Saturday, 24 March 2012

... and now she is five

It is unbelievable, my baby is 5. Opinionated, strong willed, both confident and shy, loud and ever full of energy, forever bargaining and negotiating, making up words and songs, free spirited yet following the pinkest path there can be for a girl.

I'm not one for girly stuff. Yet my big girl is testing my convictions and patience by being into all things pink and pretty, princessy and sparkly, glittery and shiny, and with such fury that there isn't much to do other than stand by and be amazed, and trust that she will find out for herself that life is not about looking beautiful so as to be picked up by prince charming and live happily ever after.

So I bit my tongue and she got her princess party, her princess cake, her princess dress, her princess castle. As much as I loathe the Disney consumerism, as much as I detest the message those pretty faces give out to girls, as much as I see royalty undermining true democracy and equality, I simply cannot resist the exuberance with which all things princessy are embraced by my girl. It's hard to escape her enthusiasm. You're only 5 once after all and this phase too shall pass (though it's been rather sticky). So here go my principles, defeated for now by a 5 year old. As for republicanism, feminism and anti-consumerism - we'll leave that for tomorrow, shall we?

And I have to say, there was something rather cute about all these knights and princesses running wild in the Hidden Gardens. Could it be that I saw Little Miss Pink Princess with a shield having a sword fight? That's my girl!

Happy birthday my pink lady, my beautiful princess!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Finished Object Friday: T-shirt Yarn Basket

There's still a bit of a t-shirt yarn production line going on around here.
After my first slightly unsuccessful attempt at crocheting in the round, I thought I'd getter bet some practice in and found myself my first Pinterest inspired object (I still don't quite get Pinterest, but nevermind). A super simple basket.

It goes something like this: chain 8, close to round, single crochet into the round 8 times, then crochet in the round increasing into every stitch in the first round, then into every other stitch in the second round, into every third in the third round etc until you've reached the size of circle that'll be the bottom of your basket. At this point stop increasing and just do single crochet until you've had enough / the basket is as tall as you'd like / you've run out of t-shirt yarn; whichever comes first.

Voila, a very simple and very sturdy and rather fetching little basket. This one is currently used for all the bits and bobs that grow out of our bookcases while selfsame are out of action due to decorating the kids' room. Instant sense of tidiness created: result. Formerly also used as a hat but turned out a little bit on the big side. T-shirt yarn courtesy of M.H. who made sure that any suitable t-shirts that arrived in her charity shop made it straight to me. And I got some real gems, bright colours and all. Number of t-shirts used: 5. Time needed: about two evenings (note: I'm new to crochet so it's probably much less for most). Crochet hook size: 9mm but could be any large hook.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Smile Foundation proudly presents: U

It's been an exciting time these last 6 months. I've been working with a group of S2 pupils at All Saints Secondary school as part of Save the Children's In My Back Yard Programme. This programme gives young people an opportunity to identify and carry out a local change project which contributes towards ending child poverty in the UK, or at least towards alleviating the effects of child poverty in the UK. Child poverty in the UK? you may ask, surely there is no child poverty here! Well, not true. In fact, 1 in 3 children in the UK grow up in poverty, according to official ways of measuring child poverty. This is because the UK is a rather unequal society, meaning that the difference between the richest and the poorest is bigger than in comparable countries. In Scotland, 1 in 4 children is growing up in poverty - and that's not kids who have unemployed parents, most of the children growing up in poverty actually have a working parent.

When we asked the pupils how poor kids could do well for themselves, the answer was clear. Education. Education is the best route out of poverty. However, education at present is failing poor kids. Children from low income households are already behind in comparison to their richer peers when they start school. By the end of Primary school, they are 22% behind and by the end of secondary school ... Well it's dire, with twice the likelihood of being out of work and education at age 16.

At the same time, kids don't just learn at school. In fact, 86% of all learning happens outside of school. Which means that parents have a great opportunity to make education work for their kids - regardless of income. And it's often little things that matter - help with homework, taking time to talk about the day over the dinner table, having a designated study space at home.

