Thursday, May 29, 2008

ASDA JOINS THE POLY BAG MAFIA


ASDA Hollingbury
Originally uploaded by Dominic's pics
Gimme strength! ASDA has decided as of this week to join the poly bag mafia. Get this - you go in the door and they have not one but three big 'Recycle your ASDA poly bags here' bins. They have had for over a year so once a month or so I have remembered to take up all my poly bags and put them in their bin. That is supposed to make me feel I've saved the planet though we all know poly bags are less than 0.1% of the oil problem in the world. Ok I'll go along with this nonsense - it keeps the kitchen cupboard tidier. So today I take up - and I am not joking, a whole shopping trolley of bags as I am tidying out my kitchen this week. I go in the door, I post them all into their bin and I do my shopping. When I get to the checkout the operator asks Do you have your own bags with you? Well I did have but I posted them in your poly bag bin at the entrance - isn't that what it's for? Oh poly bags are an under-the-counter item now, I'm afraid she elaborated. A what???? I want a poly bag for my shopping not a porn movie! You really need to buy reusable ones at 5p each. That'll be bloody likely - the shopping is 30% dearer than last year and I just posted 200 bags in your bin so give me some of your under-the-counter free bags now! If they are going to start charging for bags but not rewarding for the ones you bring back then it doesn't add up. I am happy to recycle all my bags but my handbag is already over-full with nappies, changes of clothes etc so I sure don't want to have to carry 10 polybags everywhere I go in case I happen to need to pop into a supermarket.
I'm off to Tesco - well till they get stupid too :-(

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

UK CHILDCARE - HOW IS IT SUPPOSED TO ADD UP?

I'm getting more and more annoyed trying to work out how a family is supposed to operate in this country. I have just enquired how much 2 nursery places will cost when I finish maternity leave. I spoke to an average-priced private nursery in the suburbs, not an expensive city one. You can only use private nursery as state nursery only offers a session from 12-45pm - 3-45pm for a 3-4 year old and a place 9am-12pm for a 4-5 year old. That doesn't fit in with any job in this country. So there we have it. I can either have 2 full time places costing £1270.80 a month or 2 morning places (8-30am - 12-30pm) costing £677 a month. Work that one out - either £15249.60 a year or £8125 a year. The diesel I use in my car to get to the office and the nursery is now costing me £1.26 a litre (it was 92p a litre when I stopped for maternity leave 5 months ago). I use on average 160 litres a month, so add £201 a month to the nursery bill (that's assuming diesel doesn't go up at all in the next 6 months, which I guess is unlikely given it's gone up more than 30% in the last 6). If I decide to work full time, I need after school care and holiday cover for Marcel and Charlotte at an average cost of £470 a month for 2 places, ie £5651 a year. So to work full time my annual outlay for just childcare and diesel at today's prices is £23312 after tax. That means to cover just childcare and petrol I need a gross income of £35k+ to break even. Add to that an average £150k mortgage at £900 a month and food and I am left wondering where you get a job you can live off, even as a couple.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

PREPARING FOR KITCHENS

We have exactly one week left to prepare two whole rooms in the house for demolition, more or less. So we got up this morning ready to rock. Spurred on by Vista collapsing on my computer for the 2nd time this year, I needed to look for my recovery disc anyway, so I started by bagging all sorts of paperwork and unopened letters left over from the flat days. Marcel and Charlotte negotiated treats for work and then actually contributed nearly 3 hours each. Lots went through old toy boxes throwing stuff out and Marcel packed carloads of rubbish to take to the dump, tidied and even asked if we could point out weeds in the garden so he could help with that. (Did aliens abduct the real Marcel?) Thomas moved the tumble drier and some other boxes amongst other things. We worked from we got up till 5pm... so why does the house look worse now than when we started? We are still knee-deep in rubbish... I decided at one point to tidy the garage a bit as it is next on the list. When tidying one corner, I was a bit perturbed by the fact that it seemed to buzz every time I moved anything. After several minutes observing it, I noticed a line of bees (not wasps - phew) entering and leaving by the door. I doubt they'll be overly pleased when they find out it is scheduled for demolition in about a month's time...
Anyway, time for bed, if tomorrow is to be another hard day... Poor Pudge and Anna are getting a bit bored with all this already.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A CAGED GENERATION


