Sunday, March 31, 2013
My Bopster is starting to grow hair at last! For the first time this month we have managed to (just about) pleat her hair, or twiddle it, as she calls it. She has so much less than any of the first three had at this age, and a little less even than Anna who I had considered bald, but I can definitely see a little light at the end of the tunnel!
I know I am being pedantic, and I know I shouldn't proof-read everything but after more than 20 years in publishing I can't help it!
Someone bought Anna a pack of T-shirts a few months ago, probably for Xmas, I don't actually remember where they came from... It was cold at the time and she wasn't wanting short sleeves, so they were put away unopened in her drawer. Today she found them and bounced downstairs wearing this one and it has been upsetting me all day.
The question is (and I want yes or no answers before I decide whether or not I should...) would it be ok to use a permanent marker to add in the missing apostrophe or would that be too sad?
Saturday, March 30, 2013
The difference between three and thirteen is also enormous. But again Charlotte slowed down a couple of years ago so in no time at all her favourite baby could be looking down on her. It will be strange to watch who reaches what height.
I guess if I had to predict based on who was biggest as a baby and who grew out of which clothes sizes first, I would plump for my kids ending up tallest to smallest as Marcel, Léon, Amaia, Anna, Charlotte, but only time will tell. I'll be back with an update around 2022 to see if I am correct!
Anna is five, part way through p1. She just just bounced up to me and said "I like Easter and rabbits and chocolates and pretty spring flowers..." She took two steps away, then turned and added "I know there were too many ands in that sentence. If I'd been writing it, I would have used commas instead but you can't see commas when you speak so I changed them into ands to make it clearer!" Do five year olds really analyse language in that way before speaking, or is it influenced by the bilingual dimension?
Friday, March 29, 2013
This saddens me. It saddens me because Perugia is a wholly different place in reality. Perugia is the place I grew up overnight from a child to a young adult. It is the first place I lived alone, or at least in a shared student flat, or even two - the first with two Austrian boys, the second with three Koreans and a Scottish girl.
I was 18 years old and I sat an Italian exam prepared by the Italian government. We were told one person would win a scholarship to spend the summer studying in Perugia uni, all (basic) expenses paid. I didn't dare dream but somehow I won it. It was pre-Ryanair of course so I went by train. Forty-eight hours straight from a cold, damp Glasgow to a stiflingly hot Perugia station. Anyone who knows the town, knows that you walk out the station at the foot of the hill into a boring 60s suburban-looking town. It's dirty and noisy and frankly nothing special. For a moment you wonder where this old town you've read about is but outside the station is a bus marked 'centro storico'. It drives up a hill you can't really see from the station for about 15 minutes and drops you at the top. The air is cleaner, burning hot. You turn the first corner and come across this truly magical sight. White buildings everywhere, students everywhere chatting, laughing, eating. I was 18 years old and had never left home and suddenly I was standing in this square with the keys to my own little flat in this wonderfully exotic location to a Glaswegian girl. I loved every second of it. I loved the smells, the food, the architecture, I loved speaking Italian and I loved becoming independent - going home when I wanted, to the beach when I wanted. I loved the uni canteen that fed you more for lunch than I expected to eat in a week for about 50p. I loved watching my blue skin turn brown and my mousy hair turn bright blonde in the sun. Everything was magical. I took countless photos of beat-up old Fiat 500s. I drank Orvieto on my balcony eating fresh figs from the tree that was overhanging it. I visited the region, I marvelled at the architecture. I even sunbathed nude in a monastery... accidentally! I travelled to Assisi and Florence, to Milan and Como.
Given Perugia has a wonderful international uni, I imagine thousands upon thousands of students have my memory of the place. I just think it sad that when Marcel's generation come home and tell their parents they are thinking about studying for the summer in Perugia, their thoughts will be dark ones rather than realizing their child is most likely in for an experience they'll still be raving about nearly thirty years on.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
So I lie there two hours in blissful ignorance till 8:05am. I'm just getting ready when a totally appalled Charlotte bursts in to my room on her way out to the bus and shouts 'Mum - the bathroom at the top of the stairs is like... covered in puke!'
