Thursday, 21 August 2014

Competition: Rockin' Baby Slings and Pouches

 My children are growing and growing and here I am, being offered to review not one, no, two slings. I quickly did a weight check and tick, my smaller than average almost 4 year old (what????) is still within the range. The range of being carried in a sling. Would you believe it.

So we had a bit of fun tonight, for the first time ever I tried out a ring sling. It worked although I'm not sure I want to be carrying 15 kg worth of child any length of time even with the prettiest of ring slings. And neither does she, it was fun for 10 minutes and that was that.

It made me look back though at her baby days, when slinging her was a daily occurrence, it was the quickest and most convenient way of getting about, esp. with a preschooler in tow. I didn't carry Cubling half as much (she didn't like it, not that she liked the pram either but forward facing, the devil of all baby transport modes, was her clear favourite and who am I to argue), but Snowflake ... it was just practical, cuddly, warm and all good.

I'm also rather partial to nice fabrics and if sling manufacturers are good at something, it's definitely choosing fab fabrics.

Which brings me to the slings currently in my box. The Rockin' Baby slings and pouches look a bit different to anything I've used so far, so I was curious. They are handmade in the US and reversible and they are now entering the UK market through a deal with Mothercare who will be stocking them.

The company also has a charitable initiative going, with a strong partnership with mothers in Haiti, a country still very much suffering from the consequences of the earthquake. Every Rockin' Baby sling bought will mean a free sling for a mum in Haiti, to make everyday life a little bit easier, while reducing high infant mortality rates through kangaroo care.

The ring sling is one size with 4 different ways of positioning baby, while the pouches come in different sizes. They also allow 4 different ways of positioning baby, so there's not really much in the two, it's a matter of preference. There's quite a range of fabric prints, all really pretty. Yes, you've guessed it, I wish I had a baby to carry in one of them!

I won't need slings anymore (sob) so one lucky will have the chance to win either the sling or the pouch (size S-M which should fit most mums, you can check on the Rockin Baby website) - your choice, while the second one will be donated to the local sling library. Both sling and pouch are as pictured here with the bold black and white print which is definitely one of my favourites.

To enter the competition to win either the sling or the pouch, please leave a comment below. UK entries only (I'm paying postage myself, and can't really afford to send overseas unless you want chip in the postage through paypal, in which case I'm happy to accept non-UK entries). For an extra entry, share this post on twitter, adding @cartside, so I can see it. You can also share on facebook for an extra entry, please tag @NatureKidsGlasgow.

Of course feel free to follow Rockin' Babies on Facebook. If you don't win, Rockin Baby slings and pouches are available from Mothercare.

Competition closes midnight 31st August 2014. Draw will be by random number generator. Good luck!!!

Disclosure: I received a pouch and a sling to review, one of which will be given to the lucky competition winner and the other one will be given to the Glasgow sling library.
3rd Sept: I finally managed to draw the lucky winner, by random number generator. There were 39 entries and I counted them as well as I could chronologically. The random number 18 came up which on my list is Lorna Templeton. Congratulations! The other sling will go to the Glasgow sling library, so people can try it out at sling meets across Glasgow.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Confessions of the car dependent family

Listening to the radio discussing the continuous rise of car journeys and the reasons for this, I felt rather caught out. In that life that is but a distant and faint memory, where I was childfree, almost all journeys in the city were done by bike. I'd cycle to commute, to go shopping, to go out at night. It was so convenient, and yes, so cheap. I'd know exactly by the minute how long it would take me from my front door to my work, and it was faster than any other form of transport.

Fast forward 8 years, from the point where I was hit by a bus when 16 weeks pregnant (no damage done other than total panic and deciding I couldn't continue commuting by bike), I'm one of those infamous people who are totally dependent on the car. I leave in the morning at 7.50am to get Cubling to school by 8am for breakfast club, than 3 miles down the road to Snowflake's nursery (8.30am), which is about a mile from my work, where I arrive at 8.45am. I have to leave at 4.45pm as my nursery hours only extend to 5pm, back to after school care and home. We're always in a rush, I'm always worried I'm running late for work or nursery, but I've long been resigned to the fact that once in the car, it's outwith my control, so I don't tend to get stressed about while driving. Then there's shopping: shopping for 4 in a busy week juggling work and family always translates to one big shop which necessitates a car boot and attached motor.