Children in Cage
Originally uploaded by Mr. Guybrarian

I like to watch Child of our Time, given that the 25 kids it is following were all born within days of Charlotte. I generally like the psychological tests and know instinctively whether or not Lots would have conformed to the general outcomes. When they were analysing how the kids conformed along gender lines last week, I just knew Charlotte, if left to her own devices, had she been chosen for the study, would not have come out the changing room in the mini-adult pink sparkly dress all the other girls chose, for example.
This week was interesting on many levels. It followed 24 hours in all 25 8 year old kids' lives. The statistics it gave were dreadful. I felt more and more smug as the programme went on because I realized I was actually doing better than most of the families.

The first surprising statistic was that only 3 of 25 kids ever sat at a table with the rest of their family for an evening meal. The majority ate quick foods in front of the TV on the couch. In some families the mum ate at a table with the kids while the dad came home too late. The last and also popular scenario was one where the kids were fed and sent to bed before the adults even started to think about their meal. Twenty two of the twenty five kids had no concept of a family meal. That in itself might not seem important but the dinner table is a place where families talk about their day. It is a place of communication. Communication between partners but also as your kids get older and want to spend more time with friends or in front TV, a small chance for you to have relaxed communication with your child. Having spent years married to a man who came home and checked the microwave after we'd eaten every night, I set that as one of the rules for my new life. We'd have a meal at the table every night at about the same time and it would only be moved or cancelled in exceptional circumstances. There are 2 more rules in my house: no toys at the table, no texting at the table. This may annoy the kids but it means the family meal is just that - a family meal. I sat gobsmacked watching kids play, read, text, even play play station while eating alone. They did everything but eat and talk.
The next astounding statistic was the number of hours kids watched TV or played PS2 (and the likes). Ask my kids, I am the first to rant constantly that they are turning into zombies, that the TV has to go off and I jump up and down like an irate lunatic. So I was worse than horrified to find out my kids actually were at the low end of the TV hours scale. There were kids watching 9 hours in a row on there!
Next, but no surprise to me were the hot house kids, as I like to refer to them. I see them at my kids' school every day. I mean the kids that are enrolled in so many afterschool activities that they don't actually get a minute to draw a breath. They run from school to football, to piano, to chess, to karate. They have to buy a takeaway and eat it in the car as they don't actually get home till bedtime and their parents are always moaning their kids can't fit in homework. And the parents, of course, never see each other! I sat in horror watching a crazy mother driving her kid to tennis lessons 4 times a week over an hour's drive from home, returning all 4 nights at bedtime. The 8 year old cried a tantrumed in such a dangerous manner beside her in the car from exhaustion, that I genuinely think she should have stopped driving as she couldn't possibly have been concentrating on the road. What benefit is this regime to an 8 year old? I have nothing against the odd afterschool activity - My 2 big ones have tried several: football, martial arts, badminton, swimming, tennis - but an hour, 2 at most a week, never 4pm-8pm every night. Let them have time to relax, play, use their imagination!
Finally, and worst of all I sat with my mouth hanging open as the parents discussed the freedom they allowed their kids. I thought back to 8 - I was allowed to walk to school, walk to a friend's house, walk from my granny's to the corner shop and buy Saturday breakfast - rolls, eggs, juice and a few added extras. I could play in the field behind my house, in neighbours' gardens and generally wander about my estate. By 9 I was cycling to school on the road with no helmet! I can't remember the exact numbers but I know only 1 child in this study was granted the freedom I had at that age. Two, perhaps three more were allowed to play outside their garden but within sight of their parents. They weren't allowed to walk to school either. The most shocking was the fact that many of the kids weren't allowed in their own garden, none were allowed to the park. This wasn't because of traffic levels, which are much worse since we were kids but because people actually believed kids were so likely to be kidnapped or abducted that they wouldn't allow them out. Time and time again parents said they preferred their kids alone upstairs on a PS2 because they knew where they were! Don't people realize that abductions hit the headlines because they are uncommon, not because they are common? How are these kids, caged till 16, going to cope when they are thrown out into the world? When they are forced to leave home to go the uni or whatever, before they have even learned to cross the road alone. What damage are these people inflicting on their kids?
I let my kids cross the road and go shopping alone. Charlotte can go see granny just as Little red riding hood did many moons ago. They can go play football out of my sight in the field. Lots is allowed to go cycling up and down the pavements round the corner in neighbouring streets away from my line of vision. I have given them mobile phones so I can contact them. I am not 100% happy when they are out of my sight, no parent is, but I am 100% sure I am better preparing them for adulthood than by locking them in a bedroom alone. What will these kids remember of their childhoods? What life skills will they lack? How will they know how to parent themselves?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A FLAG-WAVING NATION


