Sunday, 31 October 2010

Bilingual Carnival Time

While I'm a tad busy with life in general, why not check out this months bilingual carnival? It's over at Multilingual Living, a great blog/site that I've only discovered myself this month, and there are lots of fabulous contributions. So get a nice cuppa (or glass of wine), put your spooky masks on and enjoy!

Thursday, 28 October 2010


I can still remember one of my dad's favourite sayings, one which he must have coined when he himself turned 40 (I was 8 at the time) - "One should be shot at 40" (or, "mit 40 gehoert man erschossen"). It's his kind of humour, and what he meant was that it's all downhill from here. I don't feel like this at all, but there's no harm in looking back a bit, and maybe also in looking forward (I'll leave that for another post). What did I get up to in my first 40 years? Well, here are 40 things I've done or what has happened to me:

1. I've had two beautiful daughters (does that count as 2?)
2. I had a miscarriage
3. I ran a marathon
4. I got a PhD
5. I lived in Spain
6. I lived in Ireland (a few times)
7. I lived in England
8. I've lived in Scotland
9. But I grew up in Germany really
10. I travelled to Mexico, Iceland, Canada/ U.S. Pacific North West and Cuba
11. I travelled to many other places in Europe because I have a serious case of travellitis - there are only a few countries in Europe I haven't visited
12. I walked the fire (as in did a firewalk - over hot coals and all that, no not coals, it was wood really)
13. I climbed up the highest peak in the UK (Ben Nevis), been to the most north-western, south-western and the northernmost points of the UK
14. I was a teacher without being a teacher (i.e. I didn't have a teaching qualification at the time)
15. I'm a teacher but don't work as a teacher (now I have a couple of teaching qualification and don't use them)
16. As a child and teenager, I wanted to become a vet, then a photographer, then a journalist.
17. I worked as a free lance journalist when I was 17-21
18. I also worked as a cleaner in a hospital (which was hard work but also harrowing as I was assigned to the two stations where many people died)
19. I worked as a paper girl, shop assistant, checkout girl and tour guide
20. I used to do muay thai (Thai kickboxing) though never in a real fight (unlike hubby... and no, we didn't meet through kickboxing but much more sedately at a ceilidh!)
21. Previously, I worked as a bilingual secretary and legal secretary
22. I also taught German at a university and also for language schools and business customers
23. I'm really a teacher of English and Spanish though (just don't tell anyone)
24. I got married to my amazing and beloved Mr Cartside, who proposed to me on top of the Nebelhorn (and that was after I'd already given up all hope I'd ever meet Mr Right)
25. I was at my mother's death bed (although I lived in Scotland at the time) and still regret every day that she didn't live long enough to meet my children, her grandchildren she had so very much longed for.
26. My favourite subject at school - apart from languages - was chemistry
27. I got my only "6" ever in chemistry (a 6 is the worst possible mark in a school test/exam, as bad as handing in a blank sheet of paper. I had handed in 10 pages of hard work)
28. My least favourite subject at school was PE (I'm the girl who got picked last every single time - did I say I ran a marathon? Ha!), and the last to learn how to swim in my class.
29. I saw my niece being born
30. I lost one third of my body weight and went from obese to normal weight
31. I've lived at 4 different addresses since coming to Scotland, all within 2 miles of one another (I won't count all the addresses I lived at because I don't think I can)
32. My parents had an allotment when I was young and I had one a few years back here in Scotland
33. My mother taught me to knit and my father how to embroider and sew. My mum was a better teacher than my dad... (and I mean that in the kindest sense, my dad is an avid sewer but just not patient in passing his skills on)
34. I've met Bob Geldof (and was rather embarrassed by the experiences, though he was really quite friendly)
35. I taught a member of Westlife German. Not very successfully. That was before Westlife existed.
36. The first gig I went to (the first of maaany, there's nothing like live music) was Nik Kershaw. I still like his music. Well, sometimes.
37. I used to be mad about learning languages. I learned English, Spanish, French, Irish Gaelic, Latin, Dutch, Italian, Catalan, Russian (in the order of the rough level of proficiency I have now, although proficiency is definitely not the right word for most of them!!!)
38. I learned to play the recorder, the guitar and the tin whistle. I play none of them well.
39. I used to sing in a choir (alto) - the perfect way to sing when you're not a great singer
40. I've been to Auschwitz and it left a lasting impression on me, and made me join and be a founding member of a local group of Amnesty International at 17. And I'm still a member and a volunteer trainer/facilitator with AI, even though I'm a fair bit less active due to lack of time.

