Monday, 28 November 2011


She is 14 months old, and she can just about walk. Crawling is so yesterday that every movement is prefaced by the laborious squat and lifting of her body. Her toddle is determined, yet wobbly and slow. Every step an effort of balance and work against gravity. Her eyes ever attentive, she watches with glee the ball game between her sister and their grampa. The eyes follow the ball, until she joins in, squeaking with delight.

She is slow, barely manages to move towards the ball. Catching is out of question, but she can lunge when it escapes the hold of the 4 year old. Just occasionally, she wins the race, when the ball is oh so close to her and the big sister oh so far away. With the ball in her hand, sporting a proud smile, she toddles towards granny and delighted passes the ball to her.

She is playing catch and throw. Only she can't catch and she can't throw. Her world, unlike ours, is not limited by cans and cannots. She is playing catch and throw with all her might. She is part of the game, it's her game just as much as it is ours. She is the game. There is no self conciousness holding her back because she has no sense of self, just a sense of the game.

And I start to imagine a world without self conciousness. A world where everyone just joined in, with all their might, with all their determination and regardless of "ability", to take part without any sense of success or failure, being lesser or better than anyone else. Where everyone is just as good a player as anyone else, and plays their own unique part, with conviction and pride.

Through her 14 months old eyes, I may just have glimpsed a beautiful world.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

GET IN - young Ambassadors campaign

It's been all engines go at work (yes I still have a job, even if temporary) and before I collapse after yet another eventful day which was all good but also rather exhausting, it's high time to show you a really highlight of Save the Children's work in the UK, and Scotland in particular. Because, you know, Save the Children doesn't just work abroad. You'll be forgiven for thinking that, but just to set the balance right, here's what happened in Scotland on Monday:

A group of teenagers had thought long and hard about what are the things affecting and even holding back young people growing up in poverty in Scotland. In their search to find a barrier for poor kids to achieving their full potential, they identified that it is often really hard to access leisure activities. There's the cost of the activities, there's the cost of travel involved. Maybe there's nothing available locally, or it's just too dear to get to or to get in. Leisure isn't just about a bit of fun, but really an important part of young people's lives. It's about socialising and keeping fit, development and something worthwhile to do. For those young people excluded from it because it's too dear, they are losing out on a lot.

The young people, who are the Scotland Ambassadors with Save the Children, came up with a solution: a discount card may help pave the way towards equal access to leisure. But, I hear you say (if you are in Scotland and know anything about young people), there's the Young Scot card already? Well, admittedly there is. How come then that lots of young people don't have one or don't use it? Once again, the Ambassadors identified why the Young Scot Card wasn't working for all young people and how it could possibly be improved.

On Monday, their GET IN Campaign was launched, at the Poverty Summit that they had organised and led. The summit brought together decision makers, movers and shakers and above all young people from various other projects that Save the Children is running in Scotland. While the Ambassadors presented their campaign and discount card idea in the "Dragon's Den" of politicians and Co., the other young people thought about how they could contribute to the campaign.

My personal high point was when children from both of the groups I currently work with grabbed the microphone out of my hands to stand up and present their ideas in front of an audience of about 70 adults in suits. As if it was the most natural thing to do. Sniff, it was rather moving seeing "my" 9 year olds telling it like it is.

This is meant to be the start and we need as much support as we can get to make the campaign a success and to move things forward. Please check out the Get In Campaing Facebook page and like it, share it amongst your networks. Tell any young people aged 11-19 and living in Scotland about the campaign survey (there's an iPod to be won!) because the more evidence of barriers around access to leisure the stronger the voice of the campaign will be.

And here they are in action, Scotland's Save the Children Ambassadors:

Thursday, 17 November 2011

'tis the season...

...for making photo presents.
Every year around about this time, I'm found more in front of the laptop editing photos in the evenings than anything else. My eyes are box shaped as I wade through the thousands of images of two beautiful girls and the occasional rare shot of their parents, grandparents, auntie and cousins. In this digital age, if it weren't for presents around this time of the year or the simple discipline of wanting to have a baby's first year book not just for Cubling but also for Snowflake, the photos would probably just rot away on some hard drive.