Joy - so he's worked out to get up, just not to aim - ho hum. Back to the drawing board.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
So last night's conversation went like this:
Charlotte came in from school and announced she'd come top in her Maths exam. Léon piped up 'Do you still do adding at high school?'
Charlotte came out with 'Yes but it's harder adding at high school, we add letters as well as numbers'
Léon immediately came back with ' So do you add not just 12+15 but also t-w-e-l-v-e-p-l-u-s-f-i-f-t-e-e-n?' spelling it out carefully!
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
"What's an airbag?" she asked. I explained it was a big pillow that popped out if you were in a crash. "Oooh," she replied, "let's crash daddy's car so we can see what the airbag looks like!" Emmm, no! I don't think so. "Oh but muuuum, I've always wanted to see what an airbag looks like!" (Wait a minute, two minutes ago you didn't know what an airbag was and now you've always wanted to see one! Drama queen!) I explain how often we use the car and how we need it and she looks totally disinterested and points out I have a people carrier so it is superfluous anyway! (She doesn't pay the petrol costs obviously, given the whole point of Thomas's Peugeot is so we don't need to use the people carrier on a daily basis with its 80l diesel-guzzling tank!) Anyway we agreed to disagree on experimenting with crashing daddy's car, for now anyway.
Monday, March 18, 2013
So what else would you go for on a day when it's snowing other than lime green socks, pink leggings, a blue t-shirt and a pink and orange summer dress, one size too big... I hope this self-dressing phase is short-lived... either that or I need to hope she grows some dress sense fairly quickly. I certainly don't want the other shoppers in Tesco to think I had a hand in choosing what she's wearing!
Sunday, March 17, 2013
It's interesting. I was on Borgen's facebook page the other day when I came across some English native speakers discussing this particular exchange from Borgen series one. Interestingly Thomas and I (always being latecomers to anything vaguely TV-related) had only discovered Borgen two weeks earlier (Marcel had got the DVD for Xmas) so we were watching an episode a night, enthralled. We happened to have watched that very episode the night before I came upon the discussion. Those taking part in it were obviously in awe of the speed at which Katrine is speaking. English natives aren't great at foreign languages in general and many have never heard anything other than a little French or Spanish, spoken at schoolchild/tourist speed. It's funny, I live in a house where Danish is spoken every day. I hear it all day long. Rather than learning it from a book as I did with French, German, Italian and Swedish, I've picked Danish up through the spoken medium so it was fun to see how strange my fellow English natives found it to listen to. I take it for granted I suppose. When we'd watched it the night before it hadn't even occurred to me that Danish is spoken quickly and I had no trouble understanding what she was saying in this exchange (yes the English subtitles were off before you think I was cheating!) - I tend to think of French and Italian as much faster languages to parse in their spoken form. It was only when I came across the discussion that I realized how far living this bizarre bilingual existence has taken me from my roots. Maybe that is part of the issue with language teaching in the UK. We don't expose people to foreign languages very much and when we do, we slow them down artificially so as not to frighten the English speakers, but of course when we then come face to face with two natives having a conversation, we can't follow it at all. By making it easier, we are actually making it harder.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Anti-D is meaningless to 83% of the UK population. In fact given half of the rhesus negative people are probably men and another 20% are kids or childless then anti-D is possibly something that concerns only 5%. But when you have rhesus negative blood and my family history, you can't help but be appalled by this. Let's start with my granny, Phyllis. She had negative blood, my granda didn't. Therefore dad was born positive. A few years later granny decided to add to her family. Her second baby lived only a few hours, killed by rhesus disease, her third died at birth, of rhesus disease. Dad never got over being an only child, because he wasn't meant to be. Medical ignorance meant his blood killed his siblings. He grew up with his O+ blood and married mum. She had a negative blood group. She was given counselling and told her babies may require blood transfusions on arrival, and was advised to limit her family. Fortunately I was born with negative blood so didn't affect my brother and he was her last child so no damage was done to that generation. I grew up with my negative blood and married not one but two men with positive blood groups. Anti-D had come on the scene and with every bleed, miscarriage, or even amnio I was given anti-D injections. Each of my babies was tested at birth. One, two and three turned out to be negative themselves so all was well there. Anna was my first positive baby. She was the equivalent of dad. She was the positive baby born to me, a negative mother. I was injected immediately on birth with anti-D. That meant that two years later Amaia, positive baby number two was born healthy, not needing a blood transfusion and not dying like my aunt and uncle who never grew up to be that. It is criminal that we are allowing this to happen in a day and age when it doesn't need to. I can't imagine what my granny went through trying more than once to have other kids, not knowing the implications of dad's blood type. And when I look at the photo above, taken five minutes after Amaia's birth, I can't contemplate the possible outcome a lack of anti-D might have had on that happy photo.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Saturday, March 09, 2013
So we're too poor to be independent because it would make us the third richest EU country above Scandinavia etc. It's time they cut the crap.
