Tuesday, 9 May 2017

My quest to be plastic free

There has been a lot in the media recently about the rising global problem of waste plastic. According to the Sky Ocean Rescue documentary, over eight million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean each year, killing sea life. Now new evidence says it's entering our food chain with unknown health effects. You can watch the Sky Ocean Rescue documentary here.

The Marine Conservation Society are running a plastic challenge in June to see if we can live without single use plastic for an entire month. I have decided to take up this challenge. 

I made this decision on a bit of a whim and have since done quite a bit of reading and researching. Firstly, learning about the different types of plastics. I was clueless! I knew that our local council doesn't recycle coloured plastic, such as those annoying brown plastic tubs supermarkets insist on putting mushrooms in (Why??? Just why? Do mushrooms take offence to clear plastic??!!!) but I didn't really understand the reasons behind it. It turns out that there are several types of plastic, some much worse than others.

Ok. So I am going to focus as much as possible on the bad guys: types 3, 4, 6 and 7. Now I find myself scouring packaging in my home to see what plastic it is! 

I currently grocery shop online each week (hitting the supermarket with two kiddies under 4 is not my idea of fun!) and spend between £70 and £100, depending on if I have run out of bigger items, such as laundry powder, stain remover etc, which I buy in the bigger packs as it's cheaper per kg. I'd really like to stay within this budget when I make alternative plastic free purchases. My groveries arrived yesterday, so before putting things away I had a good look at it all and was really quite shocked at how much single use plastic there was! 

This is my grocery shop for the week. I may top up on milk and bread, but this is it. I already menu plan and buy accordingly, as I hate wasted food. I do admit that I buy a lot of frozen veg for this very reason. The amount of half eaten broccoli or cabbage that got thrown away was ridiculous! But these all come in plastic bags of course. Not good for my challenge..... Maybe I should buy fresh, chop it up and freeze it myself in a non plastic container, or at least not a single use container.....

After putting my groceries away I realised exactly how much unnecessary single use plastic I had bought, even before I had eaten any of the food!!. The small pile on the left could be recycled but the pile on the right is not recyclable and would end up in landfill. This was just around fruit and veg and holding multipacks together. I'm collecting all this non recyclable waste to see exactly how much I do create. Time to seriously change my way of approaching my shopping....

I have a bit of time before the challenge begins in June to source alternatives for my most common consumable plastic terrors.  Just from this week's shop, I already know that I can easily change the following that came wrapped in plastic:

  • multipack of baked beans
  • apples
  • bananas
  • nectarines
  • potatoes
  • brown onions
  • mushrooms
  • beef mince
  • chicken thighs
  • chipolata sausages
  • fish pie mix 
  • frozen butternut squash
  • frozen green beans
  • frozen broccoli
  • frozen cauliflower
  • frozen parsnips
That's quite a lot already and a good place to start. 

Today, after I dropped E off at preschool, R and I went to check out a local butcher and greengrocer. I was completely expecting it to be ridiculously expensive. I went armed with my list of price per kg for my meat, fruit and vegetables. This was what I found:

  • mince
    • £7.38/kg supermarket (with 12% fat content)
    • £7.20/kg butcher (<10% fat)
  • chicken thighs (boneless and skinless)
    • £5.63/kg supermarket
    • £4.40/kg butcher (free range)
  • chipolatas
    • £6.00/kg supermarket
    • £7.45/kg butcher (I need to investigate the meat % in this comaprison)
  • pork fillet
    • £7.00/kg supermarket
    • £9.30/kg butcher and was also prepacked in plastic wrap
  • mushrooms
    • £2.88/kg supermarket
    • £0.86/kg greengrocer (really???!!!)
  • broccoli
    • £1.25/kg supermarket (but no option to get it witout a plastic film around it!!!)
    • £2.83/kg greengrocer (why so expensive I wonder???)
  • cauliflower
    • 95p each supermarket
    • 89p each greengrocer
  • nectarines
    • £2.00/kg supermarket
    • 39p each (must get a weighed comparison for these)
  • apples
    • £1.56/kg supermarket
    • £1.87/kg greengrocer
  • bananas
    • £0.73/kg supermarket
    • £1.29/kg greengrocer
  • grapes
    • £3.60/kg supermarket
    • £4.07/kg greengrocer
  • carrots
    • £1.40/kg supermarket
    • £0.86/kg greengrocer
  • brown onions
    • £0.75/kg supermarket
    • £0.86/kg greengrocer
  • potatoes
    • £0.64/kg supermarket
    • £0.64/kg greengrocer (no plastic bag wins for me!)
  • kiwi fruit
    • 8.5p each supermarket (6 prepacked in a plastic tub and net)
    • or 37.5p each ready to eat supermarket (4 on a plastic tray and covered in plastic film)
    • 29p each greengrocer 
I must say that I am pleasantly surprised. I had a chat with the lady at the butcher about my plastic challenge. She said she would be happy to use my own containers or paper bags if I brought them. I will definitely be getting my meat from there next week. I left feeling rather pleased with myself!! 

