Cocoa-nut bites

photo 2-1There are hundreds of these delightful little balls circling the blogging scene! I usually just make them up as I go along, but this one was particularly good. I haven’t been updating you on my sugar free challenge at all! But because of little lifesavers such as these nutritious snacks, I have managed fairly well. It hasn’t been as hard as I imagined, but then again we haven’t cut out natural sugars, so I can still satisfy my sweet cravings. Although many people say sugar is sugar, processed or not, I have to disagree. The foods that I get my sweet fixes from have so many health benefits that far outweigh the sugar content, and the extra goodness in them helps your body to process the sugar more efficiently anyway. I do feel better as a result of the challenge, with no more energy dips mid afternoon. I slipped up yesterday when I was testing a brownie recipe for the party this weekend, and today I have been feeling so lethargic! The other girls are doing great too and the online food diary has helped us to share ideas and really evaluate what we are putting into our bodies. I have realised that I really don’t snack as much as I thought! Michelle has lost a heap of weight and we have both said we want to make it a more long term change. I am also pleased that I have managed to, pretty much, cut out all processed bread (and haven’t eaten anything else processed the entire time!) and am now considering asking for a bread maker for Christmas!

If you have ever thought about going sugar free you should definitely try it. If you are happy to eat natural sugars in fruit, honey and maple syrup, for example, then you may find it is a piece of *sugar free* cake!

So to get you started here is a quick recipe for those moments when you just need a treat:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup soaked cashews

2-3 cup soaked dates

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Handful raisins

Desiccated coconut to coat balls in

Method:

Puree or blend your dates, cashews and coconut oil (I used my juicer to do this which makes them much smoother than blending, but either works ok) If the mix seems too crumbly add more dates. It should be sticky, holding together easily but not wet.

Put mixture in a bowl and stir in cocoa powder and raisins until mixed well. You can add more or less cocoa depending on how chocolatey you want them.

Roll into bite sized balls and then roll through the desicated coconut.

Refrigerate for an hour before serving (unless you are desperate to eat them straight away, but they really are better after being in the fridge!)

Store them in an airtight container and pack them in a picnic, in your child’s lunch box, for a long journey. You could even put them in a pretty box and give them as a gift…or just demolish them all whilst watching your favourite tv!

Enjoy!
photo 1

Advertisements

Poppy is 1!

A few days late, but here are some photo’s from Poppy’s 1st birthday on Monday. I can’t believe how grown up she is looking! I think it is about time I changed the photo at the top of my blog, and I have the perfect one in mind.

We had a lovely day with Poppy on Monday, although she was very grumpy in the afternoon due to being over tired!  We spent the morning opening cards and a couple of presents (including the chair in the photo’s and the gorgeous koala boots from Nana!), but she is having most of them on Sunday. We went to the cafe for some lunch and Poppy got given a birthday gingerbread man which she demolished! Then in the afternoon we went to the park with Poppy’s friend whilst Daddy was at work. Looking forward to Sunday and plenty more pics to follow! Thank you to everyone who wished her a Happy Birthday! Where has the time gone?

