Sunday, March 31, 2013

Eliminating Wheat

So, at this point I can't really tell if I am a victim of the fad diet craze or if I am really on to something, but the next thing I am going to try is eliminating wheat.

I apologise to those readers who are not interested in what I am having for tea. I thought about setting up another blog as this whole diet thing seems to be taking over a blog that is supposed to be about single motherhood, but the reality is one blog is easier than two.

Anyway, I did briefly mention before that I have been thinking back to what I was eating on the elimination diet when I felt so great - or more to the point what I wasn't eating, and I came to wheat. In the past wheat has been thought to be an issue for me, one GP even had me tested for celiac disease once. I expected wheat might be a problem on the elimination diet, but in terms of weight gain it wasn't. I continued to lose about 100g a day during the 3 days that I ate wheat every day. I did feel it though (see the original blog post). It felt like a brick in my stomach, my eyes were sore, I was very slightly breathless and my energy levels were down. I think this was the point when I stopped feeling so good.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to cut down on my wheat. I haven't had cereal or bread in all that time and I feel much better, though I haven't cut wheat out completely.

The difference I felt from eating much less wheat was enough to convince me to get a copy of the Wheat Belly book. It is very compelling reading so far. Some of the benefits it lists for giving up wheat include improved energy levels, better sleep, diminished joint/arthritic pain, clearer thinking, better breathing, thinner, weight loss... ALL of which I observed myself when I wasn't eating wheat.

It also has some interesting facts on wheat that I didn't know, such as the fact that whole wheat bread has a higher GI than table sugar, and that wheat is addictive, so eating wheat makes you eat more wheat  (on reflection I can see that does happen in my case).

So, as of tomorrow I am going to try and do it properly, with no wheat at all. If I can manage it, I will eliminate wheat for one month, and see what happens.

Image of the cover of Wheat Belly by William Davis (a pile of bagels)
Wheat Belly

Data at start

Weight 81.5kg
Waist 102cm

Friday, March 29, 2013

CD1 - again!

It's CD1 of what I said was to be my last cycle trying to conceive.

At this point I am refusing to confirm if that is the really the case. I think if I do it will put undue pressure on me which wont be helpful, but I am also aware that it has to end somewhere. This can't go on forever. At some point I need to stop putting myself through this and get on with the life we have.

I am happy to have one healthy, gorgeous child. I realise that I am an incredibly lucky woman. For me actually, one is enough. Our life is great. I feel blessed with what I have. If I had started this earlier there would have definitely been more. I love being mum. But I didn't start earlier. Some would say I already changed my fate by having one the way I did. I might be one of those people!

A significant part of the reason for wanting a second child is a sibling for BB, but there are plenty of 'only children' around and they get along just fine. It wont be the end of the world. Apparently almost half of UK families these days are one child families. We are getting on just great. Our life works just fine. Another would be so very nice, but perhaps I am being just a little too greedy.

Perhaps I will know in a month if that is our destiny. Meanwhile I am going try not to think about it too much!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Skinted to Minted Blogger Challenge

Earlier this year I was invited to take part in the Skinted to Minted Blogger Challenge which sponsored by MyHermes Parcel Delivery Service.

The challenge was to make as much money as possible on ebay in a set time (which ends 1st April), using their delivery service to send the sold items.

I decided to take on the challenge. If nothing else it would motivate to putting a few things on ebay which have been hanging around for just too long. They were mostly items that were too bulky of expensive to send by mail. My biggest money raiser was a genuine vintage shearling sheepskin coat, which raised £50, closely followed by my old motorbike jacket, which has sat in a cupboard for almost 20 year, which raised £43.

I also had piles of reusable nappies, most of which I purchased second hand on ebay myself, prior to BB's birth. I never actually used them at all. I have been holding on to them, thinking that one day I will, but in reality they we just taking up a lot of space. I think perhaps when I had the idea that they were a good plan I was living in the desert, washing and drying them in the wet English weather means there is little to be saved financially and more work to be done.

I sold a few other items that had been gathering dust too. In total I made £181.05 which went a long a way towards paying for the ipad I recently bought us.

As far as the myHermes delivery service goes, I have received items through it before, but was unaware that you could actually use it to send stuff yourself. For the bulkier and heavier items it is very competitive price wise and you track your goods online which is great for ebay selling. There is a choice between having them picked up from your house and dropping them off at your local parcel shop. The parcel shop option is cheaper and day faster (2 days instead of 3), but the collection service came in handy when BB was sick and we were unable to leave the house. I will definitely use the service again.

MyHermes are also offering YOU, my readers, 20% off your first use of the myHermes Delivery Service. To claim your 20% off please enter the code ablissfullife20 at the payment screen

Disclaimer  This is a sponsored post in that I received £25 credit with myHermes towards sending my parcels and am due to receive a Gourmet Society membership for posting this. There will also be prizes for the funniest post and the most money raised

Monday, March 25, 2013

What I really thought of the Six Secrets of Successful Weight Loss

When checking out my blog stats at the weekend, I noticed a lot of traffic coming from a site I didn't recognise, when I looked into it, I discovered that someone had posted a link to one of my posts about the Elimination Diet in a diet forum. It was interesting reading, and somewhat disturbing, as they were writing about me! I guess you have to expect that when you put yourself out there, but still, it was a bit odd.