The young people at All Saints have explored all of these issues and made a short film of it. They called themselves The Smile Foundation because they want to see a smile on every child's face, and they called the film U because everyone has the power to make a difference by taking responsibility rather than blaming everyone else.
U is for young people to take charge and talk to their parents / teacher if they struggle or get bullied.
U is for teachers to always look beyond the behaviour they see, and understand what may be behind it and see the whole person.
U is for parents to stop and listen and remember what it was like to be at school for them.
U is for everyone of us, so we look through the eyes of the parent, the teacher, the young person and take a positive and small step towards making a big difference.

What can you do you may wonder? Well, there's a lot to choose from!
  • We are looking for top tips from parents, teachers and young people: what works for you, how do you support your child's education? Please share this on our The Smile Foundation UK Facebook page.
  • How about taking a pledge to your child/children? A commitment to doing something small that can really support your child's education? I've pledged to keep my netbook switched off for at least 30 minutes after coming home with the kids, so I can listen and don't get distracted. Sounds like nothing? Well, it's a big deal for me and I know how annoyed my kids get when I'm typing away while they're asking for some 1-1 attention. You can take the pledge on the facebook page. We're aiming for 150, so how about asking your parent/teacher friends to make a pledge too?
  • You could blog about it and tag other bloggers - and if you do so, please add your post to the linky below!
  • Oh and how about sharing the video far and wide? That would be so so lovely.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

 Stones, glorious stones. I searched for smooth ones, Cubling for big ones to throw. Snowflake didn't search, she explored every one.

There was a lot of climing. On ropes, on climbing frames, on statues, on walls.

And the first spring flowers... Aren't they lovely?

Of course we had ice cream at Nardini's and Cubling sped down the front on her bike. As you do on a March Sunday in Largs. Not long now that she'll be ready for the cycle around Millport!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Temper tantrums, a tooth and banana cake

What I didn't mention in my previous post that all the while I was driving big trucks (ok, small trucks) across Glasgow, I was in agony with toothache. I'm one known for ignoring it but this one, well, there was no ignoring it, even with pain killers. So the following day when I had reached the point of almost starting to scream while at work, I reluctantly got myself to the dentist.

It was neither a pleasant nor interesting visit, but it threw all my work plans haywire, so close to the finishing line with two projects, where I need every available minute, instead I leave the office yet again without having had a chance to have lunch but most importantly I lost a full afternoon because of one useless wisdom tooth that is now no longer with my jaw.

And today, every attempt to catch up on my work was thwarted by a temper tantrum. I thought they'd only happen once the second year is rung in but oh no. I might have had the calmest baby ever but she sure has decided she'll have it her way in toddlerhood.

Funny how things go, my spirited first born never had a single tantrum and we fully expected a very hard ride. In fact at 2 she was the sweetest thing you'd ever met. Snowflake so far has been so easy going that I was sure we'd be the one family that may never experience a temper tantrum. Well, what are kids for but to prove your theories wrong.

It was hard work, me feeling under the weather after yesterday's extraction (or whatever else was up with me) and a 17 month old who doesn't speak, and is getting rather frustrated if she can't have things exactly her way. If Cubling holds an item, she's gotta have it. If she sees food, she's gotta have it (waiting for it to cool? No way jose!), mummy leaving the room to pick something up? Oh no, only if you take me along and carry my full 11kg. And then there are the 379 instances a day where she wants something but totally fails to communicate what this is, instead flings her head back and her body into an arch to start yet another temper tantrum where nothing I offer is good enough. I'm getting quite good at the head-fling-catch which is just as well as she might otherwise actually seriously hurt herself.

Next I'm being told off by almost 5 year old for being cross with her little sister. Correction: I'm not cross, just calmly and firmly explaining why the backwards head throw is not a good idea and doesn't exactly bring her closer to what she wants. Ok, I may have raised my voice when she had the carving knife in her hand but I think that's fair enough.

It's good to have my parenting controlled by Cubling though, keeps me on a straight line. I'm surprised though that she's still so supportive of her little sister, seeing that she's constantly trying to snatch things out of Cubling's hands.

So today is filed under I'm so very glad it's over.
On the plus side, there was a successful trip to a garden centre, two blueberry plants were transferred into their permanent places, and a banana cake was baked. Cubling surprised me again with fabulous pretend play ideas and told me how very much she loves me (which is really and truly unusual, and I'm still totally on a high from that one). I could just pretend all went swimmingly and look how yummy the cake has turned out to be. But that wouldn't quite be me now, would it.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Of murals, raised beds, fences and tipper trucks

It never ceases to amaze me what my job requires me to do. Not that my job description isn't long, but to be fair, it's a tad vague. So today, it was driving a hired tipper truck from Paisley via Blochairn to Shettleston. The mission: delivering enough compost to fill 4 raised beds and filling the very same with the compost.

