Friday 28 February 2020

Taylor Shaw & The Reappearing Vegan Options

Three years ago, I wrote an article entitled How I secured vegan free school meals for my daughter for The Metro (this was during my very brief stint as Unofficial Spokesparent for Vegan Families). Then, a year later, I wrote an update on my blog because the vegan school dinners my daughter had been enjoying were suddenly no more. 

My daughter's school is catered for by Taylor Shaw catering company. They seem to do catering for quite a lot of schools. I know this because I've spoken to parents of vegan children at some of the other schools. The company made the decision to stop providing vegan options because, according to them, they didn't need to. 

With Ember due to start reception in September, I'd started to worry about the lack of vegan options available. She's already one of the youngest in her year, and I think a hot dinner helps them get through the day. So, I'd been planning to get in touch with Taylor Shaw again to ask more questions about their policy of not providing vegan options. 

It seems a little outdated, considering the growing popularity of veganism. Many schools are introducing vegan options as a way of reducing their carbon footprint, and this is something supported by pupils who are keen to make environmentally-friendly choices. Many of the vegetarian options would be easy to veganise, so it felt unfair that the catering company were refusing to make small changes that would make their food more accessible. 

Primary schools put a lot of focus on inclusivity, empathy and celebrating differences, so it felt at odds to have a lunchtime ritual that failed to meet these standards. Even on special days (bizarrely, America Day is a thing at my daughter's school, where all the kids eat unhealthy food and celebrate a country governed by a man who likes to 'grab pussy'), they make no effort to offer vegan options.

So, it was more than a little irking in Veganuary (the month formerly known as January) when I saw the following tweet by Taylor Shaw catering:

I mean, if that's not a bare-faced attempt at jumping on the vegan publicity bandwagon, I don't know what is. 'Hey, try some vegan food, no, not at school, lol, we won't provide it.' I got strain from eye-rolling so hard. I tweeted them back to ask whether this signalled the introduction of vegan food to their menu. 

I received an email in response explaining that yes, the company would be introducing a vegan menu during the summer term. Obviously, it isn't the summer term yet, so I don't know whether this will actually happen, but I very much hope that it will. I'm excited to see the meal choices and for my then four-year-old to be able to enjoy a hot dinner with her friends each day. 

I don't know what inspired this change of heart from Taylor Shaw, but I have a sneaking suspicion it might have something to do with the recent discrimination court case. The court ruled that veganism is a belief protected by law and that vegans should not be discriminated against. Whatever the reason for the introduction of vegan options, I'm just happy to see things changing for the better. 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Pregnancy Update: 24 Weeks

Week 24 has been all about gestational diabetes for me. I don't have it, or not that I know of anyway, but I had an appointment for the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) coming up so it was on my mind. After having one perfect home birth and one imperfect hospital birth, I'm keen to try and avoid all things medical this time, if I can. 

The only risk factor I have for gestational diabetes is Ember's eye-watering birth weight. Yes, she was massive (the size of a large elephant), but she was also very late (17 days, don't you know). If she'd been born on time (wouldn't that have been nice), she would have been under the weight limit and I wouldn't need the glucose tolerance test at all. It all felt kind of arbitrary, and I've been obsessing over it for weeks.

AIMS (Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services) have a book about gestational diabetes which I was keen to read before making up my mind. I like to research. The lovely doulas from Greater Manchester Doulas very kindly leant me a copy of the book so I could make an informed choice. I found the book really helpful and it gave me the confidence to discuss the test with my midwife at my 24-week appointment. 

By this point, I'd already decided I was probably going to decline the test (unless my wonderful midwife managed to convince me otherwise). From my research, I'd already figured out that a gestational diabetes diagnosis would make everyone panic that was my baby was going to be huge. [Spoiler: it probably is. I think I just make big babies.] I'd then be offered growth scans and possibly an induction, both of which I would refuse, so really, what was the point in the test? 

At my appointment, I mentioned to the midwife that I was thinking of cancelling the test. She smiled wryly like she had perhaps been expecting me to say this. She said that if glucose showed up in my urine test at my appointments then I should have it, and I was happy to agree to that. 

