30 November 2011

Emma's Diary

You may have noticed recently I've not been writing much about our struggle to conceive and there are two big reasons. The first is that there isn't much to say. We're slowly working our way through the Clomid and have one more cycle to go before we can be referred for IVF.

The second is that I'm one of Emma's Diary's new bloggers (you may have spotted the badge on the right), so much of my infertility angst has been vented over there instead. (I thought you might like a break from it!)
If you would like to catch up on my posts there:
Right now it's some stupid time in the morning because I can't sleep. Yet again I'm being taunted by my irregular cycle length and early spotting. Yesterday morning I had enough spotting that I thought my period would be starting in the next couple of hours. Instead it's disappeared completely over the last 48 hours. As each hour passes my hopes get higher and higher.  Even though I'm sure this has happened before, I'm suddenly thinking forward and making hopeful plans.

I'm now wondering when to try a pregnancy test. I get the impression that most women test early with the hopes of getting a positive result. I've realised I tend to test early so I can get the bad news sooner, to squash my hopes before they become painful. So do I test in the morning (Day 27#) or do I wait till Thursday? How much pain will that extra day cost me if I get the expected negative result?

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Update:  I gave in and took the test. Negative as expected.

27 November 2011

Step Down Sunday - Organisation

Step Down Sunday It feels like the last few months have run away from me, and I was struggling to think of any note worthy changes we’d made - but I realised it’s not just the big things.  We're trying to change the way we make decisions and the way we approach problems - I suddenly realised I had an example of that.

This week I’ve been quite desperate to organise my desk drawers, specifically I wanted something to corral my pens so I don't have to search through the whole drawer to find one.

I was nostalgically recalling some plastic drawer dividers I used to have as a teenager that would have been perfect, so I started searching the internet for a suitable replacement. I did find this set from Lakeland which is quite similar and I was sorely tempted, but besides being a bit expensive for a bunch of plastic trays, I couldn’t help thinking it was also rather wasteful. Surely I should be able to find a cardboard box that would work?

Most of the boxes I found were much too big, but I remembered I had an empty Kleenex box upstairs. I was a bit dubious that it would work, but I’d give it a try. As I left the room with my reclaimed box I spotted a forgotten gem. Two years ago I was given a Cath Kidston umbrella, which came in an equally pretty box.  So pretty in fact the empty box has been sitting on my dresser ever since – and it’s the perfect size for pencils! I snapped it up and dashed back downstairs.
Cath Kidston Boxes
This box was just what I was looking for - it’s strong, durable and attractive. And even better because the box has a lid I get two matching trays for my drawer!

It’s not exactly impressive, but by resisting the easy plastic option I found I had the perfect solution right under my nose. I just needed the time to think of a better solution (though being a bit of a packrat also helped!)

Have you made come up with any creative eco-solutions recently?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.


23 November 2011

The Ministry of Books

Quaker Faith & Practice
If I lived in a hypothetical world where I could only keep one of my books, I’d have to choose Quaker Faith & Practice. Faith & Practice is a collection of passages from Quaker writings that give advice and help explain what Quakers believe. It’s one of those books which always has something to offer whenever you open it.

Most meeting houses will have at least a few copies hiding on their shelves. Often when I go into meeting for worship, I pick one up and let it fall open randomly.  This means while I’ve read a good portion of the book, I can struggle to find specific passages.

For the last few months I’ve been searching for one of my favourite passages. I’ve searched and searched through my copy of Faith & Practise, but couldn’t find it. I’d just about given up when I went into Manchester for the mid-week worship. I picked up an old copy of Faith & Practice from the shelf and let it fall open.  Finally there was the passage I was looking for:

Quaker Faith & Practice 21.13
When we descend from our towers, and come out from our sanctuaries, and take our place in ordinary homes, and workshops, and are surrounded and jostled by our fellow-creatures, we find that our sensitive souls shrink from some of these contacts: that this man humbles our pride, and that one offends our aesthetic sense: that this woman takes our words amiss, and that one misconstrues and resents our actions. It is so much easier to feel enthusiasm for humanity, than to love our immediate neighbours.  -  Phyllis Richards, 1948

I suspect this was the book from which I first read this passage.

