one of the children, and the consensus was that it was just "great fun".

And what's more, the whole project initiated a thought process for children, school and us as to how school grounds can become outdoor learning spaces which enhance the school curriculum and how this can be considered right from the planning stages for a new school building or one that is to be improved. Wouldn't it be great if every school could benefit from a bit more biodiversity, green spaces and outdoor learning opportunities literally at their doorstep: the school grounds?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Nursing pillow - ticked

This post is a sponsored post.
My bump looks like I'm about to give birth. Yes, I still have 7 weeks to go, or going by my experience last time, maybe 9. That's a scary thought, because already I'm carrying Loch Lomond in my feet and can't imagine my bump can grow any further.

Still I'm kind of living in denial and haven't made any preparations. No equipment, no nothing. I don't even manage to put a list together of stuff that we need.

I've also been asked what I would like for the baby as a present. I really appreciate that question because I much prefer sharing my preference than receiving something that we don't really need and which won't get used. But I can't for the life of me think of anything. Ok, I'm looking for a baby carrier (the one I have in mind is too expensive to be on a wish list) and size 1 shaped cloth nappies (again, a set is on the expensive side and my favourite brand now makes them birth to potty size, which is good in theory but rather rubbish if you already have size 2). Bouncy chair and moses basket will be borrowed because they may or may not work with baby and I'm not going to spend money on something that is not used, while I'm happy to buy the alternatives of the co-sleeper (already bought) and electric swing (they always pop about second hand and I'm far too frugal to buy it new). Sterilizer might be useful for just in case situations, but not essential as hob and pot would do. That's as much as I can think of. Clothes, blankets are ticked, and I simply can't think of anything else.

A nursing pillow was still on my wish list - I was given one which is ok, however,  I'm looking for a very specific style, the (borrowed) one which I used last time for at least a year, so it was definitely getting good use. So when I received an invitation to review Boppy, a nursing pillow which looked very much the part and is also rather pretty, I jumped at the opportunity. From the website it looked like just the nursing pillow that I'm looking for, the type that really makes breast feeding easy on your back and comfy for both mum and baby. Today it came through the post in a lovely bag which was a hit with Cubling.

I had to giggle a bit because I'm probably the worst person ever to test this nursing pillow because I have a rather big bump in the way... So I gave it to hubby and tried it on myself over the bump to much general amusement. The great thing about this nursing pillow is that it's very firm. I like that. It's the type where you can lay baby on and it's well supported while nursing. It'll also be great as a sitting aid once baby can sit but not yet unaided.

It offers very pretty fabric covers which are washable, which makes them hygienic. The one I got sent is a bit pink for my liking (especially should this baby be a boy) but nevermind, it's pretty and Cubling will love it. There are lots of other covers which are not so pink, so you'll be spoilt for choice.

The one criticism I would have is that it's a bit on the small side, especially around the sides. It'll be great for nursing a baby in cradle position, but not so good for side nursing - there doesn't seem to be enough space to place baby securely. It may work in the first few weeks but I doubt that I could do that nursing position with a baby older than 3 months with this pillow. Which may be all you need, and you could always use another pillow/cushion at the side if needed (or even extend the space with an armrest).  Similarly, the general size of it is a bit on the small side - I'm not a small person and can see that especially in the first weeks when I'll still have some bump and extra kilos left, it'll be a bit small on me. It does stretch though and it will do, just that it could be a bit bigger for slightly bigger women (and definitely for women who are more than slightly bigger).

So on the whole I'm pretty happy with it, the firmness of it is the greatest asset as it won't slip on your waist, and does lift baby significantly when seated. It's so firm that it could almost work as a babycarrier (although I wouldn't recommend doing that), so if that's what you like, Boppy is just the right nursing pillow for you, provided you're not a size 16 or above (that's an estimate).

To tell people about the nursing pillow, they've designed a little game, Mom's Revenge, which you can play if you fancy it - it offers some playful and useful advice and myth-busting on breast feeding and how to make your mother in law and your other half do the slave labour be a supportive family member.

Wanna play? See if you can beat my high score!

Requires Flash Player

Monday, 12 July 2010

Let Florence and Precious stay!

It is rare that an asylum "case" has struck a chord with so many people. The case of Florence and her 10 year old daughter Precious Mhango has, and yet in spite of this, as ever, it's the asylum system that will have the last say, and today is a very critical day. Both the Lord Provost of Glasgow and the Scottish First Minister have taken the unprecedented step to interfere for the family to stay in Glasgow. So, if the Lord Provost, the Scottish Government and the Scottish people want them to stay, WTF does it look that they will be detained pending forcible deportation today?

