Monday, 28 July 2014

Life in a Fishbowl


Remember my quest for varifocals? After searching online for several weeks, I decided to try some brick-and-mortar shops for glasses.

I started at the big high street shops: Boots, Day Lewis. Day Lewis had a few pairs of interesting glasses by a Danish maker, Prodesign. But I was not ready to commit that much money to something that didn't entirely jump out at me.

I found Kirk Originals online, and saw that they were stocked at McClintock in Covent Garden. (Do a google image search for Kirk Originals to see why they caught my eye). I also wanted to visit Spex in the City in Covent Garden, since one of my friends has bought gorgeous glasses there in the past. Slightly closer to home in SW London, I found Bromptons Opticians in Clapham.

McClintock has a beautiful selection of glasses - and they had Kirk Originals on sale! - but something told me to keep looking. Gillian of Spex in the City suggested an amazing pair of glasses that she said had taken her seven months to source from France, but even they weren't quite right. Then I found Lafont frames at Bromptons. Skip to the end: I am now the proud owner/wearer of a pair of Lafont Greta glasses with Hoya varifocal lenses and Transitions tinting in the sunlight. I was also glad to support a local, independent business with excellent service, who helped me find frames and lenses that work for me.

It takes a bit of time to get used to varifocals - when I walked out of Bromptons, I felt like I was in a fishbowl. Everything is ever-so-slightly distorted at the edges. But after a week of wearing them, I know which part of the lens to use for different tasks, and it is so nice not having to take them on and off. I suppose the real test was taking them off to cook dinner the other night: I felt disoriented and noticed that my eyes were working hard to focus.

I have already received some nice compliments ('they really suit you!') but the best reaction was from Junior: 'Mummy! Your glasses have lights on! Where is the switch?' Indeed, Junior. Indeed.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Let's see...

Last year I turned 40. Within three months, I went from having perfect vision to wearing reading glasses.


I confess, between loving accessories and being a geek, I was inwardly excited to gain four-eye status at last. I found a pair of black and green glasses that weren't too big for my face, and fit my style well. I mostly wore them at work. On other days, I didn't tend to read enough that some minor blurring on my iPhone was problematic.

However, I started having headaches at work by November. The constant on/off and looking up and down from my computer was putting a strain on my eyes. The optician recommended office glasses - like varifocals, but with more space devoted to the reading part rather than the distance part. Since I was about to start maternity leave and doubted how much time I would need to wear them for reading, I decided that I would wait.

What I had not considered was that taking glasses on and off all day with a curious toddler and a grabby baby is far from ideal. I read enough that I increasingly need them, but it's impractical to keep changing them when my hands are busy with Junior and Juniorette. I don't like to wear them on top of my head (it stretches them out), and using a chain around my neck is just asking for trouble. And I've noticed that my distance vision is starting to suffer as well.

So, it's varifocal time. I was sad to learn, though, that my current glasses are not suitable for varifocals since they do not have enough lens area. My latest obsession, therefore, is online glasses shopping.

I had heard of from Their bargain glasses start at £6 (six pounds!) so even if you're unsure about ordering glasses online, there is little financial risk involved depending on the style you choose. I have not ordered any just yet, but I have a tab open in my web browser so that I can keep going back to it.

Next, I went to S has ordered two pairs from them and they are good quality and value, especially since his prescription tends to be expensive. They offer a free home trial, and I was keen to try some different styles before committing to any new frames.

Likewise, I was thrilled to find Not only do they offer free home trials, but their look/feel is retro-hipster-tastic. Their frames come in four colours, so I ordered four styles in each of the colours. Ordering a home trial is easy, and cubitts uses for shipping and returns, so you get delivery and returns information by email.

My box from Cubitts was beautifully presented:



The frames have the styles printed onto the arms so you know which ones you are trying. I ordered the Woburn, Marchmont, Wicklow, and Calthorpe frames in amber, dark turtle, light turtle, and black, respectively.

top to bottom, left to right: Woburn, Marchmont, Wicklow, Calthorpe

Sadly, I'm not retro-hipster-tastic enough to pull them off. The Marchmonts made me look like Harry Potter, and the others were just too big. The Woburns were the best, but I didn't like the colour - I think I'd have to have black frames.

My home trial box from Glasses Direct was far less fancy:



But the glasses were more interesting. I chose Scout Marilyn in purple, London Retro Eliza in black, Prague in red, and Mojito Neon in blue.

top to bottom, left to right: Marilyn, Eliza, Prague, Mojito

I liked the Marilyn and Eliza frames best. Too bad the Eliza doesn't come in colours other than black or tortoise; I'd love a brighter, bling-ier pair. The Marilyn frames were fine, but I think I can do better. The Prague and Mojito frames were too narrow - similar size to my current ones - so I'm wary of making them into varifocals now that I have been cautioned against that.

So for now I have returned all eight frames and I am going to order another home trial from Glasses Direct. In the meantime, I am still wearing my reading glasses and taking them on and off. Stay tuned for the continuing story...

