23 October 2018

Pancakes + Pumpkins



This year Jon and I have celebrated two important anniversaries: In September it was 10 years since we first met (at a Pancake Breakfast Party) and on Halloween it will be 8 years since we started dating. 

Our friends Serena and Robin—partly by inspiration, and partly by chance—ended up throwing the most fitting party to celebrate these two occasions: a Pancake and Pumpkin Party, and it was absolute perfection.  


The party was at their flat, which is exactly the kind of space I always imagined English homes would be like. It is this beautifully quirky flat with high ceilings, enormous paned windows, white-washed plaster walls, an antique fireplace and a lovely little orient-inspired garden in the back. It was on the rental market about the same time Jon and I were looking for our new place, and, if we had known it existed, we 100% would have snatched it out from under them (all is fair in love and real estate?). It really is the loveliest space and seems to really jibe Serena’s design aesthetic. She’s done a great job with it.


Anyway, the pancakes—which, in England, actually mean crepes, and not the fluffy griddlecake we eat in the states (a fact I’m always surprised and grateful about)—were delicious. Robin is a fab cook. The only thing better than the food was the company. Besides us and our hosts, there were our friends Byron + Sophie (+ baby Avery) and other friends Sara + Aaron. We played games for a couple of hours until we left to go pick pumpkins. 



Sara seems to be a bit of a baby whisperer as Ezra had one of his most chilled out days this day and a pretty healthy chunk of it was spent on her lap.



A quick interruption (mostly for my own record): Jon is brilliant and discovered that Ezra is the perfect heigh to use the sofa as a balance. Ezra’s a happy camper, his balance is improving, and my back feels less like it is about to snap in two. At 14 weeks, he’s still a bit wobbly, and he can only stand in place, but (as you can see from the pic) he loves it. 



Anyway, back to the party….

I’ve been wanting to visit a pumpkin patch for the last couple of years. Maybe it is all that autumnal Instagram-worthy goodness or maybe there is something in me that just loves a good patch of pumpkins. I remember when I was around nine or ten I became a little bit obsessed with growing giant pumpkins after finding a book in the library about it. As October arrived, I carefully slit the stems of my pumpkins and pushed through a wick with the other end in a bowl of sugar water. Apparently, this should have made them enormous. It didn’t. However, the ants loved it. 

Whatever it is is about pumpkins sure feeds the soul (and my tummy when Thanksgiving finally gets here). It was Sophie’s idea we head to Farrington to the pumpkin patch there and it couldn’t have been better. Afterward, we headed to Aaron and Sara’s house for hot chocolate and more games. 







By the end of the day I had learned 5 things:

First, crepes win over fluffy pancakes.

Second, I discovered my first chip butty (buttered bread sandwich with chips [fries] inside—it sounds heinous but is ridiculously delicious).

Third, my heart must be the shape of a pumpkin, I love them so much.

Fourth, I learned that Jon is an English-county-naming-savant (also an aspiring exotic dancer—which isn’t new, just always surprising when it comes out in public).

And finally, I learned that pancakes + pumpkins + pals = perfection. I think this one might need to be a new tradition.

11 October 2018

Avery + the New House

This is Ezra meeting his potential future wife for the first time.



Our friends Sophie and Byron had their precious baby girl Avery Rose Louise just shy of two months after we had Ezra and the two have practically been betrothed since in the womb.

Sophie and Byron are going to be the best parents. Before Avery was born, I’d watch Byron interacting with Ezra—never in my life have I seen a man that was more baby hungry, not even Jon. Now watching him with his own little sweetheart is a beautiful thing—he just radiates love.

Sophie once told me that, when she was a little girl, she took playing with her dolls so seriously that if she decided to play with her other toys she would call her mum in to babysit. She said all she’s ever wanted is to be a momma, and I think (if that story is any indication) she is going to be one of the very best. Avery and Ezra are two miracle babies (Sophie and Byron have had to go through their own battles to get to parenthood), and even if we don’t manage to convince our babies to get married one day, they will definitely be best mates in childhood.




And, not to bury the lead, but we've moved! It's just to a village about 20 minutes outside of Bath, but it is a major upgrade. We're in a detached house with a little garden and everything!

Still, I'm going to miss our old flat. It was right in the heart of Bath and so lovely. Despite being at the top of a million stairs and only being a one bedroom, it felt like we lived in a magical tree house. It was so high up and right in front of a park and we would watch all the twinkly lights from the chocolate-box houses on the hill opposite turn on every night. I will definitely miss it. 

Here is little Ezra in our last few minutes in his first home. He's big fan of this balloon Jon bought for my birthday. It is still going strong a month and a half after Jon bought it which officially makes it the longest lasting helium balloon I've ever seen. It is currently Ezra's favourite toy and it came with us to our new house.



This is the new view from Ezra's bedroom window. Look at all that English-y, autumnal goodness! AH!



