Thursday, February 6, 2014

Reasons to be Cheerful - Blog Hop

I'm not really sure what a blog hop is yet but I decided to give it a shot. I have done them before but I'm not completely sure I'm on the right track! Anyway here goes! My Reasons to be Cheerful this week are: Friends One of my longest friends arrived over for a visit from Scotland to Ireland this week. She came to see her sister who gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and to visit a sick relative. I took her to visit my mother on Monday and I took her to the airport to fly back home on Wednesday. I was happy to see her come and sad to see her leave. As always. Juicing Juicing is my new way of being kind to myself. I started two weeks ago and haven't stopped. I have a feeling it's going to be the one thing that finally clicks with me when it comes to being kind to my body. I'm not focusing on weight loss but on what nutrients I can supply my body with. I am finding it easy to have juice in the morning, juice or smoothie for lunch and then a nice healthy dinner. This mornings delicious concoction consisted of curly kale, broccoli, apple, cucumber, celery and lemon. For lunch I am having carrot, orange, apple and garlic and then for dinner, a vegetable curry with beans for protein. Sadly my new juicer gave up after only two weeks but on the cheerful side, the shop where I purchased it are willing to exchange! Health I'm just so pleased that my mother, who is eighty, is in good health again. No chest infections,no asthma attacks, no breathing difficulties, no arthritic pain. We were at a hospital appointment on Tuesday and the doctors were really pleased with her. Lunch Tomorrow Lunch out tomorrow hasn't happened yet but I'm hopeful it will go according to plan and I'm feeling cheerful about it. I have an exam in the morning and then my husband is taking me out to lunch. It will be a mad rush to get back to collect my little boy from school but having him to collect is yet another reason for cheerfulness!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Juice Crazy! The Latest Step in My Journey to Physical and Mental Wellbeing

People who know me will know that I am always exploring ways to improve my physical and mental quality of life.  In fact, people who know me will know that I am always looking for easy ways of doing these things! Most people who know me will know of my struggles with mood, weight and high cholesterol over the years, and the various different things I have tried.

Over the years, I have had temporary success with various slimming clubs but I'm sad to say that I usually lose interest and abandon them. While some of what I've learned there stays with me and  I continue to eat a lot more healthily than I have in years, I found those plans weren't quite right for me. I could never get control of my sweet tooth and just one biscuit allowed on a plan could spiral me into a full scale sugar fest. Now I've found something I can incorporate into my daily diet, which makes me feel like eating less but also fulfils my need for something sweet.  Read on and I'll share my latest step to physical and mental wellbeing. I hope that I won't lose interest and abandon this new step because it's creative and it's fun too. Also, it feels easy to incorporate into my daily life, which means a lot.

The combination of yoga and healthy eating without watching every morsel felt more my thing and has sustained me for the past while.  However, I am still bigger than I should be, my cholesterol levels are sky high and my energy levels could be better.  While some of this is hereditary, the doctor could apparently tell by my triglycerides level, that I need to make some more dietary changes.  I made a decision at the start of 2014 to focus more on my health and what nutrients I am putting into my body, rather than what weight I am.

In 2013 I cut down on animal proteins and sugar and I started to include more fruit in the form of smoothies.I also included porridge, seeded bread and plant sterol supplements. I started to do research on what else I could do to increase my energy levels, up my mood, decrease my cholesterol and maybe lose a few pounds into the bargain.  This is when I came upon the idea of juicing for health and wellbeing. It seemed to me to be a natural progression from blending smoothies and making fresh soups. I had heard that juicing can help with reducing cholesterol levels and risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It can also elevate mood and inspire feelings of mental wellbeing. I wanted to find out if this could be true. I had already been doing some food and juicing recipes from the brilliant Dale Pinnock. He is known as 'The Medicinal Chef' for good reason and I like his whole way of looking at food. I like the idea of using juices and food as medicine for the body and as a way of assisting the body in getting rid o  the toxins taken in from chemicals and processed food.