Thankfully, there's the wonderful world of sponsored blog posts and they hardly ever come as welcomed as when it's about photo products (because, you know, I'd be buying them anyway so to get them for free and then blog about them, which I would have done anyway, well, that's pretty cool).

Time is short though and what with being more than busy at the start of the festive season, there are two products I'd like to review in this post - and bear with me, there's even a special offer code at the end for anyone who wants to give this a go too.

So first up is the tried and tested Photobox. We have a sort of tradition of making A3 photo calendars for the grandparents. I love doing this because I can bring together the best photos of the past year and share them with my father in Germany, as well as my in-laws who are not so far away but always love getting some photos of their grandchildren. I use A3 calendars because they are perfect for celebrating photos. It's the biggest format, with least space spent on the actual calendar bit (which is just the way I like it, but of course, if you're more into having a calendar that actually gives space to make notes etc - there's other calendar products on that will work better, I just like big photos on black background). This year I also made up a baby first year book and thanks to the credits I was given, I splashed out on the biggest bestest beautifullest product: an A3 photobook with best paper and finishing. I added a good few pages so that the full whammy would have cost £61 including postage. Sounds a lot? Well, to be honest, we still regularly look into Cubling's first year book and I still look into my own! So for something that's made to last and such a special item, I'm quite happy to go for the best possible option. And if that's not your cuppa, you can get photobooks and calendars at Photobox for as little as £11.99 (or for free if you sign up).

As to the process - you're best to edit and select your photos first, if you have a good digital camera with large files, you're best to ftp the photos you may want to use overnight. In my case (with lots of large photos) the upload took a good few hours. Next day, you can design your book. There are preset designs such as Baby's First Year. I don't like to be boxed in by such presets, but they still work for me: they template gave me ideas that I didn't think of myself (e.g. to compile a page on bathtime, one on eating, one on the first holiday etc), and if I didn't like the design of the page, it's easy peasy to customise it. So working with a template gives you a head start but there's no stopping you changing every little thing about the template, which means you are in full control. There's a nifty little tick on each photo to indicate if you've already used it or not. And if you need more than one sitting to design your book (as I always do), don't worry, it's all saved and you can access it the following day. In fact, all of my old creations are still on my account - it's great to know I could print them off again or even share them with my family.

Effectively, you can go from letting Photobox compile your book in a few minutes to spending weeks on the perfect design (the latter would be me). And, a few days later, the masterpiece arrived much to the delight of the whole family. It looks good. I'm very proud of it. One thing I can't tell is whether the premium paper and finishing options actually make much of a difference - but they're not that pricey so I would probably do it again. In the past I've also made the cheaper version of photobooks, for less special occasions. For instance, I made a spiral bound small photobook at £13.99 about our two holidays which is great for sharing with the children and talking about what they did, who they saw and keeping in touch with the German side of our family through pictures.

Next up I was approaced by which is an American based company specialising in customised holiday cards. Initially I had reservations, what with distance and how long the postal way would take. But surprisingly, within 4 days of submitting the proof, the cards arrived. That's quicker than some mail I get from Europe! On the site, you can create your own special occasion cards using your own pictures. I'd always wanted to send Christmas cards with a photos of our family, so this was an ideal opportunity to try it out. As we send rather a lot of cards, I opted for the high quantity flat card version - which come at $100 per 50. I think that's a comparable price to what you'd pay for a similar provider in the UK. Minted ships internationally and has competitive rates.

The design of my card was reasonably quick - there are endless designs to choose from but because of the cultural differences maybe, I didn't find too many of them suitable. I'm old fashioned and if it's a Christmas card, I want it to say happy Christmas rather than Happy Holidays. There was still a great choice even amongst the traditional (or British?) worded cards but it was nice not to have to browse through absolutely all of the designs because it would have taken me hours.

