Monday, 3 December 2012

A Different Weekend

This was meant to be the weekend of the Christmas Craft Fairs.
Except that at the very end of her first ceilidh, a family ceilidh on St Andrew's Day, fundraising for a school in an earthquake hit town in India, Snowflake graced the carpet of the church hall, right in front of the yummiest cakes, with an expulsion of self same, a sausage, and, as Cubling later explained, blueberries eaten at the childminder about 6 hours earlier.

It was one of those "where's the next hole in the ground please" moments.
I don't get why kids go from totally fine to totally not, and vice versa, in just a minute. I was sure it was just the dancing and jumping about, but what was to follow made it clear that no, it was a proper bug.

Cubling panicked in the car upon expulsion no. 3 declaring she most definitely never wants to have children because she simply hates puke. My suggestion to be a bit more sympathetic for her poor little sister were literally met with deaf ears (held shut, like her eyes and nose, so she wouldn't have to get any sense of what was happening beside her). I should also say it followed on from a discussion in the car en route to the very ceilidh when Cubling had told me that she didn't want to grow up because she didn't want to have children. I tried to explain that she wouldn't automatically have children and could decide not to have any, which of course was followed by a "how so" question that I answered with a certain amount of evasiveness. I wasn't quite sure if she had fully believed me, with a kind of "mummy knows about these things, you don't need to have kids, it doesn't just happen and you can avoid having them" "how?" "that's just how it is" "but how can I avoid having children exactly?" "I'll tell you another time".

And so, we spent the weekend at home. Holding baba (who is really not a baba anymore of course), going for a short walk, cooking and baking, watching films on our trial subscription of Netflix, playing games and doing some Christmassy crafts. And it was ok, even though I had to try a little bit not to feel too sorry for having missed the Christmas Fairs.

This afternoon, Snowflake woke after a long nap (followed by another bad episode of les vomits) and demanded food. Just like that. I was a bit hesitant but truth be told, a switch had been flicked and she was totally fine again.

Mummy shakes head and hopes that this has been it, and it hasn't been passed on.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Wacky

wack·y  (wk) also whack·y (hwk, wk)
adj. wack·i·er also whack·i·erwack·i·est also whack·i·est Slang
1. Eccentric or irrational: a wacky person.
2. Crazy; silly: a wacky outfit.


There is this wonderful get together in the Southside of Glasgow that goes by the name of StitchUp. It's all about sewing and related stuff, upcycling, making and mending and sharing skills. It happens once a month and my big girl loves it. Recently, there's a weekly StitchUp specifically aimed at families which runs weekly after school. Normally, I wouldn't be able to make it, but luckily I've ended up with a lot of annual leave at the end of the year and have managed a few sneaky short days to take Cubling to her favourite sewing cafe.

The funniest thing is, she never ever actually does any of the projects on offer. And more often than not, I wondered why on earth she loves it so much when she doesn't actually engage with what's on offer in any conventional way.
If there's pin cushions, she makes random concoctions of fabric.
If there's sock monkeys, she decorates her fingers with a skirt and draws a smiley face on her fingertips.
If there's weaving/french knitting/pompoms she'll sew a button on a piece of elastic.

Above all, she loves the sewing machine. It's a bit of a version of what I guess a racing car or Scelectrics is for boys. Ahem, or some girls, those things were definitely on my favourite toys ever list. But I digress. She won't actually sew anything normal on the sewing machine, but quite likes to create lines and make shapes with them, or knot things together to create a fish on a fishing line.

Sometimes, I get impatient or feel like her refusal to engage with ideas put to her is a personal rejection. But more and more I've been learning to sit back, relax and appreciate her out of the box thinking, her true creativity that doesn't follow the norm or what people say she should be making. Her creativity is not one that works within boundaries, but one which is free of boundaries. Maybe it's the creativity of any child, where the world is full of potential and not yet boxed into right and wrong. Maybe she is a rebel in the making.

Today, while I was making a sock monkey as was expected from me, I secretly watched her focus on making the wackiest creations with fabric scraps, stuffing, bands and buttons. And I starte to envy her for the passion and determination in creating something totally her own, for going her own way regardless of any expectations around her. I no longer felt apologetic for my wacky girl, or out of sync with her actions, but felt a sense of admiration growing inside of me.

I was reminded of a poem, Markings by Seamus Heaney, where he likens child's play to the power of the imagination where boundaries are created and then allowed to be passed. The poem celebrates this  freedom of child's play, which is not directed towards a purpose but optional, and which is a metaphor for the creative freedom of the poet to challenge the world as it is perceived:

It was quick and constant, a game that never need
Be played out. Some limit had been passed, 

There was fleetness, furtherance, untiredness 
In time that was extra, unforeseen and free. 

And so I am challenged by my daughter to question my expectations on her and my own limitations of my mind formed by so many other expectations that were imposed on me. Through her I can see a glimpse of freedom and possibility that otherwise would have remained unknown.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Where you may find me these days...

As you can see, it's a bit quiet on this space at the moment. Fear not though, there's some blogging going on at my other place, Nature Kids Glasgow. When I first had the idea for Nature Kids, I was sure I could keep up regular blogging on both blogs. Since then, I've had to increase my working hours and recently I've been busy with many a project (photo books for instance, which took up a lot of evenings because I'm a bit perfectionistic when it comes to photo books, but there's also been a lot of knitting). It's not that I'm thinking of shutting this place down, far from it, just that part of what I used to blog about has now moved over to Nature Kids. So I'd like to invite all my Mummy do that! readers to also subscribe to Nature Kids. Currently, I'm doing a series of posts on innovative initiatives that connect children with nature in and around Glasgow, as well as a review of outdoor clothing and tips on what Santa may bring the child who loves to jump in puddles and climb trees. All of which would have been blogged about here before I had a second blog!

If you're in or near Glasgow (or even if you aren't), you might find it useful to sign up to the Nature Kids Glasgow facebook page because I share outdoor events nearby (as well as nature craft ideas and anything else that I come across - I've found that the facebook page is quite popular, a bit to my own surprise, maybe facebook pages are the way blogging is going, who knows, they are a bit more interactive that's for sure).

With all things children and nature moved over to Nature Kids, this space is reserved for EVERYTHING ELSE. Which, at the moment, isn't a lot and I'm clearly far from my previous every 2-3 days posting schedule, because we do rather a lot outdoors in the little time we've got!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Review: Snapfish

It was June when we went on a loooong train journey to the other end of the world the UK and spend a week in beautiful Devon. Or rather, I'm sure it was beautiful, just that for all the rain we didn't see much beyond the hedgerows. We went with the extended family, and the kids had an absolute whale of a time.

Having just taken part in two of the Capturing Childhood e-courses, I took a ton of photos, always with the intention of creating a photo book to remember this first holiday with the whole family, something to look back on and to remember the special moments and the fun had.

Ahem, and now it's November and Devon seems to be even further than a 7 hour train journey away.
It took a bit of a kick in the backside to get this photobook off the ground, or rather an invitation to try out Snapfish for a photo product. Not having used Snapfish before, I was game.

There are quite a few photobook designs to choose from starting from approximately £20. I opted for the customised A4 book, which is special enough without taking up a lot of space. After uploading my favourite photos, I managed to create the full book in just a couple of hours through the interface on the Snapfish website. The book is very customisable, from the background down to the different designs for arranging the photos on the page. Even within the page layout, photos can still be moved and the sizes changed, or even photos added.

