Sunday, 30 May 2010

creating a language of her own

This post is a contribution to this month's bilingual carnival, which I'm hosting right here on June 2nd. If you have any experience of raising bilingual children and wish to contribute to the carnival, please leave a comment with a link to your post by 1st of June and I'll include it.

We have entered the creative phase. No, it's not all about glueing, painting and drawing. Cubling has hours of fun making up words, names and enjoying the possibilities of creative use of language. Now, I'm not sure if this is phase is so pronounced because she is brought up bilingually, but I wouldn't be suprised if it was. As ever, it's hard to separate personality traits, nature, from influence of growing up with two languages, nurture. I can only observe and suggest that maybe there is a link.

I'm not talking about her making up her own secret language, it's more a sense of delight in the enless creative possibilities that language offers. A delight in sounds, in combining words to make nonsense words, in naming things and bringing them into existence by the very act of naming. Last night, two bilingual toddlers were in stitches when they surpassed one another in making up such words, which to them were hilarious, maybe even slightly naughty (just that there was nothing we adults could pin point as cheeky or naughty - or to use a good Irish word for it, bold). Their behaviour told us they were exploring boundaries, the boundaries of language for sure, as if their creativity in making up new words and sounds was rebelling against the order of words usually imposed by the OPOL approach. The sounds themselves, well, they were both English and German.

To watch the two bouncing off one another made me wonder whether there was a link to the two 3 year olds growing up in a very similar language environment (mother German speaking, father English speaking, living in Scotland, both attending nursery almost full time). With Cubling I could also see a link to her tendency to add to her communication through drama and vocal expression. It may be that this is her personality, or she may be making up for her still slightly lagging language development (NB, the lag is within the norm, I'm not concerned at all, but I can see that other children her age are able to produce longer and more grammatical sentences. As a linguist, I also understand that non-verbal communication is equally valid and she clearly is very good at that part). If it is the latter, she's doing fabulously by using all the communication functions available to her: her language is supplemented by gestures, facial expression, change of tone, volume, making her the most engaging interlocutor aged 3 that I've so far encountered. She loves role playing and pretending to be animals, so it all makes sense. She doesn't just enjoy drama and pretend play, she is also very confident at it, it warms my heart (mainly because I was always far too shy to stick out from the crowd or act out like that).

Her friend who has the same language background has just moved to Germany for good. From here on, their paths will differ a good bit. For him, German will become the dominant language while for her, English will continue to take centre stage. One last time we were able to listen to their way of communicating with one another, their carefree mixing of languages, their effectiveness of communication that enabled them to have the most fun filled play dates imaginable. How far have they come, from toddlers who only yesterday seemed not yet able to engage in social play without the constant intervention of adults reminding them to share, not grab, not push and pull, to pre-schoolers who genuinely play together for hours without a single argument or disaster, but hours of fun and entertainment. And all in perfect Denglish/Engleutsch. Just like their language, their creativity in their play was striking as was their delight in their creative adventures.

We will all greatly miss the shared time together, which will become so much rarer in the future with the distance that is now unfortunately between us. Yet we're determined not to let this come between somehow managing to continue the friendship not just between the two children.

Friday, 28 May 2010

The big oily spill and responsibility

Being on holiday means I'm no where near following any news in any depth. The massive environmental disaster of the BP accident and subsequent oil spill is sidelines as are the floods in some parts of Germany and Poland. Yet my thoughts are revolving around the oil spill, without knowing much of the in and outs. I honestly don't know in how far BPs actions have worsened the situation or if anything could have been done by the company to avoid it or mitigate the effect. So firstly, I admit to being seriously ignorant in relation to the complexity of the situation.

However, I would still like to suggest to think again about the ease with which we are ready to blame one oil company and pass on all responsibility to them. As far as I can see, all oil companies are as bad as one another, they are in it for the big profit because at the end of the day, we are highly dependent on oil for our energy needs and food production as well as the production of throwaway tat and stuff. We wants it, readily available, at whatever cost. The oil companies and their behaviour is endorsed by our consumerism and dependency on oil. Shell destroyed great parts of Nigeria, specifically the Niger Delta - not just environmentally but also by changing the society, and taking away the traditional livelihoods without replacing them with anything sustainable. They created poverty, dependency and certainly didn't share the profit they made with the area they destroyed. Add to this cooperation with a military government who were happy to endulge in severe human rights abuses, backed with Shell money, and you have an unstable country at the heart of Africa.

So this time it's BP. And I find it hard to put blame on the company as I've done on Shell for the past 15 odd years (and the abuse is still going) because BP were just doing their job (while Shell could have really shown much better corporate responsibility), as any other oil producing company would. Somehow it seems that we are all to blame, because of our hunger for oil, for creating a monster we cannot control.