Most of it was ok, but of course, there were judgements - particularly from one woman who openly stated she hadn't really read what I had written, but had formed an opinion of me anyway. Apparently I am naive enough to have expected magic to happen, what do I expect if I introduce sugar into my diet, and isn't it a shame (poor me) that I didn't do their diet instead. It was funny though, as they are all doing it. The rest of their conversation is about, "I introduced coffee today" and "I gained x amount on milk" .

After reeling slightly at their interpretation of my character, I tried to think about at what point, if any, I gave the impression that I was so naive, or that I expected a miracle. I then realised that I haven't really said what I think about the diet at all. My task was to follow the elimination diet and blog about what happened. That I did. I also gave information from the book on the other 5 secrets, and about why Dr Mansfield believes this. I talked a bit about how this might relate to me, but there was actually very little about what I believe.

There are several reasons that I didn't include my theories. Firstly, that wasn't the task, secondly, I am not a Doctor. I do however have Biology Degree, and a Masters of Science Education, and I did begin to study Nutritional Medicine before I had BB (mainly considering the Science of Nutrition from a Holistic Health perspective - something I hope to go back to in the future). As a result of that I do have a massive interest and fascination in the subject, and some ideas about what I believe. However, I am also aware that I am no expert and that the science and our understanding of it is changing all the time, so it is hard to be conclusive. For those reasons I was hesitant to write my true thoughts.

So here's my disclaimer - I am not a doctor and I am probably wrong!

...but here's a blog post on what I really think.

I think that we are all different. Genetically we are different. Our life experience and medical histories are different. Our daily lives, jobs, families, finances, preferences, stresses, situations and demands are all different too. I think that what works for you may not necessarily work me. I don't think there is a one size fits all solution.

My maternal grandmother for example, is almost 98. She is thin, still living in her own home and has pretty much existed on refined carbohydrates for her whole life. Her current diet consists of toast and marmalade, tea cakes, a notoriously high sugar breakfast cereal, biscuits, cakes and desserts. When we go out to eat, she would rather just have cake, but she can be persuaded to have fish and chips sometimes, or maybe soup and bread. She has always been like this. I remember from when I was a child, rather than have her Yorkshire puddings with a Sunday roast, she would have them with treacle. One of her tales about the rations during the war is about when she got extra sugar. This is a life time habit. Most people would say that this diet would lead you to an early grave, but clearly not in her case.

Despite the fact that I theoretically carry a quarter of her genes, I have pretty much nothing in common with her in this regard. I really have to watch my carbohydrate consumption, even down to the fruit I eat. For example, prior to the Elimination Diet, I hadn't eaten pineapple for years due to it's high sugar content having a negative effect on me and my well being. I think the key to health is understanding your own body, and then comes the hard bit, you have to ACT in a way that nurtures YOUR body. 

We are notoriously bad at this. We know what we have to, but we don't do it. I have a theory as to why this is, which I will share.

There is an insight from E. F. Schumacher which I have been drawn to throughout my education career. He points out that despite the fact that the volume of education and knowledge we have continues to increase, so do the problems we are learning about. He was talking about ecological issues, but I think the same is true for health. We know more and more about how to be thin and healthy, there is information everywhere, diet after diet, regime after regime, program after program. We receive information at school, from the TV, on the radio, in the doctors surgery, yet we are getting fatter and fatter, and there are more and more cases of disease caused by what we eat every week. This is costing the health system a fortune, so there is more and more 'education' thrown at the problem, but it still gets worse!

Educational theorists are familiar with this dilemma. Simply giving people more knowledge is obviously not the answer. We don't just need people to know more, we need them to change their behaviours.  The problem, I believe, is with the style of education we are using. Mostly, education is transmissive (passing on specific information), to change people it needs to be transformative (where the learner participates in the process of asking their own questions and constructing their own meaning). A comparative summary of transmissive and transformative education is available here Table 1- page 38 (Ref. Stephen Sterling).

Anyway, I think that's enough about educational theory to explain how my interest in the book began. Of course, there were personal reasons for my interest too, I had just had a miscarriage, something else to focus on was welcome, and I had gained 5kg in the failed pregnancy, but I was also interested from both the educational and nutritional perspectives.  The Six Secrets of Successful Weight Loss (also on kindle) was described as a book that it is about identifying what works for you. It takes the reader step by step through a process in which you construct your own knowledge about your own body. As you gather more information, you can reframe the question, or ask a new question and explore. It is an open ended inquiry. The subject is yourself - a topic everyone is interested in. Perhaps this book offered a transformative approach to weight loss education that could actually work.

To some extent, I think it actually does. Once you start the process of the elimination diet it does consume you. You are constantly questioning your response to different foods and making observations about yourself. I was definitely engaged in the process. There were times though when I wanted to pursue a different line of enquiry. The book is very prescriptive about what you do next. There were also lots of things I didn't really want to test (and several that I didn't - like aspartame and monosodium glutamate). It certainly is an open ended inquiry. I am still asking questions now. In some ways I wish that would stop, but at the same time it is good thing.

I know the book is about weight loss, but to me, the focus on weight alone was quite distracting. There were so many more things that could be observed with regard to your response to a particular food. I wish I had done more of this. Like how foods made me feel. If I did it again, I would do that. I am however doing that a bit now- though obviously in a less controlled environment - it has made me more aware.