Another avenue of investigation yesterday was alternatives to shampoo. Many suggestions went straight to Lush, as marketed as an ethical company and if you buy from the shops, they cut straight from the bar etc, so you can take soap etc home without packaging. However, I have learnt that they are not as squeaky clean or green as they claim. Many of their products contain chemical nasties, as you can read about here and here. However, a fabulous blog by a lady called Claudi, who lives in Stroud, pointed me in the direction of a company called Wild Sage & Co, who make a rosemary and lavender shampoo bar, without the nasties. 

Wild Sage & Co come to a local farmer's market once a month so I will be heading there at the start of June to try out some plastic free shampoo! It's £4.50 a bar, but is supposed to last quite a while and it's not that much more than my regular shampoo. If you are local to Bristol, you can find details of the BS5 Market on their Facebook page.

Well, that's currently as far as I have come on my journey towards less single use plastic waste. I'll keep you updated! I'm going to be looking to find a bulk bin dry goods store, to see if I can get pasta and rice without plastic packaging, but still within my budget. Anyone else up for the #plasticchallenge? Let me know any other ways I can avoid the plastics!

Much love

Monday, 10 October 2016

Pregnancy and infant loss awareness week: A letter to my angel baby

The 9th to the 15th October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Week. Pregnancy and baby loss affects up to one in five families in the UK. It is unfortunately, very common. Chances are you know someone who has suffered the devastating grief of losing their baby. Chances are, you don't know about it. Pregnancy loss is still a secret grief. But it is the loss of a child. And that is devastating.

I lost my baby in February 2015. It still hurts and cuts just as deep today. That will never change.

This post is not cheerful. It's very sad. I have shed many tears writing it. But this is real life and happening to far too many women every single day. And for some reason, it remains a secret, taboo grief. At a time when we need support and friends around us, we hide our grief away. And this is wrong. So, if you are reading this and have suffered the loss of your baby, I am sorry. I am so very sorry for your heartache and loss. But you are not alone. Please don't feel alone.

A letter to my little lost baby:

To my darling little one,

Twenty months ago today I was told that you were not going to make it. Twenty months ago today my life changed. My world was about to fall apart.

I was eight weeks pregnant with you, my second baby. The previous evening I had had some light spotting, so was booked in to the Early Pregnancy Unit for a scan. I was sure it was just precautionary and that everything was perfectly fine. Light bleeding is fairly common, right? I was sure it was nothing to be overly worried about. The sonographer found your heartbeat fairly quickly and I could make out your fuzzy little form on the screen. But then she broke the news. Your heart was beating too slowly and you were measuring a lot smaller than you should have been, I was confused. She asked me how certain I was of my dates and was there any chance I could have them wrong? There was no mistake. You were too small. It didn't look good. She told us to prepare for the worst and to come back again in two weeks to be re-scanned. The air was sucked from my lungs. Daddy was clutching your big sister on his lap. We were both in stunned silence.

We left the hospital and went home. I felt confused, shocked, numb and sick. You were still there, alive, inside me. Your heart was still beating. But you were dying. You were too small. You weren't going to survive. And there was absolutely nothing I could do. I broke down in our kitchen. Mummy couldn't save you darling. I'm so unbelievably sorry. I wanted to, please sweetheart, believe me, I wanted to more than anything. I would have done anything and given anything to save you.