When a member of the meeting is moved to stand and speak, we call that ministry - and it occurred to me that each copy of Faith & Practice offers its own ministry. Over time the books become worn and well loved passages easily fall open.

If the book is owned by an individual you may find their voice within its pages, but if it’s a communal book like those found in our meeting houses – does it become something more?

I like the idea that each book has its own voice and personality, offering something different even though the words are exactly the same.

2 years, 5 months

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I am so jealous of women whose cycle runs like clockwork. Since we started trying to conceive my cycle has run anything from 22 – 30 days long. It makes that two week wait completely maddening, knowing things can start at any moment. Of course it is also affected by stress, and a bad month can short my cycle dramatically.

It looks like skipping the Clomid last month was a good idea, as this cycle has been one of my shortest at just 23 days long. Unfortunately this means our best TTC days will be right around a big nasty appeal date. After all that stress I really doubt I’ll be in an amorous mood.

While the first months can be fun, trying to conceive often begins to feel more like work as the years go by. It doesn’t matter what you have planned, if that date ends up with a big red circle around it you have to perform. So what do you do when you’ve got a pounding headache or you’d rather just curl up and go to sleep?

First we try to break the routine. We take some time for ourselves; maybe go out for dinner or a film. If you’re trying to save your pennies, you could make a special meal at home. I love sharing an intimate meal - things like tapas, dim sum, or a baked Camembert can make an easy fondue. I normally don’t drink, so even a single glass of Bailey’s can sometimes be enough to pull me out of my rut.

Another good tool can be romantic films or erotic fiction, which can act as a bit of foreplay for your mind. It doesn’t have to be a sappy chick flick either, we were surprised to find the flirty banter in Mr & Mrs Smith was enough to improve our mood - anything that can help remind you there was more to sex before you were TTC.

I’ve also found putting the effort into dressing up nicely can help. It’s far easier to feel sexy when you know you’re looking your best. (Though maybe this only works if you’re normally a scruffy thing like me.)

So there are my three tips for when TTC feels like too much work. Do any of you have some tricks I’ve not thought of yet? With a possibly long road ahead...I may need them!

This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog.

20 November 2011

Step Down Sunday - Tetra Pak Recycling

Step Down SundaySince tiding up our recycling area, I’ve been looking more at what we can recycle. One point of concern has been Tetra Paks. The official Tetra Pak Recycling website would suggest there are recycling points across the country, but at least in our area the information is very out dated.

I eventually called the council after I was unable to find any of the listed recycling points. Apparently since Tesco took control of the bottle banks in their car parks, the Tetra Pak recycling containers have been removed. This means there are no collection points in our area, and there seem to be none nearby.

There is however an unusual solution. You can save up your used Tetra Paks and post them directly to a recycling centre in Somerset. (This may be slightly misleading – there are no Tetra Pak recycling mills in the UK. Instead the cartons are shipped to Sweden where there are suitable facilities.)

There is also some concern that it isn’t true recycling. Tetra Paks can’t be turned into new Tetra Paks. The Tetra Pak recycling website says the paper fibres are removed and reused while the aluminium and plastic components are combined to create furniture. I have some reservations at taking this information at face value. It’s clear that Tetra Pak are trying to sell the product as environmentally friendly – I’m not sure how interested they are in keeping the information up to date.

Tetra Paks do have some interesting environmental claims. Tetra Paks take less energy to produce than cans. They can also be formed on site, unlike bottle or cans – so a single truck can deliver a roll of nearly a million litre cartons to the factory. Once filled cartons are lighter than cans and thus take less energy to transport, plus they are more space efficient so more can fit on a truck. Finally Tetra Pak UK claims to be carbon neutral company by offsetting the carbon created during travel and by electricity.