The book will print as is displayed, and there was only one minor worry when a warning came up that some of the spaces for photos were vacant, when in fact there was a photo there which hadn't been locked - however the actual print was perfect, so the software appears to be erring on the side of caution.

The print quality was great and the kids love the book. It's already brought back so many memories and anecdotes. In fact, Cubling had a right old laugh remembering the adventures had and I'm sure the book will be picked up a lot. It just shows that for those special occasions, making your digital photos special with a photo book is definitely the right move. Let's face it, we don't often look at photos on the computer, but photo books are definitely getting picked up a lot in our home.
-----------------
Disclaimer: I received a photo product credits to try out a Snapfish photo product and review it.

Monday, 12 November 2012

St Martin's Day in Glasgow

So it's November again. That time of the year where things seem to be falling over one another. We had Halloween, St Martin's and Bonfire night in the space of a week and to be honest, I'm glad it's over. We did have fun though. Having just returned from our holiday for Halloween, the costume was an improvisation of a new dress that passed as a witch's dress and random items from the charity shop - quite an outfit actually. Snowflake was stuck into a pumpkin outfit, as you do with toddlers. Our pumpkins were carved but not very elaborately, though there was lots of pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie.

Our crafting energy went mainly into the making of St Martin's lanterns (and general Halloween crafts). Thankfully there are some crafty people in our German Playgroup who had posted images of lanterns in preparation of the big lantern making event and I fell in love with the Elmer lantern. Thankfully, the girls did too, although Elmer hasn't as such featured around here much. What they loved about this lantern was how it transformed a milk bottle into an elephant with no effort at all and how they both were able to make the lantern because it's really so very simple.

You'll need a milk bottle - the biggest ones, 6 pints, are the best because the shape is more like an elephant and the lantern will have a decent size. We didn't have one, so went for a 4 pint and a 2 litre bottle, and the 4 pint one was still quite elephantesque, while the 2 litre one, well, it just about passed the elephant test so to say.

You cut the bottle along the line in the middle, and the handle will suddenly become a trunk. Feel free to cut out legs if you like. Next, cut transparent paper into small squares, get some glue and get sticking. We used a broad brush which is toddler friendly, and Snowflake (2 years) did make most of her lantern herself. Cubling had no problems just getting on with it without any help. To finish off, add some googly eyes and elephant ears cut out from cardboard.

Ideally, put some wire through the top and hang on a light stick. We didn't have wire and used pipe cleaners. The lantern is light so it worked well.

We were lucky to have lots of lantern events in Glasgow this year though we only managed to make the German playgroup one. It's lovely to see so many lantern events popping up now, with one in Battlefield and one in the Children's Wood in the West end too, and I'm sure there's more.  Plenty of opportunities to let those lanterns shine!



Friday, 2 November 2012

Why bother having kids if you don't have time to look after them

There has been some media attention on the fact that in the UK job market, about 1 million women are missing. They are missing because work doesn't pay for them as second earners and they've made the decision of not returning to work after they've had children or leaving their jobs.

This isn't surprising as such. I've thought about it. Childcare is expensive and there's not a lot of support with the cost here in this country. For parents with two children in childcare, the second earner needs to be on an above average income to make work pay.

What really got me though is the invariable response when this topic is brought up. Summarised in one sentence: Why have kids if you then go out to work?

Of course, this phrase is said to the mother. Please contradict me if I'm wrong! Now I'm all for extended and paid maternity leave, I know about the importance of child-mother bonding, breastfeeding and responsive care by the primary care giver, who due to breastfeeding usually is the mother. So while I do believe that our roles are different at the early stages of parenting, determined by biological facts, I don't buy this statement because we do have maternity leave (even if partly unpaid) for a full year.

After that, we're mostly equal.

Until the same question is directed to fathers, something is at odds. Because you know, really, kids would love both parents to just be at home with them and play all day, but that doesn't bring food on the table, warmth in cold winters and electricity to your home.

So for the record, as a mum who'd love to spend more time with her kids at home, as I'm sure their daddy does too, this is why I have kids and still bother going out to work:

1. I have skills that are well used in my job and I'm making a difference. I'm a confident trainer, researcher, thinker, writer, project manager. I'm not a confident parent (though I'm working hard on it, being ambitious and all that). In fact, I actually think my kids benefit from a bit of childcare by people who know what they're doing.

2. I've been told all my life that this was an equal society and that both men and women have equal access to the workplace and will be renumerated equally, regardless of whether they have children or not. I've come to understand that in reality this is not the case, but I believe that what I've been brought up to believe is at least something we should aspire to.

3. I've never believed that my primary role was that of raising kids. In fact, for most of my life, I wasn't sure I actually wanted kids. I made a decision to raise kids but did not make a decision for this to be my end all and be all.

4. It's a bloody hard job juggling kids, home and work. Many days I think I can't do this anymore. But it's also a bloody hard job being a stay at home mum, and to be honest, I prefer the juggling situation. Not by much, but by enough to keep going.

5. Let's talk money. Kids are expensive. You need more money to offer a decent life for them, like a bigger home, a car to take them places, days out, and let's not even mention the doubled cost of a holiday as the little ones pay full price. Oh yeah, and there's clothes, toys, presents for them and above all their friends and the incessant fundraising forms from nursery and school. I think I may have even bought a poppy this year, my principles are crumbling.

6. Let's talk some more money. If I took a career break, this is my financial loss: pension contributions. Income while I'm out of work. And then, as I rejoin the strained job market, a 30-40%% cut of my salary because I'd have to start from the bottom again. This cut is for good, also impacting on my already tiny pension prospects. So even if for a few years, work doesn't pay, in the long run the loss of earnings would be so massive for me, that I'd probably work for nothing

7. The insecurity of the job market: would I be able to find another job?

8. I enjoy my job. Nobody wails, whines, screams, hits and kicks me or spills milk over my clothes at my job for 8 lovely hours. But seriously, I do like my job.

9. And just to say.... I'm not a career woman. I don't strive for a 50k plus income, promotion and managment roles. This is not about my career, just about being a worker. I also think that parents who stay at home do an invaluable and tough job, a job that I'm probably not too well cut out to do. I simply don't want to have to justify why I work when I have children just because I'm not a man.

So in the public view I shouldn't have had kids then in the first place. Let's give the dads a voice now too, shall we? Should daddies have had kids because he's out of the house 9 or more hours on a weekday? Can I invite working dads to justify why they're working instead of spending quality time with their kids?

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Here and there and everywhere

Maybe, just maybe, this was the first time I felt like a stranger in my own country. Not in a bad way, just that it felt like travelling into a world I no longer managed to manoeuvre with ease.

I loved:
- outdoor play areas,
- the Indian summer we had (it was proper warm, 18 degrees in the late evening and I totally packed the wrong clothes),
- Brötchen,
- people of all ages and abilities riding bikes,
- properly insulated houses,
- renewables everywhere
- Rewe our world sticker book (if you have doubles, please get in touch, Cubling would be happy to trade)

I was a teeny weeny bit irritated by:
- right before left traffic rules and how they really catch you out if you're used to the much simpler and more intuitive British system,
- jam etc in tiny plastic containers
- menus where ever single dish contains meat
- chips being served with large quantities of salt
- kids meals either non existent or served without veg

In Amsterdam, I fell in love with the baksfiets/boxbike. I mean, I like them anyway, but to see them in all shapes and sizes, wow wow wow. I had to be told that you simply cross bike lanes in Amsterdam because if you wait for the bike traffic to provide a gap for crossing, you may be there all day.