I don't know when your heart stopped beating. I hate that. I don't know when you died inside me. The scan two weeks later confirmed that your heart was no longer beating. But you were still with me. You were still there. I decided to let nature take its own course. I didn't want a Doctor to take you from me, I cried and cried and cried when you finally passed. It was awful. A day I never ever want to relive. My tiny baby, not much more than a bundle of cells, but still my baby, disappearing down the U bend. It was not fitting for my baby, it was not what you deserved. I said goodbye to you, crouched on the cold bathroom floor, gripping the edge of the toilet. Tears pouring down my cheeks, crying so hard I couldn't breathe. I felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest. The pain was physical. I hurt. I felt sick. I wanted you back, but you were gone. I had to get Daddy to push the flush. I just couldn't do it. It felt so very, very wrong.

You were gone. But I continued to bleed. For weeks. It was an incredibly cruel, constant reminder that you were gone and I had failed you. I felt empty, like something was missing. Something was missing; you. I didn't accept it. I just couldn't. It was so unfair. I wanted you so very, very much. I cried for such a long time. I was very open about you. I didn't want to hide you away, like you had never existed. Not a lot of people knew that I was pregnant. I wanted to talk about you, my cherished baby. I didn't want you to just be forgotten. But I was very aware of how uncomfortable people were when I told them I had lost you. They didn't know what to say, or do. "It wasn't meant to be" "At least you weren't very far along" I could have screamed. It made me so very angry. You were meant to be. You were my baby. I wanted you so badly. You were gone. But also gone was your life, your first steps, first words, birthdays, graduations, weddings, children of your own. These will never be. I was also grieving the loss of these. And it was hard. It still is so unbelievably hard. I know they were just trying to help, trying to find some words to say. But there are no words that can help. I just wanted you to be acknowledged. I had lost my child. I didn't want you forgotten, treated like you didn't exist. 

You would have been celebrating your first birthday around 18 days ago. I feel like you were a boy, but I will never know. I have no scan pictures, no baby photos. I hadn't even had my booking in  appointment with the midwife. The only physical memento I have of you is a couple of sonographer reports. One saying you were measuring two weeks too small and the other confirming there was no heartbeat. Cruel pieces of paper.

I wanted you to have a name. Daddy and I called you Gabriel. Daddy loves that name and I thought it was very fitting for you, my darling angel baby.

I think about you all the time. I wonder what you would look like, how your little character would develop. You have a baby brother now, my rainbow baby. I'm sorry my beautiful little one, there won't be any more siblings for you. Pregnancy with your little brother was so very hard. Physically, but also emotionally. I spent 41 weeks constantly worried and anxious of losing my baby again. Joy to be carrying your brother, but the grief and guilt that it wasn't you. I never, ever, want to feel that way ever again. The gut wrenching, completely destroying pain of losing you; my darling, cherished baby.

I will always completely and utterly adore you and you will never be forgotten. My heart has a space that is only yours and will forever be.

Sleep tight, darling Gabriel. I love you.

Mummy xxx

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

It was the best of timesit was the worst of times. 

Charles Dickens certainly knew how to coin a phrase. I am stealing it, wholeheartedly. No credit for me. 

However I do not use it to compare London and Paris during the tumultuous time of the French Revolution. This evening, as I sit in my bed, laptop on my knee (thank you dearest hubby for repairing it for me. Much easier than trying to compose your blog on your smartphone!), having just done a quick top up early night feed and got baby back into bed, I am describing motherhood. 

I have two children. My darling daughter is now the grand age of three and my boy, my Little Man, is five months. I am a stay at home mum and, I will, most likely, continue to be so, until the Little Man goes to preschool at three. My two little munchkins make me laugh so hard and smile so widely. There are times when I truly feel like I might explode with love for them and I still can't fully believe that we created them and they grew inside me. However, this time of heart bursting joy is juxtaposed by this also being, by far, the most challenging and difficult period of my life. As Dickens so eloquently put it; the season of Light... the season of Darkness.

There are certain aspects of being a new parent that you expect, before your children come along: the broken sleep, the exhaustion, the nappies, the crying etc. These things are a given. I can handle those. I anticipated those. What I did not expect, after the birth of my second child (I've done this all before, it'll be like riding a bike) was to be categorically floored by anxiety and post natal depression. 