I ended up choosing a simple, charming design, with just one photo and a simple message. A day later the proof arrived by email link and once accepted, the cards arrived really quickly and came beautifully packaged and presented. Although I went for the cheapest card stock, the paper feels great and I'm really pleased with the cards (and relieved that it is now definitely possible to make the remaining cards we need ourselves). The back of them is blank, which leaves enough space for personal messages. Folded cards are twice the price, so you get 25 for $100.

If you want to give Minted a go as well, you can get 15% off your order by using this code at checkout: READERS10 (orders must be placed by 28/11/2011).

~~~full disclaimer: this is a sponsored post and I received £50 worth of Photobox credits to create and review a photo gift and $100 plus postage to review customised holiday cards from Minted~~~

Monday, 14 November 2011

Babies count

If there is one thing that has really opened my eyes in relation to rather a lot of things I care about it's the realisation how important the first year is in the development of a human being. Not just the first year of course, but during the first year of life rather a lot happens, and much more than in any other year of anyone's life.

Similarly, the first 3 years are more important than any other 3 years, and set the child off into the world and they will carry this with them for the rest of their lives.

The realisation is scary, because it does put a lot of pressure on parents to get it right. However, it's not about pressure because it doesn't actually take a lot to make sure that this first year turns out well. It is, at the end of the day, about love and affection, responsive care (i.e. reacting to the baby when upset), creating secure attachment by being there, interacting, focusing on the child daily at some point. Talk to, play with and read to your child and you'll be doing just fine. Don't leave them to cry, be close to them, if they need it, carry them.

I didn't know this when I first became a parent. I also didn't know how difficult it is to parent a "high need", "demanding", "colicky", "spirited" baby. All these labels, that came down to a baby that could not ever be in a separate room to me, that would not ever be settled in a bouncy chair, play pen, or even on the floor right beside me. If I'd known then that this is normal for some children and that it will pass, I would have gone with the flow. Instead I worried, I questioned myself, I even got angry with my baby when I was at the end of my tether. It pains me to say this, but I was at stages so distraught by inconsolable crying that I understood how a mother could shake her baby. I never did, but I was at the point where I knew exactly how a parent could shake a baby, a shocking realisation.

Looking back, all we knew about becoming parents was pregnancy and birth. We were thrown into the deep end. I had been an au-pair as a youngster and was confident I'd be doing just fine. I didn't and there was very little support around, very little help on how to parent when you really didn't know how to do it right. Library books and online forums were my saving grace but looking back now with the experience of raising two, and knowing more about how important secure attachment is, I have to say that some of the books to me are now out of bounds. Similarly, some of the advice I was given I even knew at the time was not the right advice for my child.

In a bigger picture, many of the ills of society are rooted in those first 3 years. If a child doesn't have caring parents, it is at high risk of suffering anxiety, depression, or the other end, become aggressive and violent. Substance abuse, crime and vandalism are often explained by a child not having received the love and attention they needed in their first three years.

Because the first year is so important I was more than pleased to hear about NSPCC's new campaign, Babies Count. It highlights how important the first year is as well as that babies are more vulnerable than any other group of people, they are in fact 12 times more likely to be killed than other children in Scotland. It is in this context that the NSPCC has launched the  "All Babies Count " campaign to ensure every baby in Scotland is protected, nurtured and able to thrive.

It's especially more vulnerable babies that are at risk of harm and it's important that every parent receives the support they need. Ultimately, every parent wants the best for their child, but if you are a parent who struggles with mental health problems, domestic violence, drink or drugs, it can be very hard to make sure that babies receive the love and care they need. And the earlier the support kicks in, the better for the baby. "Research shows that when abuse or neglect occurs, babies' development can suffer. The impact of a lack of healthy interaction with parents and other carers in the first year of life is particularly acute and can cause long-term damage to physical and mental health."

As part of the campaign, NSPCC is calling on the Scottish Government to

1. Place the promotion of infant mental health and development at the heart of the National Parenting Strategy, ensuring there is a focus on securing positive parent-child attachment.