In the meantime, I've decided to eat a low glycemic diet so that even if I did have gestational diabetes (which I don't), my blood sugars would be regulated. So, for the rest of the pregnancy, I'll be eating a vegan low glycemic diet. This means no sugar, no white bread, no pasta, no white rice. Basically, all of the best foods are off-limits. I'm ok with this though. Even on Pancake Day which I truly feel shows my commitment to the cause. 

My 24-week appointment fell in half-term so I took the kids with me. Ember told the midwife all about the giant pond in our garden (it was a lawn, it's now a puddle) and how she'd just finished her last piece of Christmas chocolate. And she suggested that maybe the baby would come out that day and then seemed disappointed when the midwife said not. It took the midwife a while to find the heartbeat (always terrifying) and Ember suggested that perhaps that was because the baby didn't really like the midwife. 

I spent most of my 24th week of pregnancy in a bad mood in the bath. It's possible I am hormonal, or hungry. I couldn't go walking all week because of half-term and I don't think this helped. When I did finally get to go after a week off, my pelvis was not happy. I think the key is to never stop walking and then it's ok. I will be making this my mantra for the rest of the pregnancy. 

If you missed last week's update, find it at Pregnancy Update: 23 Weeks.

Saturday 22 February 2020

Pregnancy Update: 23 Weeks

Week 23 has been tiring, but I think that's probably more to do with life than pregnancy. Laurie had an assignment due in for his masters so he has been working on that every spare minute. This is, of course, totally FINE. And, even better, there's another one due in two weeks time so there will be no rest for the wicked. You probably think Laurie is the wicked because he is trapped writing essays, but no, I am the wicked because I am pregnant and tired and really would love to not do ALL of the childcare and house stuff. 

I took the kids down to London for a day over the school holidays. We went with my family and visited the Tutankhamen Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. If you're worried about seeing the exhibition in London and it not feeling very Egyptian, fear not, because they have made the Saatchi Gallery approximately 50 degrees inside so you can really appreciate that exotic experience (but with your coat on, so, even better). Ebony really enjoyed it because she's been learning about the Egyptians at school. Ember really didn't because 1) she hasn't 2) she doesn't like to stand in a line for three hours and 3) she doesn't like London. She concluded our expensive day out by explaining that she just likes Romiley and will be staying home in the future, not going to London. 

After London, we went to Bedford to celebrate my Grannys' 100th birthday. Then we drove all the way home and had to keep stopping so I could pee. Pregnancy is really not suited to long journeys. 

Pregnancy-wise, this week has been pretty non-descript. The baby has started punching or kicking me in the bladder without warning so this is lots of fun, especially on long car journeys. I have felt tired and heavy and like I have the back of a 100-year-old. I have spent a lot of time in the bath and have given up picking things up off the floor. If they fall, they're gone now. I will retrieve them in June. 

If you missed my 22 weeks update, you can find it here.

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Pregnancy Update: 22 Weeks

Now I'm 22 weeks, I finally feel safe thinking of myself as halfway through. Ember was born at 42+3 (you can read about that here), so 20 weeks really isn't halfway through to me. Obviously, I'm hoping this baby will arrive promptly, the thought of going overdue again is quite horrifying. You don't know waiting until you've gone overdue. 

Week 22 has felt pretty uncomfortable if I'm honest. I think I'm getting to that stretching stage of pregnancy where your bump hurts for no apparent reason. I've spent a few evenings in the bath trying to ease my stretched ligaments. In my last update, I said that I'd run out of bath bombs and the very next day some arrived anonymously in the post. I have no idea who sent them but I cried when I opened the parcel, what a lovely thing to do. So I have been working my way through the thoughtful bath stuff and getting plenty of early nights.

I do not cope well with lack of sleep generally, but it's definitely worse during pregnancy. I am going to bed at the same time as the kids most nights, reading for a little bit (ok, sometimes a lot) and then trying to get as much sleep as possible. But, also, I have to pee approximately 8,000 times a night so the amount of sleep I get is limited. Like, last night, I was in bed for 12 hours and I got 7.5 hours of sleep (which I realise is pretty damn good). I worry that all this time lying down will not help with the baby's position. 