So even if the recycling option isn’t ideal, Tetra Paks do appear to save energy across the whole product life cycle. Not to mention, Tetra Paks are nearly impossible to avoid these days. So it seems the best solution is to keep these cartons out of the landfill.
Recycling Bins 
A month or two ago I found a narrow box that would fit neatly between our recycling containers, and since then we've collected 19 cartons. Yesterday we rinsed the containers and then packed them into a bit of old Amazon packaging. Then I printed out the special labels you can find here. (The platypus tells them they can throw the box straight in the shredder.)
Packaged Tetra Paks
Mr Goldfish popped down to the post office, and it cost us £2.16 send them on their way to become something new. We wanted to post things now so we could get an idea of the cost, but next time I think we could wait longer and pack more cartons in the box which will hopefully bring down the postage cost per carton. We may also look at the boxes we're posting them in to see if we can reduce the weight.
Recycling Label

Can you recycle Tetra Paks in your area? Are there other things you wish you could recycle?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

16 November 2011

11:11 11.11.11

Lightbox_1321009558542
Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

Though it's a bit silly, I've always made wishes. I can't help thinking that simply having hope is more likely to make your dreams come true.

In high school my best-friend used to make a wish whenever she saw the clock read 11:11, and over the years it's a habit I picked up. Now if 11:11 is lucky, surely making that same wish on the 11.11.11, would give it an additional boost.


I wished for our luck to change.


I wished for the child we've been desperately trying for. I wished for my appeal to be approved and give us just a bit of room to breath. I wished for Mr Goldfish to find a brilliant new job. I wished for direction, purpose and faith.

I wished for everything to turn out as it should.


13 November 2011

Step Down Sunday - Mooncup

Step Down Sunday This week’s Step Down Sunday is less about doing something new, and more about sticking with changes we may not be fond of. I’ve been using a Mooncup for over three years now, but it’s so tempting to give in and switch back to tampons. Despite my irritation I’m actually a big fan of the Mooncup. It’s comfortable, reliable, environmentally-friendly and saves me money.

If you’ve never heard of the Mooncup - it’s made from soft medical grade silicone. It’s placed inside the body like a tampon, but can be used for years. You just need to sterilise it in boiling water before each period. Mooncup have won lots of awards for being an ethical company and for reducing their environmental impact across all areas of the business. And if their green credentials weren’t enough, within just three months the Mooncup pays for itself. Anytime you use it after that you are saving money!
The part I’m struggling is the extra effort.  When my pain levels are high everything takes more energy and motivation.  In addition to my normal pain and fatigue, I’ve recently had horrible back pain from kidney stones and some rather nasty headaches from the Clomid tablets.  So the extra effort of cleaning the cup each time it’s emptied just makes the whole process more miserable.

One trick I’ve found that makes things easier is cleaning it with water, rather than wiping it clean with toilet paper.  If you have a sink within reach you can just run it under the tap, but if you have a separate toilet like we do taking a cup of water into the loo with you works as well. (It’s also easier to put in if it’s wet!)

I really would recommend the Mooncup to anyone, but it does take some commitment to choose the non-disposable option.


What eco-friendly changes do you struggle with?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

9 November 2011

Life Still Goes On

When you’re trying to conceive, especially over a long time, it’s easy to forget that normal life keeps going.  You can become so obsessed with tests, doctors appointments and schedules, that nothing else seems important.

We’ve had a tough year, and not just from a fertility point of view.  We had the ectopic pregnancy rupture in March, but we also had: our car broken into, the same car damaged again - just a week after it was repaired, we’ve had a couple of stressful weeks waiting to see if I had cancer, and finally we thought our pet cat was going to be put down.  That would be more than enough stress for anyone, even if we weren’t trying to start a family.