Cubling decided she wants to live in Germany now. Not because of the play areas, although she thought the raft pond where you could play on a raft was pretty awesome, but because of the kids' shopping trolleys. Snowflake took leaps and bounces in speaking (both languages), and loves Peppa Pig even more now that she's Peppa Wutz.

And although travelling by ferry makes the journey rather long, it also makes it into an adventure in itself, and on the plus side it's actually much less stressful than flying with kids.

We managed to meet up with more people than expected, and I'm pretty impressed that in spite of our rare visits to Germany there is something like budding friendships going on between my kids and the kids of my friends. So much so that penpals have found one another. Pretty cool, I say.

The best thing for me had to be how Cubling just made friends with kids on the playgrounds without a second thought. She was totally at ease and at home, switching between languages without even a thought. It was both her social ease that impressed me (I would never, ever have spoken to kids I didn't know like that) and her ability to blend in and make the best of everything on offer.

And when we got home, she want back to school and totally enjoyed seeing her Scottish friends again as well. Now I only have to get used to the cold again.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A perfect day for Kite Flying








A windy autumn day. A trip to the Ruhrpott to meet my wonderful friends and let our children get to know each other. A kite. A field between two rivers. A kite that may lift you up in the strong wind and whish above your head. A kite that crashes into a tree and has to be freed by a brave 10 year old supergirl. More tree climbing. Homebaked cake to finish off an a day full of adventure. 

Couldn't help but wonder if today will be one of those days that will be referred to as "I remember when I was a little girl, when we flew the kite in Schwerte..."

Bottom picture by Cubling.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Down to the river we go



 


Sometimes, the best thing to be done is to just do it, in spite of unwilling kids, and trust your instincts that they will love it. Feet were bared in no time, and feet and hands exploring the river while they watched as the big ships passed by in the early evening sunshine, behind the dyke and beside the willow trees.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Homework

I'm not a great fan of homework. At least not for my little big girl who after all is 16 months younger than I was when I started school. Plus I didn't have to be at school all day long, school was out at 1pm for us. Play is how young children learn and it is self directed/free play as well as some directed activities that she should be able to choose to explore the world on her own terms when school is out. Moreover, there is so much that children can learn that has nothing to do with maths and literacy which has to have a chance to get explored too.
 
So I often don't even ask if she has homework. Some evenings, she'll draw, some she'll watch TV (semi educational because we're a DVD only household, we don't actually have live TV - not by design but by chance and lack of enthusiasm to get a faulty aerial fixed. Also watching DVD is a great opportunity for some, if passive, German input), or play, some evenings I put on music and we'll all dance and sing. All of this while I try and also cook a meal. Sometimes I try to at least have a look at what she did during the day an repeat some of it with her, just briefly as a way of a reminder.
 
Tonight, she picked up her piggy bank. Or rather, her doggy bank. Without any prompting she decided to order the coins by type and then she went on to count them. With a tiny bit of help she managed to get through them all. I didn't pay much (obvious) attention (apart from offering the help when asked for and secretly eyeing what was going on), and she had to work quite hard in getting her little sister not to interfere with her plan.
 
Incidental learning taken place:
  • Numeracy and recognising, matching and correctly labelling coins
  • dexterity in building a pile of coins
  • Counting to 94 (quite a feat for her)
  • Social skills of persuading toddler to hand back coins and not to destroy the piles of coins or interfere with the grand plan
All of this in 10 minutes and without calling it homework, learning or even having it directed by an adult. Self-motivated, self-directed, meaningful and fun. I had no input in it other than keeping me (and Snowflake) out of it.
 
Would you have thought that there are 94 coins lying on that ugly carpet of ours?
 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

One day

My days go a bit like this at the moment:

6.30am alarm clock. Try and snake my way out of the embrace of the toddler to get up and dressed without having same toddler velcro'ed to me. If this is successful, there's a good chance we get out of the house in time.
Get dressed. Prepare breakfast, pack school bag, nursery bag, make my own packed lunch.
6.45am. wake toddler, get her dressed and give her breakfast.
6.55am give toddler different breakfast
7.05am give up giving toddler breakfast as she refuses to eat, lift her out, carry her upstairs to wake up school girl.
7.15 school girl still in bed moaning.
7.20 pull school girl out of bed and dress her as there's no way she'll get dressed herself. Yes she is 5 1/2. She can dress herself.
7.30 brush school girl's hair. This takes longer than most things in the morning, only beaten by getting dressed, hence the mention.
7.40 shoes and jackets and bags ON and OUT.
7.50 toddler still not sitting in her car seat and still insisting "Snowflake selber, Mami go away!"
7.55 depart
8.00 drop of Cubling for breakfast club
8.08 leave school for nursery (after 5 minutes of "Snowflakes selber, Mami go away!" at the car)
8.25 drop off Snowflake at nursery.
8.35 depart nursery for work (I'm going to be 5 mins late. Always. I can't find those lost 5 minutes ever and if I seat Snowflake, there's a massive tantrum and fight which is no alternative and takes longer than waiting out her Car Seat Climb of Independence and Achievement)
8.50 arrive at work
relax. work, usually without a lunch break.
4.35pm depart for nursery
4.55 arrive at nursery, pick up Snowflake. Snowflake takes about 10 minutes to get into car seat while telling me "Snowflake selber, Mami go away!"
5.05 depart for childminder/after school club. Snowflake cries all the way unable to tell me what is actually wrong.
5.20 arrive at childminder/after school club to pick up Cubling. Cubling refuses to leave, hits me, frowns at me. Nice to see you too.
5.40 finally back in car after 10 mins of coaxing Cubling to leave school building and assault course and 10 mins of "Snowflake selber, Mami go away!" at the car.
5.45 arrive home, get all the bags into the house, accompanied by crying toddler who still doesn't know what's actually wrong, while trying to argue with school girl why she can't visit the neighbours yet again, trying not to coax her into the house with watching the box.
6pm finally all in the house, rush to start cooking but neither girls playing game, continued moaning, crying, tantrumming. Focus on not losing the plot. Breathe. Focus some more. Try playing with one or the other, or cuddling, because maybe this crying is all about reconnecting. Cubling doesn't want to play she wants to watch TV. Snowflake doesn't want to play she wants to cuddle.
6.15 Carry toddler while going upstairs to the freezer (yes, our freezer is indeed upstairs), carry her down, sit her on the work surface to prepare dinner. She wants down. She cries. She wants up. She cries. She wants carried. Can't cook safely with toddler velcroed to me. Offer her food scraps that I can find and let her nibble. Cubling begs for TV. I try to distract with drawing/homework or playing with her sister. If successful, they will play for 10 mins which gives cooking time. If not, it'll be beans on toast with egg.
6.45 dinner time. Snowflake won't eat. Cubling eats ever sooo sloooowwwlyyyy (unless it's beans on toast with egg). Offer Snowflake different dinner. No luck again. Give her toast (again). Let her sit on my lap because she threatens to do a skyjump out of her booster seat (again).
7pm hubby arrives. Breathe. Finish dinner as a family.
7.30 upstairs for bedtime (bathtime? you must be joking!)
Toddler goes willingly. School girl does everything in the world to delay getting changed. Sometimes I wonder if keeping her in her jammies all day may significantly reduce my stress levels.
8pm Stories - dad and Cubling / mummy and Snowflake who also gets milk.
8.30pm kids in bed. Tidy up kitchen, prepare things for next day, put on washing machine/dishwasher or empty the same.
9.30pm sit down, check emails and do online stuff like paying bills.
10pm have shower or knit or read a book or I simply can't manage to move my arse off the sofa kind of thing because I can't decide which anyway and i'm so unbelievably tired that I'm just gonna waste this precious hour. I used to blog, almost daily. How did I do that? I'd like to phone friends, go out, go for a run. Actually, no, I don't. I'd rather stay in and waste away on the sofa. Have I really just said that?
11 pm hang up washing
11.30 or later: go to bed.
half an hour after falling asleep: "Mami!!!!!" Snowflake stands in cot staring at me. Lift her into (my) bed. Nurse.
4am: "Mami!!!!" Nurse. Usually non stop until:
6.30am alarm clock.
And repeat.