So who is responsible and who will and should deal with the consequences? Not an easy question and I don't claim to have an answer. It is important though to consider that this accident didn't happen in a vacuum but in a culture that endorses practices which have proven to have the potential for severe damage to our environment. We are all responsible for that culture - we the people who buy and use plastic, have our food mass produced and imported, have our cars and warm houses in cold climates. We share responsibility at the very least. Let's acknowledge this and consider how we as a global society take on that responsibility before we embark on the easy route of placing all responsibility and blame on BP.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Little pleasures that reduce me to hysterical laughter

There was much hilarity in our hotel room last night. Going back a bit, for a good while I played with the idea of becoming a translator/interpreter. But it was quite a hard job to get into, what with lots of people having the same language pair and my reluctance to do yet another qualification on top of my endless studies. So I tried to set up my own little business but never got the clients to make it worthwhile. I tried, did the business plan and realised that I'd be better off financially with another career, probably enjoy that other career more, and wouldn't have to do the marketing which is not something I particularly enjoy. And no, I never thought I wasn't good enough especially when we had to have an interpreter at our wedding (in case hubby didn't understand what he was letting himself in for this was a requirement) and I cringed rather a lot during the ceremony.

I was right about my career choice. I have no regrets.

Just sometimes, I feel that maybe there aren't enough translators about to make sure gross embarrassment is avoided. And I'm generally a helpful person and hate to see people look rather foolish. Here I am, in a German hotel which is part of a well known international chain which I think is American owned. Germany is a country where really everyone has a decent command of English, and I don't see how anyone could work in hospitality without being able to speak English fluently. The information booklet provided by the hotel is both in German and in English. I have a strange feeling they wanted to give me a good laugh and test my pregnancy pelvic floor function when they came up with the English translation. I can't but share some of the highlights - and I'm not sure if I should suggest to them to invest in a trained translator maybe for the benefit of their English speaking guests?
My rates are reasonable by the way.

"You like to get adapter, travel adapter plug or extension cord at the reception"

"Trains to the airport leave from the Munich main station. For a concrete schedule please ask at the reception desk" (I have visions of the ten commandments written in stone)

"You can borrow a bath robe for your sauna visit at the reception desk. We lend you a pledge for this made of beechwood" (sounds interesting, I'm tempted to use the sauna just to see that pledge made of beechwood... Thankfully I checked the German and it's about paying a deposit for the loan of a bath robe - not beeches were harmed in the transaction you'll be glad to know)

"in the case of fire doors and window closed regards immediately see notice, the building at the doors over stairs and escape routes deserted fire extinguishers be in every floor as escape plan" (umph, I hope there won't be a case of fire because I'm not all that sure what to do. Fortunately, "Emergency Exits are marked on the plan suspended on your room door" and you have to "Read the emergency plan in your room at the door" and in no other location!)

"City map: get with pleasure free of cost at the reception" (easy pleasure!)

"You can use the dryer daily from 7am to 10pm be due against."

"We like to send your faxes for you; per page we calculate euros 0, 30"

"Lost and Found will be escrowed at the housekeeping"

"Everybody make an analogous modem attachment extension cord is available on the reception" (Goody)

"Pay TV: You have  Pay TV channels in your room at the disposal. Feels after petition of the room number and push the OK. We charges you Euro 13,90." (hm, a bit touchy feeling before watching more of it???)

"In the restaurant you have also the possibility watching different sports events with our flat TV"

"Our Housekeeping is glad to help you at a ragged button or loose hem"

"You have the possibility in every room of using the Internet free of cost. Open your Internet Explorer which conducts you on the initial page automatically. Select the 'Free' entrance there, please. A problem should be able appear you the hotline: our reception helpful or with pleasure also is it for them contact." (if their English is equally bad, I doubt their helpfulness. It also doesn't help that the page is in German and the word "Free" is not there at all, so even a guessing game will go pear shaped)

Thankfully, if internet access on the room fails, "among us you have the possibility in the lobby of using the Internet free of cost in our business room."

Of course, there is a "questionnaire in each room. Please tell us what you think about us, what you liked particularly or what could be improved". Maybe someone should suggest using a translator? But where would be the fun of a night spent giggling uncontrollably be?

Monday, 24 May 2010

Munich calling

Two spirits, love and hate. I'm misquoting. Yet it's how I feel about travelling this day. I'm getting old or something like that, I mean surely something must be wrong with me. After all I'm the one who caught a serious travel bug aged 15 and couldn't let go, spent all her hard earned pennies laboured away in the dumbest of after school and holiday jobs just to be able to travel and explore the world. Only to declare in tears to hubby and Cubling today that I never ever want to travel again.

I guess it's understandable that I'm a bit on edge about this whole travel business. It once was fun when flights were cheap, you slept on someone's floor (and yes, I've slept on floors of people I didn' t even know) and it was all one big adventure. Nowadays it's an undertaking plus this year I've been caught out with cancelled flights twice. I'm scared of flying and feel that I fly far too often. I long for a week just at some Scottish loch taking it easy and enjoying the Scottish sunshine that can never be too hot.

