Wednesday, 28 November 2012

It's begining to look a lot like Christmas!!

Eek! It's getting close to that festive time of year again. I've made the cake and the mincemeat, I've started buying presents (well more than started, you have to plan ahead when half your family live in another country!) and I feel like I've already made a hundred crocheted Santas for the school fayre.

I started to learn how to crochet last summer and I have to say I've found it pretty addictive.  I learnt a few Granny squares but was little Amigurumi that got me hooked. (Pun intended!) Amigurumi are tiny crocheted animals or figures that originated in Japan. They are totally cute and lovely. While browsing the web last year for Gnomes (it's a family thing, I wanted to wind up my mum and my Aunty who are a little 'gnome phobic') I came across Lucy Ravenscar's' blog where she was making little gnomes to go over corks . Turn the gnome coats red and suddenly you have Santa! 

Consequently I've had half the PTA of my girls Primary school giving me their left over wine corks so I can make little Santas to sell in aid of school funds. (I'll make no comments about who has drunk the most wine in the last 12 months or why the government don't give us enough money for books!!) I've also adapted the pattern to produce fairies/angles.

And just so we're all clear on this, because I know it can be confusing, I am an atheist but I don't have a problem with doing this. It's not that I'd sell my soul to raise a little extra cash for the school, as clearly I don't think I have a soul to sell, it's just that I like all the seasonal trappings as much as the next person. Santa is fun and so are fairies but I think I've given my girls enough information for them to work out pretty easily that neither are real, certainly one of them has already. I kind of look at it like birthdays, it's all marking time spent on this earth so why shouldn't I celebrate it as much as anyone else? Anyway, back to the crochet.

I also found this lovely pattern for a crochet angel with a lollipop head. 
Which I think should be rather popular.

Another quick thing I've found to do are bows on hairbands, just chain 17, half double crochet into the 15th chain (the 3rd from the hook). Half double crochet the rest of the row (15 stitches), chain 2, turn and repeat until you have 6 rows. Finish off then tuck in the ends. Next take a long piece of the same wool, wind it around the centre of the rectangle you just made a few times keeping the end out for tying up later. Place the hairband behind the bow and keep wrapping, this time going through the hair band until all your length of wool is used up, then tie the two ends together to secure.

My flat Reindeer 'embelishments'  are also dead easy,
Chain 9, double crochet in fourth chain from hook (6 stitches) chain another 11, double crochet in fourth chain from hook and in the next 5 chains. 
Congratulations you just made the legs, you are now going to chain another one then single crochet 9 stitches across the top of the legs, chain one and turn. 
Single crochet 3 rows then chain 4 to make the tail. Slip stitch into the second chain from the hook and the next chain then single crochet into the first single crochet of the row below, continue to single crochet across the row, chain 1 and turn.
Three single crochets, chain 1 and turn, repeat 3 more times but on the last one crochet 3 extra stitches into the final single crochet. Chain 1 and turn.
Single crochet into each crochet of the row below, chain 4, slip stitch into the second chain from the hook and the next one, two single crochets into the row below then chain 7 to start the antlers. 
Slip stitch into the 2nd chain from the hook and the next two chains then chain 3 more. Slip stitch back into the second chain from the hook and back into the original chain you branched out from. Slip stitch down the next 2 chains then again chain 3 slip stitch back into the second chain from the hook and back into the original chain you branched out from then slip stitch back down to the head, single crochet then slip stitch then finish off and weave in the ends. With a small amount of red wool sew on the red nose. When you've finished you will need to block this and fix it flat with spray starch or hairspray.
(I admit this is not my best photo ever - it's taken on the web cam as I've temporarily 'mislaid' the charger for my camera! I reserve the right to come back to this post and stick in more photos when I have the real camera working again.)

Off to do more Amigurumi (it's addictive!)

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Me and SPD

This is me taken just 2 weeks before my first baby arrived.
See the great big smile? I was so excited. See the crutches and the big support 'corset'? No? You're right, I left them on the grass, hidden out of view. A deliberate decision, I didn't want to look back in the years to come and remember the agony I was in.