I've been going on lots of walks and trying to stay active. I go most days after dropping the kids at school in the morning, which gets it out of the way and is a good way to start the day. I decided to not go during the storm though because the thought of getting hailed on really didn't appeal to me. I've also been trying to sort the house out, and moving furniture and mopping even though I know I shouldn't. I do pay for it later in the day, but it's nothing a bath won't ease. And if I was waiting for Laurie to do these jobs then they wouldn't get done because he is currently spending all of his spare time working on an assignment for his masters. My top life tip would be not to do a masters when you have a grumpy pregnant wife.

I like the second trimester a lot. I am enjoying the break in symptoms, I did not like the first trimester at all. I do dread the third though, it's so slow and you're so heavy. 

Thursday 6 February 2020

Vegan Valentine's Day Gift Guide

1. Have you ever seen anything so wonderful as this vegan art print? I think not. It is perfect in every way. You can purchase this Spice Girls inspired print for £3.50 from Etsy

2. Aim high, right? I would never in a million years give or receive something this expensive for Valentine's Day, but hey, you might so I'm including it. I love this Matt & Nat vegan bag, £140 from John Lewis.

3. If you'd rather avoid buying flowers that will quickly perish, you could opt for a plant, instead. You can get this potted red rose plant delivered for just £19.99 from Serenata Flowers.

4. In case you were wondering, bath stuff is the way to my heart. The Dirty Vegans products smell amazing, so I had to include this Vegan is Love gift box, £26.99 from Etsy.

5. I think this vegan journal is a must-have. It's a weekly food planner and shopping list, and it's currently in the sale so it's only £7.50 from Paperchase.

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to buy something through one of my links, you won't be charged extra but the company will pay me a teeny amount as a thank you. 

How awesome is that Spice Girls print though, seriously? I really need it in my life. 

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Pregnancy Update: 21 Weeks

The weeks are going so fast, it's almost hard to differentiate between them. With being in a school routine, all the weeks kind of seem to melt into one. I have definitely noticed some pregnancy changes this week, however.

A week ago today, when I was 20+6, I had my 20-week anomaly scan at the hospital. I really wanted to take the kids with us but decided not to, in the end. I knew they'd love seeing the baby, but you can't predict how these are things are going to go, can you? 

The sonographer was training a student during the scan, so she was going through everything she saw on the screen and explaining how to figure out which way to move the transducer to find the right shots of the baby. It's all about the angles, apparently. At one point, she found the feet and then turned the wand and two little footprints (kind of) appeared on the screen, which was sweet. 

At the start of the scan, I was too scared to look at the screen in case she accidentally zoomed in on the baby's sex. I really didn't want to know. At one point, I thought I saw a burger on the screen and I thought the surprise was ruined, but then she told her student it was the heart or kidney or something. This was when I realised a career in sonography is probably not for me. Clearly, I do not have the necessary attention to detail. 

The baby was moving for most of the scan, the sonographer struggled to get a face shot because the baby was facing towards my feet. It was nice to see the baby move on the screen, I have an anterior placenta so I can't always feel so many movements throughout the day (which is not reassuring). 

The baby's movements are getting bigger and more noticeable, but I only feel them when I'm lying down still. With my other pregnancies, I've been able to feel more frequent movements. Anterior placentas suck. Ebony has felt the baby kicking a couple of times, and quite often asks me if the baby is awake to see if she can have another feel when I'm lying in bed. Ember pretends she can feel it too but I would bet my life savings (approximately nothing) that she can't. And she says things like, "The baby tried to hurt me. The baby isn't being kind to me. The baby is being a bit spicy today." So her as an older sister is clearly going to be fun. I fear she may be a bit of a spicy sibling, whatever that means.

My SPD or PGP or shit hips or whatever you want to call it is feeling a lot better at the moment. I'm not sure whether that's because my hormones are under control or because I've finally cracked pregnancy, but it's nice not feeling in pain so much. On days when it does play up, I have been having baths which I think helps. Although, I have now run out of Christmas bath bombs which feels terribly cruel when there are so many weeks of pregnancy left. I've been listening to my hypnobirthing affirmations in the bath which is relaxing.