I have no idea how people manage to bathe their kids every day.
I also have no idea how working parents manage a 7 pm bedtime. My kids would benefit from more sleep but if they're asleep by 8.30 pm we're doing well.
I have no clue how to finish the day with two happy kids. There's nothing that makes me feel more inept at parenting than failing to get smiles out of my girls in the evening, and to feel that they're happier at daycare/school than at home with me.
Any tips are welcome.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Her Precious





For about a year, she's been in love with 4 strings. Personally, I blame Janosch. I can't be sure though what initiated her infatuation. As any parent of a 4 year old would have thought, we were sure it was a fleeting idea. Just that it stayed, and grew stronger by the month. Her wish so important that for her, it was meant to be a Santa wish. When she finally got a chance to hold a violin and a bow, she touched it with a seriousness and serenity on her face that blew me away. She listened intently to the violinist explaining how to make it sing and then just did it. I'm still pretty much in awe as she got more music out of it than me.

So we entered the quaint and wonderous world of the Glasgow Violin Shop. Out came a girl with such excitement and pride that it made my heart jump. Her precious is kept hidden from little toddler hands and it is brought out with gentleness a few times a day. Her most prized possession is announced to everyone, carried around and she'll even pose for a photo with it (posing for a photo? Unheard of these days). Nobody is allowed to touch it because she is "the boss of the violin". As soon as she holds it in her hands, her face is pure seriousness.

Admittedly, I'm a little bit massively jealous.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Review: Polarn O. Pyret

A little while back, I was approached whether I'd like to review some samples from a Swedish childrens' fashion company which is now setting foot in the UK, Polarn O. Pyret. As ever with reviews, I had a good look first and liked what I saw on the website. My first impression was that here was some childrens' fashion wich was different and struck a chord with me.

When I received the samples, I was rather impressed. Cubling received a sturdy outdoor jacket which will make her snug and warm in the coldest of weathers. Now, admittedly, Cubling is not a fan of bulky jackets. But this one has the right colour (some form of pink but not the type of pink that makes me go eek) and it's fabricated in a way that it allows maximum movement while providing cover, protection and warmths. There's no doubt about it, it's the most cleverly made outdoor/winter jacket I've seen so far, while looking attractive too. I really wish there was more like this for girls, because girls are usually passed off with pretty but not exactly functional coats.

Snowflake received a beautiful Spotted Mushroom print tunic made from a print fabric that I wish I could buy for some weekend sewing. I think it may be some sort of Swedish fabric style because it reminded me of the kind of clothes that a Swedish mum and seamstress makes here in Glasgow. The actual product looks much better than the online image by the way!

If you look a bit closer at the range that PO. P brings to the UK, you will find that a lot of items are unisex, which is so refreshing. That doesn't mean you can't go all girly and all boyish, just that the range doesn't force you to stick your child into pink or blue. The clothes all look like they manage to combine style with functionality, being comfy to wear and allowing children to move as they like without being restricted by their clothing.

Polarn O. Pyret follow strict eco measures in the production process of their clothes, meaning no nasty chemicals are used, and the clothes are hard wearing and should last for years and can be passed on to be worn by a second or third child.

There is also an organic range to choose from. The range is for children from 0-12 years.

You can find Polarn O. Pyret on some High Streets (mostly in departments stores) or order online - and what's best is that delivery is free to mainland UK which means that the price you see online is the price you pay.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Drawing at bedtime

How can I insist on bedtime when she's doing this:



Well, I didn't. Because that would have been cruel in so many ways. Although I did ask her if she could leave the three further people she had planned for tomorrow (she agreed, phew).

It's the one thing that keeps her busy for hours. Drawing, drawing and drawing some more. I'm not ever allowed to look until it's done. Not an easy task, if you know that she comes out with the most incredible designs. By now, she's better at drawing than I ever was. It must be her daddy's genes. I totally think she's incredibly talented, which might be because I'm biassed or because I'm a dork when it comes to drawing. Or both.

Today, she painted shoe boxes and drew 3 full pictures with great detail. All of this on a day where we spent the whole afternoon out of the house, and where we spent a considerable time feeding hungry children, dancing wildly to music and dressing up both wooden girls, teddy bears real children (for a woodland creature themed event in the Children's Wood in the afternoon). Snowflake, ever keen to copy her sister, painted one shoe box and drew one picture, and the table, two outfits, her hand and the chair.

There's a lot of colour in our house.

PS Everything is called Rosie in our house. She wrote this herself hence the phonetic spelling (the s is really a flipped z). 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

And onwards and upwards - Review

Well, what can I say. After feeling rather at the edge yesterday, today was a whole new day. Which makes me wonder if the tensions are created by factors outside of the home which just had to come out on this first day of a bank holiday weekend. Today, in contrast, emotions were much more in control and I found out a few things that indicate tensions at school - nothing major or surprising but it may have caused or contributed to yesterday's fraught day. Of course, if I say nothing major it's nothing major in my eyes, but it may be serious enough for Cubling. I may be getting on a bit but if there's something I vividly remember from my childhood, it's how I felt when time outs and the like were imposed by figures of authority.

So with a head a bit clearer I can finally catch up on a couple of review posts that have been waiting to be written. First up today is Vertbaudet, the online/mail order childrens clothes/maternity wear and children's nursery company.

I've always been a big fan of Vertbaudet's collection, which is why I am more than happy to take up the opportunity of a review. Vertbaudet offers beautiful and practical clothes ranges for baby and children, as well as maternity wear, nursery outfit and storage solutions. Previously I'd reviewed some of their children's/baby clothes so this time I opted for bed linen as we're soon facing the move into the big bed (or let's say, the plan is soon but a certain Missus seems to have different ideas).

What I like about Vertbaudet in general is that the designs are just that bit different from what you tend to get on the high street, and this applies to both clothing and nursery design. The range for bed linen is large so that there's bound to be something for anyone. My first choice had sold out so I settled for my second choice, which was just fine as there are so many nice bedlinen sets that identifying a first choice took me all evening. Basically, I like them all. So the chicken was replaced by a butterfly design because Snowflake is not just keen on zebras but also on Butterflies (in fact, it was one of her first words).

Once the parcel was delivered, big sister got rather excited and had a look too. Now I have to mention at this point that Cubling has very definite opinions and it's either a total thumbs up or a total thumbs down. To be honest, I hadn't picked the design with her in mind and didn't expect her to like it, as she's all into princesses, pink and gold. However, there was a pleasant surprise in that she too loved this design, so it's passed the Cubling test!

The duvet cover didn't disappoint and we are now at least set for the big bed day should it ever arrive. It's an interesting design actually in that it has a flap rather than button to close the cover, which I hadn't seen before. It makes changing bedlinen a bit quicker and is more durable as buttons tend to wear and disappear with time. So no qualms about the product, it was as beautiful as the picture promised and delivery was quick.