Apparently 70-80% of people that have tried the diet find at least one thing to which they are sensitive, and eliminating this solves their weight problem forever. That is an attractive proposition. When I googled diet before accepting the assignment, one journalist had written about cool it would be to find that carrots made her fat (I love carrots so I wouldn't have been so impressed). When I did the diet a few things raised questions, but when retested there was nothing. I am apparently one of the 20-30% for whom it doesn't work. I can't say that this came as much of a surprise, but it was worth the try. It was difficult to know what was normal daily fluctuations in weight and what might be a reaction. I am still not sure I believe that it works, but perhaps if I had had a serious reaction to something I would have a different opinion.

What did work was I lost weight. The exact amount that I had recently gained in my short pregnancy. This was a pleasing result. Dr Mansfield thinks that this was due to a sensitivity that I haven't yet identified, but I am not sure I agree. I think it was due to eating a restricted diet which did not contain any cereals or refined carbs. As soon as I started eating those again the weight loss stopped.

I did however feel brilliant when I wasn't eating those foods. Readers who know me will be aware that I am a big fan of fasting, not for weight loss (though that is an added bonus) but for health and vitality reasons. This was the closest I have come to the benefits of fasting while still eating (if that makes any sense!). It was also a very powerful lesson in how much better I feel on a low carb diet, and is something that will hopefully stay with me and be the transformative learning that I needed.

Having said that, in some ways the elimination diet made my eating habits worse. I already knew that pineapple contained too much sugar  for me, but I ate heaps in stage 1 (and lost weight), and have continued to buy it (until this week) having been given a somewhat false impression that it is OK. I  was expecting to find some problems with the cereals and refined carbs too, but didn't, and again, I think the OK'ing of these items has made me eat more of them since the diet than I did before (again, until this last week when I had a little word with myself). However, I also think I would be less likely to be aware of this about myself had I not followed the diet.

The things I regret about doing the diet are bombarding my body with an overload of various carbs in stage 3 - I don't think that did me any good at all, though it did remind me that my body really doesn't like that. I also regret stopping taking my Vital Greens supplement. However, both were necessary as part of the process, and short term.

With regard to my opinion on the other secrets...

The first secret is to avoid extremely low calorie diets. I agree with this. Dr Mansfield says that you 'stabilise' at a lower calorie consumption, and then gain weight when you return to normal. There are lots of theories out there about the starvation effect making your body more efficient so that it can survive on fewer calories. I also think that a lot of the problems here can be explained by transformative learning too. People are not transforming their eating habits for life - they are following a quick fix, which will be a 'quick break' as soon as they stop and go back to their old ways. Also, many of these very low calorie diets don't actually involve food, which has to be an issue. I am also very cynical about the 'diet industry', and I avoid diet foods. In my opinion, they are too high in sugar, and therefore make you fatter. That's great news for the people who make them though, as then, as you get fatter, you need to buy more!

My opinion? Cook real food, with natural (where possible organic) ingredients and enjoy. This is one thing that the elimination diet forces you to do, you can't eat processed food, you have to eat natural food, with only one ingredient!

The second secret is to avoid low fat diets. I agree with this too. Dr Mansfield however says that it doesn't matter if its saturated or unsaturated fat and I quite get my head around that, even though I know there is other research out there that suggests the same. I hope he's right as I love butter (having a strong preference for natural fats over chemically manipulated margarines).  I got through loads of olive oil on the diet and have noticed I am using much less again now, perhaps I should increase it again. Dr Mansfield's theory on this, which I agree with, is that fat fills you up, and without enough fat you eat more carbs and get fat. There is lots of compelling evidence for this, both from a biochemical perspective and a social one - since our transmissive diet advice started saying we should eat less fat, and the diet industry has made more low fat foods, we have got fatter and fatter and fatter!

Regarding the fourth secret, I don't feel I know enough about candida to comment really. The same for thyroidism, secret six.

The fifth though is insulin resistance, which I do know about. I overcame this problem myself through diet in 2003, and think that really this is where my attention should be focussed right now. This is where the low carb thing comes in for me, and the fasting. If you are someone with signs of insulin resistance you need to do something about it. If, like my Nan, you are not, don't worry! I recommend a low carb diet, paying particular attention to the GI of foods.  If I had to recommend a particular 'diet' for people in this situation, The Fast Diet  (also available for Kindle) looks to be giving promising results and to be mainatainble long term, which is what it's all about.

In summary, I do think that this book is a step towards a transformative approach to weight loss. It did enable me to lose weight, and it has given me more understanding of how my body responds to certain foods, and it has continued to engage me in this observational approach to my own nutrition since the diet itself ended. I am not convinced by the idea that it is as simple as cutting out a food that you are sensitive to, but if I had found a food that I was sensitive to that might have been different. Would I recommend it to others, yes I think I would.

As I said before, I thought it was a shame that the only real measure of the effect of a food was weight. It could have looked at so much more. What might be even better (or next) would be a book that concentrated solely on the elimination diet, but looked at many other indicators of health, not just weight.

OK - that's it!  You did well if you got this far.  If you are new here and want to know more about my experiences on the diet here's the link- Elimination Diet. I would like to think that this is my last post on this topic, but as I said, the enquiry has grabbed me, (to some extent against my will!)  so I suspect I will continue to question and explore. Currently the subject of enquiry is wheat...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Another 2WW and a week without much wheat

I am 10 dpo in another 2WW. It has been easier than most so far, mainly because I am ignoring it I think. I don't think a BFP is likely, and I haven't taken my basal body temperature since ovulation was confirmed. Of course I am still testing! I started yesterday, just with the little one step cheapies. Of course it was a negative.