And now I'm off to unwrap presents, eat birthday cake, and of course party!

(and if anyone else has a birthday, please consider yourself tagged to come up with x number of facts about you, and tell me about it!)

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

all set: growing in winter

The cold season has most definitely arrived. Two nights of frost and markedly colder days have surprised me. Autumn is my favourite season, in a melancholic kind of way. What I love about autumn are the colours, the transformation and preparation for winter. There's so much to explore outdoors, and indoors the preparation for winter, getting the warm clothes out, making jam, the business of the various festivals ahead of us (doubled for our bicultural family). I look forward to doing things indoors, making the home cosy.

And yet, every year, I get surprised by the sudden arrival of the cold season. I feel so very cold, reluctant to go out, and wonder how I'm going to make it through the winter. Oh and that clock changing thing - it makes me really irritable. Then, things fall back into some sort of swing and the cold stops feeling so cold.

This year, I have a lot of plans for my garden, yet can't do much physical work. So what better than to plant some easy growing winter crops, namely garlic and onions? Garlic is so healthy for you, and easy to grow - just separate the cloves from any bulb that you buy and plant them in good soil where you weren't growing garlic recently. Thanks to Homemademummy, I now also have a batch of winter growing onion sets. One raised bed is already cleared and the other one will be this week after the frost destroyed the still growing pumpkins, and if I have spare onions, they'll go to my neighbour who also grows her own.

This is the beauty of growing your own, the generosity and spirit of sharing. A pumpkin to carve from my SIL's garden, tatties, carrots and tomatoes from my FIL's garden, onion sets from a blogger, a total stranger. Sharing seeds, sets, plants and crops really is something very special, it brings people together and it feels so good to give and receive, it's always a very special gift because effort and love has gone into it, and yet it also comes free, it's a gift from nature, which is therefore only to be passed on as a gift. A bit like knitting, where the value is the love and manual labour, which you simply cannot put a value against - you can't ever make profit out of knitting, and therefore knitted items can really only be gifted.

This is the season of preparing the garden for winter, clearing all the old growth and it's a gift in itself that there will be some winter crops, overwintering just like us.

::This post is part of Urban Food Growing Tuesday. If you grow your own in urban spaces, no matter how small, and you blog about it, please share your post in the linky list below, which is open for one week::

Monday, 25 October 2010


Cubling is a right charmer at the moment.

She'll call anyone "silly poo poo bum bum" who will listen to her. Somehow, there's nothing more hilarious than running about with her cousin incessantly shouting "poo poo" and "bum bum".

Or how about the clearly intoxicated dad picking up his son from nursery, whom she told that he's "silly"? I was mortified he may lash out at her. Thankfully he was clearly drunk but quite a placid chap.

Then she told the bride she looked like a snail in her dress?
Honestly, there was no snail resemblence.

Another friend was persistently addressed as "granny". She's roughly my age.

She will also happily point to a beer bellied man/curvacious woman and shout out "Why does that man/lady have such a big tummy? That is funny!!!"

Come to think of it, daddy is really quite lucky to be called Goldilocks.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

6 weeks

It feels like only yesterday that Snowflake was born, and now she's 6 weeks already. The 6 week mark is also important for me because I can now drive again - a blessing to get to places beyond a walk's distance, but also a curse as the nursery run now is my responsibility again. The thought of having to be at Cubling's nursery for 9am makes me laugh hysterically, the earliest I've made it anywhere so far with the two was 10.30am.

It can be done, I'm sure, and I'm determined to rise to the challenge. At least I don't feel petrified as I did when hubby's 2 week's paternity leave were over. This coincided with the height of baby blues, and something very close to panic attacks whenever I thought about having to manage to get two girls through the day. It was manageable, even if Cubling didn't get exciting craft activities on a daily basis and had to learn how to entertain herself a good deal more than she's used do. And she did.

Snowflake was kind on us as far as the sleeping goes - while rather fussy in the evenings and not ready to sleep before midnight (and sometimes much later than that), she's had a long sleep during the night most nights, and only now settles into a feed me every 3-4 hours pattern (still great, I can get used to that). It feels as if having had broken nights for so long with Cubling has made the transition easier. Yes, I could do with more sleep but I'm functioning and get some good nights even.

Snowflake loves her sling. It's a Kari-me which I got from my sister in law, although soon I will be trying out the Hop-Tye I bought and got shown how to use at the last Glasgow sling meet (everybody was quite taken by it, it is a lovely mei-tei come sling, and pretty too). The great thing about the sling is that Snowflake falls asleep instantly in it, while I can get on with rather a lot of things. Compare this to my attempts to settle her for naps in a cot/pram - she'll wake within 5-10 mins.