I have had a slight issue with out of stock items not coming up as out of stock on the website so I guess there's a bit of room for improvement, not that it has ever bothered me. In fact my own purchasing experience has shown that credit will be applied in such cases or money returned, if you don't mind the minor inconvenience. As to value for money Vertbaudet often has special offers on and if you subscribe to the newsletter by email, you'll always be able to grab a bargain even if full priced items are a bit above average. Also, Vertbaudet appears to have a constant sale on and some of the sale item are actually some of the loveliest products. The quality of clothing is good, and I like particularly like the organic range.

One thing to be slightly aware of is that Vertbaudet being a French company uses a slightly different sizing system and I've found that I had to add a size to ensure they fitted, i.e. if a garment is for size 5 years, I had to buy size 6 or even 7 years for my 5-year old (who is a tallish child but in UK sizes still within the size for her age). However, Vertbaudet has clear measuring guidelines so that you can ensure to get the correct size in your first order.

I can also recommend to check out some of the bedroom decoration items, the wall stickers are really made from the kingdom of cute.

Disclosure: I received goods from Vertbaudet for the purpose of this review.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Days like this

Sometimes I wonder if I was ever made for this life as a parent. After a day like today, when in spite of doing fun stuff (and giving up trying to work with both around at 10 am knowing this was not one of those days where any work would happen) all day long, it appears that I often can't manage to create an environment where both of them are happy at the same time. This was a day that should have been easy: the sun was out, we were in the park totally going at their pace and doing what they wanted to do. Just that the two wills won't coincide.

So I take turns between the two of them trying to calm, soothe, find out what's wrong, feed, water, try to play, get interrupted by other one screaming, distract, and repeat. Is it me? How come that apparently at nursery, Snowflake is ever calm and happy but at home, she throws one tantrum after another, and half of the time I'm in the dark as to what it's actually about? How come that after 2 years of playing together like the best of friends, they are now like two vicious cats with sibling rivalry unleashed?

 (look, they really love each other!)

If Cubling comes too close to me, say for a cuddle, or even dares sit on my lap, up comes her sister and pushes her off. And she can push now. I mean, she manages to push Cubling off good and proper and sometimes hurts her in the process. There's biting and scratching, slapping and kicking and the ever just under the surface waiting to explode tantrum with full backwards fling onto the floor.

Meanwhile with all the attention going to younger sibling, older sibling gets frustrated and as much as I empathise and try to keep the peace, she starts her whinging and whining show. Interspersed with random, made up singing, recitation of phonemes and generally loud noises. Sometimes it gets to a noise and madness level that I wonder if my child is truly bonkers, as this noise level of random sounds without meaning can't be normal. I don't see other children act like this. Maybe they do, I just don't see it.



Often, it gets to a stage where she is totally in her world, and nothing I say reaches her. Or the opposite is true, a neverending litany of moaning and whinging, noise and sabotage of anything I'm trying to do, while refusing to engage in any meaningful play with me (which I'm told helps to reconnect and get out of such mayhem. It doesn't for us. She never wants to play when she's in this state).


At the end of a day like today, I get the nagging feeling that I really would rather have spent the day in the office, and that, if asked, the girls would most likely rather have spent it at the childminder's. It's most definitely not a nice feeling. More than anything I keep asking myself what on earth I'm doing wrong.

I took pretty pictures though. They may have kept my sanity today. And oh dear, another 3 days of this to get through all by myself. Help.



Monday, 17 September 2012

The bumpy jacket that will be worn

This has been a loooong time coming. As soon as the bumpy jacket pattern was published, I knew I had to knit one. I think it was pre pregnancy of second child. Anyway, finally, with the biggest size this pattern will allow, I present to you our very own bumpy jacket, completed with even a few days to go to Snowflake's 2nd birthday. I've rarely been seen so organised when it comes to knitting projects (I can usually be seen finishing off on the journey to the birthday child).



If it weren't for my love of teal, I might have been a bit more adventurous with the colour scheme rather than copying the original. But you know, I love this colour and had the perfect yarn screaming out at me, knit me into a bumpy jacket. (it was Debbie Bliss Cathay if you must know, and the gauge was bang on, I even had exactly the right quantity, though it was a close call, I think I finished it with just about 2 metres of yarn left which caused a bit of sweat and worry).

I like: it's knit in one piece. I don't like sewing pieces together, it really puts me off finishing a project. At the same time I still think it's magical how a reasonably complex shape can be knitted in one piece, how it all comes together from words on the page. The slightly vintage pattern is easy enough and gives the jacket a really interesting feature. I also like that it's unisex in this world of every child stuff being marketed in double vision.



There is only a slight problem. This wonderfully cheeky and independent child of mine won't wear it. It took a very breezy day and lots of fuss to get it on her for 10 minutes. Now for all this attempt to work with my children, it is simply unacceptable to refuse to wear mummy's handknits, especially if it's one of her favourite patterns by one of her favourite designers and knitted in her favourite colour. Remember vowing I won't ever touch needles smaller than 4mm ever again because life was to short? Well, this was knitted painstakingly on 3.25mm needles. It was a lot of work. There is no choice or question about wearing this beautiful jacket.

Luckily it's done in 3-4 years, and being a small 2 year old, this means she still has a bit of time to get to like it. Resistance is futile my dear.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

And now she is two

Has it really been 2 years since my little girl made a rather delayed and fraught entry into this world? It must be: the dates says so. I could go all emotional recollecting the past two years. And yet nothing can put into words how I feel about this little yet very strong 2 year old who has made our family complete.

With Cubling at school now, I have had the rare chance to spend one to one time with her once again after over a year. It is as if I'm starting to get to know her all over again, and this time is most definitely rare quality time, because usually it's a frenzy between trying to accommodate the needs of both girls while also managing house chores or timetables. It is wonderful to be able to go her pace, see the world with her eyes and just be with her calmly, without the hustle and bustle of the days were we are three or four. Picking brambles, spotting swallows, getting excited about the movements of a slater - this is the kind of stuff that has been more than overlooked in the past year, and while I it pains me that my big girl has to sit on a school chair 5 days a week, I've gained this special time on a Monday with Snowflake.
.
The mellow baby has become a strong toddler who will stand her ground, even when she doesn't know what exactly that ground is. Now that she is entering the world of mischief with the guidance of her big sis whom she adores and copies to the letter, I thought it would be fitting to hand over to said sister, who knows her best. And world, watch out for the pair of them!

Tell me something about Snowflake.
It's her birthday!

What is the best thing about Snowflake?
Cuddling her

What does Snowflake do?
She plays in the bath and in the play park

What makes her laugh?
When I do silly faces

What's her favourite game/toy?
her favourite game is playing on trees. Her favourite toy is peppa pig

What's her favourite thing to do?
pulling down the curtains

What does she hate doing?
she hates going into the bath

How is she like you?
She's nothing like me.

How is she different from you?
she has short hair and she's a baby

What's her favourite food? and drink?
Her favourite food is egg. Her favourite drink is milk from mummy

what does she think about you?
I don't know

What's funny about Snowflake?
she kicks me and slaps me on my face and tickles me

What makes her cry?
when I jump on top of her

What make her angry?
when I kick her

What's the best thing to do with Snowflake?
playing with her!

