26 December 2018

Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas! What a wonderful season it has been. 

This year has felt extra special. I’ve been puzzling why it feels like this is our first Christmas together, and I think having a baby makes it feel like now the Christmases count. Now I have to be on my toes with traditions and foods and magic. My mom did such a good job with holidays when I was a kid, so I am determined to bring the same level of wonder knowing how special those memories are to me now.

This is a text I sent Jon last week. I left Ezra alone to use the bathroom, and when I came back I found this. I think I gasped out loud because Ezra can definitely NOT crawl yet. For a good day or so I had no idea how he had gotten there (which was eerie) until he spontaneously started doing double rolls across the room. 

The highlights: Ezra started sitting up on his own on Thanksgiving, his personal best is to stand (on his own) for 7 seconds and he took his first two steps on Christmas Eve with his daddy. 

But, when I’ve told people that over the past couple of days, the conversation usually goes something like this: 

Them: He’ll be walking before you know it! 
Me: I know, it’s crazy! He took his first two steps on Christmas Eve. 
Them: What, really? Hold on a sec… how old is he? 
Me: Five and a half months. 
Them: Wow. That’s AWFully early to be walking… 

And they say that last line with that one incredulous eyebrow raised up—the one usually reserved for delusional mothers who think their kid can read at 18 months. But I swear it’s true—this kid is just dead determined to be mobile, even if I am doing my darnedest to keep him from skipping over the crawling stage. 

The problem is that I once read an academic article that suggested crawling was critical for some cross-brain-hemisphere something-or-other and even though I’m sure there have been other studies that may say the opposite, I can’t get it out of my head. So I’m stuck somewhere between super proud mama and massively paranoid mama, something I very much doubt will get any better as he gets older.

Last week, Ezra and I went over to Sophie’s to make some Christmas crafts and we ended up immortalised this little guy’s monstrous footprint in the process. It’s not an optical illusion either; that is really the size of his feet. My theory is that it's his huge, pressure-loving feet that are to blame for his walking so early. 

The print now proudly displayed on our mantle, almost like proof of a baby Sasquatch. 

We’ve been lucky to have had a lot of fun Christmas festivities this year—from pie parties to Christmas lunches to a cheese + pyjama party. It has been a packed couple of weeks. Lucky for Ezra his best bud Avery is usually there. He is starting to get to the point where he seems to recognise people, and I think he might be starting to recognise her. I’m glad he has a little pal to grow up with.

Look at this spread! Serena’s cheese party was fab, even though our offering (a posh, locally produced soft cheese) was sort of the rotten egg of the evening—almost literally. After a round of try-to-place-the-cheese-flavour, we settled on partially-digested cauliflower. So, yeah, not a winner. Some of the others though were delish, especially this toffee cheddar

Quick side note: I learned that the reason I haven’t been able to find any carmels in this country (before this year) is because I was calling them the wrong name. Here they are called ‘toffee.’ In the States, the brown caramelised goodness is called ‘caramel’ if it's runny, a ‘carmel’ if it’s soft and chewy, and ‘English toffee’ if it is hard like peanut brittle (the last one now rings especially strange). What are the runny and hard kind called here? This is still a mystery I’ve yet to unravel. 

Anyway, before several very irreverent rounds of Quiplash that night, I had my first taste of non-alcoholic champagne. It was horrible. However, there was Appletiser, so my unrefined, sweet-loving pallet was happy. Also, Ezra had on a bobbly Christmas tree headband, so all was right with the world.

And so ends Ezra’s first Christmas. My little Santa-baby, Freddie-bear was the squishiest, loveliest baby this season. I’ll be sad to take the tree down, not just because our living room feels more balanced with it up, but also because I love seeing all the wonder and magic in E’s eyes. Babies are the best. Christmas is the best. Can’t wait til next year.

19 December 2018

It's Christmastime in the City

I've officially given birth to someone who gets as excited about Christmas as I do. When I was decorating the tree, I put Ezra underneathe (to watch) and he immediately started hyperventilating. I took some photos to try to capture the looks on his face--this kid doesn't even know what normal food tastes like yet, but he already knows Christmas is the bomb-diggity. Clearly, he is my son. 

Christmas isn't the only holiday this season in our family. Jon's birthday is at the beginning of December, so we decided to spend it in London. First stop on the list was to get Ezra's Christmas present. I've been thinking about this little piggy bank for months now and it finally belongs to us.