Maybe it's because all my travel led me to Scotland, and as far as a holiday destination is concerned, it's got all I ever wanted. Maybe I'm just getting set in my ways and don't like the upheaval of travel anymore which was exciting once, and now with a toddler becomes a pain in the bum.
And I guess it doesn't help if you almost miss a flight first thing in the morning, after having been oh so organised.

We did get our flight though. We're in Munich. It's sunny and hot, and there's processions of people on roller blades, bicycle parks of unseen expanse, beer gardens the size of villages and after all the stress of the morning, I have to say that I'm rather taken with the amazing friendliness and helpfulness of the people. Above all, I'll be able to catch up with some very good friends over the next few days, friends whom I haven't seen in far too long because our lives no longer intersect an awful lot geographically. There is a bit of a time warp in Munich this week, with friends now based in Mexico, Cologne, Glasgow and of course Munich coming together. And never having been to Munich before, this was definitely a good enough excuse to explore the Bavarian capital.

I'm so excited to see everyone. I know the time will fly and be too short. But it'll be all worth it. And that's why I was in tears this morning, the panic of seeing it all slip by because of my own stupidity of not getting my directions right and getting stuck in Edinburgh rush hour traffic. All that effort, all that excitement to see some of my best friends only 10 minutes from evaporating into thin air. Gladly, I have a husband whose nerves are of much stronger built than mine.

So hello Munich, glad we made it.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Bedtime conversation

It's been hot. Three really hot days with lots of outdoor activities, mostly with her beloved cousin and Cubling is both exhausted and overstimulated. So, instead of the usual ease of bedtime (yes we are currently lucky, after 2 years of not being lucky on the sleep front so I feel we deserve it), she starts to cry. I go in and or conversation goes something like that:

"I'm ein bisschen kalt!" (I'm a little bit cold - for the rest of this, I'll keep to English rather than her charming Denglish. Just imagine her mixing up languages and me consistently answering in German)
"You are cold? No way, it's so hot! Look at you, you're drenched in sweat. You're hot, not cold."
"Mami, I want to cuddle a bit."
"Mami, I'm a little bit hungry. Maybe I want a banana."
"Ok, here's a banana."
"The banana is a little bit like a rainbow. And a little bit like a slide."
"Yes, you're right."

 "Mami, I'm a little bit scared of the bugs."
"But there are no bugs?"
"Yes there are, there's a fly over there. Maybe it's looking for his dinner"
"Oh, yes, that's a fly. It's not a bug though and it doesn't do you any harm, you don't need to be scared of it."
"I'm a little bit scared of the fly."
"I think the fly is a little bit scared of you, because you are so big and the fly is so small."
"Mami, you're a little bit scared of the fly"
"No, Cubling, I'm not at all scared of flies. I'm a little bit scared of lions and crocodiles, but not of flies."
"I'm scared of lions and crocodiles and dinosaurs. I only like Mami, Daddy, Aunty R, cousin A and me."
"It's ok to be a little bit scared of crocodiles and lions and dinosaurs. But there are none here, so you don't need to be scared at all."
"I no like it if it's very very dark. I no like close my eyes and it's all dark"
"But you see it's still a little bit light, it's not dark at all so you don't need to be scared."
"Maybe I'm a bit like a baby"
"Big girls like lions, crocodiles and monsters. And I no like them. I'm a little bit like a baby."
"Oh, but you're a little girl. Maybe when you're older and you're a big girl, you'll like lions, crocodiles and monsters too."
"Mami, I want to see the baby"
"Ok, (I show her my bellybutton). Do you want to say goodnight to the baby?"
"Good night baby! Mami, I want you to stay in bed with me, not leave the room."
"Cubling, I'm always with you even when I'm not in the room with you. I can hear everything through the monitor and if you cry or anything is wrong, I hear it and I'm right with you. You don't need to worry, Mami is always with you."
"I want to cuddle a little bit in bed."
"Ok. But now it's really bedtime."
"What tomorrow going?"
"Tomorrow, we're going in an aeroplane and we'll visit your friend N in Munich! Good night, sleep tight."
"Twinkle twinkle?"
"Of course I'll sing twinkle twinkle."

It was the sweetest exchange we've had and I honestly didn't care about the lateness as long as hopefully now she isn't thinking of flies and monsters who want to eat her all up. She is the most adorable and loveable girl anyone can imagine (yes, I know I'm biassed, but sod it). And tomorrow holds a whole new adventure.

Pictures taken in Auchingarrich Wildlife Park, Perthshire.

Saturday, 22 May 2010


As seen at the Clyde in Glasgow. Something different for the weekend.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

A fond farewell

It happens time and time again. This is not the first time, and it won't be the last. And yet it doesn't get easier. I try to ignore it, to distract myself, get on with the trillion things lined up in my head. Yet in the end it gets me as much as I try to ban it from my thoughts.

