Vegan Superfoods – Suggestions Anyone?

So the dairy-free diet is going fairly well, in that I haven’t lapsed at all, which is quite a surprise to me!

I wouldn’t say that the results have been miraculous to be honest. I would be tempted to give up and move onto eliminating another food, except that my reading has led me to understand that lactose can take quite a while to clear the body (either mine or my baby’s).

So, I will stick with it a bit longer…

In the meantime though, I am getting pretty bored of eating so much bread, oats, nuts and dried fruit. I’m pretty sure that my body is going to go on an all-out rebellion if I don’t get some more variety in my diet soon.

Has anyone got a suggestion for awesome vegan foods that I might be missing? Bear in mind that with two little ones I don’t get a lot of time for cooking or preparation, but I am open to recommendations.

Dairy Free Days: A Confession

I am very happy to announce that I have remained dairy free for a few days now. I’ve been diligently checking packets and refusing foods that I cannot verify as dairy-free.

However, I am spotting a potential pitfall of this obsessive packet-reading, being that I seem to have shifted my focus from eating healthy foods that are naturally dairy-free to trying to find acceptable substitutes to the foods I want. I’ve eaten a lot of dark chocolate mousse and protein bars so far this week.

I hope that by noting and admitting this in this public space, I will keep this budding bad habit in check, if only to save face!

I will update this blog soon with my progress, so watch out for any omission of this particular issue (in the event that I’ve simply scoffed a week’s worth of fake chocolate and iced buns).

As for whether my son is feeling the benefit of this change? Its kinda hard to tell as any progress is probably being compounded by what appears to be early teething. This week, he has mostly been grumpy.

Hooray! Dairy-free Day!

A small victory, but today is the first day I’ve gone 100% dairy-free in 4 or 5 years, so I feel this is noteworthy.

In truth, I don’t think I’ve actually ever gone a full week 100% dairy free – see my post about being a rubbish vegan – so if I achieve that then I’ve probably smashed my previous record.

If I manage two weeks dairy free, then I really hope by that point that my baby will be feeling the benefit as the amount of lactose/animal protein should be massively reduced.

So, I’m 1/14 of the way there..? Unfortunately no celebration cake for me though.

When it Rains…

A small family ‘adventure’ went downhill in a typically rapid fashion this afternoon, when a walk to the park followed by lunch in a cafe turned into full-on food refusal and a supermarket temper tantrum – because which toddler doesn’t love being dragged along the floor? I think someone may have been a bit overtired.

The grand finale was getting absolutely drenched on the walk (jog) home. Poor toddler was sitting on the buggy board with only a hoodie for protection. Guilty mummy moment right there. It was shortly after he fell off the buggy board too.

The weather forecast predicted a maximum of 30% chance of rain for the hour we happened to be walking home. I fancied those odds as the sky looked pretty clear…

On the plus side, once we had got home and changed into dry clothes we had yummy hot chocolate to warm up.

The raincoat is now going to live in the buggy between uses for the forseeable future. Lesson learned!

Time to Get Back On Track

Having just returned from a second short family break in two weeks, I am actually feeling relatively rejuvenated. [Mentally at least – physically I feel my usual level of parental exhaustion.]

As a result, I have felt quite motivated today to make a start on my short-term life goals, such as taking steps to live more sustainably and reducing the amount of dairy I consume (for health reasons).

By no means a perfect attempt – using a shampoo bar then accidentally using bottled shampoo instead of conditioner isn’t exactly less wasteful – but I’m satisfied with my efforts.

Hopefully I can keep up the momentum in the coming days. Next week is going to be challenging, so I would like to get back into a positive routine as soon as possible.

Another outcome of my trips is that I’ve been too busy to write though. Fingers crossed I can get into the right mindset for that too.

Do Compliments Undermine Conversations About Mental Health?

Recently – or more specifically, since giving birth – I have experienced a strange phenomenon.

