Last Saturday, we decided to explore the nearby neighbourhood of Tooting. They were having a little festival that day, called Tootopia (“Saluting Tooting!”), so we figured it would be a fun day to head over there.

Tooting has definitely seen some recent gentrification. This was very evident at our first stop of Tooting Market, which has some of the old shops and food stalls mixed in with your typical hipster finds of artisan coffee shop, juice bar, and vegan whathaveyou.

We tried to go to a chocolate-making workshop for kids, but it turned out that you had to book ahead for that. Bummer.

So we headed over to the Tooting Leisure Centre, where they had a soft play area with ball pits and slides, and let E do that for a while.

Then we went to a big pub that was doing a “street food takeover” with a bunch of different food carts set up in their big back garden, and some tables of handmade arts and crafts by local artists. I had the best bao buns, and even E liked hers! I then ate half of M’s patatas bravas, before we hit the baked goods stand—twice. We discovered something called a “tiffin,” which is a bar made from crushed digestive biscuits mixed with dried fruits and topped with a layer of chocolate. We had to go back for more!

We then just wandered around the main streets a bit before taking the bus back home. We definitely want to go back to Tooting for good Indian food sometime soon!

Hampton Court Palace

If you think going to a palace for the day sounds like a snoozefest for a 3-year-old, wait till you see Hampton Court. It’s awesome.

A few weekends ago, we took the train there for the day. Just this past May, they opened the Magic Garden, a fantastic, fantastical playground featuring a big sand and water play area, tall castle towers with slides, an underground grotto, and even a fire-breathing dragon (OK, maybe it’s just a little steam, but STILL). E had a blast doing everything in the Magic Garden, and practicing curtseying and saying “Your Majesty.”

There’s also the UK’s oldest hedge maze, which we did twice, because E had so much fun trying to solve it. We also sniffed lots of roses in the gardens, roasted some meat in the enormous castle kitchen, and checked out the chapel. There’s a lot more I’d like to go back and see without a 3-year-old along, of course, but we really had a great time doing things she enjoyed, too.

There and Back Again

It’s been a month since we returned from our nine-day trip back to the States. It finally feels like we are settling in here, and this is feeling like home. Even E looked around a couple weeks ago and said, “This looks like our home.”

When I went to apply for my UK bank account, for the first time, I had to tick the “Homemaker” box in the employment category. Titles like that always rub me the wrong way—Stay-at-Home-Mom, Housewife; I prefer “Chief Domestic Officer,” thanks—but actually, I thought about it, and homemaking is really what I have been doing as my main job lately. Trying to turn this rented house in a foreign country into our family’s home. I’m nearly there. Once we get the pictures hung on the walls, I think I will feel like the house is put together. Hopefully before baby arrives!

This week of being off my feet because of my knee injury has felt like a big setback. I don’t do “taking it easy” well. Especially in the midst of the nesting phase of pregnancy. I realize this is probably a big fat sign that I have been doing too much and need to slow down, but did I have to come to a full stop? Fortunately, at least there’s hired help. If there is a silver lining to this week, it’s that we found an amazing nanny who can do flexible hours and is willing to take E to and from school and gymnastics class and even over to her house to play with her daughters. She has been a God-send. And E loves her! She’s probably going to be upset the first day I’m able to walk her to school again, ha.

Anyway, we had a great trip to Oregon and spent lots of quality time with family and friends, and made multiple trips to Target to get my fix. When we came back here, it felt more real, because we knew we won’t be Stateside again till February. Walking through customs at Heathrow, I felt like I had to flip a switch in my brain, to get back to saying and doing things the English way. Everything is just a bit more difficult here. Being in the States felt so easy; everything was so familiar and I didn’t have to think before I said something to make sure I was using the proper terminology, and I always knew where I was going and what things meant, and it was just… easy.

We’ll get there, though. We learn as we experience the cultural differences and we adapt. We try new things and go new places and meet new people and ask questions and then we know. People have stopped me on the street and asked for directions and I have confidently given them. I now know to order “turkey mince” when I want ground turkey and “shortcrust” when I want pie crust dough and and “filter coffee” if I want an American-style drip coffee instead of something made in an espresso machine. I know which stores stay open after 5 on Sundays. Just a few weeks into school and E has already started to develop an English accent. She’s softened her R’s and sharpened her T’s in her words, and it makes me laugh and I love it. She likes her new school, takes public transit like a pro, and proved to be pretty adaptable this week when I’ve asked her to go with near-strangers when I couldn’t walk her to school.

And I’ve made some friends. E and I have had lots of playdates with people who live nearby, and I’ve had a couple coffee and lunch dates with other mums while the kids are in school, too. I attended a four-week NCT (National Childbirth Trust) birth refresher course for mums in the area having their second baby this fall, which was educational but also social in purpose. So many people say they still get together with their NCT group years later. An instant group of friends with kids the same age, perfect!

So we’re settling in. Just gotta get the damn pictures hung.


Down and Out But Back Online

Well, my worst-case scenario has happened. Living in London, where I have to walk everywhere, in a very vertical house with lots of stairs, and don’t know many people, and have no family nearby, and I can’t walk. I hurt my knee badly at a pregnancy yoga class Monday night, and am in terrible pain, and did I mention I have a 3-year-old and am 34 weeks pregnant?

I went to the nearest hospital’s A&E, which is the UK version of the ER (stands for Accident & Emergency). I waited over an hour to be seen, and the doctor was nice, but she didn’t seem to know much about knees or be able to tell me what’s wrong with it or how long it will take to heal. I was sent off with a useless brace, some crutches (infinitely harder to use when pregnant), and instructions to ice the knee and take paracetamol (UK version of Tylenol), which is the only painkiller I can take when pregnant. Can’t really have an X-ray, either. She did book me an appointment with the orthopaedic clinic for tomorrow, so I’ll go and see what they say.

In the meantime, I’m relying on the kindness of acquaintances, and using the small network I’ve managed to create so far to ask for help. I’ve reached out to nearly everyone I’ve met and have contact info for to find people to walk E to and from school, and find a nanny or babysitter who can come help me out before and after school. I feel so helpless and I hate that feeling. I guess it could be worse… I could have a baby here already that needs me to be able to walk so I can care for her, too!

Thank you, new friends, who have offered help and are taking E to and from school and have brought me a crutch and spaghetti bolognese (though it did take me a minute to figure out what “spag bol” meant). You are amazing for taking pity on this poor expat-in-distress!

Now that I’m chained to the sofa, I should be able to catch up on blogging. I have lots of blog ideas in my head that I just haven’t managed to type up. No more excuses now, so get ready for some recaps of the last month!