Birthday cake, Danish style
Originally uploaded by
PhylB
I mentioned a few Danish idiosyncrasies last month when we returned from Denmark. A final one, which I overlooked at the time, came to my attention last night. Thomas came home from work full of joy at the realization that Anna was exactly 5 months old. He couldn't bake her a birthday cake as she's too wee for cake so he headed for the fruit bowl and squished her a banana. He then stuck a Danish flag in it! I suddenly remembered Denmark's flag obsession. One of the first things you notice when you walk down the street in a village or even suburbia is that every 2nd house has a flagpole in the garden usually topped with a rather strange skinny version of a Danish flag. When we first arrived at Anna's grandparents' house, they had raised a proper Danish flag in her honour. You can actually buy large (several-metres-tall) flag poles in your small-town sized supermarket, off the shelf along with your bread and sausages! And there is at least half an aisle devoted to flags to decorate your house, your cake, your car, your fridge - you name it! This might not surprise an American reader but as a Scot this is extremely alien. At 40 I have never received a birthday cake topped by a Scottish saltire, I have never once put saltire bunting on my house, waved a saltire or felt the need to buy a flagpole. I wouldn't know where to buy one if my life depended on it... I wonder, if Scotland was to adopt this flagmania, how quick my dad would be to plant a large saltire in the middle of his front lawn (mum-permitting!)?

WHERE TO PUT THE KIDS?



Having just seen this in the flesh in ASDA car park, I am wondering whether they are likely to make a 7-seater version? :-\ It was my first love in cars and though I tend to be a driver of very big cars these days, I still have a soft spot for these. If I win the lotto tomorrow (though I guess statistically this is unlikely given I have never ever played lotto), I will be buying myself one for use on any trips where there are fewer than 4 occupants in the car. It is just stunning, and cute into the bargain. Failing that I guess I'll buy one once the kids leave home...

THE UNEXPECTED QUESTION


7 Green Bottles
Originally uploaded by
Sean Stayte
One of the best bits about parenting is the unexpected questions. You've known something all your life, you just accept it. Then you tell your child and they ask you something really wacky.
Today I was feeding Anna so all I could do to entertain Léon was sing. Fed up with Incy Wincy, I tried
Ten Green Bottles for a change. Léon listened, smiled a bit and when I stopped singing he asked seriously: What was in the bottles? Now there's something no one ever told me!

Monday, May 19, 2008

A MUDDY BATH


A muddy bath
Originally uploaded by PhylB
With everyone grumpy this morning, I thought a nice bath might cheer us up. I filled it up, put Léon in and picked up Anna. As I stepped in myself Anna grabbed the leaves on the pot plant on the window ledge and pulled it into the water with us... so I was back to square one. Two grumpy babies and a bath to empty, clean out a refill before we could start our nice bath :-(