What will she be when she's grown up?
a dentist


I love you to bits and I'm thankful every day that you are with us and brighten our lives. I love your raised finger telling me "nein Mama, Snowflake selber!" (no mummy, Snowflake do it self), your tantrums at every single supermarket visit, even your jealousy of your big sister making sure that mummy's lap is yours only. I love how your favourite mode of transport is on your sisters lap in the buggy, how you get so excited when the word "Spielplatz", "nursery" or "Fahrrad" is uttered. I love you for your hysterical giggles when your sister gets you to laugh, for the way you want things just so and your dislike for mess of any kind. I love how you conquered your fear of animals and now enjoy their presence. I love those baby curls that will disappear soon. I love how you, and only you, can make my dad smile. I love your cuddles, your kisses that are given freely. I love your eyes as they meet mine and start to smile.  
Happy birthday Schneckchen.

























Thursday, 6 September 2012

Speaking in Accents

Have you ever thought about how your accent affects your interaction with other people?

I love accents. I love the subtleties, I love guessing what has shaped an individual's accent, where they come from, where they passed through to get here. I can listen to my beloved husband and just hear his beautiful intonation and forget to listen to what he's saying (ok he may have been talking C++ but it's still not an excuse - he just has the most amazing accent which can be distracting). I truly love the diversity of accents in Glasgow, where you have anything from the proper Weegie to people from all over the UK and from around the world. I always thought Glasgow to be particularly rich in this diversity of accents because there's probably less than 50% of native Scots here (I'm guessing!) or at least so it seems, you hear different accents every day. At work, there's people from further north, from the east, from the south.

And then I'm in an east end cafe ordering a roll and I feel awfully conscious of my own accent. Builders and bakers speaking in the most amazingly beautiful gutteral Glaswegian, and I dread to order my butty because they'll spot instantly I'm not from here. I then order and stutter with a whisper as nervous as I used to be as a choir girl singing a solo.

Am I paranoid? Fact is that in spite of me living here for over 15 years, the other day I discovered that most of my friends are not Scottish. Now this may be because there is generally a lot of movement of people and that this is a fair representation of reality. But maybe accents keep us apart because they locate us in some sort of social drawer that we can't really get out of to explore another drawer.

It's not even that people instantly know I'm German - but it's obvious I'm not born and bred working class Glaswegian. The thing is, I can by now put on a Glaswegian accent, but it feels wrong doing so. This comes from a woman who had no qualms about speaking with an Irish accents some 18 years ago and still slips into it automatically when speaking to an Irish person - but that was just how I spoke English, I couldn't not speak like it. Now it would be a choice and while I know non-Glaswegians who do this, to me it feels wrong. Or maybe I just feel people would make fun of me (and possibly rightly so?).

On a day to day basis though, the accent thing is about class and (perceived which then becomes real) power. Generally, the people I meet to set programmes up with mostly speak much like me, with a neutral English accent tinged by a soft Scottish intonation and pronunciation. The people who take part in the programmes mostly speak Glaswegian. Just now, I even noticed how someone changed her accent when on the phone to me, and it made me feel all conscious as to what that meant - did she relate to me differently, did she see me as not in her drawer?

I wonder how this applies to people with other accents, say an English accent and if it differs whether it's a "posh" or northern English accent. People have certainly labelled me as English (which is funny as I never spend much time in England) and were surprised when I said I was German, and I'm not sure which label I prefer or how that changes the way this person perceives me.

And I keep wondering if accents may stand in the way of trust and creating personal and professional relationships and create a barrier that has to be overcome, that may  not be there if you share the same accent.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Woodstock in Glasgow

Sometimes, a perfect day comes along without much warning.

What can be better than to spend it with your cousins, rocking and dancing along to live music, running wild around a wood workshop, helping yourself to a table of sweets and sausages from the barbecue, playing giant yenga, making tables into pretend bunk beds to sleep in, and hoping to win a raffle prize - "this is the best day ever". Well, if you say so, it probably is.





Woodstock was Glasgow Wood Recycling's summer sale event. The organisation is a social enterprise that recycles wood into beautiful hand crafted items, such as raised beds, bird houses, furniture or anything else you can make from wood. It provides woodwork training and volunteering opportunity while using sustainable resources. And man, they know how to throw a party! It was fun for all of us, for me simply because I love wood and spending a day surrounded by it in itself can't be a bad thing. Having a dedicated and totally lovely bunch of people organising such a great event made it all the more worthwhile. And the kids, they had a ball.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

A trip to the zoo

The priceless realisation on the face of a 23 month old that her dress had a lot in common with one of the animals that she encountered for the first time, an animal that so far was called "Pferd" (horse) when she came across it in books. No longer. It is now firmly a zebra.



She couldn't get enough of them.


The excitement knew no ends when she met the bamblibears (aka panda bears). They're black and white too.


At night, she slept with the mask.


Oh to be a almost two again and discover the world for the very first time.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Bilingual breeze

It's been a while that I've blogged about our bilingual journey and for a while now I had meant to explore how Snowflake is getting on, especially in comparison with Cubling.

My learning from Cubling was that the minority language develops in direct relation to exposure and relevance. Which initially meant almost only passive bilingualism. Once this was turned around to an ability to speak fluently in German, things got much easier and I can now even relax and speak English to her in the company of English speakers who may find our German interchange a tad rude.

With Snowflake, the cards were a bit better - I had a longer maternity leave period and managed to work only 3 days a week until she turns 2. So her exposure to German was greater than it had been for Cubling. It also felt normal and natural to speak German to her: with Cubling I felt initially very strange speaking German to her, because really I spoke English all the time unless I was teaching German - and with Cubling I was mum not teacher, I had to get used to speaking German in Scotland. All of this has been overcome and I never caught myself speaking English with Snowflake, quite the contrary, I catch myself speaking German with other kids, as if speaking German is my default for speaking with children! (not sure what those children make of it...)

The best development ever has to be that Cubling speaks German with Snowflake. Initially I told her that Snowflake would only understand German, and magically, this worked! Of course, Cubling has figured out by now that this is not the case and that her little sister understands and speaks both, but she still mainly speaks German to her. This effectively introduces a) a motivation for her to speak German b) an additional context for speaking German (little sister copies big sister in everything) and c) additional language input. My older girl is most definitely my glamorous assistant.

In effect this means that I'm much more relaxed - on the one hand I don't have to remind myself to speak German only, this has become natural. On the other hand, I do commit big no nos of the OPOL (one parent one language) approach, when I read English books or use a good few English words in my own German (I'm lazy that way).

As for Snowflake, she's so far been as close to being a balanced bilingual as can be for an almost 2 year old. She is not an early bird as far as language development is concerned, but the language she does have is almost parallel. She has a definite awareness of two words for the same thing and will use it mostly correctly with me, her sister or the English speakers in her life. She'll ask for water and then change to Wasser when I don't respond, or even start out with Wasser. Her active language is comparable in both languages, while her older sister stagnated in German and went off in English. She also seems to code switch easily, while Cubling would tend to mix the languages more, especially when she tried to speak German.

As they are very different in temperament and personality I do attribute some of the differences to their relevant personalities, but the largest part must be that Snowflake is exposed to more and more meaningful German. What was a struggle with the firstborn, now seems a breeze now with the younger sibling. Long may it last!

This post is part of the Bilingual Carnival and I'll post a link to the host at Bringing up Baby Bilingual once this is life. Check out the other posts if you have an interest in raising children bilingually, whichever the language pair.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Lip tie

I'm raging mad.
Today I found out about a condition in babies which can cause a poor latch when feeding, and lead to serious difficulties with breastfeeding. It's called upper lip tie. Like tongue tie, it can mess up latch and lead to poor milk tranfer, lack of weight gain in baby, pain for mum and suffering for both.