A little bit of background: Florence and Precious arrived in the UK from Malawi with Florence's husband 7 years ago, on his student visa. The marriage broke up due to domestic violence. Father now has permanent leave to remain in the UK, mum and daughter don't. Had they stayed in the abusive relationship, they would both now have leave to remain in the UK too. But they didn't. They left an abusive relationship and are now being punished for it. Yesterday, their deadline for voluntary return to Malawi ran out. They did not return, because a return would mean that Precious will be taken from her mother by her father's family. It would also mean that the girl who spent most of her life in Glasgow would be made to live in a country where she neither speaks the language or know anyone, separated from her mother, as children are the property of the father's family in Malawi. Another serious concern is that Precious will be very likely to be forced to undergo female genital mutilation.

Part of the problem is that the asylum system is based on an antiquated view of what constituted persecution. It simply doesn't work well for women who are fleeing persecution, while it works reasonably well for those whose civil and political rights have been infringed. So if you're a politician (usually male) being persecuted for your views, you have a decent chance of being granted asylum. As a woman fleeing from domestic abuse, it's a different story altogether.

Florence Mhango's asylum case has come to an end. There is no further legal recourse. Once again, the asylum system has proven to be injust and has failed two people. The last chance for Florence and Precious is that of the compassionate intervention of the Home Secretary Theresa May. It angers me that it has to come to this, the asylum system shouldn't have to rely on compassionate decisions or interference from local and national governments that have no authority in immigration matters, but if the system doesn't deliver, this is what it has to be.

If you have some time to spare, please write to Theresa May and David Cameron asking them to allow Florence and Precious Mhango to stay in the UK. There is some time left, not much, but enough.

You can read the letter Glasgow's Lord Provost Bob Winter wrote here, and some more press coverage by the BBC, the Herald and Scotsman.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


There is this myth that if you're pregnant, you can't expect a good night's sleep. It is not a myth I subscribe to because when I was pregnant with Cubling, I slept like a log. I slept surreal hours, an hour after work, and at least another 9 hours at night. I even slept during early labour.

Now I'm rather jealous of those times myself. Some of the reasons I don't get sleep:
-toddler dreams of pink dinosaurs at the end of the street
-toddler dreams of spencer bear running off or jumping out of the window
-toddler needing the toilet or pretending to need the toilet
-toddler walking the house because she's scared of her room, her bed, you name it
-toddler waking and walking the house every 20 minutes between my bedtime and 3am
-toddler waking up at 7am at weekends (though impossible to get to rise at the same time during the week)
-baby kicking/stretching incessantly when I lie on my side
-backache when I lie on my back to get a break from baby kicks
-some bird or another making constant noises that really don't pass for bird song
-coughing my lungs out

We've tried explaining to Cubling that she should stay in bed, unless she's scared or needs the toilet. So she now always needs the toilet and/or is scared when she gets up. And she's probably not even lying so I'm a bit at a loss as what to do about this.

It's all doable at the moment, though not ideal, but throw in a newborn in the equation and you'll see the sweat appear on my forehead.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A boy named Sue and a girl named Tiddler

Little M. is asking for post on how bilingual families choose their children's names. The big question is if and how does being a bilingual family influence your choice of names? I bet in most bilingual families the name choice question is somehow linked to the two (or more) cultures, and so it is in our home. We don't as such look for names that have to exist in both languages. But nonetheless, being a bilingual household has influenced our choice of name(s).

The situation is a bit compounded by my love for rather a lot of different cultures. So it's not just a British and German name book that I'd be looking at, no, I love the idea of picking a traditional Scottish name, Spanish name and Irish name. Ideally all in one. And it has to have some meaning that I like too. It has to sound nice and not be too average nor too unusual. Oh, and by the way, hubby has to like it too (which really complicates things as you can imagine ;-) ).

Mission impossible.

So, as for Cubling, I went into labour with a list of 9 names and picked one as I was rather drugged up but elated for having just about avoided the dreaded c-section and as I was holding Cubling in my arm for the first time. That's my excuse. But it's a good name (and we only realised how fitting it is for her later) and I've blogged about it before. It's a name that's easily pronounced in most languages I like, has meanings in many and almost exists in German (as an abbreviation of a longer name). Our choice for a baby girl name this time is already set (we had 9 names remember) and it's lovely because it actually exists in English, German and Spanish, has fab meanings, is easy to pronounce. The only drawback is spelling which differs between languages. And no, we haven't decided on spelling yet.

