11 September 2018

Blankets



I love homemade gifts. I think it is probably because my numero uno love language is quality time, and homemade gifts just feel like someone has handed you time in a package.

Since we announced that squishy little Ezra was coming into our lives, we’ve received some very special presents. Some of these presents were blankets, many which were handmade, and were given by some of the special women in Ezra’s life from all around the world. There is so much love and hope in every stitch I feel like there needs to be a record of them, so that is what today’s post is: a visual record and story behind each blanket. 

Play Quilt from Grandma Bingham

For years I’ve been telling my mom I wanted a quilt for my future baby to play on that was made with their visual development in mind. Since a baby’s vision develops slowly out of the womb, I wanted something high contrast, in black, white and red (as red is the first colour babies can discern).



I think she thought I was a little bit crazy, as I know her impulse (as with every proper grandma) is to make something soft and snuggly in pastels. But she did this especially for me, which is what makes it so special. Ezra has tummy time on this little quilted mat virtually every single day.

Swaddle Blankets from Grandma Young



Possibly the single most practical gift anyone has purchased for us are these two jersey swaddle blankets. They work for everything—blanket, spit-up rag, towel, you name it. They’ve in nearly all of our recent posts because we use them constantly. They were especially perfect given that Ezra was born in the middle of summer and they are not too heavy or hot. 

Also, I really love the animal print. 

Blessing Blanket from Auntie Elizabeth

As soon as my sister found out I was pregnant she offered to knit me a blanket. That is no small offer as these things take FOREVER to make. I was so excited. I had secretly been she'd offer as I’d been wanting an heirloom quality blanket for our baby blessings. She ended up making it out of natural-coloured baby alpaca wool so it feels (and smells) amazing. For reals, I could sleep face down on a blanket like this for the rest of my life.



In typical overachiever fashion, she also surprised me by making a matching pair of booties and hat to go along with it. When I saw those little booties I probably screamed out loud. And if not out loud there was crazy schoolgirl screaming going on in my head because they are the most lush (new British word that I love!) little things I’ve ever seen.

London Blankets from Great Grandma Bingham

Over the course of my fertility journey, my grandma has made me several lovely flannel blankets. Whenever she finds a London-themed print, she buys it and makes me a blanket. We always tease her about her fabric buying addiction, but it's one I've definitely profited from over the years.



Seeing Ezra with the red one above is especially poignant as she gave it to me when Jon and I were heading home after one of our family reunions. It was back in the dark trying-desperately-to-get-pregnant days. 

At the time, I had never had a late period. Not EVER. But I was about two weeks late on the day she gifted it to me (we hadn’t had a chance to take a pregnancy test yet as I didn’t want anyone in the family to find the test by accident) and I was certain I was pregnant. Jon and I had spent the whole car ride from Utah to Montana talking and dreaming and getting excited about baby. The next morning I bought a test, but before I could take it, my period started. 

I remember packing up the blanket after that and wondering if I was ever going to have a baby to wrap up in it. But now I do and it's a special reminder of how far we’ve come. 

Also, we need to take a moment to acknowledge the cuteness of his little outfit. An 80+-year-old lady in our church congregation had been in hospital for several weeks, but then (as soon as she got out) immediately went to buy him this glorious little romper so she could give it to me on Sunday. People are so kind. Our church family has been especially important to us.

Snuggle Afghan from Australian Nanna

The last blanket was the least expected. When Jon and I lived in Australia, we met this sweet woman named Debbie at the place that Jon was working. I’d go into his work sometimes and help her push through some of the more mundane paperwork, which is when we became friends. 



She was there the day after I found out about our low chances of having a baby, but said “I know you’ll have a little one, and, when you do, I’m going to make them a blanket and send it to you! I'm going to be his Australian grandma!” To my surprise, she was very serious. She sent us a gorgeous blanket with  this note:

"Once upon a time, there was a lady and a man, VERY deserving of a little one to call their own. They waited and waited and waited until GOD had chosen just the right baby to send to them. FINALLY, the most perfect little boy was ready and he was sent from heaven to the lady and man. They were so excited to know that soon they would be called Mummy and Daddy. 