2. Review the level and consistency of early year’s services across Scotland, highlighting good practice as well as gaps in provision.

3. Incentivise the reallocation of resources at a local level in effective and evidence-based early interventions, so the aims of the Spending Review can be realised locally.

The charity is making plans to offer a range of services to protect babies and support parents. 
You can join the campaign and make your voice count by signing up through the website, liking the organisation on facebook and following them on Twitter. If you have a concern about a child, you can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000. search for ‘NSPCC Scotland’


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Birthday Treat

This was my birthday treat, a bit delayed but all the more longed for. It must be at least a year that I had wanted to do this:

The resulting basked is the perfect size for keeping my active knitting projects in. Thanks to Joan Campbell for showing us the basics, cooking yummy soup and keeping us warm in the tent with soup. Thanks to Mr Cartside for entertaining the kids and doing such a great job that Snowflake came home a toddler (and is mightily pleased with herself at her feat).

Saturday, 12 November 2011

... and rubbish food

Some of my work involves working with children at primary and secondary schools. Every time I witness break time, I can see a class of 30 take out their bag of crisps each, followed by a chocolate bar.
30 crisps packets per class, in every class, every school day.

My older daughter will be starting school soon and I dread the advent of peer pressure. The other day, on our way home, she already explained to me how she needed chocolates in her lunch box because one child (note, just one!) in the forest kindergarten always had chocolate. I didn't manage to bring across how that wasn't a good idea, as much as I tried.

In the good old time of my own childhood (which of course weren't all that much better) I never saw a bag of crisps. We ate crisps for parties, occasionally as a treat at weekends in the house. My lunch box? Well, I ate at home, didn't get money to spend and would eat a sandwich for lunch which occasionally came with chocolate tablets as filling. I remember waffles which were sweet and probably not very healthy. But most certainly there were no crisps and no chocolate bars ever. Similarly, I would never have thought about spending my pocket money on sweets. It just didn't occur to me. I saved for Hifi's, cameras and later records.

So as of September, will I have to bend down to pressure or will I manage to rule with authority? I shudder to think of a packet of crisps going down my child 5 days a week on 38 school days. How much rubbish is that over 12 school years? Rubbish in terms of nutrition but also in terms of waste. So I had this idea when one group of children (who surely have their bags of crisps too) suggested that we could do a project on a healthy eating theme. Well, how about doing a crisps free lunch, or even a rubbish free lunch day, a day where all the lunches have to be either without packaging or one that can be recycled?

I'm rather excited by this idea. Not sure if the kids will go for it though and they have the say as far as picking a project is concerned. Temptation usually wins doesn't it? Or maybe not?

As for my own children, somehow the school furthest from a shop has taken on a new appeal.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Food, glorious food

Recently we've been making rather a few changes to the way we get our food.

There are reasons for this. First of it's about trying to source food as local as possible. Growing your own is fine and well, just that the space we've got is not going to feed a mouse through the year (and living in the west of Scotland is not conducive to high yields). So the next best thing is trying to source food from within Scotland.

Another reason for changing our food shopping habits is an attempt to reduce packaging and waste. Buying in bulk or without packaging is rather hard if you get your food from the supermarket, even if you try your best to go for minimal packaging, bulk and cardboard before plastic.

I'm not quite that person yet who takes her own containers to the shops (this is mainly a space thing - I can hardly cope with the containers for freezing food I cook, space is precious around here).

So what's our solution? Well, there's two even. And the great thing is that it's something that can be done everywhere really without much effort.
Number one on our list is getting a vegetable bag from an organic and local grower (local in Scotland means east coast, really, the west is too wet to yield crops that actually taste nice. We can grow tatties and cabbage and turnip and rather a lot of beetroot, anything tasty and you need more sun and less rain). To reduce food miles and expense further, we've joined a food co-op. This means that one person coordinates orders and payments, receives the goods, and the members (who are all local) pick up on the delivery day. In return, we get wholesale prices, and the farmer has a guaranteed income throughout the year. There are currently 12 members to our food co-op and a like-minded restaurant serves as the drop off point for the bags so that they can be picked up all day and evening.