Friday, March 08, 2013
Complete with some quotes from the rather amusing discussion that ensued!
I had a German friend Wilma shaking her head telling it just wasn't right and that the sausage must be cooked to a pulp, followed by an admission that she was intending to try it with her daughters as soon as possible, then a French friend Gaëlle butted in appalled with 'I'm not German and I don't have strong views on not destroying sausages (regardless of their horse-meat content), but I just think it looks utterly revolting. Don't do it Wilma. Put the spaghetti down... We've still got your life ahead of you!' She was unconvinceable, despite having two small children too. But given Thomas started it and my American friend Paul joined in towards the end debating whether these even were sausages in US terms, I think it was a highly successful and truly international sausage and spaghetti conference.
I think I can see a theme developing for the next child in the family's birthday party... half an hour of sausage threading followed by dinner of... sausage!
Thursday, March 07, 2013
I know I'm not much of a ranter ;-) in general but tonight I am outraged! As always the primary kids were given all their homework on Monday for tomorrow. We did a little on Monday and Tuesday but skipped yesterday as Thomas was out and it is always easier to do it on nights you aren't playing mum and dad to five. So I sit down with Anna tonight to see what is left on her list. She's read and learned two sets of spelling words, she's read her reading book and answered the comprehension questions, she completed her topic work on Scotland and then I notice she has two websites she's meant to go on to play Maths games. I sit her on my knee in front of my laptop and we go onto the first - it consists of approximately a dozen subtraction questions. She happily completes those. I key in the second address, on the same Maths site but entitled Naming 3D shapes. It brings up the first question with a banner across the middle declaring 'You have exceeded your daily allowance of free questions, sign up and pay £7-99 monthly to continue!' Excuse me??? Well, as you can imagine, I have sent Anna's homework back with a letter of complaint. Homework cannot be prescribed on pay-as-you-go sites, not during a recession, not ever. I resolved to google some free 3D shapes for her to name but even if I had all the money in the world I would not be paying for my child's homework. I am appalled and outraged.
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
And while I'm on a rant anyway... I don't get how this country is meant to work. First of all I read yesterday that an average nursery place costs £11K a year - you pay that out of your net earnings so if you are on the country's average salary, having a second kid (never mind a fifth!) is a no-goer. Apparently 25% of us are relying on grandparents for full time caring. I never have but know many who do. What happens when our generation has to work to 68? Who is going to care for our grandchildren? And now what happens when they get too old or infirm? Do those parents suddenly find themselves choosing between childcare and their mortgage?