While they went about getting ready for their gift, a Nanna in Australia who knew the Mummy and Daddy and how much they had longed for a baby, decided to make a blanket to keep the little one warm in chilly London. The Nanna chose snuggly 100% Australian Merino wool to make the blanket and began crocheting. She spent many, many nights in her chair making sure each stitch was as perfect as the next. A little dog named Wilson sat on Nanna's lap all the while, keeping her company. 

One day, while the Nanna was at work, the little dog (who could be very naughty) tried to do some of the blanket himself. The Nanna came home that night to find a big hole right in the middle of the blanket where the little dog had chewed through! The Nanny was so sad. She had to unravel rows and rows of work right back to before the whole and hand wind the unraveled wool and start again. 

Months and months passed until at last the blanket was finished! It wasn't as perfect as the Nanna would have liked but it was made with love. She hand washed the blanket in wool wash and waited for it to dry and packaged it up unto a box ready for the postman to collect for its journey to London. 

The Nanna was happy, she could see in her mind the little boy all snug and warm in his crib under the blanket she had made and later when the little boy grew, dragging his blanket about the house and hiding under with his favourite toys. The End."

So.... yeah, I bawled while I read that the first time... and the second... and when I was typing it up. That is real love and you can feel it from all the way on the other side of the planet.

So there they are: mobile hugs in the form of blankets from all around the world.  Our little man is sure lucky to be able to be wrapped up in so much love from so many wonderful women. 




31 August 2018

Prior Park Garden

Something I really love about England is that, despite being a small country, it is filled with little magical nooks and crannies. Wherever you go, someone has been there before leaving remnants for curious little brains to investigate. My inner kid loves it. Whether it's a stone monument or a folly or a garden, when you stumble upon something, it feels like you've discovered a kind of secret. It's totally thrilling, even as an adult. Prior Park Landscape Garden feels like that. Even though it is a relatively well-known destination, because it is only a short walk from our flat, and is tucked away behind a grove of trees, it FEELS like you've just landed yourself in this enchanted enclosure. It was built by a man named Ralph Allen in the early 1700s (after he had amassed his wealth by streamlining the postal system) and was designed by Alexander Pope mostly just because they could. What would it be like to have that kind of money??
The beautiful Bath skyline beyond the park. This is Ezra seeing a cow for the first time. His face was frozen like this, completely transfixed. There is something really fascinating to me about the idea that I get to watch him discover everything--puppies, Christmas, heartbreak, bicycles, bee stings, chocolate chip cookies--EVERYTHING. How amazing that parenthood gives us the opportunity to vicariously relive the joy of discovery. It is strange the way that, before you meet your future partner or children, you still have this sense of longing for them, like you have this divet in your heart that needs to be filled. Then, if you lose them, the divet is empty again and you ache with emptiness. I think the same, for some people, can be said of a career or a house or a pet. It's like, even before we know what it is like to have that thing or person in our life, our hearts know something is missing. I realised recently that, for the first time in my life, the major divets in my heart are full. I know (or at least hope) there are other children to come, but I now have all the main missing things. I feel like I am living in the present, taking each day as it comes. This is SUPER unusual for me. I'm usually obsessed with the future. I think this is a moment I'll keep mentally going back to as one of my happiest times. I can already tell these two boys are going to be partners in crime. We took this little adventure on Monday's bank holiday after a fabulous weekend filled with lots of daddy-time (giving mummy a much-needed break). What is amazing/frustrating to me is that, despite spending every single day and night with this little nugget, all it takes is a couple of days of daddy-time and suddenly baby is laughing and giggling on demand with his dad! Jon even got him to speak. He was bent down talking with Ezra saying "hi baby! hi!" when suddenly Ezra cooed "hi!" right back. Both Jon and I screamed. I'm sure it was just a reflexive sound, but it genuinely felt like "He's talking with us! He knows us now!" It was a glorious feeling. 

22 August 2018

Carter's Steam Fair


When my parents were in town, they discovered this beautiful little traveling steam fair. Their photos were so lovely that I've been eager to go and take some for myself. Apparently, it's the same carnival that's featured in Paddington 2, the Theory of Everything, and Call the Midwife, and you can really see why. All the vintage typography and whimsy and cohesiveness.... it was a visual treat. 