Second up is another kind of food co-op. This time it's about wholefoods that come in bulk. Again, there's the benefit of wholesale prices, plus the price advantage of buying in bulk. The system is similar: The food is ordered centrally, delivered centrally and picked up by the members. Our local provider is very amenable to food co-ops with the only condition being that there is no wholefood provision locally. All the admin is down to the members, so each members copies their shopping list from and to an excel sheet and it is then compiled by one volunteer, delivered to one volunteer. In our case we all turned up at the delivery address to sort through the order, one person on the computer, one emptying the boxes and putting food on piles, an one person keeping the kids entertained. It took the better part of an afternoon, but it was actually fun - very sociable and the kids loved it too. As the food comes in bulk, you wouldn't place an order on a weekly basis but it's more like quarterly, and it probably takes some experience to get the quantities right.

With both food-coops, the advantage is also that you get to know a few people near you. So you save money, reduce your carbon footprint, move the money you spend on food to local producers or green suppliers and get to make friends, which may well translate into stronger local communities. It's all good.

And it's so easy to set up, all it takes is a willing volunteer to pull together the order, someone with a bit of a head for numbers and maybe an ability to use excel. Plus another person willing to be the delivery address and opening their house to the chaos of sorting through the order (not as much of a chaos as I imagined). And Bob's your uncle. Free, yummy, local food that doesn't cost the earth.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Moral superiority gone wrong?

The other day, on a breastfeeding themed facebook page / blog that I follow and admire (Analytical Armadillo), the ethics of the Optigrow Infant Feeding study and the process of recruitment of babies for it was questioned.

I was interested because we took part in this study and I had my own dilemma about whether or not it was a good thing to be part of it. To summarise, the study is based at a University and is testing a formula milk which has a different composition to current formula milks on the market, being higher in protein and lower in fat contents which, in this respect and this respect only, makes its composition closer to that of breastmilk. As feeding formula milk carries a higher risk of development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease in later life, as well as obesity, it is hoped that the development of this new formula may reduce this risk. For the study, babies are recruited in the first 24 hours of life and the criteria are that baby is either exclusively breastfed or exclusively formula fed. If recruited in the second group, baby will get randomly either normal or new type formula for a year. Exclusivity of feeding either breastmilk or formula milk is required for the first 10 days for the purpose of this study.

The thread on the Analytical Armadillo facebook page started out with concern about the ethics of recruitment. I chipped in my own experience - partly because I'd been through the process and partly because I was rather keen to see this topic explored what with my own thought process about the study. The concern in the thread was that someone from the Optigrow study was going around a postnatal ward offering free formula for a year and that this undermined breastfeeding at a very crucial and vulnerable time.

Now, it is no secret that I'd like to see higher breastfeeding rates because there is no question that they are low, and in fact very low in socially deprived areas of the country. I'm also very critical of the marketing strategies of formula companies, which claim that their formula is closest to breastmilk and similar rubbish. I'm also very aware that the discourse around breast is best is misleading, with its wording of "benefits of breastfeeding" rather than "risks of formula feeding" (the former implies that formula feeding is normal and you get a benefit if you breast feed, while the latter implies that breast feeding is normal and the poorer health outcomes in baby and mum when formula feeding are a risk to both).

Furthermore, I'm acutely aware that our culture around parenting favours formula feeding. New mums are expected to be yummy mummies, to continue their pre-baby lifestyle, to demonstrate they take it all in their stride. "Me time" is a big thing that apparently every mum should have every day, and which includes an expectation that mum has a right to spend time away from baby. The expectation is so strong that I felt more than awkward when receiving an invitation for a night out when my youngest was 6 months and I had to decline because there was no way I could have left her at home even for a few hours. Mums are expected to return to work after no more than 9 months of maternity leave (which translates to 7-8 months after birth of baby) and a return to work of course means that many will move over to formula at that point. The demands of being a mother to a newborn are downplayed and there is little recognition of parenting being a full time job in itself. I have elaborated on this because this culture is significant as it favours the bottle. The bottle is freedom from baby, it allows others than mum to take on the feeding and caring aspect more readily and I'm pretty sure that this is the main reason why many new mums who can breastfeed but choose not to from the start do so.