Home Education – A Personal Journey of Freedom

P1040440 Being surrounded by home educating families at a recent picnic, it struck me how happy the atmosphere was. The children just seemed alive, bursting with positive energy and a passion for life, and the parents too had this peaceful sense of bliss about them, like they had found the answer to eternal happiness. Here was proof that home ed is a successful, magical journey, that most people don’t get the chance to see or perhaps don’t even have a clue it exists. I felt compelled to shed a little more light on this wonderful, mysterious community, starting by discussing some reasons why people choose home education. Some of my friends, who are all normal, sane human beings by the way, just like you (no really they are just like you…even those of you reading this whilst your kids are finishing their homework for school tomorrow, those of you who could just never home educate because you are not ‘brave’ enough or don’t know the first thing about anything), …those friends kindly answered some short questions for me about their reasons for home educating and I loved their responses. All of them are so different and yet something so strong underpins them; freedom. I guess first of all I should tell you a little bit more about our reasons. It may seem bizarre that we have already decided to home educate Poppy when she isn’t even a year old. But to me, education begins at birth and should be a continuous, life long journey, with no concrete milestones that dictate when you are suddenly ready to learn the alphabet or how to count to ten. We didn’t dictate when she should crawl, or start babbling, nor did we test that she could do a certain number of tricks by her first birthday (the questionnaire we got from the GP is still sitting unanswered on the shelf, soon to be binned!) Making our decision to home educate early on makes everything just feel so much more relaxed and free to unfold naturally, as it has all along, letting Poppy take control of her learning right from the start. There will be no pressure on us to make a quick decision before she turns 5 when everyone will be talking about her starting school, because by then we will very much submersed in our home ed world and hopefully confident with our decision. An unintentional but major result of being so forward thinking is that we are able to make friends with other children who will be home educated from now, so that when she does reach that tender age, not all of her friends will be heading to the school gates leaving her wondering why she is different. We have been so lucky to have met some wonderful like-minded families, many of which have children close to Poppy’s age as well as older children. It is so encouraging to know that these little Einstein’s will be growing and learning together, hopefully becoming a little community, supporting each other and building long lasting friendships. I know that socialisation, or a lack of, is people’s first concern when it comes to home education, but the home ed community is thriving around here. Yes, she will end up ‘different’ from the kids that go to mainstream schools, but is that necessarily a bad thing? It doesn’t mean she will be unhappy, weird or less socialised, just that she has different experiences to them and therefore will be building a different view, her own individual view, of the world around her. I feel that the school social environment is artificial and hope that Poppy will gain better social awareness and acceptance of others by being around children and adults of all different ages and backgrounds on a daily basis, learning different things from each and every one of them simply by playing with them and talking with them. P1040462 So what about when she gets older? Surely she will have to go to secondary school and take exams? We are not qualified or intelligent enough to teach her all of that! Maybe not, but we don’t need a qualification to provide love and support and I am confident that Poppy will be intelligent enough to learn the rest all by herself. Having studied child development from birth I know that Poppy has a natural instinctive drive to learn, and in the right environment that desire should never disappear. Babies are desperate to learn about the world around them, everything is new and interesting, and then they learn to talk and socialise and another world is unlocked. They play and interact with others, take interest in how things work, ask questions, seek answers…all by themselves! Then what? Aged 5 (5!!!) we suddenly need to guide them in a certain direction to make sure they don’t accidentally miss something out? God forbid they don’t learn how to read and write by the time they are 7, or they leave secondary school not knowing the meaning of pi. The thing is I truly believe that the children themselves are more capable of knowing what they need to learn, than the adults who set this curriculum. I can’t remember an awful lot from school, other than which boy I was going out with at what time! What has really taught me lessons in life are my experiences. Real life experiences that teach me about people, the world I live in, and perhaps most importantly, myself. I was always ‘academic’ and ‘clever’ at school, but it was lost on me because I didn’t know who I was anymore. I checked all the boxes, I could be whatever I wanted, but having gone through this system that aims to give every child the same knowledge, I had no idea what I wanted anymore. I had dreams but I was confused about whether they were good enough, whether I was better at something else that I didn’t like very much. As it happens I didn’t follow my dreams and I haven’t really used anything that I learnt in the curriculum in my adult life either. Ok I can put a sentence together (most of the time) but all of my ‘A’ grades are pretty much forgotten. I am defined more by what I do, my group of friends, my interests and hobbies, my family and my personality than a letter on a piece of paper. So as you can see, we are planning a very autonomous approach to home education. No lessons, no structure as such, just as many experiences as possible, from everyday mundane chores which teach valuable life lessons to adventurous trips around the world. I am excited to see what I learn along the way as well and I know that the fresh, eager eyes with which Poppy views the world will make everything that much more enjoyable and motivating for us too. And as for the fact that I will be spending every waking hour with my daughter, for all 52 weeks of the year…I can’t wait! I could go on forever, but I promised my friends they would be blog famous. So here are a few more perspectives on home education, I hope you enjoy the diversity of these answers and hopefully seeing home education in a new way: Zoe has two children, Vigo aged 3 and Leilani aged 1. Although she worries that her son may feel he is missing out on something by not going to school she hopes that the freedom that surrounds home education will give her children more opportunities and make them happy, confident children in the long run. What are your main reasons for choosing to home educate? “I think it has to be giving them both more of a chance to be children, free to learn through play without constant testing. In the long term, I want to give them more opportunities to choose their own direction in life, however diverse it might be. My