It comes in sudden waves; ambushing you from behind a particularly long day and burnt dinner. And it takes many guises: anger, no, insane rage, resentment, guilt, shame, incredible stress, feeling indifferent, anxiety, and lack of control. It's not necessarily about feeling that you aren't bonding with your baby; I couldn't adore my Little Man any more. It's about me and what's going on in my head. If anything, it's my relationship with my eldest that is suffering. 

I have written before about my need for control. It transpires that I really need to feel I am in control. As my Health Visitor put it, I have OCD tendencies. I need to keep my house clean, tidy and organised or it becomes a huge point of stress for me. I need to tick things of on my mental list. I crave structure and routine. (I'm finding these long summer holidays challenging.) I feel saturated by my emotions and then at the point of the merest sign of things going wrong, I overflow. Spectacularly. This isn't me. This is not the parent I want to be. So, after four long months of burying my head in the sand I am tackling it. Swallowing my pride. Being courageous. It's one of the hardest things I have done in a long, long time. I feel like I have failed. I am not coping very well. 

Yes, I can smile. Yes, I seem very much on top of things. My house is clean and tidy. My laundry is done, menus planned, groceries bought, dinner on the table each and every night. Come September, Little Crumpet goes to preschool and the Little Man is signed up for swimming and music classes. On the surface I seem to be parenting with ease. But I am a swan. Under the water, out of sight, I am paddling furiously, desperately keeping afloat, whilst trying to maintain the calm picture of serenity and togetherness to the big wide world. I certainly fooled my Health Visitor for a while.

A part of me knows that I am not the only one. But to talk about this is taboo. No one wants to admit they are struggling. That it is harder than they feel it should be. No one wants to confess that they feel out of control, a failure, a truly crap mother, or father, at times. Admitting this is hard. Humiliating. But I feel like this. I'm not the only one who feels like this. The associated guilt. I should be better at this. I try my hardest. Every single day. I am my own worst critic and my hardest is never good enough. I know I should cut myself some slack. But I can't and I don't think I ever will. I utterly adore my little munchkins. Only the very best of me is good enough for them. And so I strive for perfection. Every single day. They deserve it. They are amazing little people. It's a catch 22. I want to give them the best of me, but I feel that my best is never good enough.

So I take each day as it comes. I pray the good days are great and many, and that the times between my dark days grow ever longer. I will beat this. It will not consume me. 

This is written to each and every one of you out there who is secretly beating yourself up. You are not alone. This is our village. It takes a village to raise a child. Reach out. 


Thursday, 2 June 2016

The art of the successful play café

It's a rather chilly, gloomy June morning. In a bid to appease a housebound, restless toddler and the call of CBeebies, we've come out to our local play café. It's housed in a local church hall and only on one day a week. I discovered this morning that this is the last day it's open until September. The promise of warm weather and a truly marvellous park close by is apparently proving too much. It's poorly frequented (there are seven children here as I'm writing this) and, if I'm honest, feels rather unloved. Maybe it's the hard floor, maybe it's the stacked tables and chairs at the back which hint at the building's multi purpose use, which give a sense of the temporary and coldness. I'm sitting, watching my two year old happily bounce on the inflatable play area, sipping a hot cup of tea (a rare treat!), Baby Bear sleeping in his pram next to me and I can't help but compare it to another play café we often go to, further afield. This one is always much busier and feels rather like a large, wonderful, child friendly lounge! It has sofas and rugs aplenty. An area for ride ons, large building blocks and a mini trampoline. A dedicated baby area, with feeding pillows and baby gyms. It feels warm, cosy and 'loved'. It also helps that the staff are fantastic and know the regulars by name. The menu, although small and simple, is home made, delicious and excellent value for money, also offering "Toddler Tapas"; a pick and mix selection of healthy finger food. This café seems to be thriving, so I wonder why my local one is struggling so much.

I often sit and daydream about opening one in my area... To be honest, I don't know the first thing about running my own business, but where I live is crying out for something like this. It's working very hard to encourage independent businesses, with focus on quality. Surely I'm not the only parent who relishes a few hours of children who are happily playing, socialising and having fun, giving us weary mums and dads a few minutes to savour a hot beverage and (dare I say it...?) possibly relax just a little bit? I just wonder why this café isn't working...

What makes a good play café? Thoughts, please.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Ranitidine, tea and smiles!