It started when I was 10weeks pregnant, over Christmas. I tried to help my father-in-law plug in his new digital satellite receiver to the TV and came back from squatting on the floor in quite a bit of discomfort. Not in my back so much but more like a Dane axe had hit me between the legs. In the coming weeks I remember sitting on the side of my bed in the mornings crying because of the pain I was in. I spoke to my midwife and my GP about it and was basically told to toughen up. Only when I spoke to my consultant  and he saw how upset I was that I got a referral to the physio. (I got to see my cons regularly as a 'higher risk' pregnancy, I think he just wanted to keep an eye on me because he is the same guy who had seen us for over 5 years of IVF treatment.)

The physio was a friendly lady who diagnosed SPD or Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction.  Basically the interpubic ligament had stretched (as it is supposed to do in pregnancy to allow the hips to widen) but possibly too much. The way it was explained to me was that while you are pregnant your body releases a hormone called relaxin. The job of relaxin is not to chill out on the sofa while watching day-time TV (relaxing - get it?), no it's job is to loosen the ligaments between the two sides of your pelvis allowing it to open up and ultimately allow baby through that tiny gap known as the birth-canal. I was told that either my body was making too much relaxin or my body was over sensitive to it, ligaments were over stretching and that was what was causing the pain and this was apparently supported by the way my ankles and knees were giving way by then.

To have a 'diagnosis' was nice, for starters it got me permission to park in the disabled bay at work (don't judge me badly, I really couldn't walk 50m unaided). To have a set of exercises (including Kegals) to do gave me something to focus on, to at least feel like I was controlling it in some tiny way helped. The SPD continued right through my pregnancy and much to my shock, beyond. Though things did improve 6 months later I still taking painkillers for it and was concerned enough to get referral from my GP to another physio-terrorist. (She wasn't as nice as the first one, hence the nickname I gave her). I got even more Kegals and even more 'core' body exercises. Frankly my pelvic floor was developing all the tightness of a steel bear-trap and when it came to the next round of fertility treatment for a sibling for our precious baby things were decidedly uncomfortable. (I'll spare you the details of what they have to do, save to say that it is significantly worse than having a pap smear.)

We were delighted when we found I was pregnant for a second time and waited anxiously to see if the SPD returned. It took less than 10 weeks. Once again I got a physio referral and this time I got a diagnosis of Pelvic Girdle Pain, don't be confused these are more or less the same thing, just this time the pain wasn't quite so bad. I had some extra exercises and as recommendations on analgesics in pregnancy  had changed I got some better pain relief.  I was told it was probably better this time because the baby was going to be smaller - WRONG. Baby number 2 was a staggering 40% bigger than the first, though I survived the birth somewhat better.

When the pain persisted after birth I was told that it was because I was breastfeeding. (WHAT??!! I need relaxin to breastfeed?!! NO way.)
Thinking about it that should have been my first clue that the people I was talking to didn't know what was going on. Anyway I ignored them, tried hard to ignore the pain, put my head down, kept calm and carried on breastfeeding. 

Roll forwards a couple of years and I was still doing the exercises a couple of times a day, yet the pain had not improved. To make matters worse in trying to improve my fitness and lose some baby weight I'd gone to a few exercise classes and given myself groin strain. I resigned myself to always having a weak back and pelvis for the rest of my life, after all plenty of the women in my family had similar pains.

Just over 6 months ago then I was searching on the internet for 'Pelvic pain' and it was then that I found Katy Bowman's blog and just like my life is divided between the time before I had children and after they arrived I think it's also divided between 'life before I found Katy' and 'after Katy'.

I think Katy has a reputation as something of a maverick particularly on pregnancy and baby websites and forums. She suggests that you forget about the Kegels (YES!!) and start thinking about how the bones in your body are stacked up (by our muscles and ligaments), it's mis-alignment in this she says that is causing our problems. Reading her work, it sounded like everything from pelvic floor dysfunction (that's more or less the modern way of saying 'I can't really control my wee') to foot pain, even prolapse and oesteoporosis could be sorted by better alignment of our bones and ligaments. What did I have to loose? I'd already been doing Kegels for 6 years and not only were they not working, I was more than ready to never do another one. Added to that no prolapse and the fact that my mum has severe oesteoporosis which I'd happily avoid  - YES PLEASE!

