Reflections on a Year of Change

M always says Fourth of July is the end of the year. What he means is that the second half of the year always seems to fly by much faster than the first. Back to school, Halloween, the holidays. It happens fast. When I think about how much has happened since the Fourth of July this year, when I was pregnant in Baltimore, it’s kind of mind-blowing.

As I reflect on this year of immense changes for our family, I’m thinking about how we’ve adjusted to our life in London. Today I walked E to school (well, pushed her on the buggy board attached to the pram), then continued down the high street to run some errands on foot. Then I boarded a bus with my pram, changed buses, and walked to a coffee shop in a neighbouring area to meet my NCT (National Childbirth Trust) antenatal class friends who have all had their babies now. We had a lovely time, taking over a large sofa area, drinking coffee and eating pastries and breastfeeding and changing nappies and demonstrating baby massage and talking talking talking.

Then I hopped another bus, picked up E from school, and got an Uber to her gymnastics class, where I made some tea in the kitchen area (I drink tea in the afternoon now, because you just do), and watched her through the window, as she happily participated in the group exercises and fearlessly threw her body at all the obstacles. She even figured out how to do a flip over the bar today! We were both so proud. Then we took two more buses (ugh, so crowded because of the train strike, thanks a lot, Southern Rail), and went to our local play café for a special Christmas magic show.

I’m sitting here typing while she’s off in the play room playing without needing me in there. Not long ago, she cried and clung to me at the beginning of gymnastics class, not wanting to go in without me. And she always wanted me to go into the play café play room with her. And until very recently she refused to shake the headmistress’ hand, which is what all the children do as they arrive and leave each day. Today she actually wanted to go back inside because she forgot to shake Ms. Annabelle’s hand, and wanted to make sure she did. How much my little girl has grown up and grown in confidence these past few months! Sure, we’ve had and are having behaviour challenges related to all the changes and the addition of a new family member, but overall, I’d say she’s adjusted really well. It’s not been easy. And she still talks about our house and her school and friends back in Baltimore, and talks about “when we go back.” It breaks my heart a little to know how much she misses her life there.

But she’s made friends now, and we have plenty of play dates “in the diary.” She slips in and out of a British accent, which can be hilarious. And she totally nailed her part as a shepherd in the nursery school nativity play last week, singing along in a British accent and doing all the hand motions. (Her one line: “Look! It’s there!”)

I’ve made some friends through E’s school, and through second-baby prep classes, and some neighbours. I learn new subtleties of the English culture every day. It goes well beyond differences in terminology, and I am often surprised by things I didn’t know.

As for M, he’s found a group of “lads” through his love of cycling and meets up with them for early morning rides several times a week. They call themselves the Pedal Pals, which is seriously lame. Love you, babe.

And hey, we’ve made it five months with no car! Since I was 16, I’ve had Josie Jetta, then Holly Honda Hybrid, then the Acura RDX that felt much too grown-up for a silly alliterative nickname, and now I’ve regressed in maturity all the way to Trixie Tricycle, our Nihola family bike. (Which I stopped riding at eight months pregnant and haven’t yet gotten up the courage to try with the baby in it with the car seat attachment.) Mostly I’ve got my trusty Uppababy Cruz buggy/pushchair/pram/stroller, my feet, and an Oyster card that gets me on any kind of public transit.

I’m excited for 2017. (Not politically. Ahem.) We’ve done the hard part. We survived the move. We settled into our house. M settled into his new job. We adjusted to a new way of life. We’ve made some friends. I pushed a baby out. Now we’ve got baby R a passport and I’m feeling like we’re ready to start the good stuff, one of the major reasons we went through all the hard stuff—travel and exploration and more new cultures and experiences. Moving a whole family abroad—while pregnant—is pretty brave, if I do say so myself. I’m freaking proud of us.

London Yummy Mummy Fashion Report Autumn/Winter ’16

You know all those mommy blogs where the moms look so stylish and they post a million pictures of themselves with little Pin It icons on each one so you can save their look to your style board in the hopes that one day you might get it together enough to put an actual matching outfit together? And now I have a blog, and live in a super cool international city, so maybe you’re hoping I can give you a style report on what the women are wearing over here this season?