I keep having conversations with well-meaning people, both friends and strangers, that leave me feeling quite confused and frustrated.

The general structure of the conversation goes like this:

[Friend or stranger coos over my baby]
Friend/Stranger: How old are they now?
Me: About X weeks/months
Friend/Stranger: How are you feeling?
Me: Ok…quite tired…
Friend/Stranger: [interrupting] Well you look great, not tired at all!

So what is wrong with this exchange?

Well, I’m not really the type to talk about my feelings readily – certainly not with strangers – but I will be a bit more open with very selective friends. However, as these conversations keep happening, it has struck me how much harder it is to be honest about how I’m feeling after such a comment. The compliment is almost dismissive of concerns that may have been expressed before it; presenting as ‘happy and well’ is all that matters, not how you actually feel.

I don’t know about you, but over the years I have really perfected my facade of emotional stability. I am lucky enough to have remained quite functional even in some pretty dark times, but presenting as something you are not to be more socially acceptable is generally not a good thing.

Today I met up with a friend from work for the first time since my little one was born and we had a very similar conversation to the example above.

While it was nice enough to see them, I felt that their compliment totally undermined any potential discussion of my mental health. They were aware that I have been struggling lately (in fact, this was the reason for them meeting up with me) but when they told me that I looked well, I felt like I couldn’t really contradict them. I felt that to do so would be akin to rejecting their well-intentioned compliment and may cause offence. I mean, how should I respond to that? – “Well thanks, but actually I feel like crap and hate myself like 90% of the time”??

I don’t think that would go down too well.

So, the effect of the compliment is essentially for me to not speak up about my mental health issues. Which is bad, right?

Don’t get me wrong, this is very much one of those ‘first world problem’ scenarios, but our society is currently experiencing a perceived mental health crisis, so maybe it’s worth considering?

Is it just me? Or am I actually making a valid point here?

Eight Reasons Why Parenting With Anxiety is Hard.

Anxiety has an annoying consequence of making regular life activities harder or even downright scary. Add a couple of feral lemmings into the mix and the results are terrifying.

If you’re wondering what could be so bad, here are some real life examples of anxiety-inducing parenting stresses:

  1. The responsibility. A pretty obvious one sure, but it’s a biggie. Being responsible for the wellbeing of someone else when all you want to do is hide under your duvet is hard. Just don’t read the news, ever, or you’ll never leave the house.
  2. The social interaction. Yes, you absolutely have to speak to other people, or even seek them out on purpose. Whether it’s a medical professional, health visitor or (the worst) other parents, there are times when it is simply unavoidable and actually in the best interests of your child. Don’t even get me started on social anxiety of toddler groups – because evidently misery lives company. Clearly there is nothing you want to do more when you are stressed and sleep-deprived than publicly argue with your toddler about the morality of snatching, or negotiating their participation in ‘singing time’ before dragging them out to the dulcet medody of their tantrum with your free arm (newborn is in other).
  3. The lack of hygiene. Nappies aside – given the choice, would you wish to spend your time around little people who like eating everything from fluff found under their bedroom rug to their own snot? Me neither.
  4. The lack of a schedule. Time for kids works on a more relative level than we are used to. For example, pooping exactly two minutes before you are leaving the house, being sick exactly one minute after being passed to a kindly relative and being asleep/awake at the exact opposite times you need them to be. You can plan your days until you are blue in the face, but don’t think for one second that the reality will be anything like you are imagining. If you are the type of person that gets tummy pains at even the idea of lateness, I recommend just throwing away your clock and winging it.
  5. The lack of control. No, you may not poop/have a shower/do anything in peace. Self-care is now a distant memory. Just face it, you are no longer in control of your own destiny. Young children operate on a different plane of existence and there is no changing this. Suddenly, you appreciate the little things so much more.
  6. The lack of logic. When the toddler years hit, you may find yourself stuck in an argument with a small person who was insistent that they wanted to go to the park during nap time, but now they would rather lie on the cold floor and nap than put their shoes on to go to the park. Also, beware possible arguments about how you don’t actually influence the TV schedule, or the forces of magnetism (when applied to toy trains).
  7. The lack of personal space. My partner has to ask special permission to hug me now, because having two kids constantly touching me is so overwhelming.
  8. The inability to relax. From storming into your room at 3am demanding cuddles, to suddenly running down the dark hallway towards you like a crazed animal while you are watching TV, you are always at risk of nearly soiling yourself. For mothers of breastfeeding infants, it’s the constant threat of them biting your nipple without warning that keeps you up at night.