I have had a bit of a turn around in my thinking though. I think it was the adoption thing that has done it too. Last weekend I was feeling really down about the whole thing, but then on Sunday night I switched attitudes somehow. If I can;t adopt, then somehow I have to try and get this old body into order so that it can get pregnant and carry a baby full term.

When I say I feel too old, people kindly tell me that I am not that old, that they know someone older than me who just had a baby etc etc. That's all fine. I believe it. The thing is, I feel old. I feel heaps older than I did when I got pregnant with BB, and significantly older than I did before the miscarriage too. I did have a little window, when I was doing the elimination diet, where I felt amazing. I really felt that I would get pregnant in January (that was the month AI got called off suddenly). I think I hit a bit of a depression then, and everything went down hill fast.

On Sunday night I decided I had to get myself back to how I was feeling then. I had a big study of all the data and my posts to see if I could find an answer. I thought back to what I was eating when I felt great, and what made me feel rubbish. Although I did feel the detox for the first few days, for the last part of stage one and most of stage 2 I was feeling great. I made promises to myself back then that I would try and eat more stage 1 and 2 foods in my every day diet - I seem to have forgotten that. I also noticed a big drop in energy levels and felt like I had a brick in my belly when I reintroduced wheat. I was expecting a reaction, but there wasn't one. However, I did also say then that I would eat less wheat in the future. Again, I seem to have forgotten that!

When I was feeling great, I was eating a bowl of rice with spring onion and olive oil for breakfast (much nicer than it sounds I promise. Another breakfast I commonly ate was even weirder, stir fried capsicum peppers! Recently I have been having a wheat based cereal every day, and then mid morning, BB and I often have toast. That's two meals that are almost 100% wheat before lunch time!

So, when I woke up on Monday, I breakfasted on capsicum, the following day brown rice and onions. I haven't cut out wheat completely. My mum brought a strawberry tart around for lunch on Friday and I couldn't resist, and I did munch on one of BB's bread sticks when I was trying to persuade him to eat one (and stop screaming!). I also invested in some wheat free flour, so I can see if it is the wheat, or just the heavy carbohydrate (often combined with butter, sugar and eggs). I am also seriously thinking about purchasing the Wheat Belly book. If anyone has read this I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Another thing I have done is reintroduce Vital Greens back into my life. This is a supplement that I discovered when I was living in Australia and I have sworn by it ever since. I feel so much healthier (and I know it sounds naff considering the name, but vital is a good description) when I take it, so despite the expense it is one thing I always make sure I have. That is until I did the elimination diet. Vital Greens has lots of different natural ingredients so I had to eliminate it in case it interfered with other results. I was itching to get it back in to my diet, but then when grapes were highlighted as a possible problem I couldn't reintroduce it due to the fact that it contains grape-seed extract. I seem to have forgotten about that too. So I began taking that again as well.

I swear I felt better straight away. By Wednesday I noticed a complete change in attitude towards the pregnancy thing, I now believe I can do it, which this time last week was unimaginable. I am going to stick with the vital greens, and keep wheat to a minimum for a while and see what happens.

I think I could get pregnant next cycle!

Other things that are happening?

Well it is snowing here in the UK, quite heavily. This really shouldn't be happening at this time of year! Luckily BB LOVES snow, there has been a good covering since he went to bed, I hope it is still there for him in the morning.

I have also had the good fortune to be given some solar panels. They are supposed to be being installed tomorrow! I am not sure that this is the best thing for anyone to be doing in the snow, so I am guessing that might be delayed a few days. They have to be in by the end of the month though, so hopefully it wont be long before it's safe to climb on the roof and fit them.

BB's biggest milestone this week is that now, with the help of a little step, he can now reach the sink to wash his hands... sometimes that makes for a slightly wet floor, but it has made hand washing so much more bearable. He used to hate it, now he wants to do it every 5 minutes!

Snowman Craft Activity for Toddlers

cotton wool ball snowman made by a toddler

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Gluten Free Cheese and Spinach Bites recipe

Photo of 11 Gluten Free Cheese and Spinach Savoury bites on a plate

Ideal for a savoury snack, a picnic lunch or as part of a meal.


250g full fat cottage cheese
80g baby leaf spinach
2 eggs
40g Polenta
100g Gluten Free Flour (I used this one)
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch Garlic Pepper (or just black peeper if you prefer)
Pinch Chilli powder (if desired)
Splash of whole milk (until you have a good consistency - about a tablespoon or 2)


Beat the eggs
Add the polenta to the eggs, mix in and leave to soak
Remove the leaves from the spinach and tear up the leaves a bit
Add the cottage cheese, chilli, pepper, egg mixture and stir
Add flour and baking power and stir some more
Add milk until you have a good consistency.
Spoon into cake cases in a muffin tin
Bake at 190ÂșC for 25-30 mins or until tops turn golden

Tips and alternatives

If you don't want to make them gluten free, use normal plain flour and omit the milk.

They are also scrummy with diced bacon added (at the stage where you mix everything together - I dry fry it first but it's probably not necessary)

Use non stick cake cases as the recipe doesn't contain much fat. Or, spray them with oil, or just don't use them - grease your tray though. The paper cases do make them a little more portable for picnics.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A little moan!