So, after discussions with the Dr about his reflux, the Little Bear has been on Ranitidine for three weeks now and my, what a difference! He's a completely different little man! He can now be awake and happy! We're starting to have dimply smiles and chuckles, chattering and singing. It's truly delightful and so heartwarming, after so many long and difficult weeks of unconsolable tears. I decided to hang fire on the elimination diet to see the effect the meds would have first (thank goodness really, as I was starving after the very first day and just wanted to stuff my face!).

He's growing at a rate of knots (91st centile for weight) and feeding every two hours day and night. So I'm tired. I'm very, very tired. I am running on tea; a caffinated cup first thing in the morning, but then I'm being good and sticking to decaf for the rest of the day! Although not many get drunk whilst they're still hot! That's a rare treat!

Time passes so very quickly. Although he is only 9 weeks old, we've had to move him into his cotbed already, cue reshuffle of our bedroom furniture, to squeeze it back into our room! The boy is so long he has outgrown his moses basket! It's an absolutely beautiful vintage wicker one. Mum made me a bespoke reversible liner to fit it: pink on one side, which the little Crumpet had,  and green on the other, which Little Bear has had. Truly stunning, but it creaks more than a geriatric's knees, and every time Little Bear moved it was disturbing his sleep, as he was kicking his feet up against the bottom. A big part of me is so sad to be packing it away. My last baby is growing up so much already :( Before I know it, he will be rolling over and sitting up unaided. 

So many new adventures are just around the corner!

Monday, 18 April 2016

Out with the Infacol and in with... Not very much!

So, after three days of Infacol and Little Bear vomiting his milk back up after every feed, after discussions with the Health Visitor, we decided to stop giving it to him. He seems a lot less fussy when feeding than he was when taking Infacol, so that is an improvement already. Unfortunately he has got the Health Visiting team stumped. They don't know what it is that is causing my beautiful little boy to be so unhappy, grumpy and unsettled all the time.

So, I'm trying other avenues to see if things improve for him. As he will just cry and cry as soon as you put him down, or even sit down, my first purchase has been a sling, so at least I can hopefully get on with things and save my poor arms from the constant holding and jigging. This boy is getting really heavy! After a LOT of reading and asking questions and researching, I've decided on a Close Caboo; a stretchy, pre-tied wrap that comes highly recommended for newborns. I'm hoping it arrives in the next few days.

The other thing I'm going to try is an elimination diet, in case he is reacting to something I'm eating, that is transferring through into my milk. The most common allergens, and things that I am eliminating from my diet, are dairy, soy, gluten, wheat, nuts, eggs, caffeine, shellfish (of which I only eat prawns anyway).

This means no bread (no toast and nutella! Argh! Even gluten free bread has egg in), no biscuits, no cake (sob). Avoid gaseous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. No citrus fruits.

I'm armed with rice milk, turkey, lamb, dairy free margarine, rice, potatoes, squash, courgette and lots of pears. The idea is to keep to a fairly strict eliminated diet for two weeks, then gradually reintroduce a food every 4 days, always carefully logging what happens.

Let's see if the little chap improves...

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Onwards and... Infacol?

So, the Health visitor came the other day. Little Bear demonstrated his lung capacity like a trooper and cried inconsolably the whole time she was here. She assured me that, yes, he is overly distressed and unsettled. From observing him, she thinks he may have silent reflux, so recommended Infacol and raising the head of his moses basket. She also suggested we go pay a visit to a paediatric osteopath as he may have been a bit squashed up in utero.

So, I dutifully toddled down to buy the little red and white box of promised magic. It's nice, in a way, to be given a possible reason why my darling little boy is so dreadfully unhappy all the time. It doesn't make it any easier to cope with though. It's utterly heart breaking to watch such a helpless little mite cry and cry and cry and not be able to take his pain away. 

So, while I wait for the magic potion to start work, I try to get my littlies out of the house and all of us distracted as much as possible. Order of the day today? Play Café. Little Bear has already thrown up all over himself and the Crumpet has trapped her thumb in a door. I might just cry into my tea and Infacol.

On the plus side, Little Bear was weighed and comes in at a hefty 12lb 5oz at only 5 weeks old. That'll be the breastfeeding every two hours! Go momma!