We've had lots of smiles since week 3, especially for Cubling. It's so beautiful to see how the two girls interact already - Cubling loves looking after her sister, engaging with her, and tells me as soon as she cries, possets or wakes up. Snowflake on the other hand keeps her best smiles for her big sister, who in turn declared to her little sister only last night: "Ich liebe dich".

In the last week, Snowflake has taken much more of an interest in the world. She enjoyes watching me in her bouncy chair (i.e. I don't have to carry her all day) as long as I keep talking to her. Days are still different and there is no routine at all, but maybe that'll come naturally in the next weeks when we have to get up early and just get on with Cubling's busy timetable.

Feeding is going well - ok we had one night when she wasn't to be satisfied and at 2 am I decided that maybe a bottle of expressed milk might be a good idea. And it worked (once she realised that that thing in her mouth would yield milk if sucked - which in itself took awhile). There's nothing better than the ole weighing in which confirms that she's putting on weight beautifully and that it's all thanks to magic mummy milk. Well, I think it's magic, and won't cease to be amazed by how I can provide all it takes for a baby to grow.

So then, wish me luck for the 9am nursery runs next week!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I hate labels, and who doesn't?

The one and only German blog I follow (I know, it's sad, but I haven't found any that keep my interest) is 123windelfrei. It's an attachment parenting blog and has really well written and researched posts. The most recent post is about pressure exerted by some mothers on others, and how some seem to believe that if only you do everything according to the Attachment Parenting book, all ills will be avoided and your child will be picture perfect. Only that, of course, there are no guarantees, and Attachment Parenting doesn't work.

At the same time, a comparison was made that implies you are an Earth Mama if you breast feed, wear your baby, and co-sleep. Which made me defend my choice to wear baby, highlighting why it works for me (no pushing of pram after c-section, so it gets me out and about above all).

I thought a lot about this blog post (do read it if you read German), and how I came to even read her blog, as well as the label of attachment parenting and earth mama. And many other labels for that matter.

As to AP, I didn't even know the term until Cubling was about 6 months old. I don't follow AP, I do have the Sears book but only skim through it on occasions. However, I've learned what works for baby - in Cubling's case this was carrying her (she would scream in the pram, honest, we tried!) and I ended up cosleeping because it allowed me to get some rest and cope with her 2-3 hourly wakings so I could still function at work. I breast fed until she was almost 2 years (I weaned her at that point). Now, I wear Snowflake to sleep, breast feed and happy to co-sleep should this prove the only option to get sleep (so far it's not needed). I do not believe in crying it out just because it felt wrong to me. Basically, I've tried things and stuck with what worked and that happened to be rather close to AP (Incidentially, I don't do EC and wouldn't even consider doing it, and apparently that goes with AP).

Similarly, when I think about what is good for me (I am selfish!) and for my children, and how to contribute towards a future world that is fair and has resources for all, I try to make choices that work towards it. I consider what is important, what makes sense, and I try to look at everything from different angles so I don't end up in a dead end. I'm looking into creating a more sustainable lifestyle, into which changes are doable for us and acceptable for us, and I blog about it in the hope of discussing it with a wider community and maybe even inspiring others to think along new avenues - as I do when I read other blogs.

And yet I react against any implication of being labelled. And maybe many people hate to be labelled and shy away from making changes, choices or talking about it for fear of being labelled. I'm not an earth mama, just selfish and trying to get sleep and peace, and a happy child above all (like all of us). As far as the bigger picture is concerned, I'd like to have food in 40 years time, I'd like to have a planet that hasn't gone into chaos and where people can live and make a life without fighting for food, oil and other resources. I'm not a green warrior, honestly.

What bothers me is the discourse that puts labels on us and as a consequence alienates people from one another. Take AP and what 123windelfrei found when she was told by a mum that she must have done something wrong if her child developed cavities. There are no guarantees of course, but following AP religiously, and believing it to be the solution for everything is just plain wrong. It then becomes an ideology and you'll get people like me, who previously were quite happy with the label, suddenly backing off and not wanting to ever be labelled with it again. As a consequence, people may also end up changing their ways, e.g. stop co-sleeping/breast feeding a toddler (or stop "admitting" to it) just to avoid being labelled, thus de-normalising such practices (which to me is the greatest danger of all).

Similarly I'm at odds with other labels. I'm exploring the Transition idea at the moment, to great detail in fact. It's a perspective on things that I share and that inspires and motivates me. It's outlook is positive, realistic. Both many people practicing AP and involved in Transition, however, are at odds with my view on vaccinations and I find it truly difficult to be sat at a table with people who all agree on the evil of vaccinations when I see it as a blessing.