I sometimes struggle with lack of energy and motivation and a low mood, though these have improved since I have made some changes in my life. However, there is still lots of room for improvement in all of these areas.  I am almost 48, the mother of a six year old and will soon go back to working outside the home. For these reasons, I feel I need to up my game and find a way of eating that I can sustain for a lifetime.

I was toying with the juicing idea, when I came across a book by Bernadette Bohan called 'Eat yourself Well' on my Kindle.  Shortly afterwards, I happened to see her being interviewed on television.  When I heard her mention how she turned her health around and what a big fan she is of juicing, I knew I had to read the book. And boy, am I glad I did.  I learned so much from it and because it was so easy to read, I was able to start putting some of the ideas into practice.  The book has acted as a springboard for me to find out more. I learned a lot about juicing but I also learned some other things and I have not been able to look at Dairy milk since! I now use almond milk in smoothies and have converted to soy based yoghurt and cheeses.

I knew from Bernadette's book that there were different types of juicers and so I put out a message on Facebook asking for suggestions.  A few friends came back with ideas and one suggested I watch the documentary by Joe Cross called 'Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead'.  I noticed I had it on netflix so I watched it that night. I think it can also be found on you tube now and watched for free. I found it very very inspiring and while I don't feel ready to exist on only juices for a period of time, I have incorporated them into my daily life.  Juicing is a terrific way of getting much needed fruit and veg nutrients into a person. From someone, who only ate one type of veg at dinner a few times a week and virtually no fruit, I now have both daily.

I then watched a few more documentaries for inspiration.  Look at 'The Joy of Juicing' with Gary Null, 'Food Matters' and 'Fork over knives' and you'll see what I mean.

Other inspirational suggestions from my facebook friends were to look at Dan the Regenerator (check out his Lemon Ginger Blast, when you're not checking out him!) and Jason Vale.

Green smoothie green juice organic Stock PhotosI feel it's a matter of finding something that resonates with a person before the change can be made. For me, I need something that combines mind, body and soul and for exercise, I find yoga does that. It's the first exercise I have ever stuck at and I have now been practicing since 2010. I'm on day 12 of incorporating juices into my diet and I find that the creativity involved in making them and the learning how to combine things is keeping me interested.  I find it fun!

I bought myself an Andrew James Power Juicer. It's a basic centrifrugal type of juicer but it's adequate for a beginner juicer like myself.  I toyed with buying a Philips 1861 or 1871 but they were quite a bit more expensive and when I looked at the juicers in the shop, the Andrew James juicer looked quite similar.  After washing your fruit and vegetables, you can put them through the juicer whole without any need for chopping and cutting.  Ideally, I would like a twin gear masticating juicer but this type is way over my budget at the moment.  I spent 69 euro on my juicer and so, if I don't stick with it, I won't feel too bad at how much I have spent.

I am learning more day by day but the things I have learned so far in my juicing journey are:

1. Juicers have come a long way and despite what I thought, are actually reasonably easy to clean! Place a plastic bag over the pulping funnel before you start juicing so it gives you one less thing on your juicer to clean

2. Don't do as I did and be overzealous on adding the Wheat grass powder to your smoothies and juices. I made the mistake of adding far too much to a pint of green juice and suffered with tummy pains and nausea afterwards. It wore off after a couple of hours but it wasn't pleasant. Read the instructions before you add any power greens or supplements to your juices!

3. Cucumber, Apple, Kale and lemon is my favourite morning green drink and in fact, I could drink it at any time of day. I also love Carrot, orange, sweet potato and red bell pepper. It's terrific fun experimenting with all the combinations.

4. If you think it's difficult to find time to do all that juicing, make a big batch of green juice in the morning and store it in glass bottles or airtight steel containers in your fridge. I am saving large glass coffee and gravy jars to store mine. I also use insulated travel mugs to take in the car with me. Take some of your juice to work in a flask and have at coffee time and lunch time instead of your usual toxic coffee and pastry. Some say the quicker you drink the juice after making it the better, as nutrients deteriorate the longer the juice has been made. However, after a lot of research, and through my own experience, I have discovered the juice can last up three days. Even if some nutrients are lost, I figure, I am still getting far far more benefit than if I didn't drink it at all. At the current time, I have time to do my juicing freshly but if I don't, I make it in advance in the morning or evening time.

