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.

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