So I bought a few of her DVD's and set to work. Six months later, the pelvic/hip pain has nearly gone, back pain I didn't know was there has gone, my feet have grown a shoe size, I can sneeze and cough without visiting the toilet first (is that TMI?) and I can nearly run (which let's face it is about as good as ever I was before pregnancy). It's fab and as an added bonus although my weight has only dropped just over half a stone my clothes size has dropped from 14/16 down to a 10!!

I now feel like I'm on a mission, I have to tell everyone how important it is to get your body in alignment, especially if that person is likely to get pregnant anytime soon. And if I had one tip? Swap the heels for some powerflats, get a half-dome and get stretching. 

I felt completely vindicated this week when Katy, started writing on her blog and facebook page about relaxin and what it can do to your body.

PREGNANCY SCIENCE UPDATE: The hormone RELAXIN inhibits uterine contraction, increases the length of the interpubic ligament, and softens the cervix. IT DOES NOT increase the laxity of the joints nor affect the whole body, making pregnant women more susceptible to joint injury.
What we do have is a widespread issue of women without enough strength to carry the rapidly-increasing load of pregnancy, then straining their ligaments, and getting injured. 

Basically I came to realise what I should have figured from the start, my body wasn't strong enough pre-pregnancy (at least not in the right places) and I simply wasn't aligned so when my Symphysis Pubis started to lengthen it came under extra force and torsion from a 'mis-aligned' body and the added baby weight and that's what caused a lot of the pain. So the truth was I was in rotten pain but I suspect that the other truth is that in my case this was almost entirely preventable. In fact my second pregnancy goes someway to supporting this, my second pregnancy wasn't as painful because some of the exercises I was doing had helped me become more aligned. (Not the ones the physio-terrorist gave me though, working with some similar sufferers on line we'd done our research and found exercises that seemed to have a higher success rate.)

The numbers of pregnant women in the western world who are suffering from SPD is increasing and it's not just because doctors and midwives are getting better at spotting it. More and more you will see pregnant ladies sporting a great belt and a pair of crutches. And why? It's because we don't move enough!! We sit or slump on chairs in front of our computers or TV and mistake it for working our bodies. Ladies, to quote Katy  "you don't know squat!" Get up, get moving and get aligned.

I'm off for a walk into the village and back! xxx

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Dear Migraine

Dear Migraine 
You are not big, or clever, you are a bully and I wish you would go away. 
But like so many bullies before you I bet you are poorly understood and in need of some love and attention. 
Let me help you with that.

Migraines are a big part of my life. I've been admitted to emergency care of one form or another more than once because someone didn't understand that a migraine could be that bad (fancy being told by a doctor that you have symptoms similar to a stroke or brain tumour?)

There are two things that have made the biggest difference to the grip migraine used to have on my life. The first was a group of medicines called Triptans. In the beginning they were VERY expensive, I had to beg and plead with my GP to get on them and at £60 for a packet of 3 tablets I think you can see why. Over time I moved onto injections of triptan and then nasal sprays and now I have soluble wafers. The point is that if I catch it quick enough I can beat the migraine in a few hours rather than losing 3 to 4 days to it.

The other thing that improved things was working out my allergies. I've mentioned before that I'm allergic to coconut, other nuts and palm. For me they are essentially migraine triggers. I wont finish up in hospital with anaphylaxis but never the less lying in bed covered in sick and wanting to die is something I prefer to avoid.

But despite these personal breakthroughs I still get migraines and they are still horrible when they come and now I'm a parent things are a little more complex.

While we were trying to conceive and once I became pregnant I had to give up the triptans and go back to paracetamol and if necessary, codeine. Luckily breastfeeding stabilised the hormones for a while but the 'natural weaning' took it's toll and eventually I had to go onto Beta-blockers. I hated them, it was like swimming in treacle, everything I did took so long, I was so sleepy and I started putting on weight. So recently I've come off them again.