We got ourselves some fresh doughnuts which, though not quite at the level of a Pippin doughnut, were several degrees of yum. Actually looking at them now makes that seem extra good since today is officially week 6 since Ezra was born and it is time to face a sad reality: what's left on my belly is not the result of a uterus that is still going to shrink. It's fat and it's got to go. 

I was so good while I was pregnant about what I ate-- no ice cream, no chocolate, and a green smoothie almost every day of my last trimester. But then I went through the trauma of labour and thought "time to treat yo'self, mama" and I did and it has been divine. 

However, no about of pumping is going to burn the calories off my belly if I keep this up, so it is time to exert a little self-control. My diet starts... tomorrow... yeah, tomorrow. 


The other day Jon said to me, “You know, society is going to see you completely different now.”

It's a thought I’d already been considering for the last few months. Ever since my bump popped out, the catcalls have vanished. Weirdly, they’ve been replaced with people coming up and asking me for directions. My current daily record stands at 4 separate occasions. Apparently, a baby makes you look both non-threatening and like a local. 

It is specifically with men that I’ve noticed the biggest change in the way people interact with me. This was made especially clear to me when Jon’s dad took us out to an Indian restaurant on his last night in town.

Mid-meal, Ezra decided to get fussy, so I took him out to the lobby for some quiet bouncing. A man walked in—tall, muscular, with several vulgar tattoos. He’s the kind of guy I would expect to lean in—if you got too close—and whisper “eh loave… lookin’ niiiiice” (this is based on actual experience in the cereal aisle where a similar-looking bloke ruined my day).

Fortunately, the only thing on the menu THIS evening was the guy’s takeaway. As he waited, his phone absorbed his attention.

Eventually, he looked up at me, motioned to Ezra and asked, “Is that your first?” I smiled and said yes. 

“So….. do you like being a mum?”

For some reason (probably the surprise at the question), my voice shot up at least two octaves and I much too loudly said: “um, it’s amazing!”

He smirked, then turned to his phone and continued swiping right. 

The contrast between cereal-aisle-dude and Indian-takeaway-dude was pretty stark. Perhaps the latter was actually just a really lovely guy, but I'm realising more and more that even if I look (and apparently sound) like jailbait, guys now see me as more of a mum and less of a piece of meat. I could not be more pleased about this unexpected perk if parenthood. May my stroller continue to be my shield against smarmy men.


Luckily, in the boy department, God gave me two of the best.



I am so grateful God chose to intiate me into motherhood with an easy baby. With rare exception, Ezra is a good sleeper, eater (at least by bottle--we've yet to crack the breastfeeding thing) and is easily settled.  He's a very robust little baby with a surprising amount of muscle tone. On Sunday, Jon and I watched him roll from his tummy on to his back several times on his own, which I don't think is normal for some time yet. Part me of me is like "whoo-hoo! I have a super strong baby!!" and the part of me is like "Stop it! I can't have you be mobile in this tiny flat. Act like a newborn!"

My favourite thing about this little nugget is that he lets me snuggle with him all day long. Jon often teases me that my emotional state is like a leaky teacup. Sometimes I bombard him when he comes home from work with an "I'm empty, give me a cuddle!" But now, I strap my baby to me and it's like an IV of love and warmth and affirmation right to the heart. Honestly, baby slings are the best and I can't for the life of me understand why people awkwardly carry their babies in carseats when they could use a sling. Wearing one is genuinely one of the loveliest feelings in the world.



This is a #humblebrag but it is something of which I'm quite proud. I bought our pram (which came with a swappable bassinet [above], carseat, and an older child stroller seat) for only £50 even though it was valued at £300.

I found it on Gumtree (UK's Craigslist) and talked the owner down to that price, even though it was a brand new stroller. Apparently, her sister had purchased a VERY fancy stroller, but then tripped over it in her last week of pregnancy. Being overly superstitious, she couldn't stand to have it in her house anymore so she gave it to her sister. That meant the sister had an extra stroller of which I am now the proud owner. All I can say is that I'm grateful for superstitious people.