Turns out this is not one of those kinds of blogs. Right now I have all of one pair of jeans that fits, and at any given time my shirt is accessorized with white crusty spit-up courtesy of one child and/or stickers courtesy of the other, and I look in the mirror and try to count how many people I might have interacted with while sporting an Olaf the snowman sticker on the underside of my left boob.

Literally the only fashion trend I’ve noticed here is knit hats with a pompom on top. ALL the women walking around are wearing them. If you aren’t wearing a “fur bobble” hat you might as well be headless. Lots of little girls and babies have them, too. Considering I’ve been pregnant and newly postpartum, the only clothes I’ve purchased here so far have been breastfeeding-friendly dresses. And a pompom hat. Because, when in Rome. (Faux fur for me, of course.)

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That is not me.

This morning, as I was pushing my kids in the pram up the hill behind all the other mums pushing their kids up the hill in their prams, who were all wearing their possibly Queen-decreed winter headwear, E noticed my hatlessness and said, “You need to wear your baby hat.” My baby hat? I asked her. “Yes, you had a baby so now you have to wear a pompom hat.” Well, there you have it.

This has been your Autumn/Winter London yummy mummy fashion report. Stay tuned for Spring/Summer ’17. It’s sure to be at least this comprehensive. Over and out.

Okay now you’re just being ridiculous.

What My Life in London Is Really Like

I’m baaaack! Between the new baby, a very demanding 3-and-a-half-year-old, a revolving door of family visiting from the States, and the never-ending loads of laundry cycling through my teeny-tiny washing machine and super-slow dryer that may or may not be operated by snails and tortoises gently blowing on the clothes as fast as they can, blogging hasn’t really been high on my priority list lately. I’ve got lots of recaps I need to write up, but may not get to these till 2017. But one night last week was so comically chaotic I was inspired to get back to sharing my stories.

Here’s what that night looked like:

Yep, if you follow me on Instagram, @ewalkphoto, you might think, “Wow, her life is so glam and fabulous!” Well, yes, I did take these pictures that evening. But here’s what the night was really like:

My brother and sister-in-law were visiting from Portland with their 4-year-old and 4-month-old. While we’ve had family in town, I probably definitely did way more than any normal person who just had a baby should in terms of going out and doing things, but I think I have some combination of feeling like I should play hostess/tour guide when people have come from so far away, and also wanting to do London-at-Christmas things myself, as well as having an older child so I can’t exactly stay home all the time, as that doesn’t really work for her. So the new baby has been out to all kinds of places in her first six weeks of life. Probably not the best idea, but then again, isn’t her sister bringing home all kinds of germs from nursery school already anyway? And this is a city of 8.3 million people, you can’t really go anywhere that’s not crowded.

Anyway, as I was saying, my family was in town, and my sister-in-law really wanted to go to an evensong service at Westminster Abbey. This was something I’ve wanted to do, too, as it lets you into the church without having to pay the £20 admission price. We knew taking two active little kids and two babies to this service was a tall order, and would likely not go perfectly, but we decided to give it a go anyhow.

I left early with E and baby R for a long bus ride there, as getting the pram up or down train and tube station stairs is physically impossible on my own, and we met my brother and SIL there, who were coming from a museum. We all arrived with time to spare, but of course as soon as we arrive E has to go potty. (She has actually started saying “go wee-wee,” as they apparently say at her school.) So we’re down in the bathroom of Westminster Abbey and she is taking for-ev-er and having some trouble with her bowels and repeatedly telling me to give her “some privacy” as I keep urging her to hurry up, the service is about to start. As the bells rang out in the church whose history dates back over a thousand years, the site of so many coronations and royal weddings, I had a particularly surreal moment of thinking about how my daughter is currently dropping a deuce within its hallowed halls.

