'; Susie Summers | CCC2019 cCHALLENGE
Finally landing gracefully into motherhood, nearly 5 years in...still chronically lacking in sleep.. With my husband and two young children, I've been living in the Park, Findhorn for 5 months.
My challenge
Go dairy-free.

Day +1: Our secret third cChallenge!

Before I became a parent, I swore I would Never, Ever buy or use a disposable nappy. Not even once.

I had no idea what parenting is really like! One important lesson I’ve learnt is that the only Never, Evers apply to judging other parents. We can’t put ourselves into the shoes of others and we don’t know what informs their choices (accidental or well thought-out, clutching at straws…or ‘the best I can do right now’).
While pregnant with my son, I investigated cloth nappies. I bought some second hand ones from a friend. They were enormous! When he was born I saw that was no way they would fit him or be at all comfortable or practical. We found some Eco-disposables and blithely I thought I was doing a reasonable thing for the planet in using them. I guess a bit of self-delusion helped here…and sleep deprivation…and desperation…
When he was nearly 2 I finally used the cloth nappies – they leaked and gave him terrible nappy rash. In the meantime, I had spent the equivalent of several days online trying to find a slimline, affordable, reliable cloth nappy to use. Eventually I resorted to using cloth training pants at home and Eco disposables when out and about.
When I was pregnant with my daughter I did even more reading about nappies. I was lucky to meet a doula who showed me how to use muslins with waterproof covers. That personal contact was so valuable and I believe it is what would really help more people to use cloth. I used these with my daughter until she was quite some months old, when they were not sufficient any more. Then after a difficult time personally I fell back to using Eco-disposables most of the time. Months passed…we arrived here and I borrowed some cloth nappies from a new and generous friend. Once again they tended to leak. I did keep using them at home (my daughter is much more aware than my son was and would often tell me when she was wet which helped!).
Finally at around Christmas time, I felt some energy at last to try again with cloth. I had found out the fallacy of Eco-disposables – they don’t actually biodegrade very well under normal waste circumstances. Bitter disappointment and anger!!! It took probably around 10 hours online to find our solution as it is such a complex and varied marketplace. I went for a Polish a brand called Milovia. They dry quickly, work perfectly, and feel comfy and look pretty (important for the wearer who is now coming up to being 2..). Her skin did take a while to adjust but she seems fine now. It’s such a relief to have solved this one!
I can totally understand why it is so difficult for most parents (including many climate conscious ones) to use cloth nappies with any regularity. Not to mention the extra washing… I hope that by writing about it I give a little window for non-parents to understand. There’s so much more I could say – about the nitty gritty of daily life as a parent, how many pressures there are, how we often spiral into difficult patterns, how much energy it takes to make a change, how many demands there are on our time and money, how easy it is to get drawn into an easier and more convenient solution.
For now I’m just glad that we have a solution that works! And I’d like to think about what might be useful for other parents who felt the same as me about this issue.


Day 29: How did we do??

This has been such an interesting process for us!

I would sum it up like this:
Week 1 we were super keen and dedicated, enjoyed new discoveries and challenges. Rode out the difficult times (being more hungry, being able to shop even less freely than usual).
Week 2 we enjoyed, really bedding into it and imagining we could easily continue both challenges.
Week 3 we all fell really ill with flu. During this week we tried to keep the challenge going! This was a mistake….I ended up chronically hungry, as the loss of appetite experienced with illness left me able to eat only wet foods (fruit) and craving milk, and toast with butter…I held out…the children were eating virtually nothing with the illness and I was breastfeeding night and day…I was saved my some bone broth made by a friend in the community…thank you Stacie! Without this I would have been eating almost nothing…
Week 4 CRASH! I fell apart through hunger and frustration … This was hard! I decided to give in and allow myself to have some milk and toast with butter. The children jumped at the chance of cheese on toast, and their appetites slowly started to come back. Phew. It was a big relief to me that they would eat again. Somehow I couldn’t get to this point without dairy. I think it’s deeply built into my system as a go-to food…I felt disappointed and cross with myself, first for NOT being able to keep the challenge, and then for holding out so long! With the help of a kind friend I decided to let it go and not be hard on myself about not meeting the challenge. After all, flu is pretty debilitating and I didn’t need anything else on my plate just then.
Since then, I have continued to make around half of our meals dairy-free, and we try to minimise plastic. However, I have to put my family’s health and happiness first and so we do have now have pasta with cheese (for the children, and often me too – Berent is sticking with no dairy sprinkles which I also use to cut down the cheese I eat..) and the children have had goat’s milk recently too though they mainly drink oat milk. I’m using a mixture of non-dairy fats and oils in other cooking, and making quite a lot of splodge. It feels like a good balance.
Looking back, I can see how interesting it is that we chose those 2 challenges for our little family. As it turns out, we were already doing almost as much as we could manage on both fronts! (Berent will be weighing in the plastic soon…). We were already very restrictive with ourselves in terms of what we bought and ate at home. I feel happy we tried, because now I know firmly where my limits are at this time. When I have finished nurturing my children and am able to sleep through the night once again, I hope I will be able to become fully or mainly vegan. But for the moment – we have enough to deal with and we are just trying our best and doing what we can.