I want to have a little moan. Just a little moan, because this is A Blissful Life and I find that moaning rarely adds to your bliss, but sometimes a good vent is nice.

The last few days I feel like I have been attacked from all angles

Firstly a "you can do this for me because you have loads of time because you don't go to work" comment. That annoyed me a lot. Just because I don't GO to work but work from home, doesn't give me any more time. In fact I think it would be fair to say it gives me less. I am full time mum (-4 hours of child care a week) and I work, occasionally over 35 hours a week. That makes me a full time mum AND full time worker!

So stuff off!

image of mum with lots of arms, cooking, holding baby. working at computer etc etc

Actually, almost everyone I know that has returned to a go to work type job instead of being a full time mum says things like "It's nice to have a break"  "It's quite relaxing really"  "I am looking forward to having some time to myself" "I can get lots of other things done there too, like paying the bills online and catching up on Facebook" and one person even said "It's great to be able to just stare out of the window and think of nothing".

My dad is constantly tying to find me more work. "You could make a website for this man... you could tutor this girl... " When? Sometimes I only sleep 4 hours as it is? He must think I am doing nothing all day too. Grrr!

I got a little bit more annoyed today by our PM, who has apparently implied that only people who leave the home and put their kids in child care work hard and have aspirations .

I have nothing against people who go back to work by the way, and I accept that for many it is a necessity and they miss spending time with their kids, and that some do it because they want to! I can however, confirm that the 4 hours a week when BB is in childcare and I am working are a break.

Nor do I have anything against people who don't work in the money earning way. Basically I think if you are a Mum you work your ass off, in whatever way. We all do what we can and get through the best way that we can, providing the best life we can for our kids and having aspirations for them and our families.

So there!

Give us a break please!

Aaaaaand Breathe... Vent over, Blissfulness restored!

I found the image here using a search for multi tasking mum images

iPad for Toddlers : I Hear Ewe

Name: I Hear Ewe 

Developer: Claireware Software


What does Free mean in this case? It is totally and absolutely FREE. There is no upgrade to pay for, or adverts to interrupt play or annoy parents. If you click on the info section there are two other apps mentioned, Ewe Can Count (also free) and I See Ewe (£0.69). 

Educational Focus: The app features 24 animals and 12 vehicles. It says "this is the sound a XXXX makes" and then plays the sound, so it teaches both the name of the animal or vehicle as well as the sound. 

Options: It is possible to disable the verbal descriptions and only have the animal noises. The verbal descriptions are available in 5 languages:- Chinese, English(American), German, Japanese and Spanish

Preview: I found a little video that gives you a good idea of what it's like

  • simply touch the animal or vehicle and listen to the sound it makes
Skill Practice: Hand/eye coordination, learning and saying names of animals and vehicles and the sounds they make.

Enjoyment: To be honest I was a bit disappointed when I downloaded this. I am not sure what I was expecting, but my initial thoughts were that it didn't do much. However, I am not the target audience and BB LOVES it. He copies both the name of the animal (or vehicle) and the sound and would happily play on it for ages if I let him. He also has his favourites, which he presses over and over again. 

Engagement: I think this does exactly what the developer intended. It can see it would be great distraction for a grumpy toddler in a time of need. I have download it to my phone too for that reason. It is also good to play together though, you can ask your shild to show you different objects, e.g., "Where is the truck?" etc. BB loves doing it back with words he can say, like Frog, and then he claps when I press the right button!

Overall comments/recommendations: You really can't go wrong with this, definitely worth downloading. Although it does seem to have some educational value as my son is learning the names of animals we have not encountered before, I would get it just for the security of knowing you have something to occupy your tired toddler in times of need when you are out and about. It does have the potential to get annoying if they play it too much though, so I would keep it for the moments of need!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

More reflections on the adoption thing

This has been in my head a lot and I have to admit that this is a somewhat self indulgent blog post as I need to download and make sense of it all.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the negativity wasn't just directed at me. Although it felt very personal, a couple of days later I could see that actually it wasn't. I have been trying to make sense of it. Maybe they just want to get rid of any faint hearted folk right at the beginning. This would save a lot of hassle. Only the really committed and strong people would continue with the process - this may actually be a good filter. So am I one of those? 

I think perhaps I am not.      Yet. 

I have also been totally honest with them. For me adoption is a choice I am considering. I do truly feel that I could give a home to a child that needs it. I would love to be able to provide a home to someone and to add to our family that way. In many ways it feels to me like it is the best option all round. Someone who needs it gets a home and family, BB doesn't have to endure a pregnant mum, my ageing body doesn't have to be pregnant or give birth again - all three of us would be winners.

But perhaps it isn't meant to be that easy. Perhaps the starting point for the adoption process being one year after your fertility treatment is a way to filter out the people who have no other options. People who are considering their options could well be time wasters. Although this is something I am considering with utmost seriousness, I have also agreed with DD for 2 more tries at getting pregnant (we just had one of those!). Thing is I really just can't see it happening! 

If I did decided to commit to the adoption path I would of course give up on the TTC thing. After all, I am not in the position to get pregnant by accident, so I could, theoretically, be a safer choice than a couple who have had failed fertility treatment. Thing is, now that I have been to the meeting, I feel like it is not an available option. Perhaps I will investigate another authority after those two tries, but for now I am going to leave it.