This week, very good friends of ours will be saying goodbye to Glasgow. It's a reality of our global apple of a world, where we move backwards and forwards so easily. People move. They make friends in their new found home towns. And then, suddenly, without much warning, they move on. There is choice, a sense of guilt, yet no blame, above all a lot of sadness. In the past, it was usually me who was spreading her wings and enjoying the ride. Back then I didn't spend much thought on those I left behind, we all travelled a lot, slept on the floors of each others bedsits. Then I settled, abroad, away from family and some of my bestest friends and as much as I like my new life, I will forever miss those I left behind, who by now had also settled with visits becoming a rare event. And really, the friends that will be with you all your life are made during your formative years.

Then sometimes, ever more rarely, you make new friends closer to where you are, to the place that you and someone else have ended up building their lives in. You share another formative time in your life, out of the blue, when you both come home from a holiday at your old home with a tiny growing person that throws you into a hormonal rollercoaster of pregnancy and motherhood. Due dates only 4 days apart, almost as many doors between the tenement flats you both live in. Jobs shared, motherhood shared, husbands who enjoy each others company as much as their wives enjoy theirs. toddlers who describe each others as best friends and play together in the outdoor nursery. And now I'm left to explain to Cubling that from next week, her best friend won't be there anymore. "No!!!" she says in disbelief. Yes, I answer softly. She will, of course, accept more easily than I do.

And I hope that in spite of the distance our families won't grow apart, that we can somehow bridge the distance. I'm not very successful at that, too often in the past I've missed good friends too much as to seek regular contact, because those phone calls, emails, skypes always carry a sense of what's lost, a longing and sadness that I far too often choose to keep at bay through silence.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Out of and into the mouth of toddlers

This morning, Cubling was "helping" me hang up bedlinen. She discovered the joy of a pillow case and pretended it was a sleeping bag. All good fun so far, although I was slightly worried about her dragging a freshly washed pillow case through the whole house. At least I had hoovered the day before I told myself. She put it to lots of creative uses, not just a sleeping bag, oh nonono. It also resembles a bin bag, and she showed me how she can throw lots of toys in there, into her Uelleimer (Muelleimer, German for bin). Then, out of the blue, she announced "mummy, when you are very very old and then you die, I'm going to throw you into a bin bag and put you in the Uelleimer."

Charming. I feel very loved by my girl today. Dead mummy corpse disposal sorted.

And proof that Cubling has discovered the concept of death. Which we have spoken about before a lot, but it was always clear that she had not really understood it (which we didn't expect anyhow) - Only a month ago I could tell her ten times that her Oma died and she would still ask "so where's Oma/your mummy?" It's rather disconcerting if it pops up out of the blue in such, hm, how can I say, functional and pragmatic terms of ... disposal.

Just to prove that Cubling is also rather charming here's our adventure from last weekend:
A colleague of mine has a brood of hens (and quails) which are freed free range - freed from the wretched existence of battery hens, because they no longer produce the required frequency of eggs. So they are now free to roam on an Ayrshire farm - if they aren't chased by little people that is. Cubling was excited to go and even more excited to find ... you wouldn't believe it ... EGGS! Carefully carefully she collected them and only broke one quail egg ("oh dear! Is broken!"). Guess what she's been demanding daily ever since: egg. Egg for breakfast, egg for dinner. Boiled egg, fried egg, scrambled egg. She'll have egg over chocolate, and that's saying something. I'm slightly worried she might turn into one. At least we've got some indication that going ahead with getting a couple of hens will be met with approval by Cubling, although she made it also rather clear that she prefers quails and bunnies because they're "cute" and "fluffy".
That's what an ex battery hen looks like. A bit short on the feather side of things, but rather ok about being handled.
Two hours later and Cubling finally dares to hold "my friendly" which is the name given to the hen by wee A. who was rather taken by Cubling (he ended up hopping on a trampoline baring his chest which I can only interpret of an attempt to impress my daughter. Kids start early in Ayrshire...)
And somehow I've got a feeling "my friendly" wouldn't be so friendly if she knew that within an hour of leaving her, her egg looked like this on Cubling's dinner plate. Nothing beats scrambled egg on toast for a quick, tasty and down to earth meal.

Friday, 14 May 2010

cowgirl butterfly astronaut

Every girl deserves something special. Especially if she's a cowgirl butterfly astronaut. So, now that I finally made time for some UFO (aka unfinished objects), Cubling's very own cowgirl butterfly astronaut dress is finally finished.

The original pattern is the (free) cowgirl butterfly astronaut vest by f.pea, which I changed slightly to make it into a much longer dress. From the waist down, I left out the blue edging and sewed the middle section together instead. It would look much better if instead I'd have joined the dress in the round because the seam, while neat, is the centre of attention. I messed up the sleeves ever so slightly by doing a larger size armhole (I slipped in the size instructions from 4 years to 6 years, doh) so I had to do some improvisation to fix this mistake (not wanting to unravel days of work... I'm lazy that way) and while not perfect, it does the job.

I think the dress could also be improved by being a bit more swingy, i.e. increasing the stitch count just underneath the waist band. As it is, it's a bit tight around the tummy and Cubling not being a skinny girl, it would simply look better if the dress was wider from the waist.