At the weekend, there's swimming classes to get to, and trips to the family to be made. The pool (thanks to the closure of our local one 13 years ago) is too far for Cubling to cycle to, and the extended family is definitely a car journey away too. Even on my day off, we attend a play group which I can only get to on time after school drop off if I take the car.

It's not for willingness of leaving the car. I know that my main carbon footprint is due to transport and I probably went grey over trying to figure out if and how I could live without a car. I can't, unless I become a stay at home mum, and even then we'd still need it here and there.

So my kids are in the car a lot, too much even. Since we can't change this at the moment, at least we can make it into an opportunity to make the children aware of the rules of the road. We are both cautious drivers, but it can get a little bit annoying if the occasional driver in another car isn't. To be fair, I think most drivers around here are courteous and decent, it's only as a cyclist that I've been subject to irrational abuse, but not really as a fellow car driver. As with everything, I try to be a good role model too, and often explain things about driving and taking care on the road to the children while we're in the car, because kids pick up stuff they see so quickly.

The Scottish Government and Road Safety Scotland has launched the Kids in the Car campaign to raise awareness of how important it is that parents and carers are a good role model when children are in the car, to keep everyone safe but also to teach them good driving habits as early as possible. Calm driving, not using mobile phones, clearly no drink driving, always using seat belts, not jumping red lights, and teaching the kids how important it is that the driver needs to focus on the traffic are the golden rules, and it's amazing how the kids pick this up. Even Snowflake at 3 knows that she needs to wait for us to stop at a red light before I can change the CD or pick something up that she dropped. And no question that her doll gets strapped in the doll's car seat too.

The campaign raises awareness of the great influence we as parents have on our kids in the car, and the opportunity for role modelling safe and good driving practice. It's still the case that there are far too many road accidents young children or young drivers are killed or seriously injured. Definitely don't miss out on watching the video.

You can also take the parent promise and complete a questionnaire. Why not get the children involved by asking them to draw a picture of an adult driving and then upload it on to the gallery section of the website? You can also join the discussion at #KidsintheCar or visit the facebook page.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Sponsored Post: Newcastle

Whenever we make our way to Germany, our journey takes us via Newcastle, now our nearest ferry port for the ferry to Europe, after Rosyth was discontinued a few years ago. It's a mere 3 hours to the ferry port, and I quite enjoy the drive, especially along the Hadrians Wall between Carlisle and Newcastle. There is a lot of history there, and a lot of little villages that are hidden away just off the A roads and just waiting to be explored. And of course in and around of Newcastle, there is so much to discover. Stepped in thousands of years worth of history, it was the northernmost territory in the Roman empire, was known as the powerful Kingdom of Northumbria, endured hundreds of years of border raids from the Scots and saw the industrial revolution reshape the north during the last few hundred years. There really is history at every turn, and it's easy to book with Travelodge and head to the North East to see it for yourself. Some great places to start are:

Flodden 1513

Here you can visit the site of the infamous battle of Flodden Field, where the Earl of Surrey defeated and killed James IV of Scotland. There is a fantastic open air ecomuseum, which encompasses around forty sites that were involved in the battle in some way. At Flodden Hill you can discover the area in which the Scots camped, follow the Flodden Battlefield Trail, visit the Flodden Peace Centre and the memorial. There are lots of other sites of interest contained within the ecomuseum, which were of importance to the battle itself, from churches and keeps to huge castles and ports.

Barnard Castle

Set high above the River Tees, Barnard Castle has played a big role in the history of not only the North of England, but of the UK too. It was built in the 12th Century, was home to Richard III and played a part in the Northern uprising during the reign of Henry VIII. It features an impressive round keep and even a sensory garden for the visually impaired, although that's a more recent addition of course. Now largely in ruins, some of the masonry was used to extend the nearby Raby Castle.

Tynemouth Priory and Castle

Located on a rocky headland overlooking the North Sea and the River Tyne, the castle and the priory at Tynemouth form what was once one of the most heavily fortified areas in the North of England. The early kings of Northumbria were buried here at the priory, yet it was attacked by the Danes and abandoned. A monastery was later built on the site, but again it suffered at the hands of Henry VIII's reformation and only the remains can be seen today.

There has been a castle on the site since before 1095 - the original was of course built from wood and mud, however what remains today is the fortress built in medieval times. It's had many guises over the years, with the remains of the stronghold being used to house a lighthouse, barracks and most recently the local coastguard station, so it has certainly had a varied past. 