Day 13:

We are all ill this weekend! Berent has already worked his way through the worst of it during the week, but on Thursday night Oscar had a fever and droopiness which has gradually got better each day (though he is still a bit ‘peaky’). Sophie and I were struck down with it last night.

One of Oscar’s requests on Friday was for cow’s milk. I would never deny him while he is ill, so we bought a litre in the Phoenix. After one mouthful he proclaimed it is ‘disgusting’…! He has been sipping on oat milk periodically since then.
However, having the cow’s milk in the house not being drunk, we succumbed to both pancakes AND a chai latté (the one thing I’ve actually been missing) on Saturday. It gave me a weird feeling in my stomach, though I did enjoy the taste of the latté. I think I prefer pancakes with plant milk now. I have also recently made some thick ones without eggs, using bananas instead, which were very good, especially with a bit of baking powder and leaving the batter to rise for around 30 minutes before baking.
Interestingly, we are saving money under our new regime. A noticeable amount. I’m not sure whether this is just due to the naturally austere nature of January and the fact that we don’t have much money this month (self-assessment income tax due next week…) so we are being extra careful. I think, too, that cheese is very expensive, and as we are making some of our own oat milk (at least, Berent is!) we are saving there too. The main saving may well be not buying packaged foods. Again, I previously thought we were a low consumer of these, but I do notice more and more things I ‘can’t’ buy at the moment and normally would. I also think that eating dairy encourages me to binge on other foods which I haven’t been doing so much. We’ll see if these things continue longer term.

Day 7: Splodge

Our favourite new protein source is ‘splodge’. It’s tasty and healthy and not difficult to make. I mix together the following with a stick blender until smooth:

Mashed potato, leeks, a good quantity of beans (mixed, or white, or chick peas), salt, toasted sesame or other seeds.

I have also included things like leftover brown rice, and red lentils.

Then I splodge it onto a greased baking tray and bake it in the oven on a medium temperature until it firms up. I try to use the oven for something else at the same time so as to use the heat efficiently.

Splodge is very popular with the children! I like it with chilli jam.

Day 5: Cheese withdrawal…

Before I started this challenge, I thought that we were low consumers of dairy. That might be true in a relative sense, but I have been finding it very difficult to be without cheese. Milk is fine. We have replaced it with oat milk and that seems to be ok with everyone (though I do miss a milky drink once in a while, it’s a sacrifice I feel happy with). And butter is not a problem. But apparently…cheese contains a chemical that makes it as addictive as cocaine!! So … We are all in a deep withdrawal. And I am finding myself quite short-tempered. And hungry. The first two days I’ve had an insatiable hunger and found it hard to imagine being able to eat enough. However, today for the first time I managed to feel happy after the meals, so maybe my body is starting to get used to the change. And I notice I need to adjust quantities up so we eat enough. Yesterday’s cashew and butter bean curry really hit the spot and I felt very full for the first time since starting the challenge.

As Berent (my husband) is also doing the challenge, trying to reduce plastic, we are both experiencing both challenges as we shop and eat together. Finding dairy-free, plastic-free food is VERY DIFFICULT, especially when any other challenges in everyday life come into the picture. We are also aware of not using too many food miles. It’s time-consuming. I have decided that eggs will stay as a fairly regular part of our diet for the moment as it’s too difficult to do everything at once.

Here’s a picture of Thursday’s dinner. We ate about twice as much as this, with a second helping very necessary. It was actually satisfying. I did feel the need for chocolate afterwards though!

Day -2: Pasta WITHOUT CHEESE?????!

I’ve been pretty horrified to realise the full impact of eating dairy, both on the environment and on animal welfare. Finally I feel some energy to do something about it, so here I am!

We’ve been gradually counting down to the start of the challenge by eating more and more dairy-free meals, finding alternatives, getting out the habit of buying dairy, and using up stray bits and pieces from the fridge. We’re also aiming to reduce our egg consumption, though for the moment we won’t cut them out completely while we adjust.

This is a challenge for all 4 of us in the family – none more so than our wonderful 4 year old son who LOVES cheese. Are we being too mean in even expecting him to give it up, I wonder? After all, he is too young to understand the full impact and reasons behind our choice.

Two days ago we had our first cheese-free pasta meal. It took a loooong time for Oscar to agree to eat his pasta WITHOUT cheese. He didn’t seem to recognise it as a meal in the beginning and was quite upset. I started to wonder whether this is going to be possible for us… Eventually he did eat 2 helpings. Luckily for us adults, Berent has come up with a wonderful alternative – fried garlic, toasted sunflower seeds and salt crushed in the blender (pictured). It’s actually much nicer than cheese. Unless you are 4 years old, it seems…