Wednesday, 28 November 2012


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?



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