I probably got a migraine this week because I haven't been looking after myself too well. I spent the school half-term holidays worrying about two kids rather than the nasty bug I was brewing, I didn't do enough upper body exercise and I am overly stressed about a few things at the moment. This was all compounded by changing hormones and BAM suddenly I'm flat out with a migraine I didn't catch in time to knock on the head with triptan.

So having delivered the kids to school I collapsed on the sofa for a nap. Bad idea, migraine needed more attention than that. Eventually I got the message, I got the hot water bottle out and the TENS machine on, I did a steam facial (it always helps) and popped back a couple more tablets. At first I felt guilty about not doing the housework, the washing, ordering the insulation, chasing the builders etc. then I felt mad at the migraine for making me feel so bad and lose so much of my day. Then I saw the migraine for what it was, a little wake-up call to pay some attention to myself and before I went back to school to pick up the girls I resolved that I would not feel guilty for letting them sit on the sofa and watch TV for the rest of the afternoon.

TV didn't happen though but we did sit on the sofa, sometimes I read a book (even with a migraine I can cope with the big print and easy words), sometimes big-girl read a book and once or twice little-girl did too. Once or twice I got told off for falling asleep but I think that's OK. I looked after me and I looked after them and I hope I reassured migraine that I would listen to it and do what ever we needed to to get on.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The book that changed my life!

Just so you are clear I am making no money from telling you this. I am not an amazon affiliate and there will be no click-chingle making it's way to me by telling you this. 

I am telling you about it because this book is BRILLIANT. Totally. It changed forever the way I look at breastfeeding (and lets face it I was pretty passionate about it before). Breastfeeding is a feminist issue, it is a commercial issue and it is a political issue and Gabrielle Palmer expresses this eloquently in 'The Politics of Breastfeeding'. 
And for this week only (my current time-zone is 10th October 2012) it is on special worldwide offer for kindle for only £1.99 . Bargain!!

If you are a mum read it. If you are a dad, read it. If you are a living breathing literate individual, read it (and if you aren't what the heck are you doing on here?) And if you've missed the special offer or don't have a kindle go buy it or get it out from the library.

"As revealing as Freakonomics, shocking as Fast Food Nationand thought provoking as No Logo, The Politics of Breastfeeding exposes infant feeding as one of the most important public health issues of our time. "

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month

If you don't know that this month is Breast Cancer Awareness month then frankly I think you must either be living under a rock or somewhere without any TV, media or internet connection.

You certainly can't escape it on Facebook where loads of women are playing a game with their status suggesting that they are pregnant and what food they might be craving. (They are not pregnant, the status is all worked out on a formula based on their birth date and age). Thank goodness this didn't happen a few years back when my husband and I were undergoing infertility treatment because back then every pregnancy announcement felt like a stab to the heart. Eight years ago in October things were very different for me.... 
(cue the wavy lines)

What do you think are the early indications that you might be pregnant – apart from the second blue line on the home pregnancy test I mean?

Morning sickness might kick in for some straight away, tiredness is a good one but most symptoms vary from woman to woman. Both my sister and my sister-in-law had told me changes in your breasts are a good sign. First some gentle swelling and then the skin on the nipple darkens up pretty quickly. As it wasn't financially expedient to buy a pregnancy test each month I found myself regularly checking for signs of nipple darkening as I got close to my period.  So there I was in the shower checking over my breasts and yes they had swollen and they were felling tender but then I suddenly realise that what used to be an area of slight bumpy-ness is a lump rather larger than usual.  It’s ok I told myself, I am not worried.  I mean how often do I do a proper breast exam anyway? I thought I'd just keep an eye on it.

When I first realised that getting pregnant wasn’t going to be as easy as falling off a log I started to see pregnant women everywhere.  Adverts and the supermarket were the worst.  How come I always got the trolley with the ‘Clear Blue’ advert stuck on the end? It stared at me up and down every isle – “come, come and pee on me!” But the week I found the lump it had an added twist - it was October and every marketer must have thought ‘lets give a plug for a cancer relief charity’.  A very notable cause and one that I am proud to support but why did it have to be that month?  I had four different mailings that week that included a letter begging for more funds for breast cancer research.  I wanted to help, really I did, but that week I all I wanted was to bury my head in the sand and pretend that the lump wasn’t there.  But it was.  I found my hand going to it, just to check, with increasing frequency, and every time it seemed bigger.