So again, the label doesn't cut it for me because we are diverse and who will ever fully fit the label and all that comes with it? Exactly, nobody. So let's not be so categorical, let's discuss and yes, even argue (I love a good argument as long as it's good natured). Just somehow I feel that labels do more harm than good. I'd rather describe myself as a mum who breast feeds (for a variety of reasons, not out of ideology), co-sleeps (because it works for me and I love cuddling my girls), and carries her baby (because she's happier that way and will sleep, and I can get on with chores or playing with the big sister while my hands are free). I'm not an attachment parent, I'm not an earth mama or an eco warrior, even if I use cloth nappies (I actually use them mainly because they are cheaper and nicer though I won't pretend that it doesn't feel good to pat my back about reducing my contribution to landfill).

Let's label each other less, and listen - and in the end do - more. Let's do this gently and with generosity towards each other.
Sermon over.


Daddy: Good morning Snowflake!
Cubling: NO Daddy! That's wrong, you need speak German!
Daddy: Oh, right, Guten Morgen Schneefloeckchen!

I think Cubling has taken my telling her that Snowflake only speaks/understand German rather literally. It appears that Daddy has to brush up his German skills from now on and play the part ;)

The next blogging carnival on bilingualism is now open for submissions. If you recently blogged about the trials and tribulation of raising children bilingually, or anything relating to this, or if you have a post in the making, please submit it to Corey at Multilingual Living; by Tuesday 26th Oct. Please email her your name, your post URL, your blog URL and some info on your blog. Email is corey at multilingualliving dot com.

See you there!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Food choices

One of the bestest things ever about maternity leave is that it gives you a change of routine. Ok, that can be a good or a bad thing, but let's just look at the bright side. Just before Snowflake was born, I tried to make a few changes. Follow up some of the stuff that I wanted to give some more attention to but never managed in the work/family rollercoaster of my working mummy self.

There are lots of changes I'd like to make, things I'd like to explore and there's more than I can manage. Always more. But rather than get upset about not being able to do it all, my attitude is to try what you can and not be discouraged if it's not happening.

One big item on the agenda was food. The reason for it being that food as we consume it is mass produced with a rather high input of fossil fuels into its production. An unsustainably high input of fossil fuels. Which really means that things will have to change at some point, but there's no harm in making changes now, and reduce our own carbon footprint a little bit.

So rather than buying all my food from the supermarket (I do, I admit, and my main shopping still comes from one of the major UK brands - as I said, you try to make changes, one step at a time and guilt tripping is just not on the menu), I thought it was high time to source some food locally through an organic box scheme. That would be in addition to trying to grow food which, if you follow this blog, you know I'm not particularly successful in. Let's say there's plenty of room for improvement.

The one I went for is an interesting and commendable initiative: Southside Foodshare. It works in two ways, by using an existing organic vegetable box scheme (The Whole Shebag, based in West Lothian) and reducing food miles by having a central distribution point. The vegetable box bit I'm sure is nothing new: It supports local producers and produce, organic and low carbon impact ways of growing food, and by doing so it offers local farmers a way to sustain themselves without being dependent on the dictatorship of supermarkets. Southside Foodshare adds another dimension to it: working with the producer, it offers a cheaper service by organising a central delivery. It's also more flexible because I can pick up at a time that suits me, rather than having to be in waiting for the delivery at home. So the Whole Shebag only delivers to one location, and people who have signed up pick up the bag from this location - less time and driving for the producer, cheaper for the consumer. It's a simple but effective idea, and could easily be organised in many locations where there is some demand for vegetable boxes.

So every week now on a Wednesday, I pick up my goody bag of local organic fruit, vegetables and eggs from the Glasgow South pick up point. What's more, having the vegetables, it encourage me to cook more, to cook more from scratch, and to try out new recipes and even new vegetables. The spuds are the tastiest I've had in a very long time - suddenly plain tatties become very attractive again. I love the newsletter that comes with it and tells you a bit about the week to week life on a Scottish farm, while sharing a few recipies and most usefully how to cook those unusual vegetables that are not in our staple diet (it'll be a first for chard and calabrese this week). I love my weekly trip to the pick up point (it's not that close for me, but involves a walk through the park and I can always combine it with other destinations in the southside of Glasgow).