I have also been thinking a lot about adoption in general. Like several people I have spoken to recently, I am wondering how comfortable I am with many of the current practices. I already discussed how I find it impossible to decide what contact is appropriate with birth parents without knowing the individuals, but I have been thinking about this even more. 

As you know I have thought a lot about a child being able to find out about they genetic make up. Those thoughts didn't change, but where has the idea come from that there must be contact, or that telling a child that they are adopted all the time is a good thing? 

I was talking about this with some mums the other day - one of the younger ones has two friends that were adopted since it became policy to tell the children right from the start - both of them wished they didn't know, that they had been told when they were older, and had some chance of a 'normal' childhood, without the stigma, and when they were old enough to deal with the issues their birth parents had. I had never considered this before, but I do understand where they are coming from. 

I once had a boyfriend who was adopted. His parents told him in his mid teens, while they were washing up. It didn't actually affect him much. He was secure in the family he had and not in the least bit curious.

The families that children come from have also changed. In the past they were from unmarried mums. Mums who would today keep their children and in most cases make a very good job of parenting. We were told that these days, all children for adoption have been taken from their families by the authorities because there is a problem.  I know of several cases where contact with the birth parents is not particularly healthy, and though I am sure that this is not always the case, that it could be good, surely we have to think about this a little bit more. Perhaps the research that says it is important to maintain that connection comes from the olden days, not from the current situation. The younger, more positive presenter at the meeting did actually hint at this - that perhaps new research would mean some changes, but current practices were based on past research.

That's the problem with research isn't it. Unless you are actually doing action research, you only have information about something that has passed, not the present. It tells you what would have been good then, not now. I don't imagine it is considered ethical to do action research on kids that are in need of adoption, so I guess there will always be a bit of a time lag. I do hope it moves forward a bit soon though, as right now it seems to me that the system is failing both the kids and potential parents. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

iPad for Toddlers: Child's Play

This the first App that we downloaded, so it seems only right that is it should be the first one that we review. 

Name: Child's Play 

Developer: Sarah Currigan

COST: FREE/£1.49

What does Free mean in this case? There are three games which you get in the free version, and then there is an in-app option to upgrade to the full version for £1.49. Unlike some other apps, this is not something that constantly pops up on your screen that your toddler can easily press, or which disrupts the game. 

Educational Focus: The developer points out that this game is designed for distraction not for extended play, but each of the games we tried has merit for skill development.

Objectives: Described for the free games only
  • Bubble: Simply touch the bubble on the screen to pop it.
  • Frogs: Three frogs sitting on lily pads and a fly buzzes past. Touch a frog to make it jump up and catch the fly
  • Stars: Touch the screen makes some colourful stars fly to point you touched - you can double or triple tap in the same place too.

Skill Practice: Hand/eye coordination 

Enjoyment: BB loves this. He was particularly excited by the popping bubbles at first, then it was the stars that attracted him, and now he loves the frogs, though he hasn't quite mastered the timing or choosing the right frog to catch the fly, but I like it for the fact that he still has that to learn.

Engagement: I think this does exactly what the developer intended. It as a good distraction for short periods of play, but for a toddler that is all you will be doing anyway. 

Overall comments/recommendations: I would definitely recommend the free version of this app. I can't tell you about the paid one as yet, but I do anticipate we could pay the £1.49 for the other 12 games. If we do, we'll add to this review.

Have you tried this app? What do you think? And what do you think to the structure of this review? Is it useful? Any suggestions to improve the content for future reviews?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Adoption Meeting

Yesterday I went along to an information session on adoption, run by our local authority. I had spoken to the lady on the phone a couple of months ago and she was encouraging. She also said that the whole process takes about 2 years, and that most children are 16-18 months by the time the final decision that they are to be adopted is made, and that they like at least 2 years between siblings. This was perfect timing them, BB was 18months at the time of the call, so in 2 years we could potentially adopt a 16 - 18 month old child and the age gap would be ideal.

So, I was hopeful.

Before I went to the meeting I had spoken with several people who have adopted or who have thought about it. Fairly recently a friend and her husband attended a meeting with the same authority. At the end of the meeting they were told that there were lots of people like them, essentially white 30 something married couples, and that they could complete an application form but it wouldn't be processed. Needless to say they didn't bother. She did however think that I would be OK. She was slightly cynical, but thought a single mum might tick another box for their stats!

My friend tried another authority after that and they were well received and encouraged. They didn't adopt though. Apparently they became uncomfortable with the process and the emphasis that is currently being placed on constantly reminding the child of their birth family. They had seen examples of where this wasn't working, and my friend's partner has personal experience of an uncertain heritage. His view was that it is much healthier to focus on what you have, rather than what you have lost. A very valid point.

As someone who carefully researched all options when considering having a child by donor, I have given a lot of thought to the need to know your heritage. From the research I did, I found that the option to know was important. Children who had the option to know were generally happier about the whole thing than those who didn't. I had made the decision that I would chose a donor that was willing to be known to the child at the age of 18. Of course my situation changed when I met DD, and I am very very happy that BB has a Daddy that he can know and grow up with. It is nice to know where his wiggly toes come from and to see other likenesses - BB is so much like his Dad too. But it could have been different.