All of this part of a programme that gives young people an opportunity to make a local change, a change that should contribute in some way to alleviate the effects of child poverty. The effects of child poverty are such that this gives the groups of young people a relatively free choice of what their project will be - as long as it can be done within budget (£1k) and within timescale (6 months) and can demonstrate to have a positive impact well beyond the group.

It is doing time right now, for both of my projects. Today, it was all about the Fuseastics, the 8-11 year olds at Fuse Youth Cafe who are implementing their grand plan. There is a mural to be painted, the raised beds to be filled and planted, a new fence to be painted. It's all go and although we're not done yet, it already looks rather good.

The kids chose this particular project for a good few reasons. The youth cafe is a great venue for young people and it's still expanding its activity programme. The building sits within some concrete grounds, which have rather a lot of potential. In many areas of Glasgow, there are very few safe outdoor play spaces. Yes, there is a swing park locally, but it's often vandalised, there's dog poo, adults can be seen consuming alcohol or worse, and it's also not particularly enticing - you know the kind of mass produced swing park with the same 3 items up and down the country. It's boring and not particularly safe. Plus for this age group - they've kind of grown out of swing parks but aren't old enough for unsupervised outdoor activities.

So what could be better than doing something with the outdoor space that the youth cafe has on offer? It's not huge, but big enough to make a start. There were issues to deal with: loitering at night time, lot of traffic and the fear of vandalism or theft. The solution to this: a fence that both keeps the kids safe and those that have no business being there out. It's not about a locked space, just a clearly marked space and a space that looks used and part of the youth venue.

The group also wanted to make the outdoor area more colourful and fun - ideally with climbing frame, football pitch and other things that would take about 10 times the space available to us - so bringing things into the doable realm, they decided on planting flowers and vegetables, which will link in to cooking workshops and potentially getting an allotment at the nearby community allotments.

The mural will also contribute to making the outside look brighter, rather than a cement garden, and to shout out that this is a young people's place (and not a pub - the building used to be one and still looks a bit like one).

Next week, we'll have a planting day with the eco group from the local primary school. The following week, the new outdoor play space will be launched. It seems a long way to go still to get it finished but it can and will be done.

With the changes, hopefully there will be more children and young people using the youth cafe, and they will be able to spend more play time outdoors which is proven to have positive physical and mental health outcomes, and which also contributes to better concentration at school. Gardening is great for people of any age, and it'll give the young people using Fuse an opportunity to try their hands at some vegetable growing which they can then also use in their cookery workshops. Knowing where food comes from and how long a process food growing is will hopefully foster healthy eating habits without a raised finger.

And what's more, hopefully the change project may give some sort of inspiration that it is possible to transform a space locally on a relatively cheap budget by pulling together different people to make it happen.


Raised beds are not just for planting...

The compost has arrived. See the steam? It was rather smelly but that's a good thing, right?

Getting the compost into the raised beds

And at the end of today, that's what it looks like:

Jobs still to be done: paint the fence, paint the raised beds, varnish the paint, buy plants and plant raised beds, complete mural, launch the whole shebang with a Spring Fling. Time left: 14 days. Gulp.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Finished Object Friday: Where is my cardigan?

Today I wanted to present my wonderful Asteria cardigan.

Alas I can't find it.

I'm not sure if this FOF series that I've got going is good or bad - at least I noticed it's missing but of course I'm not just a little bit distraught, considering it was expensive yarn and took me 6 months to complete, and is the first big item I've knitted for myself in at least two decades.

I've turned the house upside down. I've revisited locations in my mind to make a list of potential places where I may have left it behind.

I've not quite given up hope yet but there isn't a lot of hope because a) I didn't wear it a lot as it still needed some fastening sewn onto it and b) I have no recollection at all having worn it at all since 12th February (when I definitely wore it on my trip to Perth which seemed fitting as the yarn had been bought in Perth at Elena Costella's Yarn and Fibre shop).

Of course, every location will be checked.

I still feel a tiny little bit like crying.



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