And there it is. Carter's Steam Fair with the beautiful rolling hills of Bath in the background. I sure do love this wonderful place. 

17 August 2018

Blessing Day



My family came to visit me! AH!

But first, there are two things we need to stop and discuss about the above photo:

1) Look at my hair. I literally woke up like that. WHAT?! I waited 9 months for pregnancy hair and I finally decided that I'd just missed out on that genetic perk. Then suddenly I had a baby and VAVOOM! Beautiful covetable locks without even trying. Let this post stand as photographic evidence that this magical hair moment actually happened. 

2) Look how young my ma looks. It used to drive me bananas when people would say "That's your mom? She looks like your sister!" But even I have to admit that she looks pretty darn young in this photo. Here's to hoping I inherited some of that.



So, this is my parent's first ever visit across the Atlantic and I have to say I was a bit anxious before they came. My mom has historically had a lot of anxiety with flying and my dad is usually swamped with work, so a trip this far away has previously not been a possibility. However, the siren call of their grandson's baby blessing was enough to lure them to this side of the pond.

My mom came out a week early and gave me some much-needed help. Since Ezra is an almost exclusively express-fed baby, I find I just don't have enough arms to get things done. By the time I pump, feed and get him to sleep, it's time to start pumping again and the day just zips passed me. She was a godsend.

However, the best thing about having my mom here is that she loaded me up with motherly perspective. For example--at first--I thought E was not a very cuddly little baby. He liked to arch his back and would fight me for a good quarter hour any time I'd try to put him into a sling. But when my mom came she pointed out how easily settled he was, how much he adored being held and how he loves being around people. "This baby," she said repeatedly, "is a VERY cuddly baby."

This made me see him differently, which made me respond to him differently, which I think has--in turn--actually made him a more snuggly child. Now he cuddles with me for hours between feeds and it is glorious.



We had lots of adventures around Bath, including happening about the nation's most scrummy doughnut (Pippin Doughnuts we're lookin' at you!). My mom would not shut up about it. Honestly, she talked of almost nothing else for days and was devastated (almost to tears) when she learned the artisan market we bought them at is only open once a month.

I'm pretty sure the next artisan market is on my birthday so I may have to go eat one in her honour.



Once my dad and youngest sister, Clara, arrived there were more adventures to be had. For several days, my parents took baby in the morning while they puttered around town which meant I could start to whittle through my to-do list. I've never got that much done in so little time before baby. Maybe being a mum gives you superpowers? Is that possible? I think yes. It is the only plausible explanation for how my mother survived seven children.



One evening we went to tour the Roman Baths, which is sort of the main tourist attraction in this town. I'd never been to the Baths before because ticket seemed so outrageously priced (and I'm unabashedly cheap). I had no idea there was a huge museum complex as part of the tour. It was actually really incredible and well worth the spendy admission fee. Highly recommended.



Finally, Jon's dad arrived and we all got to spend time together. I really love how well our parents get on with each other. Our dads walked and chatted like best mates and it was so lovely to watch.



Finally, the day of the main event arrived. My sister Elizabeth knitted this absolutely stunning blanket from baby alpaca wool then surprised me by making a making an extra pair of booties and a hat to match. What a rock star! This is definitely going to be THE heirloom blanket I use for all my babies.

I wasn't able to save the original blessing outfit (I mangled it beyond repair), but I did manage to add a few special touches to the one we ended up using (like adding little wooden buttons). He was the most precious squishy angel and didn't make a peep for the whole of church, even as he got passed around from person to person to person.




I love the photo on the right, but I now retract what I said about my mom earlier. I've definitely inherited her youthful genes because I'm pretty positive I look about 16 in that photo. It's bittersweet--I'm sure one day I'll appreciate it.



Look at all these beautiful people! They are all colleagues from Jon's work that all showed up to support him on this special day. I couldn't believe it! They were all so complimentary and kind and full of love. All the feels were there. 

Below is Ekta holding baby E when he decided he was so over taking photos. Little man already knows his own mind.



And finally, here are three generations of Young men! Love each one of them and having my family here made the whole thing 100x more special.