Last month we just pushed through all the stress, trying to keep to our TTC schedule.  We ignored all the additional problems and worries, as if they weren’t taking their toll.  Never giving ourselves the time to rest and regroup.  You get so used to holding your breath and blindly moving forward; hoping that everything is going to be all right next month, you forget that it’s okay to stop and breathe a moment.

So this month we decided to give ourselves a break.  We’ll skip the fertility drugs and the tests and instead we’ll try to recharge our energies.  I’m not sure four weeks is really long enough, but hopefully it will give us a new perspective.


This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog

6 November 2011

Step Down Sunday - Christmas Presents

Step Down Sunday We're running a bit late this year and have only just started our Christmas shopping.  So this week we've been trying to buy eco-friendly presents for our nieces and nephews. We've found it surprisingly difficult to stick to our goal - several times we've been on the verge buying into the high street offers and presents. In the end I think we've done pretty well, finding presents that are better for the environment without feeling sanctimonious.

I immediately noticed that there are virtually no eco-friendly presents for older children. We also have an added difficulty in that we don't want to give presents with a message. It's been our choice to reduce the environmental impact of our lives - not theirs, so we need to find presents that will still appeal to mainstream kids.
The youngest were obviously the easiest, for my two year old nephew we've purchased a wooden train set by BigJigs. Though wooden toys are often lauded as being eco-friendly (and probably are better than plastic), it is quite difficult to determine if they are made from sustainable wood.

For my four year old niece we've ordered a cute monkey made from organic cotton and sustainable rubberwood by I Love My Planet.  We plan to pair this adorable critter with a pair of Curious George books to give him some additional mainstream appeal.

Our next nephew is eight years old an I'm afraid here we've come up rather short.  Though we've not purchased it yet, we think we're going to buy Lego.  Though made from plastic, it's a toy that lasts for years and rarely gets thrown away.  So while not being eco-friendly itself we're going for something that lasts a long time and gets passed on and reused.

Finally my eldest niece is eleven years old and luckily has developed an interest in painting. After days of fruitless searching for eco-friendly craft supplies I found the Bird Cafe Kit by The Little Experience a UK based company. I'm a bit dubious that the kit includes disposable painting trays and such, but it seems highly recommended by several eco-stores.

I think we've done well to resist the easy options so far, but as we move on to the adults I think it will be much harder.


Do you have any eco-friendly present suggestions?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

3 November 2011

Halloween

Halloween snuck up on me this year. When I opened the door to find cute trick-or-treaters on my door step, I thanked my propensity for forward planning and dashed to the pantry for the large bags of Monster Munch I’d bought weeks before in anticipation.

Normally I find Halloween in the UK disappointing. The stores may import more and more Halloween products, but it just doesn’t have the same meaning and experience. Halloween is a community event in Canada. Virtually everyone participates and it’s an opportunity for creativity, sharing and includes people of all ages.

Little Witch

I believe this was my first Halloween costume. Mum made my costume and dressed me up as a witch - even going so far as to give me fake warts! My next costume was an infamous bunny rabbit. Again it was home-made and it was a brilliant costume for the Canadian autumn. You could fit jeans and extra layers under the costume for warmth and it even had built in mittens! However my mum was rather sneaky and put the biggest turn-ups you’ve ever seen on the legs. It left plenty of room to grow, and after wearing the costume for few years I was sick and tired of being a cute fluffy bunny.

Bunny Rabbit


Since then I’ve worn many costumes over the years from a shiny mermaid and fiery fairy to a creepy grim reaper – even a rather embarrassing Star Trek uniform, but after moving to Britain I’ve pretty much given up on the holiday. So imagine my surprise this year!  We had about fifteen trick-or-treaters, all in proper costumes and often with their parents.  They were all polite and cheerful - and it felt just like being back home! I suddenly remembered the magic and excitement I used to feel as a child.

I may have been the one giving out snacks, but I think I received the best treat of all.