I understand that this desire to know about yourself and your genetic family is important. If I were to adopt, I would hope for the sake of my child that it would be possible for them to make that connection if they wanted to, when the time was right, and if it was not going to put them at risk. I would help my child navigate their way through that, as you would help any child navigate life's twists and turns. I can not say now how I might do that, for I do not know the child, or his/her family, or their wants, needs, or situation. I also anticipate that the situation may change - that what is right for a 2 year old is not necessarily right for a teenager. The birth parents too could change. A young mum caught up in a situation that makes her unable to care for her child could actually turn her life around, and in 10 years time be quite a different person to the one who had her child removed. On the other hand it could be unsafe to make contact, she could have gotten into a worse situation.

My own gripe with this then, is that fact that if I wish to pursue the adoption enquiry further I need to complete a form, and on that form I need to state what contact I want the child to have with their birth family. I mentioned during the meeting that I wouldn't be able to answer that question until I knew about the child and the family, but that was apparently the wrong answer. I think you need to tick a box so that you can be 'matched' more easily.

Also, although the literature all states that they welcome applications from same sex couples and single people, I really didn't get that impression. In fact, the whole advice for when to start the process was geared around how long you need to wait after your failed fertility treatment before you can begin. I would have thought they might change this slightly to include other scenarios, particularly as there was a gay couple there too, but no.

When I spoke to the woman at the end I asked where the starting point was if you haven't had fertility treatment. She responded with, "well, you said you have a son, so we wouldn't consider your application anyway." Apparently he is too young. Odd, when 2 months ago he was the perfect age. I mentioned that I would also be interested in adopting a child older than BB. She had been talking about how difficult it was to place older children. However, the answer was no. I would only be able to adopt a child older than BB if I was related to that child.

I cried as I left. I feel as though I am an ideal candidate. I have a nice home which is mortgage free, am fairly secure financially, have good health, and seem to be doing OK at this mum thing. I am willing to consider all possibilities as far as age and needs of the child is concerned, I have extended family near by, and BB and DD and PP. I have extensive experience of working with kids at risk, and have ongoing friendships with some of the young people I supported through personal and family crises up to 20 years ago. Yet they wont even look at my application to see any of that. It's infuriating.

As I drove home I started to feel annoyed. I do believe that all the rules they have are based on research, and if statistics show that there is a 10 % higher chance that x will happen if we do y than you have to act on that. But it feels like all humanity has been removed from the process, which is tragic - surely this is a process which requires you to draw upon all that is is to be human, to nurture another being as though they are part of you, to give them love, a home, a family.

I also felt like the woman really didn't want anyone to adopt. It was like the whole two hours was to put you off, and if you still showed an interest by the end they told you not to bother.

By the time I got home and told my mum (who was here looking after BB) about it all, I realised that I was already annoyed by the system, and that maybe this is not for me for that reason.

There are two other local authorities to try though - perhaps they will be different.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

iPad for Toddlers

It may come as a surprise to many of my readers, particularly those who know that we don't even have 'normal telly' in this house (we do sometimes watch things on catch-up via the internet though), but I have bought an iPad for BB and I to use.

It has been something I have thought about for a while. We'd like to be able to skype DD, and friends and family far away.  After the cup of tea in the laptop incident I am just not prepared to use my computer (my livelihood!) for this. Plus BB is so fascinated with it he would just bang the keys constantly and not concentrate on the people we are talking to. He does manage it quite well using DD's iPad though.

He is also able to interact with technology. He can now unlock my phone, which is a little scary. I started to realise a couple of months ago that he would be able to 'use' an iPad and 'make things happen' already. I've considered wether this might be a good or bad thing. Obviously there are advantages and disadvantages. I am wary of too much 'screen time' and the need to encourage physical activity in children. I am also aware that future that is dependent on technology is inevitable. Plus I have seen some interesting apps when I have observed other kids. It is a tool for learning. Right?

Part of my own rehabilitation recently after burning the candle at both ends and making myself sick in the process, was to be able to turn off my lap top and phone at night and not be available to clients 24/7. If an email came through to my phone when I was in bed, I couldn't help but read it. I usually responded, sometimes I even got up to look at files or process documents. I realised this had to change.
I also wanted to be able to relax with a podcast or TV show at night and a friend suggested listening to podcasts in bed. All good ideas, but my phone really needs to stay down stairs at night and give me a break. So in the end I splashed out on an iPad for us both.

It is working nicely for us so far. I have set up a whole new Apple ID, so BB can't accidentally text a client or delete anything, and no one can contact me after I decided to stop work for the day. We don't use it every day, but we did have a lovely skype with DD, which made it worthwhile buying already. My most ridiculous use of it was to watch an episode of a TV show in the bath! This was a huge a achievement as I don't often have the time to watch TV or to relax in the bath, so it felt incredibly indulgent.

With BB I am keeping usage to about 10 - 15 mins a day maximum (he hasn't used it every day either). He is often really grumpy when he wakes up from his afternoon nap, and using the iPad at this time is working for us brilliantly. We always use it together of course - I am not shoving an iPad in his hand and walking away.  I am not that rich or carefree to start with, but I also believe he needs help to get the most out of it at this stage.