Sunday, May 18, 2008

RETURN OF THE COWBOYS


cowboy gang
Originally uploaded by
sibhusky2
I guess John Wayne and his gang have struck again. We're still trying to get to the bottom of the missing cooker socket in our kitchen. On saturday we had an electrician friend round. We asked him if he knew what the problem was. He went into the cupboard to look at the fuse box and returned, never having been upstairs in our house and asked, knowingly, 'You have an electric power shower somewhere in the house, don't you?' 'How did you guess?' we asked, only to be told that they'd wired the power shower through the cooker switch on our circuit board. Don't you just love our cowboy house?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

THOMAS'S TOOL


Thomas's tool
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Thomas at his happiest when he finds a kitchen tool he doesn't yet have. Today he found a machine that not only simultaneously peels and cores an apple but also thinly slices it perfectly to make good old American apple pie. Of course I did laugh myself silly in Tk Maxx watching his delight at unearthing this contraption and subjected him to all sorts of ridicule. Unfortunately when we got home, I actually had to admit that it was quite cool and the apple definitely tasted better like that - Oh god, he's turning me into a kitchen utensil nerd :-(

SUSHI - GLASGOW STYLE


Sushi
Originally uploaded by PhylB
Today Thomas suggested we should go try the sushi bar in Silverburn shopping centre as we needed petrol at Tesco anyway. It turns out you can eat there for a reasonable price and it is fun to choose your dinner by colour-coded bowls rather than actually knowing what you are about to eat! We tried about 10 dishes for £25. The best, I think, was the salmon sushi, though I did like the deep-fried aubergines too.
Not all Glaswegians are quite ready for sushi though. Standing in front of the sushi place a couple passed. He suggested 'trying sushi', she gave him a withering look and said she wasn't about to have 'sticky rice and deed fish' for her lunch - (I think you'll find it's raw, not just dead...)
I was, however, touched by a slightly more adventurous couple, pictured here in the background of my photo. A grandson and grandmother sat down. He seemed genuinely pleased granny had joined him and asked what she was having. He took a prawn and rice something and tucked in with his chopsticks while she carried on cautiously watching the little dishes trundle by on the belt. Eventually, probably around when the octopus passed, she suddenly claimed not to be overly hungry and reached out to the belt. I was surprised this little old granny had the courage to try but of course she simply took the chocolate cheesecake in a little sushi bowl - one of only 3 desserts I saw passing while he ate all the other fishy delights.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TALKING ANNA

Anna has taken to talking a lot. She does it a bit during the day but her very favourite time of the day for a conversation or monologue is 4am :-( I'm sure what she's saying is very interesting and I can definitely see the beginnings of language in her lip positions. She herself is definitely very serious and passionate about it, but I haven't a clue what she's on about!

If you can't see the attached clip (I have been having a problem seeing flickr videos in Internet explorer, though Mozilla Firefox is working fine) then click on this link.


Talking Anna
Originally uploaded by PhylB

Saturday, May 10, 2008

NETTLE NUMPTY


stinging nettles
Originally uploaded by urtica

It's been a bad week for nettles. As Léon mentioned in his blog the other day, he was already suffering all sorts of itches, so the last thing he needed this week was to learn the hard way what jaggy nettles are.

Thomas and I were sitting on a log by the canal having a picnic when Léon decided to join us without warning. He had been at our feet watching the ducks. He crawled up beside us on the log and sat down in floods of tears muttering about nasty plants. He raised the legs of his shorts to expose two legs covered in scores of white sores all the way from his knee to his shin. We concluded he had crawled through a stinging nettle to get to us. Poor wee man, nasty jaggy nettles.

Today we were gardening - I noticed a very large nettle in our garden and remembered poor Leon's pain. Thoughtfully, I took a spade and dug it out from the root. I brought over the organic waste bin. I made sure not to touch the leaves and picked it up by the stalk in the middle. I remembered from childhood that the stalk is ok, it is only the leaves that sting, and given this was a huge plant with a central stem about 2cm wide, I wasn't taking any chances. The bloody thing instantly burned my thumb badly... hmmm was it actually thistles you are meant to hold by the stalk? I am no longer sure - but it sure isn't jaggy nettles - my thumb has been throbbing all day, worse than my last wasp sting, and that was a queen! :-( I guess that makes me a nettle numpty.