So whatever your triggers are, parenting is sometimes likely to feel akin to immersion therapy.

The good news is, your child is probably one of the people on the planet that you can spend time with without it being too socially draining. Plus, they love nothing more than hanging out with little old you!

Also, while parenting may contribute to anxieties in the present, it can also be a reason to feel more positively about the future.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever really considered the future at all before I had kids as I never felt sure that I had one. But now, no matter how hard the day has been, I always look forward to tomorrow (even if it’s just because today is over!).

Fun Fair

Today I caught a glimpse of the the little boy that my toddler is growing into.

We went to a local ‘steam fair’, half expecting our toddler to be too overwhelmed to enjoy it, but to our delight he lived every minute of it. He was engaged and elated with every new experience.

Favourites included:

i) the steam train ride (obviously, as he is obsessed with engines),

ii) warm, freshly made sugared donuts (a.k.a “pastries”)

iii) expanding his soft toy collection by virtue of his duck hooking prowess. [However, when it came to choosing a prize he took some convincing that he couldn’t have the dirty plastic duck in lieu of a plush animal. What you see is what you get, right?]

I can’t wait to share more of these moments with him.

Nothing Compares to My Toddler’s Defiant Streak

It’s been five hours and 29 minutes since I tried to put my toddler down for a nap. That’s five and a half hours of saying (begging) ‘go to sleep’ in every way I could think of.

OK so actually there was a little break in there where I gave up and tried to feed him some dinner, which he poked at a bit but ultimately didn’t eat because he was so tired.

How can someone so tiny and so tired have the energy to fight me for five and a half hours?! Evidently toddlers are built for endurance sports.

I think he might be asleep now, but I’m too scared to look.

I’m really not sure who won that round.

How Do You Identify an Overspending Problem?

How do you tell the difference between a genuine overspending problem and well, just having kids?

As I’m currently on maternity leave, my income is obviously significantly reduced, so of course the last thing I want to do is to develop unhealthy spending behaviours.

It’s fair to say that I’m not sticking to the budget that I spent many a wee hour tweaking thanks to my pregnancy-related insomnia. I really want (need) to get a handle on my spending before things get problematic.

I don’t think I’m spending compulsively, as I often spend hours or days pondering whether I can really justify buying something. I usually end up buying it sooner or later.

Ultimately though, the sense of whether I really ‘need’ to buy something is pretty subjective, right? Maybe the ‘compulsion’ isn’t determined by the degree of consideration but rather by my motivation for buying it?

Perhaps then, things are more nuanced than I thought?

Justifications for purchases include:

  • “it’s educational” (building blocks)
  • “it’s an investment” (adding to DVD collection)
  • “I read in X that this might help with Z”
  • “it’s cheaper overall to buy in bulk”

After reviewing my recent purchases, I have noticed that most of it is for my feral toddler. He is currently exhibiting the usual ‘terrible twos’ behaviours, plus there’s the arrival of a younger sibling also thrown into the mix. Poor little guy has had a lot to deal with. I’ve witnessed my angelic little soul turn into a defiant little monster overnight and I probably didn’t handle it very well at first.

I honestly think things are improving now as I have a better understanding of what he is going through, but maybe the reason I have spent so much on him lately is partly because I am placating him?

Or maybe I am buying things for him because I am feeling guilty?