I'm pretty pleased with it altogether, especially because this is the first time I intentionally altered a pattern and while I would do it differently next time, I'm pleased I didn't mess it up completely. The yarn is Anchor Style Magicline, dotty. It is Italian made, imported from Germany, I tried to match the colours of the original pattern and went for a similar weight cotton yarn - because cotton brings out the block and stripe pattern really well. It is an easy enough knit, ideal for car journeys, in front of the TV etc.

The dress is easy to wear and is really both dressy and doesn't restrict movements.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


Feel that deflating sound. That's me. Having spent the week frantically organising a residential for 12 primary school kids plus being regularly called out by sickly child for a few nights, one of which resulted in double all night kicking action (toddler in our bed positioning her knees on my tummy, to which baby in tummy responds with massive kicks - fun!), I've reached the point of no return. I really should be in bed. But hej, there must be more to life than work and kids, so instead I've been fiddling about with my blog, trying to declutter it (is that the nesting instinct?).

So have a look at my new fancy bloggy pages!

I've also taken on some sponsored links. My policy is that it has to be something that I'm happy to support, not just random links. Posts which are sponsored will be clearly labelled but the post will reflect my honest opinion. And thanks to the lovely sponsors I'll be buying myself a nice new telezoom lens for my DSLR (any recommendations? I have a Canon EOS 450D I think).

This is also a call for submissions for this months bilingual carnival, which should be up for 27th May but due to our holiday it'll be up a few days later, around the 1st of June. So deadline for submissions will be 29th May, please leave the link to your post in the comment box or send it to cartside (at)

Above all, I'm currently rejoicing in the fact that this new government has committed itself to abolish the detention of children for immigration purposes. I'm hopping with delight. Remember, it was on my manifesto, so hurray! One box ticked. Let's see how many more will be and I may actually get to like this government (you what???) - well, they've scored one brownie point with me that's for sure.

Next week I'll be at a residential, the following week hoping for a smooth trip to the Bavarian capital to catch up with some special friends not seen in years (shame on the global society) or moving from this dear green place to the home of Lindenstrasse (that's the German Coronation Street). It will be sad and happy times.

I have a feeling that blogging might be intermittent although I'd really have rather a lot to blog about. Please wish me luck that the Ash Cloud will take mercy on me this time.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

BMB Carnival, UFO's, two countries and a good kick

It's a strange world. Here we are in Scotland, where Labour won the elections and increased their already whopping majority. Yet we'll be ruled by a conservative government. Shakes head in disbelief. You wouldn't believe the black humour going around at the moment.

So the next 5 years may see a lot of changes. I doubt this government will be strong, I doubt they will be able to deal with the economic crisis, I doubt they will ever be even as little as endured in Scotland. The rest - time will tell.

So while I keep shaking my head, let's have some diversion from the breaking news, because believe it or not, they'll still be here tomorrow, and for the next  years. For tonight, to keep your spirits up, have a look at this fortnight's Best of British Mummy Bloggers Carnival which is hosted over at A Place of My Own and has a karaoke theme to it - all posts are song titles. Kelly has put together a great selection of posts which once again show how diverse the parent blogosphere is, so there'll be something for everyone in the audience and you can even hum along to the tunes.

Good times!

I'll also divert myself with another UFO night. No, I'm not into flying saucers, it stands for Unfinished Objects and is this great concept of just setting aside some time to finish off things that have been waiting for just that for a while. Highly satisfying, like ticking boxes. Apparently, you can also make a social night out of it. Just an idea. In my UFO box: some knitting and some mending, and some mending of knitting (which I've not done before and looks like a bit of a complicated puzzle to me).

Good news!

Heard baby's heartbeat today and baby gave the doppler a good kicking which even made the midwife smile. Strangely, this time around I'm not sure what antenatal appointments are for really, at least at this stage in pregnancy. I mean, I can have my blood pressure taken at a pharmacy and make my own notes about irrelevant niggles? Check myself for swelling and I'm sure even the urine protein test could be done at home. Nevermind, nice to meet yet another midwife who I won't ever see again.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Wild Wood

For about two months, Cubling has been out in the woods two days a week. She has joined Glasgow's first Scandinavian style outdoor nursery. For anyone not familiar with the concept, it entails going out all day in all kinds of weather. Usually it's aimed at pre-schoolers, with the benefits being a better immune system due to being outdoors a lot, resilience and a better awareness of physical abilities and the ability to manage risks independently.

Above all, it's a lot of fun for any active toddler.