We've been talking for years about the holiday traditions we'll start when we have kids, and now the time has finally arrived. Tradition one is at the National Gallery. We spent an afternoon wandering around and looking at all the nativity and Christmas-related paintings and discussed them with the little nugget. I'm not sure he got a lot out of it, but he pretended to pay attention so he gets points for acting.

This one isn't really a Christmas painting, but Ezra is ALMOST channelling the Madonna painting behind him. I think he must be a prodigy or something. 

Last painting on the tour is The Charity of Saint Nicholas by Girolamo Macchietti. It is a painting of the real St. Nick throwing a golden ball (in the real legend it was a purse of money) into the house of an impoverished nobleman. St. Nicholas did this to save the girls from prostitution and provide them with dowries so they could be properly married. 

Ezra obviously got the G-rated version of that story and his own golden ball (a cadbury chocolate orange, which his parents ate on his behalf) and a little mini-discussion about Santa. Jon and I are planning on doing Santa a bit differently. We are treating Santa as a pretend game, where the kids know upfront it is all just for fun. We separately came to the conclusion that we felt weird about lying to our kids about it, but we both loved believing in Santa and definitely believed in him waaay longer than is really socially appropriate.

Coincidentally, we ran into an old friend of Jon's who took a similar approach with her children (who are old enough to know already). Their knowing the truth never dampened the magic--they even still they put out cookies for "Santa" and get excited about the hoofprints in the snow. Even though I think it is a decision that is really personal for everyone's own family, to me this seems like the best of both worlds :)

We also went to Winter Wonderland, as is our annual tradition. This year we got to cruise through by going in the 'family entrance.' When it started raining we left early out one of the main entrances and there was at least a half hour wait to get in (IN THE RAIN! bleh.) 

Finally, we began our third tradition, which is to go to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaur bones. 

Ezra decided to pretend to be a fossil the whole time, so he didn't get much out of it. But Jon sure did... I got a front row seat to watch him revert into an eight-year-old-aspiring-paleontologist. He could identify every single skeleton without even looking at the nameplate, which is pretty mind-boggling given that it has to be almost 30 years since he even opened a book about dinosaurs.  In spite of myself, I was impressed. Can't wait til Jon's little sidekick is old enough to appreciate and enjoy this one. 

Also, I found dodo birds. Real ones. 

Christmas time is a billion times better with a baby. Which, because I'm a photographer, means way too many photos of Ezra in Christmas-themed costumes. Stay tuned... :)

06 December 2018

Frome + Thanksgiving

It has been a busy couple of weeks, so, fair warning, this post is kind of a photo dump. 

Jon and I have been exploring some of the towns and villages in our local area. One of our favourites is Frome (pronounced froom). People have been telling us to visit for a while, but then usually follow up the suggestion with "but the people there are kinda.... weird." When pressed, the only explanation anyone ever has given me is that residents of Frome are just a little earthy. I've decided they must be my kind of people because everyone seemed lovely. Anyway, we love the town, the vibe, and its crunchy citizens.

Driving back from Frome, we were treated to a golden hour landscape. How beautiful is this (below)?! Reminds me of how grateful I am to live in this beautiful country.  

And, speaking of gratitude, a very belated happy Thanksgiving! This was a big year for me as it was the first time I've done a proper feast for a crowd on my own. Though partially down to the fact that Jon took the day off of work, I feel like I managed the whole thing way better than I expected. Usually, this is the kind of thing when would result in at least one stress-induced episode of sobbing where I curse the heavens and vow never to have another party ever. Buuuut, THIS time I was super chill... like something very relaxed and cool (Ezra made sure I had no sleep last night so metaphors are escaping me at the moment). 

What was fun about this year was that it was mostly with our British friends, who have never had a Thanksgiving dinner before. They were super keen to try the pumpkin pie, the sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top (tricky in a country that always sells pink strawberry marshmallows in with the white ones), the cranberry sauce, and the white American gravy (here gravy is always brown and slightly tranparent). It was fun to have a cultural experience where WE were the ones introducing people to new things instead of the other way around. 

Luckily, another American couple that came did the rolls (by hand without a mixer! Props to you, JaNeece) which made my life a lot easier. Sophie and Byron hosted at their house and even let me use their oven which only just fit the turkey side. Overall, win for British friendsgiving.

We got to double dip on Thanksgiving this year, as one of the families in our congregation invited us over for another feast on Saturday. It was another glorious feast--they never get old :)

I'll end with this pic. It has been getting chillier here and Ezra has tried on his first pair of hat and gloves. Obviously, he is still trying to determine how he feels about winterwear, but his mama is sure excited to introduce him to all things Christmas. Yay winter!