If you think this is a good idea, why not set something up in your area?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Goodbye pregnancy and all that

Some of the joys of pregnancy, even if now a full month beyond me:

- For 3 nights in a row I sweated. A lot. So much that I was getting worried. But lo and behold, my ankles returned and my feet and legs looked lovely. Not that they are especially lovely, just in comparison, you know, to oedemic massive incarnations of them, they suddenly looked very beautiful to me.
A quick step on the scales confirmed that I'd lost 6kg in water retention (for the Brits amongst you, that's almost a stone!). Ha, 3 days and a stone lost, hurray. Only three more days and I should be back to pre pregnancy weight.

- Cubling is rather concerned about my tummy. Part of it is to do with wanting lifted and mummy refusing because of her sore tummy. Part of it is her doubt that baby is truly out. She still thinks there may be another one hiding. Yesterday, in public, she asked me "is your Bauch kleiner yet?" Thank goodness it was half German.

- A friend invited me to an Ann Summers party. Is it me or is it normal that an Ann Summers party fills you with dread a month post baby ejection? Especially now that sloggys are your new best friend because they don't rub on the offending bikini line cut?

- You take incredible joy out of being able to fit into one pre pregnancy item. I'm sure there would be more joy if I could squeeze myself into more, but see point above, anything that my touch offending line is relegated to the back of my wardrobe. And yes, I still wear maternity trousers. Yes, you guessed it, over bump ones (ouch).

- Why though can't I get my wedding ring back on? Now that water retention is gone, it should fit again??? Well, it doesn't, and it seems that my knuckle bone has grown. Honest, it's not the fat, it's the bone that doesn't give way. I'm worried.

- Then there's the postnatal return of my dodgy foot. Strangely with all SPD, sore hips, backs and pubic bones (ouch) my foot went pain free for 9 months. Shame it's back really. There's no cure apparently. Makes you wonder what on earth pregnancy hormones are up to. Maybe hormones could cure it? Maybe I've just had a fabulous medical research idea or even invented a miracle cure for neuroma?

- Finally, pregnancy seems to have done havoc to my communicative abilities. I don't know what it is but I keep saying things that are potentially or actually offensive. I am considering just shutting up a bit more as I can't seem to be able to pick my words more wisely (it's not about wisdom, just about picking the right words rather than the wrong ones that come out of my mouth). Of course I'm blaming pregnancy here, but honestly, it's something that's been happening a lot recently.

Yes it's all amazing to be growing a baby. It was my mantra. But somehow, just a tiny weeny bit, I am unspeakably glad that I'm not pregnant anymore. I rather wear my babe outside than inside.

Did you enjoy pregnancy? I won't be offended if you did, being pregnant just doesn't cut it for me, on a purely selfish level.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Happy Nappies!

No, not really happy nappies. That would be, well, a bit weird. However, I'm nappy happy because I got a nappy bucket full of trial nappies sitting here for a month, all for free! How good is that?

The Real Nappy Network runs a fab scheme in Glasgow. Basically, to encourage people to give cloth nappies a try, they run a nappy trial scheme. It's really quite simple, for £20 of a deposit (which you will get back) you receive a bucket full of different types of cloth nappies and wraps to try out. You keep them for a month and return them. Then you have the opportunity to buy some gently used nappies at their bring and sell, for truly bargain prices. If the bring and sell isn't on, you can just have a nappuccino in a cafe, and find out about cloth nappies from the friendly Real Nappy Network people.

It really is a great idea. I've used cloth nappies for Cubling and now I'm reaping the big benefit by using them on Snowflake too and saving myself a fortune while reducing our contribution to landfill. However, I've made some slightly wrong choices about which nappy is best and this initiative is a great help to rectify this. It offers the opportunity to try out some different makes and also to buy some additional nappies that add to my stock.

Initially, I used prefold nappies with Cubling, Cotton Bottoms to be precise. They are simple cotton rectangles that are folded and go in a waterproof wrap. They come in many sizes and the initial outlay is affordable - but because you have different sizes, the total over the baby years does add up. I found they worked great for Cubling, but strangely, they don't for Snowflake (who pees a lot more). I still really like Cotton Bottoms wraps though.

Later I discovered the magic of shaped nappies, particularly Tots Bots. They are made in Scotland and have a fast drying version, Fluffles. At the time they came in 2 sizes, apparently now they are one sized. For Snowflake I bought some preowned bamboo Tots Bots in size 1, as they are more convenient than the prefolds I already have.

The drawback is that the bamboo version is slow drying. Painfully slow drying. They are incredibly soft and nice to touch though. I'm developing a love/hate relationship with bamboo at the moment - in the form of nappies and yarn. It feels great but there's always a drawback to them, be it drying (nappies) or losing stitches (yarn).