What really did it for me was a ‘Sex and the city’ viewing.  In this particular episode Samantha has decided to have breast augmentation. She has decided she needs the breasts of a younger woman to keep her man's attention.  When she is at the consultation the surgeon notices an abnormal area of tissue and sends her off for screening. The episode ends with her having to tell the other girls that she has cancer. Samantha’s character seemed so strong – her body was her own temple and she was pleased when someone wanted to worship at it, she was daring and brave and the only values important to her seemed to be her own. She lived life by her own rules and I admired that, and now she had breast cancer and that really scared me.  Thanks to Samantha (and some pressure from my family when I finally admitted what was wrong), I made an appointment the next day to see the doctor, who referred me to the hospital’s breast cancer clinic.

If you find a ‘discrete’ breast lump at 30+ you should, according to government guidelines at that time, expect to be seen by specialist within a two-week period.  Having not heard about any appointment date after 1 week I start hassling. After numerous phone calls I find out that I have been put on a waiting list and can expect to see a consultant in 10 to 12 weeks.  I’m expecting to hear from the fertility clinic that we can start the IVF treatment in 5 weeks time!  I could finish up with a double whammy here, cancer and no fertility treatment, or worse, having to decide between a termination and treatment or keeping a long wished for pregnancy.

So I hassled, and I hassled and I hassled and two weeks later I walked out of the breast clinic having heard what I now consider to be some of the most joyous words in the English language “it’s a cyst”.  Let’s make no mistake now, I was very lucky, all I was left with was a large bruise and scary memories of a doctor with a long needle, it could have been much worse.  A woman who doesn’t have a child before she is thirty has a higher risk of breast cancer than one who has.  Of course despite medical advances pregnancy and childbirth are still 2 of the most hazardous things that can befall a woman’s health but some how I can see those as ‘natural’ and breast cancer as very clearly life threatening (however treatable it may be).

So what did I learn from this?  I could examine my breasts, regularly.  All it takes is five minutes and in that time I could save my own life, but what else could I do to reduce my risks? Obviously if you are a smoker you can stop, you can eat more healthily but do you know the biggest effect? You can breastfeed!

Did you know that a mum’s chance of getting breast cancer decreases by approximately 4.3% for every year that she is breastfeeding? And if you are in the high risk group for hereditary breast cancer then breastfeeding for 2years (as the NHS and the World Health Organisation suggest) could reduce your chances by half? 

Even more than that being breastfed as a child reduces a baby girl’s chance of developing breast cancer in adult hood by around 25%!

If every child in Britain was breastfed for just an extra 6 months that would mean about 1,000 fewer cases of breast cancer in Britain each year! (Source: Cancer Research UK

So if you are still there wondering what you can do to help reduce the rates of  breast cancer in this country and across the world, then wonder no more, get out there and encourage a pregnant mum to breastfeed and support her not just during those first critical weeks but through the whole of her breastfeeding relationship with her child. And leave those silly (sometimes hurtful) status games alone.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Mitosis (or 'One become two').

I've made a little decision. 

I'm going to split the cooking stuff from the opinion stuff. I like doing both and if you know me then you'll know that I wouldn't be able to give up having an 'opinion' on most things but I think if I want to get the word out about how to cook for 'sensitive' types then it's probably best if I move all the recipe stuff onto a different blog. 
For that reason I'm setting up a new thing which I'm calling 'The Trials of The Inclusive Cook', it will also have it's own page on Facebook just like this one.

After a blog piece on what Inclusive Cooking is all about (which might look a little familiar) I think I will start with recipes on lentil soup and move on to Christmas cake (don't cringe I need to make it soon if it is to age properly before icing!) Then, well who knows?!!

But don't worry, I'll keep on giving my opinions (for what they are worth) here!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cooking philosophy

I've spent the last 25 years or so living as a vegetarian and while my mum and the rest of my closest family were very understanding and cooked meals we could all eat together I found most other people weren't prepared to do that. 

