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.