The trial scheme is great because it introduced me to some other types of nappies, such as all in ones (not sure if I like them, the difference is that the wrap is built in, so if nappy is wet, you wash the whole thing. The ones in the pack leaked a tiny bit, while the combination of Tots Bots with Cotton Bottoms or similar wraps don't leak easily). There are also different makes of nappies and I love trying them out and comparing them to my baseline of prefolds and Tots Bots shaped nappies.

My initial thoughts are that Little Lamb shaped nappies are pretty nice. They have velcro which is oh so simple to use, really the same as a disposable. I do realise that velcro doesn't last as long as poppers fastening, but it is rather nice nonetheless.

Then there are terry squares, they feel very soft and fluffy, but can I be bothered folding them? Not sure. Haven't done in the week I've had them. Yes, it's laziness, I'm sure once you've done it, it won't be a problem, but who wants to fold terry squares if they have prefolds lying right next to them?

As to fastening techniques: Velcro rules for ease but may not last two babies. Nappy Nippers are just not my thing - they work great on the trial nappies but I despaired on Tots Bots (I have a few size 2 that fasten with nappy nippers) as they won't hold - I ended up just sticking the wrap on top and not fastening them at all.

The pack also contains various versions of boosters and cloth wipes. The latter are for anyone who's serious about reducing rubbish. Not that I'm not serious, it's just that I think wet wipes are the best thing since sliced bread so I'm not ready yet to make that transition.

My general verdict is that I love the scheme, it really lets you try out various types of nappies, it has easy information on how to use cloth nappies, and really it should be available to everyone (how about advertising the trial bucket of nappies on postnatal wards?). The only slight quibble I have is that my bucket came with wraps the wrong size so they were useless, and that there could have been a few more nappy brands.

The bring and buy sale of cloth nappies is a great initiative too - I grabbed a bargain with unused shaped nappies at £3 each. Now, doesn't this prove the point about cloth nappies? Who would get so excited about disposables?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

a trip to the big shiny lights or the one where mummy took the wrong train home

Today I was brave. I packed up Snowflake in her sling, took Cubling by the hand and left the house at 11.45 am destination City Centre. We were late, our idea was to make it to the children's theatre show "The Shoemaker and the Elves" for 12.30. Sometimes though, toddlers can cooperate and Cubling ran to the train station and from the train station to the Scottish Youth Theatre. We made it, just, but we did, at a speed which was equivalent to my normal childfree fast walking pace.

Cubling wasn't sure at first, all the darkness and so many people and children, then the props and strange people behaving oddly interacting with her. She clung to her mummy, until half way through the show, curiosity got the better of her and transformed her into her usual assertive self. She kind of took over ... I'm not sure where she's got that confidence and energy from, it's certainly not me. I find it rather amusing, cute, but sometimes, it's worrying. She'll make friends with strangers in no time and I can't get myself to give her a stranger danger talk, destroying that innocent trust in people that she has. Trust is a good thing, we don't trust enough and it's refreshing to see how trusting a 3 year old can be who hasn't been disappointed by life yet.

After a feeding three hungry mouth's break, we went on. Thanks to it being October week, there was also a music workshop for children on, one of the type that we had tried and dismissed when Cubling was 15 months. Then, she would not sit still or participate in circle activities, while moving all the time and generally causing disapproving looks and words. While I knew that she really enjoyed it, I didn't like the attitude towards my slightly more energetic toddler, and we didn't return. Now, she took control. She loved every second of it, participated in every suggested activity and watched the facilitators every move, listened to her every word, to get it just right. She was almost a bit overbearing in comparison to the quieter children. Ambivalently, I admired her and worried that she may become girl that may be a bit on the pushy side.
It is strange to see her confidence, it's so unlike my own toddler self.

So we had a bit of a culture shock in the Big City. When daddy came home, what did she remember of the day?
"I goed on the train! I walked into a door and banged my head! I had a slice of carrot cake! Then mummy took the wrong train home!"

So much for the fruits of the effort of dragging two kids into the Scottish Youth Theatre and the National Youth Choir for some theatre and music education. Sigh.

Monday, 11 October 2010

A walk in the woods - Outdoor Monday

On Sunday, we took advantage of the dry, if overcast, autumn day and headed to Chatelherault. I'd heard about it, but didn't know at all what it was, just that it was reasonably close and might be a good day out with kids.

I was in for a surprise - so much so that I wondered how such a gem could have escaped me all this time. Maybe it is something about my antennae being directed towards the sea and the hills, going north and west rather than east and south.