So what does it look like in practice? In the morning, the children gather at a church hall (which is often used as a creche) between 8 and 9.30am, where they can draw, read books and play with a range of natural toys (pine cones, shells, sticks and anything derived from similar items), listen and move to music. They get into their outdoors clothes (which the forest kindergarten organises for a one off payment which is value for money) and at 9.30am a minibus drives them into the local country park, while they sing songs on the way. Once in the woods, they build up a shelter in case of rain (a tarpaulin/tent) and a portable tent toilet. Anything used on the day is brought along and taken back at the end of the day, so as to leave the park as is. During the day, the children explore different aspects of the outdoors, they make mudcakes, mud slides, climb up tree trunks, create shapes with sticks, explore the local community (there's a lot to explore nearby) or even draw pictures. There's quiet time with stories and much more - effectively the full curriculum can be covered outdoors. The children then return for 5pm to the church hall where they can be picked up by parents.

Of course, on the days of awful Scottish weather, I do doubt whether it's a good idea to send Cubling out. But having been to the base I also know that in the woods you are naturally sheltered from wind and rain, and the tent is really rather cozy... Then there's the worry of toilet accidents and we've been rather partial to nappies just in case, especially before the temperature picked up for spring.

Now, after two months, I can see a marked difference in Cubling. She's always been keen to climb and run, but now she does so with a marked increase in confidence. Her urge to climb, balance and master new challenges has increased, and she is much more determined to give new things a good go. Every day we pick her up she is full of excitement and wants to share her experiences with us. She has an increased awareness of the world around her, she sees even more than she used to see, and gets excited about little creatures and is keen to follow them. With all her drive to climb, she has not ever fallen off, instead she is aware of her skills and her limits and takes responsibility herself.

We had some difficulties transitioning from childminder to nursery in general and Cubling did struggle with the lack of one central caretaker who she relates to. However, that transition worked better in the forest kindergarten where she chose to relate to one worker in particular, as well as a few of the children who she quickly called her new friends. Interestingly, she hasn't done either in the indoor nursery: there she doesn't know the name of the children or workers, whereas she'll tell me all about the children and workers at the forest kindergarten. To me this demonstrates that also her social buttons are pressed much more outdoors than indoors. And she is a very social child.

Forest kindergartens are very popular in Scandinavian countries (where they originated) as well as Germany, where I know them from. We opted for it, for at least 2 days out of 4 days a week that Cubling goes to nursery, because she is a very lively and active girl who would forever feel contained in a nursery room. It's amazing to see how her imagination has increased - she now has endless ideas of how to play with very simple items, and keeps surprising us with very unusual activities. She also verbalises risks and how to stay safe much more now, and demonstrates a maturity which really surprises me.

I hope that outdoor nurseries like the Woodlands Outdoor Kindergarten will become a feature across the country and offer an alternative to traditional nursery settings. Here in Glasgow, parents usually choose to send their pre-schoolers (from 2 years 9 months) for one or two days, so that they do also get the experience of "normal" indoor pre-school education (which is also partially funded). There is a lot of support for the development of similar forest kindergartens across Scotland, and a commitment to integrate them into the statutory fundable early years education provision. However, with councils short of money, all the national support may not push things forward quite so swiftly on that front.

Cubling is proud to be a Waldkind, and I hope she'll keep enjoying it as much as she does now: "Climbing, forever trying / .../ getting to where you should be going" to say it in Paul Weller's words.

This post was written for the Best of British Mummy Blogging carnival which will be up on 11th May at A Place of my Own.

I believe I can fly ...

The world according to Cubling:

This morning daddy shaved the grass.

I wanted to go to the neighbours house. Mummy said better not, because the neighbour wanted to have some time alone. I wanted to be alone too. With her. Then mummy said she wanted to be alone on the loo. And I wanted to be alone too. With her.

I found two feathers and saw a helicopter and an aeroplane. So I took the feathers and flew in the grass.

Mummy and daddy had a hard time keeping up with me, I think they were playing chase but they couldn't catch me. I'm a big girl now. I'm faster.

When we were home I helped mummy cook a stoerfry and bake a cake, schieb schieb inen Ofen 'nein. I wanted to eat very viel cake. But I didn't like the green bits. Mummy says they're called rhubarb and she likes them. Ich aber nicht.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A walk in the park? I don't think so

I've had it. This pregnancy officially sucks. Please don't get me wrong, I'm eternally grateful that I am pregnant and try my best to keep positive and just enjoy the ride.

Just that those pregnancy hormones play havoc with my system and I'm losing the battle.

For example, I'm not at all impressed that I now sport the 5th cold/cough/respiratory infection since falling pregnant (consider that the first lasted 6 weeks and I'm  months pregnant you can imagine that I've hardly been feeling normal during this pregnancy at all). To make it all worse of course we're allowed to take feck all to ease the symptoms. Which I'm starting to ignore. Bad mum, fine. I'm only human, boo.

Secondly my sense of my body circumference hasn't quite made an appearance yet. I remember that from last time - endless spillages on my belly, as if it had some kind of magnetic capacity to attract liquids, and regular incidents of walking into door handles. It stops being funny if you run full steam into a sharp bolt of the fire escape door at work and walk home with a scratched, bruised and rather sore belly and wonder about fundal height.