The reasons I chose to be a veggie are mine alone and belong in a separate post, what I want to talk about here is the dreaded 'special' dish.   Whenever I ate at someone else's house I had 'the special dish', something different to everyone else and frankly I didn't like it much. Generally the other guests looked at you, looked and the dish and thank god that the cook knew how to cook their meal. And it wasn't just the 'experimental cooking' that upset me. Imagine you went to a toga party and everyone is wearing togas but they make you wear a new ghost costume. It's still basically just a white sheet, but you are the one people watch and clearly feel sorry for except perhaps when the ghost costume is really glam with cool glow effects then everyone is 'ooOOoo, I almost wish I was a ghost too'.  OK so there is nothing cool about being 'normal', if we were all 'normal' life would be boring. Thank goodness we aren't but I don't always want to stand out, especially if standing out means another bland vegetarian lasagna or a ratatouille with lumps of over-salted and undercooked aubergine.

I feel that if you are all eating the same meal together then you should ALL be eating the same meal. So as a cook I cook to the lowest common denominator (no I don't cook by fractions) that is to say I take everyone's dietary needs into account and come up with ONE DISH that suits us all. It's inclusive, we all share the same experience. Plus it comes with the handy advantage that I don't have to come up with 2 menus and we all get to eat at the same time. Group meals, especially family meals are important bonding sessions, kids that eat their meals with parents and other adults in their family are learning and not just academically though it turns out that they score higher in their exams than those that eat alone or in front of the TV. Turns out family meals way out perform homework as an indicator of academic success. Also they are less likely to be over weight as adults. It's all important.

In my family inclusive cooking can be a pretty complicated affair, I'm veggie with an allergy to nuts and palm oil/fruit, my darling husband (DH) is gluten and wheat intolerant and my two kids are just intolerant of anything new/spicy/packed with veg. I'm kidding, they eat plenty that most kids wouldn't but they are not 'food motivated' (thank goodness) and that makes in my experience, for a picky eater. Plus the children have at least one friend who we often cook for who can't eat eggs and another little pal who (due to a medical condition) is on a reducing diet. Add to that my insistence that every meal must be flavoursome and not bland (a reaction against too many insipid vegetarian lasagnas) and nutritious and wow, that's one heck of a challenge!

So here is my promise to you, every recipe I stick on here is going to be 
  1. Veggie
  2. Nut free 
  3. Wheat free
  4. suitable for small children
  5. as nutritious as I can make it
  6. as flexible for other allergies as I can make it.
Oh and it has to be delicious. OK?

Monday, 17 September 2012

I'm on Facebook!

You can find me here
I hope!

The empty nest

My little one has started school. She seems so small, she only just weaned this month and a very large part of me doesn't want her to go but she wants to be there so I've not delayed her entry and there she is.
We're not given much choice in this country, either she can go to school or I can home school her. I'd love to do the later but she is a very social child and frankly our relationship seems to work best when we have at least a little time apart. I did think about trying homeschooling with my first with the idea that if it didn't workout we could always change our minds but it isn't that easy. The local schools are all very popular and over subscribed, if I tried to register her later then I may well have been faced with getting her to a school not in the next village, or even the one next to that but on the other side of our nearest town. (Don't worry, if you move into an area there is an obligation to find you a place at the nearest school, but register 'late' and it's a whole different kettle of fish!) Surely one of the upsides of school has to be forming friendships with other children that last outside of school and I just can't see that as a practical option if home is 8 miles away.
Turns out the local school is popular for a reason, it's really rather nice! The reception years unit has a nice relaxed air to it and the staff are progressive and committed. Shame therefor that Ofstead chose to call it 'satisfactory' as if maths and english scores at 11years old are the be all and end all of all primary education but I'll tackle that another time. Both girls really are very happy there and doing well so I must dry my wistful eyes on another tissue and find something else to do with our time apart. 
So far I have cleaned and scrubbed each room. I was getting ready for my roof to be replaced but I got a phone call last week to say they don't have enough scaffold so that is on hold. This morning I decided I'd give this blogging lark another bash and see if I can turn out a decent amount of writing between the loads of washing going in the machine. Don't expect another post tomorrow though as I'm off to London in the vague hope of landing a bit of work!! TTFN