Chatelherault offers a perfect day out for a family (or anyone really) - with beautiful long woodland and river walks, an adventure playground, a garden centre with some farm animals and the mansion itself which has a lovely cafe and an exhibition, as well as events for children of all ages.

Our plan was to have lunch in the cafe and then go for a short walk to leave time for farm animals and adventure playground, but we took a wrong turn and went on a long walk instead, which pretty much took the whole afternoon between toddler and post-c-section-mummy-wearing-baby. Lots of pine cones were collected, stones thrown into the river Avon, holes were explored for badgers and bears, mushrooms were discovered and sized up, and sticks were carried and used for drawing on the ground. Cubling carried her own baby (a bear baby girl by the name of Spencer) all the way, and both got a lot of fun out of jumping into muddy puddles. I'm very proud of Cubling for having walked all 4km up and downhill by herself.

A definite must for returning, the adventure playground looked too good to miss, I love garden centres anyway, and I'm keen to explore the exhibition in the former hunting lodge or even take part in some of the countryside events that are offered throughout the year.

Chatelherault is situated just outside of Hamilton and since 2005 has a train station with a half hourly service from Glasgow and Hamilton. Entry to the country park and all attractions is free.

This post is part of Outdoor Challenge Monday, which is hosted on 5orangepotatoes. If you want to take part, head over to check out how to. This post was brought to you thanks to my fabulous parents-in-law who took Cubling for a bike ride while Snowflake napped in her sling/wrap (what on earth would I do without the sling???). Blogging hasn't been such a precious activity in a long time ;)

Oh, and yes, I've noticed that I need a hair dye... Bottom photo taken by Goldilocks, aka Mr Cartside.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

You should never blog about...

... why you're not blogging.
Ha, who says I can't? Well, I'm not very active at the moment on the blogging front because Snowflake likes to be held. And I can't resist her. You know, she's gonna be my last babe and I cannot not hold her if she likes it so much. And typing one handed - somehow my computer messes words up, it's not working for me.

We have an odd routine, Cubling is in bed by 8pm, Snowflake is super active and won't leave my arms until midnight, then sleeps (mostly; with one feed around 4-6 am, followed by 2 hours of wakefulness), Cubling wakes at 7pm, so one of them is always looking for attention. She won't let me blog. I had to tell her off to even write this, she was trying hard to obscure the screen with her drawing of a big wheel. I fear my blog may be slightly neglected for a while yet, especially with October week coming up (= no nursery for Cubling, doh) followed by 2 in service days at the nursery (again this means almost no nursery for another week). I can see myself frequenting the only local attraction for toddlers rather a lot, but watch out, only 2 more weeks before I can hit the roads again!

Which made me wonder, how come that every single baby will sleep happily snuggled into you, while nursing, or after, or just like that, or while daddy bounces her on a birth ball, but as soon as you try to oh so carefully transfer them into a cot/pram/bouncy chair they will instantly notice and wake up?

And last night, Cubling declared that we girls are the three bears and that daddy is Goldilocks and can't come into the living room ;)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Child benefit cuts and all that

Don't worry, I'm not going to jump the bandwagon and repeat the arguments made in the many excellent posts around bloglands. As many have very elaborately explained, the suggested child benefit cut is incredibly unfair. I don't want to linger on this, it's been said much better than I ever could.

What I would like to add to the discussion is a suggestion to look at alternative ways of making the tax and benefit system fairer. You know, it wouldn't hurt to get some inspiration from other countries that operate a fairer society, with less inequality and more well-being, and maybe reform the tax and benefit system properly, rather than try and scrape a billion here and there.

So here are some suggestions:
First of all, the main issue in this country is the significant income gap. There are many on very low incomes and some on very high incomes, a few on middle incomes. This makes work unattractive if all that's within your reach is a low paid job where you're not significantly better off than on benefits.
Secondly, tax credits are paid back at the moment, and there are many of them, making it rather confusing.
So how about a system that abolishes tax credits in favour of tax allowances, while introducing more progressive taxation?

By this I mean a much more graded taxation system where incomes say over 50k are taxed at a higher rate, and incomes over say 75k at yet a higher rate and so on. Raise minimum wage to a living wage while you're at it so that work always pays.
Then, to make things fair and value parents who stay at home to raise children, create a family unit tax free allowance - each adult in the family has a tax allowance, as has each child. This is added to the tax code, so that a single income family is supported through a higher tax free allowance, and a family with more children has more of a tax free allowance than one with just one child.