In Ezra related news, how cute is he?! He looks like a little European treat in this outfit and I love it.



Also, look at the gorgeous play gym my dad made me! The little nugget is sure grateful for having such a talented grandpa.





Our little man has a new passion: walking… sorta. He can hold himself up and, as long as he has one of us to grab under the armpits, he marches around like a wobbly, drunk leprachaun all day long. His stubby legs and fluffy diapered bottom give him the proportions of one of those circus bears that walks up on their hind legs, and I can't get enough of watching him from behind.

That said, his newfound passion is utterly exhausting and is causing both Jon and I some serious back pain. I finally conceded to buying one of those plastic walkers— the kind with the seat in the middle you just plop your kid down in. I had thought we had a ways to go before needing one (like seriously months since he isn’t even crawling yet) and had planned to save up to get a really lovely Montessori-inspired wooden one. But my back and sanity have their limits so I snapped up a cheap second-hand one online and waited for the weekend so Jon could pick it up. The prospect of having the walker was honestly the only thing keeping me going for a few days. 

But the Jon picked it up and it turns out Ezra has several more inches to grow before he can even reach the floor when he's sitting in it. I nearly cried when we put him in it the first time. So, I've made the little man a deal. For every minute of tummy time he gives me, he gets a minute of marching around. I literally have it on a timer and it makes the whole thing much more manageable. 



Otherwise, Ezra is a perfectly lovely little boy. The sound of falling water makes him sleepy, which means mama still gets long showers. He lets me sleep in (even if it does mean still getting up two to three times a night to express). And he is getting more and more personality every day.



And now, I think I'll end with this: my favourite moment of every day. I get to cuddle up with a baby and my kindle and this is what I see. It is pure bliss. 


21 September 2018

10 Weeks


I'll admit, I've always found the first stage of life a bit intimidating. It's not just because of the lack of sleep or fear of being able to keep the little nugget alive; it's because, at the beginning, a baby is basically just a pooing/barfing ball of blubber. How do you engage with something like that? I do you maintain the will to KEEP engaging when you aren't getting anything back?

Truthfully,  the first couple of weeks were a bit like that (although the snuggles then are fantastic), but I've been amazed how quickly Ezra has become a little person that interacts and moves around and has a personality. At 10 weeks he already recognises us, has his own tastes and preferences, patterns of behavior, and ways of communicating. In social science circles, they call that a temperament, in religion they call it a soul, but however you look at it, it comes from inside the baby.

I used to think babies were like a lump of clay, and that we, as parents, could build up into something amazing. However, the older I get the more I realise how wrong that is. My mother-in-law says that children come with their bags packed, and we get to watch them unpack them. I'm excited to learn what Ezra brought down with him from heaven-- what interests and predispositions he is going to carry with him through life.


What a chummy little chap! I think this pic is most interesting when you compare it with the first one in this post. Jon took this one, I took the one at the top. Jon's image is dynamic and unguardedly friendly. Mine is quieter, dreamier, and more reserved. It's funny that photos can tell you more about the people that took them than the subject itself.


I know I've said it before, but Jon is a great dad. Every weekend, he hops into out tiny tub for a bath party with Ezra. Baby E loves it. Afterwards he is always so zen (which stands in sharp contrast to  when I try to bathe him). He emerges always smelling so delicious because of the shampoo we use-- it was one of my few splurges on baby was to buy a whole case of Burt's Bees Baby Shampoo. Nothing is lovelier than a clean, warm, yummy-smelling baby all wrapped up in a snuggly towel.


Because we are doing a lot more tummy times these days, we've had to get creative. All I can say is THANK GOODNESS FOR YOUTUBE. Seriously, you can learn anything on there. Two channels that I have found really helpful are Pathways, which has videos that show you where your baby should be developmentally at various ages, and BabyPillars, particularly this excellent video on tummy time. 

The little man and I have sort of found our rhythm now, which feels great. It has been amazing to watch him change right before my eyes. I also know a few minutes to check my email (or do something else) are right around the corner when he is napping, which makes it easier to give him undivided attention when he is alert and curious. I do sort of wonder how that changes when you have a second child. Suddenly your time is split another way-- how do you manage to give your baby the attention he/she deserves while catering to your older child? How do you not get burned out because you have no alone time? 

It is a mystery I hope I'll figure out one day, but maybe one that won't happen as quickly as I'd anticipated (not that I am at all ready to be pregnant again just yet). Yesterday I talked to our fertility clinic and found out each frozen embryo transfer will cost about £5,000 (including all the meds and tests). Blargh! And it might not even work, which could mean yet another £5,000. Conceiving babies is supposed to be the fun and free part! However, it does make me appreciate having Ezra all the more. We are so lucky to have had our little miracle baby. Fingers crossed there is another baby or two out there for us, but if not, I feel so blessed to have him in our lives in the first place.

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.