So if we want to improve breastfeeding rates overall, we are up against a culture that makes it difficult to breast feed, we are up against marketing and advertising that sell us formula as the next best thing, and a discourse around breastfeeding that implies that formula feeding is in fact the norm. As a consequence. there are places in Glasgow where breastfeeding rates are as low as 8% at the 6-8 week postnatal appointment. The highest rates I could find were 68% at 6-8 week appointment, in the most affluent areas, which is still low in my view, considering 95% of women can breastfeed (and do in many countries).

This leaves us with between 32% and 92% of new mums who formula feed 8 weeks post birth, and rising the older the infant gets. Anecdotally, of all the parents I know (and I know a lot, as we attend many playgroups and most of my friends have had babies, and almost everyone I know intended to breastfeed) I only know one person who breastfed longer than I did (I stopped at 23 months with my first, falling short of WHO guidelines). The point I'm trying to make is that in reality, a lot of babies are fed on formula milk whether we like it or not.

Considering the facts, improving formula to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease must be a good thing because it would benefit the long term health of up to 92% of babies in some parts of the country, while we work on changing the culture that makes new mums choose formula over breast.

The response I received to this point was:
"Lactating mums need to STOP giving formula manufactures access to their children/milk! Would you give your business information to your rival company? Yes they need to make better formula for the TINY % of babies/women for whom BFing is not a possibility BUT whilst they are aggressively marketing formula as a life style choice and comparing it to BM and violating the WHO code they can do it without help from us!! Grrrrr!"

I take offence at this statement. I did not sell my baby to anyone. I considered carefully the ethics of the study and decided that from a pragmatic perspective, bearing the health outcomes of babies in mind, it was a good thing to take part in it. I'm not naive or stupid, I made an educated and informed decision.

Secondly, the statement argues that there are deserving babies vs undeserving babies (the "TINY % of" babies where mum can't breastfeed vs the babies of mums who choose not to breastfeed). Nevermind that many mums who end up not breastfeeding didn't choose this but struggled so bloody hard that it became an impossibility for them, the bottom line of this statement is that if you choose not to breastfeed your baby should rightly be exposed to risky formula even if less risky formula exists.

Now, you can argue about the ethics of the study as much as you want, but how about the ethics of this statement? Do we have two classes of babies? It's about the baby's health not the mum-who-chose-not-to-breastfeed's health! (and I reiterate that most mums who choose not to breastfeed didn't do this lightly and that usually there's a very good reason for this choice, ignoring this is plain patronising towards these mums).

At the same time I'm open to discussing the ethics to this study and I'm really keen to find out more. The two points in question are: the ethics of recruitment and the agenda of those who fund the study. Let's start with the second point: It has been mentioned that it's in fact funded by formula producers. It wouldn't surprise me because let's face it, state funding is being cut left right and centre, and a lot of academic studies depend on private investment. And private investment can only be obtained if there is something in it for the investor. So, formula producers are the likely investors. Of course there is a conflict of interest but I would still maintain that for the sake of the greater good (=health of babies) we shouldn't categorically dismiss any study that is funded by formula manufacturers. Instead, we should make sure that the study is scientifically sound, peer reviewed and that in the case of introduction to the market of the new "closer to breastmilk" formula, the marketing of this formula is factual, and that advertisement is controlled.

As to the recruitment, I can only speak for myself. I was approached because I was exclusively breastfeeding. The mum opposite me was mix feeding and did not get approached. When approached I was extremely tired after 3 consecutive sleepness nights (2 spent in labour followed by one with a mucusy post c-section baby). The researcher recognised that this did not constitute an ability to sign a consent form. She noted my interest and insisted on consent from dad, and returned hours later after I had had some sleep. At no point was the fact that there would be free formula mentioned to me. I cannot see therefore that anything in the recruitment process undermined my intention to breastfeed.