Guess what, both of my girls have it. The severe type at that. That's the one where the tie goes from in the middle of the top front teeth to the upper lip.

Now, when I was a new mum, breastfeeding wasn't at all off to a good start. I really struggled, and having had a good friend who was also a health visitor and had drummed into me to get support for every.single.feed in hospital, I sought support. Midwives, volunteers, health visitors, support groups, online forums, books. I did it all. And still I was in agonising pain for 8 weeks, and still my baby never seemed satisfied. I have pictures of her with eyes so tired of crying, crying that was put down to colic. I had to call Crysis even, I didn't know what to do anymore. We had days where she cried for hours and nothing would soothe her. At 12 weeks I caved in and supplemented with formula, I could not see my baby be hungry any longer.

At no point was tongue tie/lip tie mentioned or indeed checked. I only found out about tongue tie when my second was born. And only now, I found out about lip tie.

Lip tie does not necessarily lead to difficulties breastfeeding, but it may because it can restrict the movement of the mouth and lead to a shallow latch, which in turn means milking the breast doesn't work so well. I had no major issues with my younger girl, she fed frequently and was also slowish gaining weight but she was always happy after feeds and clearly not going hungry. There was also clearly a lot of output the other end. As for me, I had no pain or soreness at all with her. Both have the exact same severity of lip tie -so in one case it made life really difficult, in the other it didn't have an impact (though I wonder if it may have had an impact on her reluctance to take to solids).

So in this anger at the omission of the medical profession to look my baby in the mouth instead of praising how well I was doing and ignoring the obvious signs of something not being right (my instinct had always told me, but I didn't know the tell tale signs of insufficient milk transfer then), here's my shout out to anyone who ever struggles with breastfeeding: read up on tongue ties and lip ties, and how to remedy. It might be what's wrong and it often goes undiagnosed. The snip is quick and easy.

I'm angry that I was sent to baby massage class to help with the colic (or improve my bonding with baby), rather than remedy what was really wrong. There was lack of output the other end, a baby who looked forever tired and kept falling asleep at the breast but who would never stop suckling because she wasn't full. I nursed 12 out of 24 hours for 6 months. I was exhausted. I was in pain. I told so many people and nobody, yes, nobody took it seriously.

What is beyond me is why babies aren't check as a matter of course. It only takes a minute, and can avoid months of suffering.

Postscript: Here are some of the best resources on lip tie I found online. Lip tie doesn't have to mean difficulties with latch, but it can, especially because it can come hand in hand with a posterior tongue tie (which is hard to spot and often overlooked).

http://thefunnyshapedwoman.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/introducing-maxillary-labial-frenulum.html
http://www.plus2point4.co.uk/2011/07/19/breastfeeding-with-a-lip-and-tongue-tie/
http://mothernurturebreastfeeding.com/tongue-tie-lip-tie-and-frenotomy/
http://www.brianpalmerdds.com/pdf/Bfing_Frenum03.pdf

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Review: Hello Canvas

I tried to make the most of my last months of relative freedom, before my work hours are increased and I'll have less time to spend on my hobbies. If you've been following my blog, you'll know that I signed up for two Capturing Childhood photography e-courses, which were great in so many ways. I now have an idea of what makes a good photo rather than leaving it to chance and hoping for the best. In the second course I took charge of my camera with the result that I'm now mostly shooting in full manual. Now I only need a course on how to get my 5 year old to let me take her photo...(this topic was covered, but my technique isn't refined enough yet).

Amongst other things, the Collect the Moments course inspired me to look into how to display my best shots, having played around with photo calendars and photo books already. Enter Hello Canvas with an offer to get me a photo onto canvas for review. There couldn't have been a better timing!

So off I sent my photo and within less than a week (the turnaround time is 3 working days), the canvas arrived in it's full glory. The colours came out exactly as I'd hoped for, and there's real sharpness in the image. Unlike another canvas I'd reviewed before, this one had the photo continue at the sides, which I prefer. We've found a perfect space for it and it was also easy to hang up because it's actually quite light and easy to handle in spite of the size.

I had a look at the prices for canvas print and they are very competitive and only beaten by other companies with special offers. The pricing structure is clear and there are optional extras and effects available too, shipping is free and there's a choice of full colour, black and white and sepia prints free of charge.

Here's a quick rundown of what I thought:
Quality: 10/10
Speed of delivery: 10/10
Communication: 10/10
Value for money: 8/10

I'm trying hard to find something that could be better, but I have to say I can't. It's a great way to display your favourite shots in a special way.

You can follow HelloCanvas on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure: I received a canvas print for this review.



Owls everywhere

If there's one thing that's finally a bit organised in my life, it's my knitting basket. I know, this does not tell great tales of organisation but there's considerable satisfaction in knowing that I have enough projects at different stages on my needles that I can just pick something up, knit in the car, or knit in front of the tv. Those projects at the stockinette stitch phase are the ones for car journeys (I can't read patterns or I'll get motion sick) or subtitled films. You know, one of our treats is getting rented DVDs of obscure art house films and watch them at the weekend. Much more convenient and cheaper than hiring a babysitter to go to the cinema. And as I can't be bothered to get the log in details to add to our wish list, I get kind of landed with whatever hubby puts on. This is generally ok, but I must say he has a tendency of going going for foreign language films, which is a bit of a nuisance when you're trying to knit while watching a film. I know, I know, this is blasphemy from the mouth of a foreign national, linguist and bilingualism promoter, but it has to be said, subtitled films get seriously into the way of my knitting. Maybe I should establish a rule that we can only watch German or Spanish art house films and Texan films are out too, sorry L, I may understand you no worries but those southern US films... Also, I may have had years of French tuition but still can't understand a word of French films, as if French is a code that is beyond me to crack. Let's not even go into all the other languages.

So, having an organised knitting basket means more knitting gets done. Simple projects for car journeys and subtitled films, more complex patterns for nice, preferably northern British or German films. Or films I'm totally not interested in (which does happen, perhaps because I don't exactly contribute to the wish list).

The nice side effect is that I'm making progress on quite a few projects, some are even big ones (adult size) or small ones with really small needles (everything smaller than 4mm is classed as really small needles, because not so long ago I vowed I'd never knit with anything smaller as it just took me too long).

In case you're still with me and wonder why I'm rambling on about such minutiae of the knitting basket, worry not, I won't bore you much longer. Here's the latest instalment of one of my favourite patterns, owlet. It was knitted in between my other 3 projects as I found out about a certain girl's 4th birthday being just around the corner and something quick had to be whipped up. I like it because there's minimal finishing and it knits up quickly, with a nice unisex yet cute design that is timeless. This one was knit with Rowan felted tweed DK which is not the recommended yarn weight at all, but I just knew this one was the right yarn, so I doubled it (still not really heavy enough) and hoped for the best. Knit in 3-4 years but for a girl who is a small 4 year old, so I'm pretty sure it'll be just right for the winter. I love the yarn, it looks so cosy and warm. I have almost enough for another one...



Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The one where she starts school

I debated whether to post about her first day at school or not and then thought that if I don't mark this occasion, it would look odd and that however ambivalent my thoughts are, they really should go right here.

On the surface, things went really well. The nursery staff kept going on about how ready she is for school, how she'll do amazingly. Of course this is nice and reassuring. It doesn't change the fact though that starting school at 5 (Snowflake will be even younger) is an uncomfortable territory for me.