Above all, this would make the tax system based on the family unit. It should apply to anyone in a family unit, married or not, and would as a nice side effect help reduce the incident of people claiming benefits as single parents when they are not actually single parents (single parents are often better than as a family unit BECAUSE the tax free allowance of the parent who isn't working can't be transferred to the working parent, thus inviting benefit "cheats" - they're not cheats in my view though, playing the system in my view is fair enough if the system is rubbish and lets you play with it).

So say we have a family of two parents and 3 children, one parent works. The working parent's tax free allowance could be £5000 for the working parent, plus £4000 for the non working parent, plus £3000 for each child - a total tax free allowance for this family of 18000. The income above this tax free allowance could be taxed much more progressively, especially as it goes above a certain amount. I don't get why the tax system has to be so streamlined with just 3 tax rates, why not have 5 or 7?

In a system like this, child benefit would be built into the tax free allowance, and so would tax credits. So we could get rid of them.
Add some London/south-east/Edinburgh weighting and Bob's your uncle.

Maybe add some child care support for cases where both parents work, to encourage parents into work if that's your policy. In some places in Germany you get a certain amount of child care costs reimbursed per hour you work, which makes childcare affordable. No need to mess with tax credits, you just go to the Youth Services, show your work contract and get childcare vouchers which cover around 80% of the actual cost. You could link this to family income (i.e. if you're on a high income, you get less of your childcare paid) to make it fairer.

The big elephant in the room remains unfair salaries, but that'll take a generation at least to tackle and I'll leave my musings on this for another post.

6 step plan to boost the minority language

I have a cunning plan. I've told Cubling that Snowflake only understands German. Couple that with me spending more time with Cubling (in theory, I'm sure we'll get there in time, at the moment she's rather neglected when she's at home with me and Snowflake), this surely must, no will, lead to an explosion of her minority language.

So, now that I'm on maternity leave, this is my plan to increase her active use of German, which is not just lagging behind English by miles, but also not developing much (while she surprises us every day with new words and constructions in English):

1. Monday mornings we will meet up with the mums and kids from the German Kinderclub.
We are lucky to have a German parent group and it's a great opportunity that we can now attend. I even changed nursery times so we could accommodate it. Initially, I had my doubts about the effectiveness - the club isn't very structured and mums chat while kids play (and if you let Cubling just play by herself, she'll speak English). There is some singing at the end, sometimes some craft activity organised by a parent, other than that, there is a real temptation to spend the two hours just chatting to other mums. However, I've noticed that even if I don't make a massive effort to engage with Cubling and the other children during the two hours (though I generally try to spend at least half the time engaging with Cubling), she will still use more German just after the club. So somehow, it's working.

2. I'll insist that Cubling speaks German only to Snowflake. So far so good, though there's a bit of disappointment that Snowflake doesn't speak back.

3. This is the hard bit. I'm trying to insist more on Cubling speaking German to me, and not respond if she speaks English. It's hard because she always speaks English to me, and even when making an effort, her idea of effort is still to only say nouns and verbs in German. In practice this means that after every sentence I mirror the same sentence in German and ask her to repeat. I hate doing this. She's ok with it, and she's at least not yet reluctant to do this. It's a strategy I can only use when on my own with her, it just doesn't work when in English speaking company.

4. Try to make friends with a couple of German parents. Our best German friends (well, German/Canadian to be precise) have moved away so if I'm lazy, Cubling will not have much opportunity to hear German from adults or children other than myself and the TV. I loathe how contrived this sounds, and is, to go out there in the search of friends so that my child is exposed to German more often. I'm not going to do well on this one, I'm not one who makes friends easily in the best circumstances, nevermind with alternate motives. At the same time, I've not socialised much in the last few years due to lack of time, so it's hight time anyway to rekindle some connections and friendships.

5. This is another difficult decision. Cubling will stop attending the outdoor kindergarten for the months that I'm on maternity leave. Instead, we'll join a group of parents and toddlers who go outdoors on the same day of the week. The reason for this is that it gives me an extra day of interaction with Cubling and while none of the other parents speak German, I hope that we can still combine some outdoor play with more exposure to German.

6. When Cubling plays by herself (which she now does) and I'm in the room, I interject and try to switch her imaginative play to German (she chatters non-stop when playing, all in English of course). This is what I did with the Spanish boy I taught German as an au-pair, he was 4 then, and after 6 months his German did improve significantly this way (to be fair, I can't take full credit as he also attended a German pre-school).

Some things we're doing already: all TV Cubling watches are German language DVDs, and obviously my bedtime reading is in German always. Our plan where we'd have an hour where the whole house speaks German only hasn't happened, our days are just too unpredictable with a newborn around and different nursery times each day.



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