We scooted to our seats just as the service was starting, and the next 45 minutes were tense, as my brother, SIL, and I desperately tried to keep our kids quiet and still. The music and service were beautiful, sure, but I can’t really say I enjoyed it, as I mostly stressed about getting E to stay in her seat, bribing her with fruit snacks and a Peppa Pig sticker book. (Baby R was a perfect angel who slept the entire time.)

When it ended, the three of us adults let out a collective sigh of relief that we made it through without any major incidents or outbursts or having to take one of the kids out. A very dapperly-dressed old man even told me our “children are mah-ve-lous.” A member of the clergy also complimented their behavior. Success! High fives!

Here’s where the evening gets good. We decided to take a bus back in the direction of home, and we’d find a place along the way to stop and get some dinner. Just as we got into view of the bus stop, there goes the number 87 we need. Womp womp. So we wait and wait at the stop, trying to keep the two older kids, who really need some dinner, from fighting with each other. Finally the next bus comes, and at that very moment E declares she really has to go poo-poo. “Can you hold it?” “No.” Ughhhh.

So I told my brother and fam to go on ahead and text me with where they get off for dinner, and we will come meet them. And I set off with my kids to find a toilet.

There are NO shops or restaurants in the Westminster area, however. My first stop was a guarded building across the street. The security guard told me to walk to the park nearby, and there are public toilets there. When we got there, the park was already closed and the gates were locked. So I did an about-face and headed back to Westminster Abbey, thinking I could plead with them to let us in. Also no—the guard told me there was a private service going on inside now and we couldn’t come in. Real nice, a church turning away a woman with a small child and an infant at Christmastime. Guess you can go defecate in a manger.

The guard did tell me where we could find public toilets nearby, but when we found them—closed and locked. At this point E was in tears from having to hold it.

Across the street to the Elizabeth II conference centre, which was also guarded with security, and at this point I was practically in tears too. I begged the guards, telling them my daughter was sick. Someone finally took pity and let us in. So there we were in some disabled toilet, and E is taking even longer this time, and R wakes up and starts crying and needs to eat. So I had no choice but to nurse her while standing up in this dirty public bathroom.

Ages later, E finally agreed she was finished, and we headed out, thanking everyone profusely. Back to the bus stop. There goes the 87 again. And another one right behind it. So I started running, as fast as I could while pushing a giant pram with a toddler standing on the back on a buggy board over the cobblestones, knocking E’s head into the handlebar in the process, which made her start crying. But we made it across the street in time to catch the second bus—PHEW.

Several stops later, as I’m once again breastfeeding, the bus driver announces the bus is terminating. We got on the wrong 87, the one that doesn’t go all the way back to Battersea. (This is the part of the story where my brother starts singing the music from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to add to my narration.)

I pulled the baby off the boob, who thanked me by urping all over my shirt and the bus seat. I loaded the kids back up, nearly tipping the whole pram over as I struggled to get off the bus and no one offered to help me.

At that point it was after 7 o’clock and E still hadn’t had dinner and I didn’t know where we were or when the next bus would be coming or where it would take us, so I ordered an Uber. It arrived immediately, so I was hurriedly trying to dismantle the pram and unload all the stuff out of it and get it folded up, while E was literally running circles around it yelling “Ring around the rosie,” and oh look, my coffee cup from earlier was in there and spilled the remaining contents in the bottom… I just started chucking things into the boot of the Uber driver’s car and finally got us all inside.

We finally made it home, ordered food from Deliveroo, got myself a much-needed beer, wolfed down my dinner as fast as possible so I could go put an overtired, very wound-up 3-year-old to bed. (Where was darling husband during this whole evening? Why, having a very civilized dinner with other adults and nice wine at a leisurely pace—it was his office Christmas dinner out.)

“Mommy, where’s your watch?” Oh, the watch I let you play with during the service at Westminster Abbey in order to occupy you for a few minutes and keep you quiet? EXCELLENT question, my dear.

**Collapses head onto arms on the table**

**Immediately remembers sleeve is covered in baby barf**

Ah, well, maybe Santa will bring me a new watch for Christmas. And maybe I will actually get a shower tomorrow. A girl can dream.