Yes, she was bored with nursery. The last couple of months were a struggle to motivate her to go at all, and the same applied to the forest kindergarten. She was keen to start school, for the sake of something new and different. A new challenge for sure.

However, I know my child. Some call her lively, other boisterous, my dad calls her a Powerkind, I quite like Firecracker myself. She is ever full of energy. This wonderful girl of mine does not ever feel tired. She just feels even more energetic and keeps going until she collapses. She will go from one thing to the next, life's too short to stay in one place for too long. She always runs, often climbs and jumps, balances 8 feet up in the air and makes my heart miss many beats when I know she is going higher and higher while having reached her extra speed mode (when other children would be tired) and I know an accident is immanent. She babbles incessantly, often in a made up language and always at full volume. She will knock on anyone's door and want to come in, search your every drawer and nook. She has no understanding that you may not want to spend time with her, or that other people's houses are their, not her, castles. Her first question in the morning is "where are we going today?" and her last question at night is "Where are we going tomorrow?". Just being at home is not an option, she lives life in the fast lane. She demands full attention and will not take being ignored for an answer but keep asking for a response until she gets it. She does all of this with an infectious smile and a determination which is rather something.

I can't see this child sat at a desk for most of the day. Sorry, I really can't. They say the teachers will work with her, keep her busy. But how can teachers give individual attention to 30 in a class? Above all, will she enjoy school?

We've kept it positive of course and made it special without pressure. She went with a gleam, she is so proud to be a school girl and to wear a uniform. She is confident in her reservedness in groups and declared she would not speak in front of the class on her first day, but maybe on her second or third, instead she'd watch and observe. I love her confident shyness, her awareness and ease. She will find friends even though she demands her friends to be best friends with her and only her, she doesn't want to be second best and can be oh so hurt if her best friend, her self declared twin, plays more with another child than her.

When she came home she was full of stories. Yet she also remarked how she never got time to play properly. I didn't bring it over me to say that there won't be much play at school. That this is it. "Am I going again tomorrow?" yes. You'll be going every day of the week. For 12 long years.

I have no idea how long the enthusiasm will last. I hope for the best. And wouldn't be all too surprised if it waned by the time she'll go full days. But today I'm both proud and sad that she refused to hold my hand as she walked to school, and she asked me to leave as soon as she'd found her seat. Proud that I know that she'll take on the world in her stride and sad that I've lost a part of her to the world.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Can you kit your child out for school on £80?


Cubling will be starting school in, ahem, 3 days time. Which means that we had to embark on this school uniform business, which to me is new territory as I didn't go to school in the UK and there were no school uniforms in Germany. It was daunting to say the least and I felt a tiny bit lost and aimless when I went into this experience having no idea what is needed, how much of it and where to get the best bargains. After having done it (and having made some mistakes), I'm sure I'll do better next time.

Most Wanted, the lifestyle magazine of vouchercodes.co.uk has set me the challenge to source a full back to school kit on the high street for under £80. That's a challenge I'm really keen to take (I'm pretty sure I went over!), and maybe there are some useful ideas for those of you down south who are still doing the back to school shop.

I started out with a list of items from my daughter's school website and the recommendation of a specialised shop. We headed there first, because there were some pieces which had logos on them and I wanted to make sure we got them from this shop. Unfortunately, something got lost in translation and I walked out with a pinafore costing £15 but no logo wear (and no information as to which items actually have the school logo), and a tie for £3.50. Eventually I found out that it was the jumper and the polo shirts - I'd bought the latter already so added 2 jumpers to the bill at £9 each. Well, at least I supported a local shop with my purchase. Another specialist shop had a 10% off week but we didn't manage to take advantage of it, so I could have saved £2.

We were lucky to walk into a 25% off all clothing sale at Sainsbury's and I jumped at the opportunity. However, I wasn't the only one so there wasn't an awful lot left in the correct size. I did buy a set of 2 blouses (£2), 2 skirts (£3.75 and £4.50) and a pack of 3 polo shirts (£2.25).

Next up was Tesco, which wasn't as cheap full price, but still pretty cheap in comparison to other shops. I bought a two pairs of trousers (£3 each) and a cardigan (£3). While the price tag was great, the material wasn't in part and I really don't like the feel of the trousers and the cardigan. If you shop at Tesco's a lot, you can get double your value from your clubcard vouchers.

Finally we went on the "get all the rest" mission, with a visit to Clarks for shoes. While this totally burst our budget, I was keen to get decent shoes that would last daily wear. We got a pair of normal shoes (£34), and plimsoles (£9). A quick visit to M&S got us another pinafore (£6), and a school bag (£12). While this was not the cheapest deal, I knew I could take the gear back if not needed and I have to say that the feel of the clothes was much better than those bought at Tesco's.



Pencil case and notebook had been given as presents and we're still to get a water bottle which I've seen from £2.99.

There was talk of a blazer, however it is not listed as part of the school uniform. While they can cost £60, I have seen blazers for £15 in some supermarkets, so it's doable on a budget. Still, if you add shoes and blazer there's hardly any money left to get the rest. School uniform definitely is an expense on the family pocket, although hopefully it will mean less money is spent on other clothes.

As part of my attempt to live more sustainably, I had tried to get some back to school clothes second hand. I wasn't very lucky sourcing anything second hand. I trailed all our local charity shops but they just shook their heads, arguing that as the items were cheap in supermarket chains, there was no market for second hand. This is a real shame and once again demonstrates how we have become a throwaway society and don't value resources. If the gear is still ok, I don't see why they wouldn't be good enough to use again. Apparently there is one charity shop that specialises in children's wear and back to school wear, and it's located in Uddingston (which I decided was too far for us).

So, I could have kept the budget lower and my top tips are:
- shop for cheaper shoes. I'm sure there are plimsoles for £2.50 in some shops, and supermarket shoes are cheaper too. I have been bitten on quality before and decided to splash out as there's no use saving on shoes if you have to buy a second pair a month later. (£22 saving)
- Don't buy clothes from specialist shops (£9 saving)
- Plan your shop: look out for the best deal and don't get more than you need (£5-£20 saving)
- Keep an eye out for special offer days, I'm sure every shop will have these at some point during the summer holidays

- Know what you need and stick to it - I'm sure 2 pinafores, 2 skirts and 2 trousers are totally overdoing it. We have no dress because the school colour is blue and Cubling point blank refused. I'm sure I'll shop more wisely next year when I know exactly what gets worn and what is needed.
- Set time aside to research or source second hand - because I shopped with 2 kids I often just went for whatever I saw first rather than consider the price. Also if I had had more time I'd have trailed ebay for second hand stuff. There is a lot on right now, so you may still grab yourself a bargain, and that's where you can get a good deal especially on the more expensive items.

What we spent:
pinafores: £21
skirts: £8.25
trousers: £6
blouses: £2
polo shirst: £2.25
cardigan: £3
jumpers: £18
tie: £3.50

bag: £12
shoes: £43
= £119 - £36 potential saving if I'd shopped with a budget in mind: £83. So it is almost possible to shop with a £80 budget, but I have a feeling you'll have to compromise on shoes, and have a hawk's eye for special deals, plus a lot of determination to spot those bargains! Do you have any tips that I missed out on?

Full disclosure: I received £80 to spend on schoolwear as a research project from vouchercodes.co.uk for this article. It was a great opportunity to try and see if I can kit out my daugher on a budge. All contents and views are mine and specific links are not sponsored but are items we actually bought. The decision to buy these was entirely mine.

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