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.

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