I'm not particularly happy about the outcome of my 20 week scan, for all the anxiety about whether baby is fine it never crossed my mind that my placenta could be a trouble maker. Yes, it's better than a problem with baby, and yes, things may still turn out allright, but the prospect of either a c-section in case of placenta praevia or the risks that an emergency c-section would carry if it turns out to be an anterior placenta make it hard to believe my hypnobirthing mantra that birth is safe.

I'm also rather fed up that the one evening that Mr Cartside and I went out TOGETHER to see the amazing Duke Special, I felt sick as a dog thanks to what I guess must be pregnancy induced reflux. Imagine me, trying so hard to enjoy the fabulous gig, while doing my best to not throw up. Effectively, eating in the evening is not a good idea. I'm not sure if my diet is good for growing a baby, but I guess at least it means that this pregnancy I definitely won't put on a whopping 4 stone. Just if I feel like this at 23 weeks, how will I feel in week 36???

Feeling as rubbish as I do, my grand idea that my immune system can be strengthened by eating well and some moderate exercise is binned again. Can't eat, can't walk without feeling oxygen deprived. Vicious circle. Can you tell I'm fed up? I really and truly want to be full of pregnancy glow, knit dozens of cute things for the baby, get out my pregnancy yoga DVD and enjoy what will be my last pregnancy. But even with the best will in the world, enjoyable it is not so far.

My best friends currently are echinacea, zinc, vitamin C, nasal spray (naughty me) and Cubling's hugs.

Rant over.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Gone gigging

Probably one of the most beautiful songs ever and I can't wait to see all of his new Brecht and Weill stuff to be done live. So here's to a music full of beautiful music. And because it's hard to hear the lyrics, here they are in full:

I let go to feel the fall
And know that I’m alive
I see my breath and think of God
And everything I have

This could be my last day
This could be my last day

I touch your grave it comforts me
Tells me to be true
Everyone’s a burning star
Time is running through

This could be my last day
This could be my last day

Everything is fragile
Everything is broken
You were full of living colours
And such a sense of wonder
Prophecy is written
Prophecy is spoken
I wish I could have saved you
But I think I’m going under

This could be my last day
This could be my last day

11 years and 8 september
Never be the same
Charing Cross and woven hats
Flinching at your name

This could be my last day
This could be my last day

Everything is fragile
Everything is broken
You were full of living colours
And such a sense of wonder
Prophecy is written
Prophecy is spoken
I wish I could have saved you
But I saw you going under
I wish I could have saved you
But I think I’m going under

Sponsored Post: Forum Fever

Although addicted to the internet, blogging and all that, I'm not one who uses forums and awful lot. Until I got pregnant. There is something rather addictive about pregnancy forums. When I was expecting with Cubling, from early pregnancy onwards, my preferred forum was on Bounty - I think at the time it was the only decent parent forum at the time and I ended up spending an awful lot of time there. Any question that came up, whether on pregnancy, going overdue, birth, hypnobirthing, real nappies, breastfeeding, colic, becoming a parent, weaning - it got answered there first. The instant nature of the forum, the fact that so many other people were using it insured that you would get support, a good answer and a bit of fun out of it, it was addictive and just fab.

And I was back on when I miscarried, and then when trying to conceive as a now definitely older woman. Again, it was great to be able to ask many odd questions, questions that I didn't really dare anywhere else. Finally, when pregnant again with Tiddler, it was the place where I could secretly share my joy of being pregnant again, moan about that terrible nausea that made me rather sure that this time things were going rather well (but rather desperate how I would cope without being able to let people know(. I'm sure I saved my friends and colleagues many a moan by letting it out on the forums.

Of course there's more to Bounty then the forums, for example you can get updates on the stages of your pregnancy, another feature that worked like magic for me in my first pregnancy. Well, I still read these updates now but the novelty isn't quite the same as first time around. And while trying to conceive, I think I must have learned the signs of pregnancy off by heart, considering I looked at them every month trying to figure out whether I could be pregnant.

The Bounty site definitely worked a treat for me, and I'm happy to recommend it to all expectant parents. Have a look, it may work for you.

Monday, 3 May 2010

So who would I vote for?

I've been asking myself this question and ruffling my hair over it for quite some time now. Even if in the end I don't have to make my mind up because at least for these general elections, I'm not a UK citizen and therefore not eligible to vote, but still. It's not as straight forward as many make you believe. Now, just a summary of who I am - I passionately (yes yes, an overused word, but it's the best one around) believe in a society which offers equality for all. My main concern for the future is our over reliance on fossil fuels for food production and what will happen if fossil fuels run out. In Germany, my vote usually went to the Green Party and I was overjoyed to see them form a coalition government (the one before the current German government) and having decision making powers.

So you should think I would just transfer that vote to the equivalent party around here. But stop, the UK operates on a first past the post system. I live in Glasgow South, a constituency where the Labour majority is so vast that nobody has even bothered to canvas properly as long as I can think. Our Labour MP, if you look at his record, and his blog, to my mind would be better placed in a different party. And of course he'd be annoyed by this judgement. Bottom line is that I don't feel represented by him, and would quite like the seat to go to someone different.