But oh to find a boy's name. We do have some contenders, but none of them ticks all the boxes. They are either odd in German or odd in English. My favourite names have been taken by friends. Not once, I wouldn't mind that, but 2-3 times each which is a bit much. There is a mutual exclusiveness between looking for an Irish name and having an easy pronunciation/spelling in German which doesn't stand the choice for any Irish name in good stead. Scottish names fare only mildly better. I have a few favourite German names that my beloved really doesn't like. So we're still looking - and I may just toss the principles into the air and go for the name we both like best.

Cubling has it sorted of course. She's telling everyone the baby's called Tiddler. Oh, and according to her, it's going to be a baby girl anyway. Sorted.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The excellence of learning outdoors

This past weekend, we've been indoors a lot. Not all the time, but more than usual. There was football, tennis, a trip to the hairdresser being tied to a chair, then Sunday spent watching her first full length film followed by a car trip to granny and grampa and staying indoors due to heavy showers and granny's current reduced mobility. Over the course of Sunday, Cubling slowly but surely showed us that she was still a spirited child, as she let go of the accumulated energy while shopping. I waasn't on my own, had I been on my own, we would have had to abandon the trip and survived on porridge for the rest of the week. It was that bad. Not badness in the sense of naughtiness, just unbound energy and inability to respond to request of appropriate shop behaviour. She tried, she wanted to cooperate, but she was in overdrive. The following night's sleep was disturbed, the following day ended in unconsolable whining as the tiredness took over and was not to be alleviated even by the best mummy cuddles.

Lesson learned, Cubling needs more opportunity to let go of her higher than average energy levels. Which she usually gets both at the forest kindergarten which she attends two days a week, and our usual weekend activities.

The Scottish Government is very supportive of outdoors education, supporting it firmly in its Curriculum for Excellence through Outdoor Learning and I hope that this will in the near future translate into giving Glasgow's first forest kindergarten the status of a partnership nursery. With this status, the statutory entitlement to early years education for 3 and 4 year olds can be claimed through hours delivered at the kindergarten, reducing cost for parents but also sending out a clear message that outdoors education meets the curriculum for early years. So far, the process has been delayed, not because of any issues with the provision at the forest kindergarten, but the uncertainty of imminent cuts and how that translates into Early Years Services.

If I look at how Cubling sees it all, so far she has no preference for either indoor or outdoor nursery. She likes both. The difference I can see is that she does not report pushing or hair pulling behaviour of other children from the outdoors nursery. She seems to get on better with the children there, but also choose her interaction much more freely, while indoors, she can't avoid to interact with the children she'd rather not play with. The difference may also indicate that in an outdoors environment, behaviour of all children is more balanced and that children in general get on better, because they can make more choice, have more space, are more in control of their space. Alison Hammerton, in a blog post on a visit to outdoor education centres in Norway, observes that:
"The children were clearly healthy and resilient, and there was no evidence of any conflicts between children. Staff allowed them a great deal of time to engage individually in the nature around them, with plenty of opportunity for imaginative and creative play, cooperation and communication, and for developing balance and motor skills."
It seems that one of the benefits of outdoor education is a reduction in conflict and the development of individual interests, which would match my impression of Cubling's feedback. 

In more general terms, outdoor education has many lasting benefits.
"Research indicates that the use of greenspace or 'green exercise' improves health. In particular, learning outdoors generally results in increased levels of physical activity. In addition, interacting with greenspace (walking, gardening, etc) improves emotional wellbeing and mental health."
Outdoor education thus makes for more active children, healthier children, happier children. This is the obvious impact, but more than that it offers an opportunity to engage with the natural world, and a very different environment from that at normal child care centres. In Cubling's case, her indoors nursery is particularly keen on its eco status - so all toys are wooden or of natural origin (baskets of shells, pinecones, and not a single plastic toy), craft activities are done with recycled materials, the outdoor space has plenty of raised beds. However, compare the play materials (aka toys) of a "normal" nursery with those in the outdoors: Colourful, plastic, blinking, beeping items on the one hand, leaves, twigs, mud, trees, bushes, grass, flowers on the other. Outdoors education gives an opportunity to make things that occur naturally into toys, to modify the use, be creative with what's there and thus develop imagination, creativity and resilience. Children manage the risks they take themselves, they make their own decisions if they want to climb that tree or slide down that muddy slope, while nothing in the indoor space has a potential for risk that has to be assessed.