Friday, 8 August 2014

The curious incident of the country where childcare funding doesn't follow the child

As of 1st of August, the Scottish Government has introduced a childcare/early education model which is meant to reduce the cost of childcare and make childcare more accessible. The free hours of early years education have been increased to 600 and 3 and 4 year olds are eligible for these free hours. As childcare is a mixed economy in Scotland, the statutory free entitlement can be accessed at local authority nurseries or private nurseries that partner with local authorities in delivering the free entitlement.

This all sounds good so far. As ever, the devil is in the detail.

First of all, while we are talking about an entitlement for all 3 and 4 year olds, guaranteed by the Scottish Government (SNP led), it needs implemented locally by local authorities, which in Glasgow is Labour led.

Secondly, the funding for free hours goes to nurseries. It does not follow the child.

So Glasgow City Council has been told by the Scottish Government that as of 1st August 2014, it needs to increase free provision for early education, but it's left to do this as it pleases. I don't know if there's extra money that was made available, but regardless, again, each local authority gets money and then has to allocate as it wishes.

So far, local authority provision either worked on the basis of offering free 3 hour childcare sessions 5 days a week to 3 and 4 year olds. Most of these establishments are closed over lunch. Some are day centres and offer limited wrap around care - but experience shows that they hardly ever offer 8-6pm places (I've seen offers of 9-4pm a lot, and if parents don't take this up because they work 9-5pm, they were dismissed with "well, we did offer and you didn't want it". The idea is that magically as of last week, more wrap around care should be available and flexibility of how the free allocation is taken up by parents is increased (so that instead of 5 days of 3hrs parents can take 2 days of 8 hours each or something like that). As for private nurseries, they get an allocation of free places (if they pass care commission standards) which they then pay out to qualifying families.

If a family uses a childminder for the remainder of the day, they pay the full childminder day fee even if the child spends half the day at nursery (because understandably the childminder can't take on another mindee and has to survive somehow as well).

I haven't got evidence yet if local authority nurseries which so far operated with 3 hour sessions are offering more flexibility. What I have seen and heard about by rather a lot of people now is that those who had to choose a private nursery (because local authority nursery doesn't have a place or only offers insufficient hours), their allocation of fee statutory sessions has been withdrawn. Private nurseries, who had an allocation of free spaces, suddenly don't have them anymore and are as flabbergasted as the parents who are back to paying full day rates (which can be as much as £45, or £900 a month per child). When the parent complains to the council, they get rather arrogant responses along the lines of "if you choose a private nursery that doesn't offer free sessions, there's not much we can do".

Let's be clear: parents don't "choose" private nurseries that have "no funded spaces". There is no choice. The parents I'm talking about here have had her child on the waiting list of the council nursery for over 2 years and the only offer that was ever made did not allow to work 9-5pm. They then took a space at a nursery that did have funding for the statutory free sessions. But that was last term, and strangely, although additional free hours have been introduced, that funding has disappeared. The wording of GCC letters even suggests that parents should just move their children to another nursery, which is blatantly not in the developmental interest of the child.

Which leads me to think: maybe Glasgow City Council is financing the additional hours they have to be seen to offer by only offering them at local authority nurseries, while withdrawing funding from private nurseries. In effect, rather than ensuring a more flexible approach and increasing free childcare, it has been taken away from working families. Now, it's not just low income families that can't access childcare in nurseries (because state nurseries don't offer full days and private nurseries are too expensive), but also middle income families are pushed out of work because they can no longer afford childcare fees. And if I say "families", this usually means "women".

This new childcare promise was meant to help get low income families back into work by making quality childcare cheaper and more accessible. It appears it hasn't just failed to do so, but also had the unintended consequence of pushing middle income parents out of work.

Remember, we are talking here about statutory provision. Every child should be able to receive 600 hours of free nursery education.  A lot of children are currently missing out. Of course I can hear those cries for independence, just that education is already devolved and we have to deal with this mess in Scotland anyway. Is there an element of Labour protest in having to implement Scottish Goivernment policies? I hear it's not so bad in other local authorities? But really let's focus on a solution: It could be all so easily turned around if only the funding followed the child. So why not give that a go?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Escape to Arran

Almost 2 years after we received this birthday gift of a weekend away without the weans, we finally made it: off we went on the ferry to Arran, to walk, explore Brodick Castle and swim in the hotel pool. Good (and at times strange) food, watching the Glasgow Commonwealth cycling from a distance, and slowing down for two days. Almost ready for the back to school madness ...



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