5. Someone said to me that the fruit juice sugars are damaging to teeth but as Jason Vale says many people are doing this to themselves anyway consuming soft drinks, sweets, chocolate and most processed foods which all have huge amounts of added sugar. At least with fruit juice you are also getting nutrients and not just empty calories with no nutrients whatsoever. If people are over worried about this issue, they should dilute the fruit juices with water, use a straw and wait one hour and then brush teeth. Alternatively, mix one fruit with lots of veg. I usually mix a couple of apples with my green veg for my morning juice and mix oranges with carrots and other vegetables. There is always a way!

6. There is a wider range of fruit and vegetables out there than any of us even know! I am converted to things like fennel, kale, Alfalfa sprouts and Shitake Mushrooms! I'd never even heard of them before I started juicing! I have discovered it's best to buy organic but if you can't, just buy what you can. You will still be getting huge quantities of nutrients that you were not getting before. Wash well with an apple cider vinegar solution before juicing.

7. Oranges cannot be juiced with the skin on, whereas apples, lemons and many other fruits can. Opinions differ on whether kiwis are better juiced with the skin on or off.

8. Juicing makes using the toilet a more frequent occurrence! I noticed this on day Four!!! This is a good thing as it's evidence that the body is eliminating toxins. Juicing helps the body's natural detoxification processes to become more efficient. The body is detoxing all the time through skin, kidneys, liver but sometimes we get clogged up for usually dietary reasons and juicing helps with this.

In the past I have been at optimum health and I have been slim so even though I am older, there is no reason why I cannot be that way again.  I have been slim and healthy sometimes in my life and I will be slim and healthy sometime again. And that sometime  will be sometime soon!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I Became A First time Mum in my Forties

As you can guess from the title of my blog, I am a forty something first time mum.  I’m actually an Irish Mammy albeit a modern Irish mammy and not the kind that Brendan O Carroll’s portrays in his series, Mrs Browns Boys.  That is something I can only aspire to!

Here in Ireland  'Mammy' or ''Ma are terms we use most frequently but 'Mum', 'Mom' 'mummy'  are all acceptable too.  I don’t mind what I’m called as long as it’s  not ‘geriatric  Mum’ which is a term I have heard a few times since I had my child!. I’ve also been told that I am, what is referred to in medical speak an ‘ Elderly Primigravida’ a woman who has a child for the first time over the age of 35.  I thought ‘elderly’ meant you were well past middle age and approaching your twilight years.  Apparently this is not the case for people like me!

I decided to write this blog back in 2010 to reach out to other older first time mums and to indulge my love of writing which I have always found therapeutic.

It can be a lonely business being a forty something first time mum. When your child is a toddler and not at preschool, you don’t meet many other mums.  Many of my friends had much older children and were at a different stage of parenthood than I was. At a mother and toddler group that I had reluctantly ventured in to for some company, someone kindly pointed this out to me. When the group facilitator asked me if I was my two year old son's mother or 'nana' (grandmother),I vividly remember all eyes turning to look at me.

I can recall clearly how my spirits dropped and I realised that I was at least ten years older than the other mothers there.  I had thought that I looked young for my forty four years but the very posing of that question from the facilitator, and the youth of the other mothers dashed my illusions. My little boy didn’t seem to want to join in with the group activities (how's that for solidarity) and in light of how I then felt, I took it as a sign not to return. I knew that being part of a group that looked upon me as the oldie wouldn’t help with my increasing loneliness.

You may wonder, if I was so worried about being an older mum, why I left it so late. There were many reasons, mostly to do with insecurities and wrong perspective on life. I did not want to be poor, trapped and miserable as had happened to many women of my mothers generation, and also to some of my peers. And so, I spent my twenties and thirties in a partying haze, pushing kids to the very bottom of my list.

I married at the age of 34 and I still wasn't that interested in having children. My husband didn’t seem to mind and even said that he thought we were too immature to have children. We both had decent full time jobs and enjoyed going away, drinking and going out for meals. I didn't believe in the biological clock or that  it would ever tick for me. 