dreams were always quashed by my school. I want them to feel confident and happy that they can succeed in whatever path they choose to follow.” What is your one favourite thing about home ed? “Having quality time with my family, doing the things that we love.” 10636236_10154596016970643_2170334459246196159_n Do you have any fears with regards to home ed? “My main worry at the moment is whether they will feel that they’re missing out on something by not going to school.” What are you hoping your child will gain in the long run? “In the long run, my main goal is to raise happy, confident children with a wide and varied knowledge of the world around them, ready to take on any challenge that faces them.” Michelle has two children, James aged 4 and Imogen aged 1. James was going to preschool when Michelle started to have doubts about the mainstream education system. She decided to take a very child led approach and listen to what James needed, and couldn’t be happier with her choice. What are your main reasons for choosing to home educate? ”It started with not being happy about a 50 child intake for reception aged children at the local school and this coincided with James starting to say he didn’t want to go to pre school anymore. People then started to say to me, “You’ll have to take him when he starts school, he won’t have a choice”…the thought of me dragging him to school when he didn’t want to go just filled me with dread! We started looking into home education and the more we learn the more we know this is the right decision for our family.” P1040455 What is your one favourite thing about home ed? “The freedom!” Do you have any fears with regards to home ed?  “No fears at all. I trust that my children will learn what they need to as and when they need to. Going to school doesn’t guarantee that you will pass all your exams and get a good job!” What are you hoping your child will gain in the long run?  I’m hoping that my children will be independent and confident. That they will be able to think for themselves and whatever path they choose they will be happy!” Sam has a little girl called Zara who is 3. Sam is passionate about her daughter learning in a natural way, without having to conform to certain rules or fit into any boxes. By allowing her to be an individual and explore the world in her own way she hopes that Zara will always have a love for learning. What are your main reasons for choosing home education? “Keeping my child in a safe and loving environment, where someone is mentally and emotionally present 99% of the time. Someone is there understanding the hugely specific emotional needs of my child and able to help guide her through those times, the way I want her to learn. Structural learning is so insignificant for me at the moment. I brought this child into the world, I will raise her. Keeping her love for learning alive is hugely important to us. I want my child to explore the world with passion and energy. To continue the way she has been learning since she came into this world. There should be no structure forced upon her – she is her own and I want to keep her individuality as such.” What is your one favourite thing about home education? “That we are within our individual rights to specialise our own learning. We can educate ourselves and our families whichever and whatever way, structured or unstructured, whatever works best for us.” Do you have any fears with regards to home ed? “That I won’t be able to provide enough opportunities to explore everything in this amazing world. But maybe we don’t need that. Maybe we, as the ‘learner’, just need to explore our own little space and we are happy with that. I am an introvert. I myself struggle with getting out of my own physical comfort zone. I don’t want my fears to impede on the learning of my child’s. I am NOT worried about not being able to provide enough social encounters. Already, I have found that you can do sooo much of that!” What are you hoping your child will gain in the long run? “To be a worldly, well rounded individual, who can get through the toughest of times and let it run like water off a ducks back. Thrive in life and be happy and confident.” P1040433 Ali has 3 children, Winnie aged 1, Alice aged 2 and Anthony aged 8 who is currently in full time education. Although Ali has her reasons for this at the moment she hopes one day she will be able to home educate all of her children. Ali plans to follow a more structured approach than the others but hopes that her knowledge of child development will allow her children to thrive. What are your main reasons for choosing home education? “I chose home ed after learning about the neuroscience of child development and how the school system is a complete contradiction to that.” What is your one favourite thing about home education? I love that it can harness a child’s creativeness, rather than force them into conforming. Do you have any fears with regards to home ed? “I worry that as a family unit we will struggle within the home ed community, we plan to follow the curriculum and be quite structured in our approach and I don’t think this is a popular approach.” Sue has 3 children, Elysia, the baby of the group at just 6 months! Ben aged 4 and Sophie aged 14. Being the only one of us with a secondary school aged child, who was taken out of mainstream school, it is lovely to hear positive feedback from Sophie herself. Sue is confident that this was the right choice to make and it is lovely to see that confidence in everything they do as a family. What are your main reasons for choosing home education? “To facilitate and support my children’s learning, to enable them to study subjects that are of interest to them and to spend more time as a family.” What is your one favourite thing about home education? “Seeing how happy my children are and being there to see their excitement when they learn something new.” Do you have any fears with regards to home ed? “No fears, there is so much support within the Home Ed community, I can always find an answer to my queries. My eldest has already sat her first GCSE at just 14 and the life skills my children are learning will be there forever.” What are you hoping your child will gain in the long run? “Happiness, contentment, to find a career and future that is personal to them, not something that they are doing just because ‘the system’ has taken them there. For them to learn from others and have some incredible life experiences. From a personal point of view I have spent the past 18 months educating myself on Home Education and getting to know my children better than I ever would’ve if they were still at school. Our bond as a family has grown immensely and I can only see us moving in a positive way in the future.” And a final word from Soph…”I love being home educated because I’m studying subjects I enjoy in a relaxed environment opposed to sitting in a dreary classroom studying subjects I probably dislike.” Let me know what you think, and if anything has changed your idea of home educating, or if you are already home educating and have similar reasons to any of these Mum’s. I look forward to posting more about home education in the future as it is seemingly very unknown to those on the outside of it. So many people ask me about the ‘rules’ surrounding home ed, when really there aren’t any! Your child, your choice! Thank goodness for that! 10405536_10154596017315643_5052342720040510202_n