These are qualities which are transferable all the way into adult life:
"Outdoor experiences motivate our children and young people to become successful learners and to develop as healthy, confident, enterprising and responsible citizens."
 So, the bottom line is that there should be more opportunities for outdoor learning in its many forms. Bring on farm kindergartens in rural areas, forest kindergartens whereever there is an appropriate space, green spaces near and far that can be used by nurseries and schools on a regular basis, gardening project and bringing nature into nurseries.

In fact, Cubling's indoor nursery isn't doing too badly at all, with two projects happening soon: a greenhouse to be built out of recycled 2l milk bottles and a seaside mural. And of course Cubling is already collecting empty milk bottles and shells.

Monday, 5 July 2010

All the good things you need to check out today

Tonight, at this rather late hour (thanks to a lovely surprise visit and a chatty evening spent chatting away, looking out to the garden and knitting away), here are some short and sweet suggestions for virtual visits and support:

- The Hadrian's walkers have started making their way, well, along the Hadrian's wall unsurprisingly. They are raising funds for the Joseph Salmon Trust to support parents who have lost a child. Please consider donating here and help them reach their ambitious target.

- This months Bilingual Carnival has been up for a few days, make your way over for a great and varied read from blogging parents who are raising their children bilingually (or more)

- If you, like me, are interested or exploring babywearing, make sure not to miss the Babywearing Carnival for all you ever wanted to know about wearing your baby.

Now, here's for the things I'd like to know:

- How far can feet swell up before they explode in a puff and leave behind lakes of water?

- Is Cubling testing my interrupted sleep ability in case I've forgotten what it was like, by waking and walking the house now not once, not twice, nay thrice a night? (Apparently she dreams her teddy bear is running away into our neighbours' houses and to a pink dinosaur at the end of our road and he's so far ahead of her that she can't catch him, or is afraid to do so because of the dinosaur)

- Am I mad to have spent what I did last Saturday on a yarn sale while clearly on an adrenalin rush?

- How come I'm coughing again?

- Can someone come up with the perfect baby boy name, because we're kinda stuck if this one is going to be a boy? (We're alright for a girl's name)

- Why doesn't anyone comment anymore? Is anyone reading, have I said something?

On this philosophical note I leave you and wish you a good night, and in anticipation of some sleep for myself for a change.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A Holiday

This week's prompt for the Gallery is that of holiday. It's a tricky one because it's not easy deciding which holiday story to share. There are lots of memorable holidays, our camping trip to Italy (I'm not one for camping but it was fun anyway), our amazing trip to Cuba, my bachelorette trips with lovely friends to Iceland, Mexico and the Pacific Northwest/BC. Then there was a honeymoon ever so slightly blighted by feeling rather pregnancy sick. And staying on that theme, the holiday I've decided to share today, which is our first proper family holiday, destination Lanzarote.

It's rather unusual because we didn't as such choose the location. Neither was it a place I would choose for myself. Sometimes, you need to go with the flow and that's what we did and how we got to Lanzarote. When I set my sails for countries north west, my parents were never particularly supportive. They were honest really, not having any connections to cold, windy places where English is spoken, and just never pretended they liked my infatuation with Ireland, England and finally Scotland. Of course they never stood in the way of me finding my path, but that doesn't mean they had to approve of all my adventures. So, they did not approve of my year as au-pair in Spain and Ireland. They did not approve of my choice of university study. They did not approve of my terms and years spent in Ireland and England. They did not approve of my post degree year in Ireland and subsequent job in Scotland. They did of course see the pattern - and as their only child it must have been very hard to see me slipping away to a different country ever more permanently. It's not been easy for me either, with no visit ever from my parents, one from my mum, and after her passing away (and I count myself lucky, if you can use that term in a situation like this, for her illness happening at a time where I could just take a break and be in Germany for a couple of months to be with her) only a few visits from my father, each one taking all the coercion I'm capable of.

My father does not like Scotland. Nothing personal, it's just too cold. People don't speak German. He doesn't speak English. He feels excluded, out of place, not right. He likes Spain, the sun, the heat, the sea. So while it takes me months of guilt tripping to get him to visit us for 4 short days, he happily spends 3 months a year in Lanzarote. I could be angry but I'm not, because those trips are recent and have given him something truly positive in his life. It is good that he has something he enjoys, that he has his own life, and I don't want to grudge him that.

