Saturday, 9 April 2011


I've been thinking lately about the huge responsibility a parent has to make decisions for their children. Even before conception there are so many choices. The easiest path to take is to follow the general population. You don't cause ripples, you assume someone has researched for you, and if Mrs Bloggs' kids turned out OK, most likely yours will too.

Sometimes I wish I could take the easy way, but I can't. I feel I have to read up on every issue I encounter. Sometimes I come to a quick decision. It just feels right. I knew I wouldn't ever let my baby 'Cry it out'. Yes, I read a lot to support my decision, but I didn't need a book to tell me how wrong it feels to let a baby cry uncomforted. Then there are the decisions that took a little longer to make. I began bed sharing with a huge burden of guilt. I'd said all through pregnancy that I'd follow the FSID guidelines for safe sleeping, and keep my baby in a cot. After less than a week, she was in our bed, and closer research revealed that this was actually not just better for me, but also better for Alice, I felt vindicated.

Unfortunately, there are also decisions that I sit on the fence with. At 19 months old, Alice still hasn't had her MMR jab. Frankly, I hate both the idea of her having it, and the idea of her not having it. My heart and instincts are useless to me in this decision, and I'm so confused. Equally, should I get pregnant again, I don't know if I'll want dopplers and ultrasounds used on me. I find in medical matters, I'm completely clueless, and sway wildly from one point of view to the next.

In the natural parenting community, I think there is sometimes pressure (self imposed, I must add) to collect the full set: Breastfeed, babywear, bedshare, eat wholefood/vegan/raw/paleo/organic, don't vaccinate, use homoeopathy, home birth, practise EC, unschool, plus many others. Straying from these makes me feel uncertain. If people I respect and identify with have gone a particular way, maybe I should too. I suppose that a decision made purely to fit in with a particular group is as ill-considered as blindly taking the conventional route.

I may not always make the right choices. There are already many I regret, and there will be many more, but I hope my children will know I always had their best interests in mind.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Dandelion Syrup

After my previous post on dandelion tea, I thought I'd try a recipe using the flowers rather than the leaves. As ever, there are a million and one recipes for how to make it online, so I've cobbled my version together out of a few of them.

Pick as many flower heads as you can (ideally about 100) from a pesticide free area well away from roads. If you've got some in your garden, even better! Try to do this on a sunny day when the flowers are open.
As ever when foraging, make sure you are absolutely sure what you're picking. There are some look-a-likes of dandelions, make sure you check exactly what you've found first. The one you're after has an unbranching hollow stem from a rosette of leaves.

Cut the ends off the flowers with a knife and remove the green sepals. They are edible, but they'll make the syrup more of a muddy colour. Put the petals in a sieve. This step takes a lot of patience, so don't hurry it. Probably best done outside with a nice glass of something summery.

Rinse the petals and add to a pan with just enough water to cover them. Turn on a low heat until it reaches boiling point, then remove from the heat, put a lid on and leave overnight to infuse. If you've not got time, you could simmer the petals for 20 minutes instead.

Strain the liquid and weigh it. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Add the same weight of white sugar as liquid to your pan, and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Continue simmering until the liquid becomes syrupy. This took about half an hour for me.

Pour into sterilised bottles or jars and keep any opened ones in the fridge.

You can use the syrup as a cordial, poured over pancakes or add hot water for a soothing drink. Apparently, you an also add some pectin and keep boiling the syrup to make dandelion jam. A project for another day!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Dandelion Tea

I've been in need of a bit of a spring time tonic lately, so thought I'd make use of a plant that is permanently taking over my garden. Dandelions.

I'm no expert when it comes to nutrition and the properties of plants, but I do remember that an alternative and rather less charming name for dandelions is piss-a-bed! It's a handy reminder that dandelions have long been known as a diuretic, and act as a cleanser on the body. The whole plant is edible - roots, leaves and flowers. Apparently, it is a good source of Vitamin A and K and various other vitamins and minerals. See here for a fuller description.

To make my tea, I just pick about 10 young leaves, tear them into pieces and pour on boiling water leaving it to brew for about 5 minutes before straining. I like to add a drop of lemon juice for a fresher flavour.

Healthy, tasty and counts as weeding my garden!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Thanks Mum

It's my second Mothering Sunday since Alice was born, and I've been treated like a queen by my husband. You could argue that our mothering is something that should be celebrated year round, and it is for us, but I think it's nice to have a day when we can really focus on what we're grateful for.

I got thinking about my own mum and what a huge impact she's had on my journey as a mother. One of the many things I am grateful for is that she breastfed me until I was 18 months old until the day I said 'No gack', and that was that. I don't have any clear memories of her feeding me, but she often told me fond memories of how I fed, and I was brought up knowing that breastfeeding was not only normal and natural, but that it felt great too. Having her example before me as I started out as a mother, I never even considered formula as an option, and never doubted my ability to feed my baby. I'm sure that confidence is often half the battle when it comes to breastfeeding, and having a positive role model on the end of the phone boosted that confidence no end.

She had me at a time when she'd moved away from family, to a small town with few friends around her. She didn't read books on child rearing or take much advice from others (I am grateful for it!) but she mothered according to her instincts. She tells me now that she often felt as if she was doing it wrong. She fed me on demand and to get me to sleep. I was a fussy baby who frequently cried, and she would hold me rather than leave me to cry it out. Now I am raising Alice in much the same way, she says that she has come to realised that the way she did things weren't so bad after all!

I'm also grateful for the respectful way she raised me. There was no 'Because I said so" in our relationship. I was treated with the same consideration as an adult, and felt I would always be listened to. That feeling is something I hope Alice also experiences. My feelings, however odd, were validated rather than ridiculed. When I had a phase of nightmares, my parents' bed was always open to me, and always felt like a safe haven. When I struggled at school, my mum always took my side and recognised that sick days weren't always about physical illness, but mental welfare too. She was (and is) a fixer of things, and she'd take an interest in any problem I brought to her. She eased my path through my childhood, and is still doing it now I'm an adult.

We speak every day, usually more than once, and see each other every fortnight. She's my closest friend, and a wonderful grandmother to Alice. If I can be proud of any part of my mothering, it's because I was mothered so well myself. Thanks mum.