A Year To Celebrate

photo 1

Less than one year ago Poppy was thrown into this unfamiliar world, knowing nothing, doing nothing, completely dependant on her parents. And now she is a walking, almost talking, increasingly independent, huge personality with a whole range of feelings and ways of expressing them and an unfathomable amount of knowledge and skills that blow me away every day. How did that happen?

I was thinking about her upcoming birthday and how much she has changed in that first year, how truly amazing she, and every other baby, is! And it occurred to me that we have so much more to celebrate on that special day. Poppy may have had a shock when she came into the world all those months ago, but it wasn’t just her life that changed drastically. And despite how hard everyone said it would be, how many ‘You just wait’ looks I was given, to be honest, I think we have done a bloody amazing job so far.

For starters, Poppy’s birthday will mark a whole year of exclusive breastfeeding, no formula in her entire life so far, which less than 1% of Mum’s in the UK can say. I know this isn’t always possible so I consider myself very lucky to be contributing to that statistic, but despite the fact that she latched on immediately with no trouble, it hasn’t been without its difficulties. It was always so important to me that she was breastfed, I didn’t ever consider another option, but looking back on how much I actually did to make it possible makes me feel quite proud. Poppy spent the second week of her life crying in pain every time she fed and woke from her sleeps screaming and bright red in the face. She struggled to empty her bowels and had a blistered rash on her bottom. I was horrified seeing her like that, but kept being told that it was normal, just colic that would go away eventually. I didn’t buy it and took things into my own hands, researching how my diet could be affecting her through my breast milk. Looking at the common culprits, I decided to start by cutting out dairy, which was incredibly daunting considering I used to have cheese at every opportunity! I looked at the list of names for hidden dairy and read labels vigorously. It seemed I couldn’t eat anything. But I had to try something, and so for the next week or so I literally ate nothing but fruit and veg to be absolutely certain that nothing was contaminated. I felt pretty fed up not being able to eat the proper meals I was used to, but things with Poppy improved quickly which kept me going. I gradually got used to preparing wholesome meals without any dairy at all, using oat milk in our risotto and almond milk for my breakfast, tea and coffee. It was still so alien to me, but after two weeks on this diet Poppy was a new baby. I felt so relieved that I knew what had been causing the pain and angry that none of the professionals would take me seriously. Even after I had seen the amazing results my doctor and health visitor refused to believe it and made me feel pretty inferior to them. Then one day, after I had enjoyed some dairy free dark chocolate, Poppy seemed to react the same way as before. I checked all of the ingredients and Googled some more. Soy. Many babies who are intolerant to dairy are also intolerant to soy. So another thing to look out for, and this one really was in everything I picked up. I was constantly worried about eating out, or grabbing something on the go, I had to read every label meticulously to be sure that I wouldn’t be hurting my precious girl. I felt miserable that so many things seemed to be off limits, and I worried I would never have a social life again! But I still never considered giving up breastfeeding. I carried on, learning new recipes, changing the entire contents of our cupboards, without even questioning it, because it was for Poppy. I did this with little support and whilst juggling a newborn baby, recovering from a traumatic birth and adjusting to all of the other changes in my life. Of course, I may have felt a little sorry for myself, but at the time, in the blur of those early hazy days, I didn’t fully appreciate my own efforts. It was just another thing I had to do, something that perhaps would pass, like the spit up on my shoulder and the middle of the night feeds (little did I know that they weren’t going anywhere fast either). Almost a year later we are still breastfeeding and my diet is radically different. I don’t even have to think about it now, I am simply dairy and soy free, just like I have brown hair, an embarrassing laugh and a weakness for Pimms. It has become a part of me instead of a temporary fix to a problem. I remember wondering if I would continue to breastfeed for as long as I wanted because of this, but that no longer crosses my mind. For starters I have discovered that dairy seems to have been the main cause of my eczema, and I feel better in many other ways as a result of my new diet. It is difficult at times, going to social occasions, being tempted by my old favourites when we go out for dinner, but I can count on one hand the amount of times I have knowingly slipped up (and Poppy still reacts when I do). I never had that sort of will power on any diet I have ever been on! I have to refuse chocolates and cakes that are offered around without a second thought, pass on a lovely cup of hot tea when there is no alternative milk available, watch everyone else scoffing my favourite foods without making a fuss, accepting the fact that it is my responsibility to avoid temptation rather than expecting people to accommodate for me. It has become second nature and with our breastfeeding journey going beautifully I don’t plan to give up until Poppy is ready, which judging from the earlier statistic, is (sadly) not all that common. Now I know this may not be worthy of front-page news, but I am allowed to brag every once in a while.