Then there are orthodontists, hospitals etc. Take Marcel. He's had braces on his teeth for about three years. He needs driven from Mearns Castle High to Giffnock every four weeks and back to have them adjusted. All appointments are during school hours. Back in second year I guess letting him taking the bus, which might have necessitated him missing two hours of school would just about have been feasible but as he comes up to starting fifth year it is bad enough me taking him out for half an hour, let alone sending him on public transport. I don't want him missing school. So, there is no other option than me taking him. There are no weekend appointments, no one else available to drive him but if I still worked in Bishopbriggs rather than from home, who would do it? Society relies on me doing it. I can't imagine mothers in Denmark being expected to take an afternoon off work twelve times a year (per child) for such things but our social model relies on it. Marcel's dental work wasn't cosmetic, his mouth was too small for his teeth, so what was my alternative? No wonder more an more highly qualified women are giving up on stable jobs to work freelance because there is no backup in this country. We have overpriced nurseries, outrageously priced out of school care and holiday clubs that for my kids would cost half my annual earnings for just the summer holidays. It doesn't work. We base mortgages on two incomes and then we take more than one whole income away for childcare. I don't get it. We have no official policies on what you are meant to do with your kids on the mornings they waken up with say chicken pox. You aren't allowed to stay off work, but no one will take them either. I was fortunate enough to work somewhere who let me work from home when Marcel and Charlotte got chicken pox, but these days, if I still worked in house, it would be a no-goer. Mine got it in October on year two weeks apart. I'd already used up my annual leave. The stress involved in parenting in a country that doesn't allow for it is hard to deal with. I am lucky enough to have skills that allow me to run a business from home but many parents aren't so lucky. Why aren't we looking at other countries even for ideas of how to make things work better?
And as for the delivery guys who give you a 12 hour window of when you are likely to receive your new washing machine and then invariably don't turn up once you take the day off - I won't even go there. But I'm sure we've all done it over and again! That doesn't work either.
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
Monday, March 04, 2013
Let's take last week for starters. I drove past school to where I could park and let Léon and Anna out the car. It was about 35m from the path that leads down to the school gate. Between where I parked and the path there were no roads to cross. You need to walk past two houses following the pavement and then past two trees. Here's the google map (though of course they were on the other side of the road at A.) A is where I dropped them, B is the path into school.
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There were many children on the path. I kissed them goodbye and asked Léon to walk Anna in holding her hand and I stood and watched them till they rounded the corner. During this time not one but three of my friends asked if they wanted me to take them in if I was in that great a rush. They were appalled not only at me letting my five year old walk those thirty steps alone but even at me letting my seven year old do so. Yes, I am in a hurry in the mornings, but I also strongly believe freedom and empowerment have to start somewhere and if I can let them walk 35m this year, next year it could become 50m and by two or three years down the line they will be walking unaided to the park, to Waitrose or whatever. I remember both Marcel and Lots suddenly deciding they wanted to walk home occasionally at the age of 11 or 12 so if I don't train them now, when should I start? Home is 3.5 km - see below.
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Interestingly here is the google map of my own primary one journey from 1972-3. It was sometimes done with mum or gran, sometimes with a neighbour who was seven or eight, just like Léon, and occasionally done alone.
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All I know is one day Marcel and Charlotte started walking home, then they started taking public transport to school, then Marcel started going into Glasgow alone. I know if I asked Marcel to go to visit relatives in Copenhagen flying through Stansted alone, he could do it. He has the life skills. If we never let go, we are not preparing them for life itself and we are therefore failing in the main task of parenting. Teaching them how to live without us is a far greater lesson than anything they learn at school.
Saturday, March 02, 2013
How can this have passed Thomas by? Everyone was sharing it on Facebook months ago! Give me strength. How can I, of all people, have a husband who hasn't noticed Fiat have brought out a new Chuggy?!
Anyway, given it's been in my blog drafts for months, I'd better blog it now so he can catch up! His parents have apparently been asking his opinion of Fiat's new 500L and he didn't know it!!!! How can I have educated him so badly?
This, my dear, is the Fiat 500L. And you can tell your parents that if they buy one, I'll pop over and be their permanent chauffeur, because it is sooooo cool and cute!