Quite the contrary - I was open to mixed feeding due to my previous experience of breastfeeding. The study required exclusive breastfeeding for 10 days. Somehow this gave me some goal to work towards, and once I'd reached it it was going so smoothly that in fact my baby didn't touch a drop of formula. As to the claim that apparently the first 10 days of the life of a baby and how it is fed seem to have a disproportionate influence on the risk of developing obesity, diabetes and heart disease - well, I don't know if this is true, but the study claims that because this is so, they "only" need exclusive breastfeeding for the first 10 days for the baby to qualify for the (breastfed) control group. This statement at no point translated to me as "after 10 days you can give baby a bottle".

To me, this process is good enough. It was made clear that I could leave the study at any time (and I was close to it because the recording of feeds really got on my socks). There are elements in the forms to be completed which I would change (e.g. for recording feeds in a 24 hour period, there are only 10 lines, and a breastfed baby is likely to feed more often than that). It may be that the process was less ethical in other postnatal wards and that clearly needs to be addressed.

The bottom line for me though remains the same. Refusing to allow the development of a healthier formula is patronising and morally wrong. Health inequalities between the richest and the poorest are a rift that divide and blight our society. Anything that can help to improve the health of our future generation is a good thing. Even if formula companies pay for it. We need, however, to hold them accountable and make sure the information gained is used in the best possible way.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Of 10 headed men, lanterns, pumpkins, guising and vampires (amongst others)

So hello there. Long time no see. Who'd have thunk that I could ever neglect my blog to such an extent? It's easy though, you just need to get into a really busy schedule, like the type that's busier than normal, and voila. No time to blog. Did I miss it? A little, not as much as I expected.

But worry you not, my faithful readers, I'm baaack.

To update you a little bit on what's been happening in the busy Cartside household, well, there's been pumpkin carving. Not something I have much experience of, but heyho, it's called being creative. So the first pumpkin was sat on a 4 pack of baked beans and somehow didn't like it so much. One morning I was heard shouting to my Beloved that there was yet another flood in the kitchen, this time the work surface, could he stop having a shower.

While clearing up I wondered about that smell, which wasn't shower water or even shower water went through plaster miff. It was sticky too. Then I saw the culprit, a rotten pumpkin, escaping its fate by literally escaping its shell.

The second pumpkin got a scary shark face and the third one never got carved.
There was a cat costume to be made. (Remember I have that thing going that I don't want to buy new stuff? Make first, buy secondhand or handmade?). Well, I never  managed to sew that outfit but at least managed a sad impression of a tail made from a tights leg and crunched up Glasgow Extra newspaper. Thankfully the charity shop had a cat ears hair band and even a devil horns one for the little one who couldn't protest. Though she did protest against that vampire costume which I found rather fetching considering her recent attempt to sever my left nipple off my breast.

Where was I? Oh. Then there's St Martin's. We needed to make a lantern. There I was, showing Cubling all those lovely dovely lantern designs and what does she go for? Doing her own thing. Thankfully there was enough stuff in our rubbish bin to upcycle (love that word) this wonderful lantern, Cubling design top to bottom. They must have been doing shapes at pre-school, as she insisted to decorate it with diamonds, crosses, squares, ovals and the like. I have to admit, even if reluctantly, that her design is not bad at all.

When she wasn't lantern making or pumpkin carving she took to drawing images of 10 headed men. I was told that this had something to do with Divali but really hoped it wouldn't be yet another source of night terrors.

Next up, trick or treating, or guising as it is known in these parts. Her daddy had little faith in her being the part, but let me assure you, if you've ever heard good jokes, let my 4 year old take them on! "Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he had a head on its curtain."
I mean really, could there be better jokes? And the rewards was a (modest in my eyes, huge in hers) bag of chocolates and sweets, 2 bananas ("for Snowflake, mummy") and a very pleased indeed little girl.

The pumpkin soup however. Umph. Let's say there was a bit of a lurgy going around. Just as well there was a massive box of chocolates to celebrate my birthday which kept my mind off feeling sick, while the rest of the household had the pukes.

All the while I was trying to make my mind up whether I should start an enterprise, become a stay at home mum or continue the rat race in the futile attempt at what some people call work/life balance. I tried to explain to Cubling that visiting us 5 times a night doesn't quite contribute to that balance.

So then, how's your month been?



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