There are other reasons why I feel this has been such an achievement. Having always struggled with accepting my body and eating healthily, knowing that I was nourishing Poppy forced me to take better care of myself. Since those first small changes I have learnt so much more, incorporating so many fresh and wholesome foods into my diet, trying new things all the time, constantly learning more about nutrition and ditching the junk almost completely. More importantly ditching the fasts and yoyo diet cycles completely. I am finally respecting my body which deserves to be as healthy as can be, because I have realised it is actually pretty incredible, to have grown and nourished a strong human being all by itself. Funnily enough I now, without even trying, weigh less than I did when I was practically starving myself, but I am happier than I have ever been regardless of what the scales say. I believe food is the most important thing to get right in your life, and I am proud that I have turned my relationship with food around completely. I am also proud that I can offer Poppy the best start and hopefully teach her about healthy choices throughout her life too. 

So I guess my next achievement links in with that perfectly. This last year has made me more confident in myself than ever before. My post baby body and new inner peace is just the beginning! There are so many choices to make, small and big, when you have a child, suddenly you have to be sure of yourself, otherwise you might cave under all the pressure. I have always been headstrong to an extent, but vulnerable and my confidence was easily knocked, over the smallest of things. But starting when I was pregnant, I had someone else to make decisions for, and I started to believe in myself more for the sake of that unborn baby girl. I refused induction when the doctors were making me feel like I was wrong. I knew deep down everything was OK, and I was right. Every other decision after that made me more and more sure that I would do things my way. People who scoffed at the fact that we co-slept, or wore Poppy in a sling for the majority of her newborn life; they didn’t make me question my choices one little bit. Suddenly I didn’t care what other people thought of me, because it wasn’t them who would be affected by my decisions, it was Poppy. Initially I had been worried about postnatal depression, having gone through depression and anxiety many times before. But previous bouts of depression left me feeling worthless, unmotivated and with no sense of purpose. I remember thinking, even during Poppy’s 4 hour crying fits, I had never felt more worthy, important, purposeful or in control of my own emotions in my whole life! There were hard times but I just felt like finally I had found what I was meant to be, I had so much to be happy for and someone else to be strong for and nothing would bring me down. Not that I am claiming to be a better mum than the next, or better able to cope with the hard times; in fact accepting that I cannot be perfect and that is still good enough, was a huge realisation and perhaps part of the reason I did remain so positive. When I see Poppy smile at me every day I feel as wonderful as she thinks I am.

As well as these personal achievements I will be celebrating the more simple things that have happened in the past year. We have moved to a fantastic place, made fantastic friends and we have shared so many good times as a family. Tim has come so far in his career, and I am so proud of him. I have thrown myself into a new life here, juggled a baby and a diploma, which is going pretty darn well, as well as keeping the dog alive and the house tidy (ish). So I hope you don’t mind the very personal (and slightly long) post, but I wanted to share with you all of those positive things that explain why Poppy’s very first birthday means so much to me. People warned me that having a baby would change my life, and it has…entirely for the better.

photo 2

What are you proud of since becoming a parent?