How wrong I was! When I suddenly started to take a big interest in my nieces and nephews, everyone was surprised.  Although I loved them, I really hadn’t connected with them that much up until I hit my late thirties. My brothers had never asked me to babysit much and everyone said I preferred animals to kids. I guess, in hindsight, it would have seemed that way, but deep down I think I was just trying to avoid the whole issue. I had so many issues around childbirth and motherhood; it pains me to think of it now.

I couldn't bear to hear about pregnancies or see childbirth scenes on the television. I felt it was a humiliating and degrading experience for the woman and that, as usual, the man got off scot free. So, with an attitude like this, it really scared me when I started to ogle babies in their prams, and wonder what it would be like to have a child of my own!  What was happening to me? Had I been wrong about the biological clock after all?

I really started to feel I wanted and needed a child and my husband felt the same. We tried, but unfortunately nothing happened for a long time. Then I had my first miscarriage. I didn't even realise that was what it was at the time. I was basically ignorant when it came to pregnancy knowledge, having pushed the subject away for so long.

Time went on and I hit the age of forty. I thought I should forget about the whole idea. By that stage I felt that it was probably my own fault that I could not conceive. I had spent the best part of 38 years saying I did not want children. Now it seemed as if my body was responding in kind. I felt as if I had willed it into not wanting them and it was just complying with my wishes. I remember someone saying to me at that time, that since I was forty, I might as well face the fact I would never have kids. I was sad but decided to get on with life and not think about it anymore.  I had succeeded in pushing the idea out of my life before so I would just do it again.

Parenthood is not the path for everyone and it is not in everyone's life journey. I thought that was probably the case with me. I went part time in my day job and set up my own dog walking and pet sitting business and felt, for the most part content with my life.

Then, it happened!  I was pregnant!  I was 41 years of age and pregnant!  I was over three months into it and I hadn’t realised. One day I was out driving and the smell of petrol fumes made me feel nauseous. I had lost track of my cycle because I had put the whole idea out of my mind and I had not felt sick before and had no other fact, I felt terrific, with boundless energy. When the test came up positive, I did two more tests just to be sure and the result was the same. Positive. Positive. Positive!

When I shared my news, there were different reactions.  I had thought everyone would be positive and happy but this wasn’t always the case.  One urged me to think long and hard about it and another suggested I have all manner of tests done because of my age. I went for some private counselling just to be sure it was something both of us could handle. We then decided that we would forego the tests and just accept whatever and whoever was sent to us. I just knew then, that even if those tests had showed up any abnormalities we were ready for it. Thankfully, all was perfect and in November 2007 our beautiful son was born. It really was the best day of my life! Now I knew what people meant when they said that.  In past times I had often secretly sneered when I heard people say that it was their happiest time ever.

If I had known before what I found out that day and what I know now, I would have tried to have children a lot earlier. I realise now that even if it did cause me to be trapped, that having a child is a wonderful, beautiful blessing. In fact, parenthood has not trapped or frightened me in any way. So far, it is a bonus and an enhancement to my life and I think I can speak for my husband there too.

Since then, I have wanted another child really badly. I had and still have a longing for that. I also wanted it for my little son. I would like him to have a sibling so that he has company at home.  I would like him to have a sibling so having older parents won't be a burden to him in later life. I would like him to have a sibling for so many reasons.

We tried to do that for him but sadly I had miscarriages at age 43 and 44. I was so excited that I made plans and carried on even though I was warned by the doctor about the statistics of miscarriage in women my age. I was devastated with the realisation that as time went on, the chances were less and less.  And now, here I am, aged almost 48 and with one precious child, a six year old most appreciated son.

We are so so so thankful for him and I am so grateful my body clock ticked loudly and woke me up before it really was too late.  My one and only regret is that I could not give my precious boy a sibling because of the choices I made in life. Choices I made because I was afraid, afraid of being trapped, afraid of not being good enough to do a good job, afraid of so many things that never transpired.