That would be where tactical voting sets in. If you look at Scottish Parliament, European and even Council elections, it seems that the SNP is doing rather well in our constituency so I believed naively that if there is an alternative, it surely must be SNP. I also agree with this party on many issues that are dear to me, though I'd always be extremely reluctant to support any party who carries the word Nationalist in their name. For historical reasons and because I think nationalism is a whole lot of useless rubbish. But of course, general elections are different, and most people who would vote for the SNP in regional and local elections won't do it now. Therefore a) it's unlikely that any party would beat the apparently 10,000 majority Labour has, and b) it could only be beaten if we all agreed on who the alternative would be. Which we do not. I could just as well vote Green then. Or anyone else because the majority is thus that voting for anyone other than Labour translates to a wasted vote.

Then there's the issue of avoiding the worst case scenario, which actually would put me awfully close to voting Labour.

Plus I always wonder if a tactical vote is a dishonest vote anyway. I mean, is it right to vote for a candidate just because you don't like the face of your current MP? It's about the party, not the candidate, right? If that statement was true (and it is to me, as I would always make sure I vote for the party that represents my views best), FPTP is really the wrong system. If it's about the party, PR is the right approach. I guess in the UK it's just a little bit about the party, I suppose in general terms for forming a government, but in specific terms it's about a person. And it matters pretty little what party that person belongs to.

And that's the point where I get a headache because my mind is starting to explode.

Maybe I would be voting Lib Dems because they want to introduce PR. Not enough of a reason? Hm, not so sure anymore. At least it would mean in future that I can vote for the party of my choice and not waste my vote by doing so.

So let's look at the result of my email requesting my local candidates to support a Robin Hood Tax (that's a tax taken from banks to support the poorest in this country). SNP got back quickly and fully support it. Green Party came back a few days later and fully support it. LibDems got back twice and sent me a much longer response, much more detail, about their support for a similar financial transaction tax to be introduced alongside similar international measures - the proceeds of which would go to developing countries. Not quite the Robin Hood Tax but something for sure. Labour and Tories: no response.

A similar picture if you look at the feedback Southside Happenings' initiative got. Labour and Conservative Parties join the LibDems in not being bothered. The SNP scores highest points on the communication table.

Again, not a reason in itself to vote for them, but it doesn't endear me to the big 3 that they are rather reluctant to speak to me.

So then, who would I vote for if I could?

I have no idea. My vote would most definitely be a swing vote.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

rain and sunshine, vane hill and a tick

There are days when I feel so lucky to be living in this country. I mean, I'm generally quite happy living here, just that there are days when everything is right. And one of those days was yesterday.

I left Glasgow in the pouring rain, arrived near Stirling in mixed weather, yet we still decided to go ahead with the plan to visit Vane Farm near Kinross, in the hope that going further north east would keep us dry.

Nobody had warned us that it was going to be such a glorious day, with warm sunshine, unreal skies, birds buzzing right past our heads.

We went to Vane Farm, which is part of the Loch Leven Nature Reserve and run by the RSPB. Our walk took us up Vane Hill, apparently a 2km walk up to a viewpoint at 250 metre (750 feet) height. The ascent was steep and it was our first proper hill walk. Now Cubling is a reasonable walker, but this was tough going and there was a point where she pleaded for no more steps please. How hard must it be for a small person to get up step after step sized for big people? I have to admit that her pace served me well, not being the fittest and pregnancy not exactly doing my already meagre fitness much good. She was more interested in climbing trees, collecting sand and stones than views, so we had our very own highlights.

The round trip took us a good 2 hours, which isn't all that bad considering the steep incline, the fact that we had 3 3-year olds, a 20 month old, an 8 month old and a fetus in tow and that there were a great deal of stones, sticks, bugs, and even wigwams to be explored.

We rounded off the day by relaxing in the cafe (which had already shut but sometimes cafe staff are nice and they let you regain your energy) and the kids being shown all the birds which can be viewed there with the help of fixed cameras installed across the area. I can definitely recommend a visit to the centre, it has a nice shop and really friendly RSPB staff who will explain all about the local birds to any child, regardless of age. Cubling left singing "Alle Voegel sind schon da" (a German children's song about spring and birds) which speaks for itself.

We even brought home a souvenir: Cubling's first ever tick and with it, hurray, a trip to A&E because my previous two attempts to remove ticks weren't very successful and I wanted to make sure I didn't mess up again. So for anyone wondering how to remove a tick professionally, without exposing their child to a big, bearded and rather scary doctor of the Stirling Infirmary A&E: get a pair of tweezers, and pull the tick out straight (no, no turning!!!) and gently, until it lets go. Don't force it and do it as soon as detected, the sooner the better. It looked easy!

And yes, I was tired as a dog, and would have slept like a log, if it hadn't been for all those birds singing all morning...



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