When I started to look for iPad apps suitable for toddlers I was expecting to find a lot more online about this topic than I did. There are lots of apps, and surely its a bit of a controversial issue. There is not much out there though- so I thought I would start creating some reviews myself. I will post them on here. I am guessing we will mostly be downloading FREE apps. but we may splash out occasionally! We have a few already, and I am starting to think about the format of the reviews - they will start soon (you'll be able to find them on the home page and filed under the tab above)

So, hit me with it! What do you think about toddlers using iPads? Do you use an iPad with your toddler? Please share your thoughts and experiences using the comment section below.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The curls came back!

I think the curls are returning! Yippee!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Flowers for Mother's Day

I have just been reminded that it is Mother's Day here in the UK on Sunday, as BB has made me a special picture at nursery this morning.

Although to me as a child Mother's Day was all about Daffodils, a few years in Australia (where Mothers day is in May) and the lateness of Daffodils this year mean it had slipped my mind! I have a mother too! What to do? Flowers are always good aren't they! I did some research and discovered an interesting little infographic and some special offers and discount codes which I thought I'd share.

Serenata Flowers are offering up to 20% off + Free Delivery
Flowers Direct are offering 12% off all orders with the code AFDMD
Marks & Spencers are also offering Free Delivery

Produced by


Monday, March 4, 2013

What if BB was a little brother?

Over the last week or so, I have started to think more widely about what BB's sibling may be like. Increasingly I am thinking about adoption. Although initially I was thinking of adopting a child younger than BB, I think I have decided to move on from that. Increasingly I am thinking about adopting an older child.

Since the miscarriage and then the trapped nerve, my mind has often been occupied with the thought that I am just too old for this pregnancy thing. I really wish I had done this earlier. That I already had two children. That I could guarantee I had the energy to keep up with them both during their childhood years. I worry that if I get pregnant now there may be risks to my health, risks that could take me away from BB, to a greater or lesser extent. I worry that I'm too old to have another baby. I feel loads older that I did when I got pregnant with BB. I even feel significantly older that I did when I got pregnant with the baby I miscarried. It is probably an effect of both those events, but still...

So, I am leaning more and more towards the adoption route. I am going to my first information session on adoption next week, and whereas I thought I was interested in adopting a baby, perhaps the child that will complete our family is older.

Who knows, but I have decided I am definitely open to the idea.

I wonder how our family will look in two years time?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Haircut

It's taken me a week to summon up the emotional energy to write this post. Who would have thought that a haircut could be so traumatic - and it wasn't even mine!

BB almost had a haircut last summer, but then it started to curl at the back and I thought it was too cute, so I cancelled the appointment.  As it grew and grew, it curled and curled. People commented on his hair all the time, what lovely curls, what great hair, how brilliant it is that we didn't cut it yet, just like in the old days. They did make him look incredibly cute. I was really pleased not to have cut it when I first planned to, or we would have never known that cute little munckin look. His curls became his trademark.  I loved the way they bounced when he walked. They added to his cheekiness too.

Before Christmas, when we were skyping with DD's parents they said he needed a haircut. I couldn't believe it. It was the first time anyone had ever said anything about his hair other than how cute it was. At first I didn't think they were serious, but when I said about keeping his lovely curls they said, "Well, you can't keep them forever." They were serious!

When ever I mentioned the idea of cutting his hair to others there was always a horrified response at the thought. I was pleased. No haircuts to be had for a while then. But, the conversation obviously planted a seed in DD's head. He really thought a haircut was in order. BB has been mistaken for a girl a couple of times, and DD was concerned as to how this might affect him. The haircut kept being mentioned. He was serious. On the night I took the above photo I sobbed. The thought of cutting off my baby's hair was just so horrible.

After a while I began to wonder, maybe he is right. He is far more in to this whole personal grooming thing than me, perhaps I should trust what he was saying. BB's hair was also getting a little long on top, and although I have happily kept his fringe in order up until now, layering the top did seem a bit beyond me. Eventually then, I consented to a trim. I made an appointment for when DD would be here so that he could be the advisor on the day. Then DD was busy with other stuff, so I happily cancelled the appointment. But then came the third time, and we made the appointment and actually kept it.

And I HATE it!

The curls have gone. He now looks like he has overgrown hair. To me, now that he has had it cut, he does actually look like he NEEDS a haircut, whereas before he just looked like a cute toddler.

I feel like the most awful parent. It is a lesson in the fact that compromise does not always work. I think I should have either dug my heels and insisted that it is fine to have long curly hair as a 1 1/2 year old boy, or given in completely to a proper 'boy' cut. I would have done that eventually anyway, I was thinking perhaps for his second birthday that would be a appropriate. 

Here is a picture of the 'victim of compromise' from the back now.

It's horrible, right? 

I had an absolutely awful time on Monday when we went to Tumble Tots. Comments like " Oh [BB], what have they done to your hair?" "You are not so cute without your curls" "I can't believe you did that to him". I drove home in tears, and even cancelled our swimming lesson on Thursday, partly because I am still not 100% well, but also as I just couldn't deal with hearing that again from another group of people. Like I wasn't gutted enough about it already!

Part of me is hoping those little curls will come back, but I don't think that will happen. Another part of me says that I should just take him back to the hairdressers right now and get it cut again. My mum says it doesn't look much different to her (I think she is just being nice - she loved his curls too) and to leave it a while and have it cut for the summer. Although I'm still not quite sure I'm ready to go the whole hog, we do have a Christening to go to in a couple of weeks.

Am I being over sensitive? Even I find it hard to understand why this hurts so much, it's only hair!

So what do I do?

Answers on a postcard please...