Yet, I also want to see him, spend as much time with him as I can, and above all, I want Cubling and him to have a good relationship, want him to share in her growing up. As a result, we travel to Germany a lot, but it's not an ideal situation if the three of us (soon four) come down on his flat. So it's often just me and Cubling and I doubt that I'll be able to cope with travelling on my own with two kids any time soon. Our arrangement also means that we don't really get the typical family holiday, because most holidays are spent in Germany. Again, this is not a massive problem as I'm not particularly partial to the heat or beach holidays, so I'm quite happy to go on the occasional long weekend close by.

Still, it's nice to do something different for a change and that's why we decided to join my father in Lanzarote for one week - which became two weeks thanks to the snow decending on the UK and cancelled flights.

I was pregnancy sick (again), so didn't really get to enjoy it as much as I could, and to be fair, I really get rather bored with the limited options you have on a summer beach holiday. Beach, pool, restaurants, awful shops, walking up and down the resort - done in one day, repeat for 14 and I go ever so slightly mad.

What to do to keep sane? Watch your child. And I did a lot of that, because I felt so rough and couldn't join in the beach fun. I watched her dig holes with daddy, make sand pictures, sand castles, chase the waves, run wild, explore the water, go under for the first time, splash us all, get messy, fear the shower, fear the sea and explore the world with her 2 year old eyes. And I knew that my attitude was selfish. Months later, she still talked about her favourite home, the one beside the pool. This world of beach, sun and summer, in the middle of winter, was her big world, to be explored at her fingertips:

It was her favourite holiday so far. And that made the holiday a very special one.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Top tips for job applications

I've been doing some shortlisting for my own maternity cover. While I don't have decision making power and also won't be involved in the actual interviews, my opinion on who I would consider suitable is valued and that is good, because I know what my job involves and what a candidate should bring along.

I've done shortlisting before and every time it's the same picture. About half of the applications make you shake your head in amazement. So for the benefit of anyone applying for jobs in these times of apparent austerity, it would really help if you could consider the following basic recommendations, which every job centre, application training etc. will have banged on about before but which somehow have been forgotten even by intelligent and able people. Following these recommendations will mean you don't waste your own or the shortlister's time.

1. Read the person specifications and address at least the main points clearly in your supporting statement/covering letter.

2. As you do this, EVIDENCE why you have the skills and knowledge required. It is not enough to say "I'm a good communicator". I want to know when and how you have demonstrated this. Give examples.

3. It is not enough to write "I'm enthusiastic, motivated and willing to learn." This one liner won't get you a job. Really.

4. If a supporting statement is a requirement for an application, it would be useful to write one. Not writing one means your application won't be considered. At all. You could as well not bother applying.

5. If an application is by application form, complete the application form. A CV does not count as an application form. It doesn't. Really.

6. If a CV is requested to support your statement, please make sure it evidences your claims and relates to the job applied for. Especially if you're currently trying to change careers. I'm really not that interested in your PhD, your bar work or your PR expertise. Not because it's not fascinating, but because it doesn't qualify you for the job you're applying for. Especially not if this is all your CV is about and your previous experience shows no relation to the position applied for.

7. Read the job description and person specification and try to imagine what the job is actually about. Then make sure you explain how your skills and experiences match.

8. Do use a spell checker and re-read your application. I'm not hunting for spelling mistakes but you should be able to write an application without too many glaring mistakes - simply because the job involves writing reports, funding applications and other stuff where good written communication is needed.

9. Use the "return" key and punctuation. It hurts my head to read a paragraph which is a page long, or sentences that go on for the length of a paragraph. I may not read on if I just see a block of text (actually, I do, because I'm nice, but it annoys me big time and doesn't speak for written communication skills)

10. If you have relevant experience, do go into some degree of detail in your supporting statement. If you don't, it may get missed and you may be in the "no" pile when you should be in the "yes" pile.

11. Having babysat doesn't mean you can organise, design and run group work with young people. Similarly, being a parent or having younger siblings does not make you a youth worker.

You see, the point is that there are people who follow these recommendations and who are very good at demonstrating their very relevant experience. There are actually some fabulous people out there, and to stand a chance, YOU have to show CLEARLY that you are one of them. Just don't leave it to guess work because there's usually only a handful of candidates who will get interviewed. And you can only get the job if you get interviewed. Simple.

Good luck next time.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin