Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I'm sure I can feed myself mash!

Originally uploaded by PhylB
Up to now I've seen Amaia as a little Léon clone. In hundreds of photos (and in real life) I see Léon all over again.

Yesterday when I uploaded her eating her mashed potatoes I was sure I'd seen this look before but this time it was a mini-Charlotte.


I love Blogger's new templates! I've been fiddling about with Pudge's blog trying to find a more suitable look for a four year old boy and I think I've come up with the perfect solution! He's going to love it when he gets back from his holiday - well at least until he realizes he can't eat it!
I think I'll have a play with mine and Anna and Amaia's later in the week!


I love the way bilingual toddlers decide which words they want to use in each language. To a man they use mainly the right words in both languages but there is always a category of word which will not be translated no matter who is being spoken to. For example, at two Marcel much preferred grenouille to frog so even if he was speaking to a monolingual English speaker, he refused to use the word frog although he knew it. I have a lovely video clip somewhere of him at two recounting a complicated story about a princess kissing a grenouille and the grenouille turning into a prince! Anna has several preferred Danish words. She always uses at rutsje for to slide and at gynge for to swing, even if she's speaking to my mum, and when counting she always counts: one, two, three, four, five, six, otte, ni, ti. Don't ask me what seven has done to offend her in both languages but for some reason she always skips it and swaps language there! Sweet!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I think I've been living with the politics nerd too long...
On Tuesday Léon graduated from nursery. We were invited in for strawberries, shortbread and a little concert. The kids sang a dozen songs, some chosen by the teachers some by the kids themselves. What will we sing now? asked the head teacher. Little Beth suggested Alastair Campbell! How strange, I thought... Why would the kids want to sing about the Labour party? Of course they then all proceeded to sing Alice the camel. D'oh!

Friday, June 25, 2010


Raising the age of retirement in the UK from 65 to 66 and then beyond to 70 seems to be a major topic of conversation with the new government this week.
Am I the only person to wonder how the logistics of this are actually going to work?
The first problem I see is a major number of workers in the middle and upper management categories being made redundant in their late 50s, or 60 at the most. These people never get other similar jobs afterwards - they are dispensed with because they are seen as part of an older generation that needs to move aside for newer ideas or technologies. Does the government really expect our managing directors to go and spend the last ten years of their working life in ASDA or B&Q? And why do we want 70 year old managers working on the check-out in ASDA when our unqualified 16-25 year olds are unemployed? I don't get it!
Secondly and even more significantly the UK does not offer affordable childcare solutions. Maternity leave lasts a maximum of one year and the government offers you a free three (not eight) hour nursery place from your child's third birthday until they start school. As a laugh I will calculate childcare costs I would incur had I not given up on childcare long ago, but imagine for a minute I only had Anna and Amaia - that is after all not an unusual family for a 42 year old uni graduate. Anna is 2 and Amaia is 5 months. The private nursery I used when Léon was one year old, a great nursery but average in price for a Glasgow suburb, would cost me £1479 a month. When I left my job a year ago my full-time net pay was £1667. Even if petrol had been free, would you work full-time for a month to earn £188? So how do women on salaries of up to about £35K (which is way above average female income) manage to work in the UK? Well, for the most part (myself not included) women leave their under fives with their grandparents who give up their own well-earned retirement to babysit their grandchildren so their children can afford to pay for their inflated mortgages while still having children. I wonder who is going to babysit these millions of under-5s while granny and grandpa toil in ASDA till 70. Has the government budgeted for full-time childcare for all 1-5 year olds when raising the retirement age?
And that amusing calculation I promised you... If I worked full-time away from home my monthy childcare bill once Léon starts school in August would be £2323 a month during term-time rising to a £3041 month during school holidays!


I often wish I could bottle the smell from the roses in my garden. In the same way I wish I could bottle the last five minutes of summer term in primary school.
Most days of the year I turn up late to pick up Charlotte - there's no point in being there at 3pm as she always wanders out after ten past but the one day a year I allow myself the secret pleasure of turning up early is the last day of summer term. It isn't that I am deliriously delighted to have five kids under my feet for seven weeks, don't get me wrong. I just love the joy and exuberance that you get at no other period in a kids' life. Today they were coming out at 1pm. As the clock struck one minute to, the noise began. Standing outside the grounds I could hear as 630 kids counted backwards from 60, with the roof almost coming off the building as the bell rang at 1! Then 630 smiling kids ran out blowing whistles, thrilled their summer had begun. By high school the last day of term is nothing special, they can't even be bothered going in for the most part. Blasé, the joy of real childhood is already gone, sadly. So every year my kids finish at primary, I allow myself to stand outside the gate listening to that joie de vivre that teenagers and adults have lost and I shed a little tear for le temps perdu! (Don't tell anyone!)


Today my little Léon left nursery forever. After summer he will start real school in primary one at Kirkhill along with his sister who is going into primary six. Leaving nursery is more of a parental experience than a child's one. The children, although they know they are not going back, are too small to be overly moved by it. The parents often cry inconsolably at the loss of that period in their lives. I still have two babies going to nursery so leaving Hazeldene today for Léon's last time was less traumatic for me. I knew it was simply an au revoir rather than an adieu, though it did bring a lump to my throat! I guess when I see him in his over-sized uniform in August I'll be reduced to mush!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Charlotte's always had an issue with our garden furniture and static electricity. I noticed it on this photo I took at the weekend. It immediately reminded me of a really sweet one I took eight years earlier :-)

Monday, June 21, 2010


Anna has proved herself to be one of life's copers over the past three weeks. On the day her stookie was put on she sat on a chair in the garden and didn't move or play. By day two she was dragging it around the house bum-shuffling and by the third day she could roll and lower herself from the couch. The middle of the first week saw her develop the bravery to drag in along the patio outside on her bottom. Last Monday (day nine) she got out of bed and decided if it was going to be on for what I assume feels like forever in her timescale, then she'd just get on with it, so she got up and started walking. By Tuesday jumping, running round the garden and climbing had been added to her repertoire and I have to say today's shopping expedition in Glasgow which saw her walking unaided around shops in Sauchiehall street drew some funny looks, particularly in Primark when Brita was shopping for socks for Ursula and I actually found myself shouting Anna will you stop running, you have a broken leg! It will be interesting to see how she re-adapts to normality on Wednesday when it finally comes off.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


One thing no one warns you about having kids is the questions you are going to have thrown at you daily. Today's big dilemma for Léon: why does his shadow not have eyes!?

Monday, June 14, 2010


Anna is to start her free state nursery place the first week of January next year. As is the case in the UK free nursery places are offered to all three and four year olds. They are meant to complete a year of ante-pre-school, and then a year of pre-school and then they start school around the age of five. The cut-off point for school starters in Scotland (not England) is January 1st. If you are born after January 1st you can start school in August of the year you turn five. If however, like Anna, you are born a week too early at the end of December, you have to start school in the August before you turn five. This wouldn't offend me if she was then allowed to start her ante-pre-school year with all the kids who she will be going to school with, but because the government only provides nursery for three and four year olds she misses two whole terms of her ante-pre-school year disadvantaging her and all the other youngest school starters - those who could probably do with the most help if they are to start school at 4 years and 8 months. Given the only two criteria for receiving your state nursery place are that you are toilet trained and can talk by your third birthday, I see no reason why Anna couldn't be given a place from August despite being two - she has been potty-trained since her second birthday and can talk very clearly but instead I have to keep her home five extra months disadvantaging her educationally. It's just not fair for the littlest ones.


Well - almost. Anna broke her leg nine days ago as you know. Today I got a call from Marcel, who was meant to be with his father but when he was left with an injured foot after a football tackle today couldn't initially get through on his house phone, so rang me instead, leading to me spending another two hours of my weekend in casualty. (What did we do in the old days before kids had mobile phones?) I'm beginning to think I need a season ticket! It turns out he's pulled a few of the ligaments on either side of his left foot and won't be able to take part in any sports for four weeks. Having done that myself four or five years ago, I seem to remember it was about fourteen months before I could comfortably walk on my foot for a whole day. Hopefully he'll heal quicker as he's younger. Especially given he tried out for the school football team two days ago! Fortunately the East Renfrewshire school sports' competition was last week, otherwise he'd have missed out on becoming the region's bronze medal shot putter for the year. And Anna was a little disappointed his tubigrip wasn't pink, of course!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


The WHO says I shouldn't start feeding Amaia (remember the 10lb baby) till she is 26 weeks old - ie in another 5 weeks. The WHO is barking mad! If I hadn't started her on solids I fear she might actually have eaten a member of the family by now - possibly Anna as she is currently the least mobile and the second smallest. Take today for example: it started with four rounds of breast milk from 2am onwards, then she had a cereal bowl full of porridge with blueberry compote at 9am, followed by more breast milk, at 1pm she was screaming again so had cauliflower, broccoli and cheese sauce with water, at 5pm she downed a jar (I didn't have time to cook her anything - she wouldn't let me!) of beef and root veg of some sort - I heated just half, then she demanded the other half, then a whole cereal bowl of yogurt with fruit and more of my milk (twice more). At 9pm I went up to change the other kids' bedding and came down to find Thomas feeding her a rusk dissolved in milk as she had declared famine once more. After another feed from me she fell asleep - no doubt to work up the strength to be up all night drinking again. She is a bottomless pit! Could I even contemplate not giving her any solids yet???


Anna has predominantly dark green eyes with little bits of slate grey and brown in them. Most people think because her eyes are dark that she has brown eyes, but she hasn't. In fact, much to my surprise I have no brown-eyed kids, just one medium green, one light green, one blue green and one blue grey, and Anna of course. The one thing that is different with Anna that you can almost see in this picture is that she has one eye that is darker than the other (her left). Again this is something that almost no one notices, but it is the first thing I see when I look at her. It is as if the right eye is 70% green with 20% grey and 10% brown, whereas the left is 70% green with 10% grey and 20% brown. I like to look at the unusual shades and nuances in all my kids' eyes.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


I went to a charity book sale that my friend was holding in aid of breast cancer in her back garden yesterday afternoon. Both she and her husband work for the NHS ironically. As the women sat around chatting, the many toddlers took turns on the big trampoline. All the kids except Anna were brave enough to have a shot. After everyone left I made to leave myself but my friend suggested I stay an extra hour as we hadn't got round to chatting. With only Léon, Amaia, Anna and her own four year old left, Anna finally decided she was brave enough, not to jump on the trampoline but simply to stand on it. Léon and my friend's son walked across the trampoline towards the exit to let Anna stay there alone. They were quite slow and quiet so as not to frighten her. The movement under her feet however made her wobble and fall to her knees on the surface of the trampoline. She didn't fall off, but started to cry. I figured she was just feeling a little scared as she often is around such things. My other friend carried her over to me, she cried for five minutes then sat on my knee hugging me. When we got up to leave she refused to walk but it had been a long, hot day so I carried her to the car and drove home. At home she still refused to walk. I made dinner, gave her calpol and thought that after an early night she'd have forgotten all about it. After all it wasn't swollen or bruised. This morning just before 8am we were awoken by a happy little voice shouting in Danish as always that she was awake. Thomas went up and took her out of bed as usual and tried to stand her down and she started to scream again. This just wasn't normal so I bundled Anna, Amaia, a buggy and a papoose into the car and was in Yorkhill by 8-30am. No one else was there so we were taken straight away. She refused to weight bear. No amount of coaxing worked, so she was x-rayed and they believed they could see a tiny hairline fracture above her knee. She was quizzed as to what colour of plaster she'd like and she agreed to pink. As soon as the doctors started to apply the five layers on this hot day she started wailing at them in mixed English/Danish My will ikke want that! She became ever more frustrated as she shouted ikke over and over to no avail. Eventually she calmed down and I took her home. She looked a little fed up most of the day as she was completely immobile. She didn't seem to be in in pain but was quite sad and clingy. She had seemed to be cheering up towards bedtime though we didn't put our finger on why until Thomas came in holding her pyjamas At last I can take this off she announced, assuming that the pink leg was part of the day wear that would be discarded along with the flowery dress. An inconsolable little girl was then carried up to bed wailing Why? over and over as she tried to get her head round it staying on till next Wednesday at the earliest.

Friday, June 04, 2010


We had this idea, given there are so many of us in the family, that we would have a family world cup sweepstake. The idea was for the six biggies to receive five teams each and so no one would claim unfairness Amaia could receive the two teams left over. We haven't decided on a prize value yet. I figure the winner will determine the type of prize we need to buy. Charlotte, being a big footie fan, was so enthusiastic she drew up all the teams from the Internet and put them in a hat ready for the big draw... so imagine her disappointment when she ended up with Australia, Ghana, USA, Algeria and Serbia! Mine weren't much better: South Africa, Côte d'Ivoire, Uruguay and Slovakia with the saving grace of Italy whose team might manage to roll about pretending to be injured again long enough to get into the final! (Miaow) Léon was pleased with France, as was Thomas with Denmark (though less with England). Thomas and Marcel split the bulk of the decent teams, but I have a sneaky feeling the winning prize might end up being a jar of Blueberry Baby Pudding given jammy Amaia drew Brazil (and Chile)!


 A day out Originally uploaded by PhylB
I know I'm going to come across as a sad middle-class cow but I'm going to share this with you anyway :-) Today my 4 year (and 8 months) old son was playing in the garden when a neighbour's 6 year old came wandering down the path holding a small burger in one hand and a McDonalds Happy Meal box in the other. Léon whispered to me What is that? I explained it was a burger and a Happy Meal box and he replied What is a Happy Meal? This came from a child who can tell chives from garlic chives in the herb patch and who knows which plants give raspberries, strawberries and blueberries around the garden! I'm a smug and happy mummy!


Something to think about if you are a parent... When we were at Amazonia's animal-handling session the other day every single child who recoiled from the petting animals on offer (a python, a tarantula and a lizard) screaming and crying was accompanied by a parent (usually the mother) who also refused to touch the same animal, displaying fear, loathing and hysteria. Even children as small as three or four had picked up on their parents' fears and developed the same. I remember the same phenomenon from my childhood with friends whose parents disliked cats or dogs. Before you burden your kids with your hang-ups, ask yourself if they really need them?


 Bitsy and Teeny Troll Originally uploaded by PhylB
The empathy gene has kicked in! I was taking a bath with Anna and Amaia tonight as I often do. In fact Léon is also usually in there too! I long for a bath alone, without ducks, mermaids and boats! Anyway I was washing Anna's hair as usual. I soaped it up with one hand, holding Amaia with the other. She looked on, curious. I gave Anna a sponge to hold over her eyes and poured a pint of water over her head, again as always. Anna flinched and whimpered very slightly. Amaia started crying hysterically, though Anna wasn't crying! The same happened every time I rinsed Anna's hair. I ended up having to console Amaia for having washed Anna's hair! I can hardly wait till Amaia grows some too :-\