Friday, May 09, 2008

FLICKR VIDEOS



Léon at the beach
Originally uploaded by PhylB
I joined youtube ages ago but I never get round to uploading anything to it as Thomas either uploads things to his account, or I am simply never on that page. Over the last few weeks I have been meaning to try flickr's new video uploading facility. After my trip to the beach on Tuesday, I had taken a tiny clip of Léon and figured it was a perfect size to try. It worked fine and was available on my usual site for my usual audience without any hassles. I'll definitely use it for wee short clips in the future.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

DARLING NO MORE

This made me smile today - I wonder if there is any mileage in barring him from the petrol stations too?

A TUMMY EXACTLY 15 MINUTES BIG!


breastfed legs!
Originally uploaded by
PhylB
My little Anna is funny. Some days she suckles on and off the breast all day, others she is more business-like. Daytime feeds can last less than a minute of hours of comfort but little milk. But during the night, I have noticed over the last few weeks, almost every feed starts around 4-20am and takes exactly 15 minutes - never 14 or 16, exactly 15 - sweet.
Oh, and don't you love what the breastmilk has done to her legs!? How come on a baby those legs are just gorgeous but on an adult woman the same legs would be considered hideous!?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A WEBER CHIMNEY

I know that I am 40 but I have never in my life tried to start a barbecue.
This probably is related to my ex-husband's barbecuing habits. Barbecues with André tended to consist of an hour of him lighting copious old newspapers in a vain attempt to light some charcoal. Thereafter, with dinner running late and family assembled, he tended to throw on the sausages as soon as the coals did finally catch fire, leading to black-on-the-outside, raw-on-the-inside sausages which my family constantly cringed at. I explained at every barbecue that we should wait till the coals heated and the flames died but he was a bit impulsive, so we just never got there.
Consequently, I always assumed barbecues were beyond me.
Tonight Thomas asked me to start one and have the coals ready for him coming home from work. Arg! That's a tall order! He must have had faith in me, though. He has bought a Weber Chimney Starter so I figured I could try and if I failed, I failed.
I took out the chimney contraption. I stuffed 3 pages from the Glasgow Herald in the bottom. I put 60 charcoal bricks in the top and I took 1 match. It lit in less than a minute and 40 minutes later my coals were glowing beautifully. The barbecued food was absolutely perfect.
I think this would be the perfect gift for André. If we actually got on these days instead of fighting every time we try to have a conversation, I'd buy him one, but given we don't, I won't! :-\

Friday, May 02, 2008

THE RIGHT HAND DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THE LEFT IS DOING


I was parked in ASDA car park yesterday in a Parent and Child bay. The stupidity of it got me really annoyed! Why? I don't have a problem given Charlotte has a booster seat, Léon has a child seat and Anna an infant seat. So if I park there I am unlikely to get a £60 ticket slapped on my windscreen. However, imagine Anna was my first child. I drive into the Parent and Child bay completely legitimately, and what do I see parked 3 metres from the bay? I see these wonderful parent-friendly trolleys. Great, no need to waken the little angel up, I'll just take out the infant seat.
I go round ASDA, I do my shopping and I come out to a fine stuck to my window because, by using their parent-friendly trolley, I remove from my car the evidence that I am a legitimate user of the space! How stupid is that? When I finish my trip round ASDA, the last thing I need is to then have to look for a traffic warden to show I do have a child with me, then no doubt to be told that they can't cancel the ticket, but I have to write in some kind of appeal. Especially as my frozen food sits thawing in my fancy baby-friendly/ or not-so-friendly trolley!
Oh and another thing - when is ASDA going to add pregnant woman on to the parent bay, as Tesco has? Personally, I always find carrying many heavy shopping bags to the far corner of the car park when I am 9 months pregnant and ineligible for this space much more tiring than nipping into ASDA unpregnant with Charlotte, when I do qualify because I have her booster seat along with me.
Get the logic sorted ASDA!