I used to worry that by being older parents, we were doing our son an injustice. I used to worry that we be might get sick and old before he was fully ready to make his own way in the world. Someone had once said to me that they thought I was either brave or really selfish in having a child in my forties. 

Then my mother said something that really hit home.  She said that you don't have to be old to die. I realised then that no matter what age we are, there are no guarantees in life. Some people die young, some people die old and some people live longer than even their own children. I am doing my best to keep fit and healthy for as long as possible.  I rarely drink now, I practice yoga, I juice regularly adding much needed fruit and veg to my diet and I keep up to date with what the younger parents are into. I have become an improved version of myself because of my child and I aim to keep that up.

In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would become a forty something first timemum but I did and I am.

Posted by Claire at 5:41 AM*


Sarah Butland said...
Bravo!!! What a compelling and heart-warming piece. It's from the heart, to other mom's and mom's to be at any age. Things happen when it's best for them to happen. You weren't ready for your child before 41 and that's perfectly ok. I know that my husband and I were completely ready for whatever our baby threw at us (literally and figuratively) when we had him, before we did we were selfish and perfectly happy as a couple which was ok too. I imagine you and your husband were the same way. To parenting. And, by the way, don't have another for the sake of a sibling, another will happen if you're all ready for him/her.*
SuileGlasa said...
Thanks for the post Sarah. We really would love another child and we are ready and waiting. It would be great for my son as well. However, I think at 44 it may be too late. But then again, look at Cherie Blair the ex British Prime Ministers wife. She was 45. There are many examples so who knows! Watch this space.. Or should I say, watch this blog!!*
lizm8906 said...
It's never too late! Some women of 65 are having them - although know I couldn't - feel too old now sometimes and am also a 40 something Mum of young girls although did get in having them just before 40... Very interesting Blog... I look forward to seeing more posts. x*
SuileGlasa said...
As you said yourself Liz, it's never too late! If it's meant to happen, it will.*
berniegloster said...
Great and so honest and funny.Things happen for a reason I lost three babies before I had my son I thought I'd have no more and 8 years at nearly 39 without I had my daughter a total surprise.I still remember when my son visited me in hospital and asked me was I going to dye my hair still because he was afraid they may think I was her granny not her mum(out of the mouth of babes)Well at 52 I still dye my hair and I have two georgeous kids (my son of 22 would'nt like me calling him a kid)both a fantastic surprise*
veronahanlon said...
Such a lovely featue - it's funny to think that as women (who want it all), we are probably thinking the same things!*
Loraine said...
Hi Neighbour - glad to have read your blog - it's an absolutely amazing experience to be a Mom and I am so glad you went for it - I too experienced loss having had two miscarriages after my daughter and thought I would never have another - but some medical intervention and the wonderful drug "lovenox" (I have a blood disorder that causes me to develop clots while pregnant) - and my beautiful son was born a year and three months ago. Please take each day as it comes - God will send to you a blessing if it is right for your family - in the meantime, enjoy your son every minute (even if he gets into your makeup or draws on your walls!)... Love Lo X*
Claire said...
Thanks Lo!

Lorna said...
Delighted to find your blog. I had my kids at age 33 and 35 and planned to have another 2 by the time I was 40. 3 miscarriages later (had no probs with first 2) and lots of infertility treatment and aged 41 this month, we are going to adopt. But I so empathise with your feelings re not being maternal, even when I was pregnant with my first, I was wondering how on earth I could breastfeed and bond with this thing that would cry, smell and not ever sleep. Ok, he never slept but he was a gorgeous baby and I ended up breast feeding him till he was 2 so I sort of turned into an earth mother - far cry from the woman who was going to thrust him into the creche at 8 weeks and head back to work! I hope you have another baby - best of luck. Personally I think the later women leave having their kids, the more they enjoy them

Danka said...
Congrats on your baby! Loved your story! I have few friends who don't want kids or are not ready for them and my heart cries out but unfortunately they would never understand "us" (moms) what it means to see smile of your baby!

Claire said...
You are so right Danka. I am so glad I found out before it was too late!

Claire said...
Lorna, I love your story. I think it's great to adopt also. The very best of luck with it.