I had a cold over the weekend and felt really rubbish, but I mostly stayed in bed or in the bath and now I feel human again. Laurie was poorly too so the kids didn't have the most exciting of weekends. Although, he did take them on a big bike ride on Saturday which there's no way I could have done (which I think is proof that I was the illest). 

If you missed my 20 weeks pregnancy update, you can catch up here.

Monday 3 February 2020

Books I Read in January

Ok, this is a new post idea. I'm trying to read more books this year, so I decided to share what I've been reading here. I've been using the Good Reads app to track my reading. I set myself a challenge to read 26 books this year. I realise that's not many, but I am having a baby in June, so I think my reading is likely to suffer in the second half of the year because I'll be too tired to understand words. This post contains affiliate links, you won't be charged any extra if you choose to use any of these links to purchase your books, but I will get a teeny tiny sum each time you do.

Here are my January reads:

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men 
by Caroline Criado-Perez 
Laurie bought me this for Christmas, and it was the first book I read in 2020. I loved it, in an I-am-so-angry kind of way. This book should be on the to-read pile of literally everybody. It's crazy to see how many ways women are ignored and how this impacts on women's health, safety and daily lives. Even if you think you already know lots about this subject, this book will contain new information you haven't heard before. I learnt so much reading this book. Buy it now!

A Woman Is No Man
by Etaf Rum
I got this book for Christmas, too. I hadn't heard of it before but was keen to read it. It's a debut novel and is simply fantastic. The story follows different generations of the same family as they deal with the problems facing women in conservative Palestinian-American families. The book is narrated by the various female characters and their different dreams, perspectives and challenges. I found myself unable to stop reading because I was desperate to know what happened next. I found myself completely immersed in their world, and I was sad to leave when the story was over.

by Ali Smith
This is actually Laurie's book, and he hasn't read it yet. I am a terrible person. In my defence, I am pregnant, and it was the closest book to me. Laurie was away for a couple of nights, and I knew I could read it fast. I treat books with the utmost respect, and so if I hadn't told him, he probably wouldn't even have realised that I stole his book's virginity from him. I was looking forward to reading this book because I enjoyed Autumn and Winter so much. Spring absolutely lived up to its predecessors. I love the way Smith writes, especially the rambling rants that appear throughout the book. I think she is so talented and has such an interesting of writing.

The Silence of the Girls
by Pat Barker
This was another of Laurie's books, stolen before he'd had a chance to break the spine. Truly, I am a terrible wife. I didn't know anything about this book before I started reading. I never read the blurbs. For some reason, I thought this was going to be a feminist dystopian novel perhaps set in the future, I have no idea why. In fact, it is a book about Achilles, the Greek God, but told from a woman's perspective. The book is more about the lives of women living during the war. It's depressing, like the lives of women in wars. 

It's not a book I would have chosen if I'd known the subject matter, Gods and myths and fantasy don't really appeal to me, but having said that, I really enjoyed this book. I found myself completely committed to the characters and their struggles throughout the story. I don't know anything about Greek mythology, but I didn't feel that this limited my enjoyment of the book. I liked the book a lot, and if you're into Greek mythology, then it's probably an even better read.

by Barbara Kingsolver
I had decided not to buy any new books until I've read all the ones gathering dust on my bookshelf. I am terrible for buying books. I love books, but I have a lot I am yet to read. So I decided to work my way through those before buying any more. Then the very next day I bought this because I like to immediately fail all self-imposed challenges. And also because I loved The Poisonwood Bible by the same author so I couldn't not buy this. If you haven't yet read The Poisonwood Bible, do.

I didn't love this book as much as I loved The Poisonwood Bible, but I should probably stop comparing them as they are different books. Unsheltered is beautifully written, and the characters are immediately engaging and likeable, but it wasn't one of my favourite reads this month. It featured two stories based on characters living in the same place years apart. I loved the modern story and its characters, but I was less engaged with the story and characters from the past. This is a problem I have though, and it's why you won't find many classics on my read list, I seem to find it hard to engage with characters from times gone by. I still enjoyed the book, though, and one of the characters from the past story was particularly interesting because she was based on an inspiring woman. 

Top Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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