Note: I was not asked to review any of these sites, but since at least one other blogger is currently contemplating varifocals, I thought I'd share my experience so far.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Junior and Juniorette

"She's such a good baby, but then, girls are easier than boys."

"So nice to have one of each."

"Oh, she's gorgeous!"

Whether I want to or not, whether it means anything or not, it is hard not to compare Junior and Juniorette. The differences have been striking so far. It started in pregnancy. I always feared that I would suffer horrible morning sickness and vomit continuously; experience odd food cravings; and have strange mood swings. In reality, my pregnancy with Junior was very easy. I barely had any morning sickness and I never vomited. The only time I had trouble facing food was the first week I knew I was pregnant: S and I were on holiday in Rhodes and all I wanted was bland grilled chicken and salty chips. At ten weeks, my appetite came on with a vengeance and I ate all day long, but my body wanted good, nourishing foods like cheese, yogurt, fruit, meat, eggs, and nuts. As for moods, aside from stress at work, I felt perfectly fine. I got to know Junior's fetal movements and rhythms and I counted down the weeks in amazement at the changes happening inside me. The most amazing and welcome change was the disappearance of my monthly migraines. They did not return until he was nine months old - I had eighteen blissful migraine-free months, and didn't enjoy the hormones and headaches when they came back.

Juniorette's pregnancy was harder. At first, I thought it was just an extra bad migraine. Three days, four days, five days... At six days, nauseous and dizzy (but still never vomiting), it occurred to me to take a pregnancy test. I wasn't expecting a positive result, but at least I had a reason for feeling so out of it. The nausea abated every few days, then came back. I waited for it to taper off, but it didn't. I had migraines nearly every week of my pregnancy, usually on the weekend. They're still happening now, although they seem to be fading back to a more normal monthly pattern. I did my best to eat well. Junior is a good eater and I assume there is some correlation to the kinds of foods I ate while I was pregnant with him. Poor Juniorette, then - all I really wanted while I was pregnant with her was sweets. Chocolate. More chocolate. Sweet, sweet chocolate.

It was a harder pregnancy emotionally, as well. I found myself doing that crying-at-sappy-adverts thing that I Don't Do. I was more scared, more anxious, less mentally prepared. At first, I worried that I would miscarry. I even willed my body to reject the pregnancy quickly if it was going to end in miscarriage, just to stop things before they went too far. I was relieved and astounded at twelve weeks, thirteen weeks, fourteen weeks... I started to think of the baby as the One Who Lived - s/he was determined to survive, to thrive. At the same time, I felt less connected to the baby somehow. I felt kicks earlier than I had with Junior, but they never seemed to come in the same place or at the same time of day. I felt guilty for even thinking these thoughts. Initially, I convinced myself that I wanted another boy. I was used to Junior by then, and we already had plenty of boys' clothes. When we found out she was a girl, I worried about her entire future in a way that has never bothered me for Junior: the pressure for Juniorette to be pretty and skinny, to wear pink and aspire to be a princess or ballerina. The expectation that she could bend traditional gender roles, but still the reality that she'd face flowers and butterflies instead of rockets and dinosaurs.

Then she was born. Again the differences. Two hour active labour with no pain relief. Easy, quick breastfeeds with a good latch - but she prefers formula anyhow. More efficient feeding. Better at sleeping. Hates being swaddled. Likes being held, but will fall asleep on her own. She doesn't cry much, although her cries are virtually indistinguishable which makes it harder to know what she needs. She is more mysterious (possibly secretive?) that way; Junior wears his heart on his sleeve and has always been able to communicate what he does and does not want. She is calm, observant, tolerant, and happy - her little smiles are lovely rewards.

About the only thing they have in common so far is the physical side. She's smaller, more compact, and shorter than Junior was. But she's strong. She has good head control. She likes to stand - we call it her meerkat stance. She can move herself by kicking with the backs of her heels. She has nearly rolled over and she is not even twelve weeks old yet. She is beginning to bat at objects and is practicing gripping things. Will we have another early crawler/walker on our hands? It seems likely.

So then, where does that leave us? They're different, but similar. This shouldn't be surprising - they're siblings, after all. Are girls really easier than boys? Not according to my husband, who points out that Juniorette will be a teenage girl someday. Is there any point in comparing them? No, but it's inevitable.

Most importantly, am I now an expert since I have one of each? Far from it. Is she gorgeous? Of course, as is Junior. For my part, I am lucky to have two great kids who are growing and developing daily before my eyes. So very, very lucky.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Juniorette's 1st month


Juniorette was one month old on 6 May. The first few weeks are always a blur, and this was no different. We had all the usual newborn developments: feeding, sleeping, changing nappies, repeat. But also did our best to maintain a routine for Junior. It helped that my parents were here to entertain him and feed us.

Junior and Juniorette, each at 4 days old

Junior has been wonderful with Juniorette, and I am enjoying my time with both of them.


While Junior was a Christmas baby, Juniorette was born just before Easter. This year, we joined friends for an Easter Egg Hunt at nearby Morden Hall Park. Junior ran around the course twice as fast as the rest of the group, and earned the Cadbury's chocolate egg waiting for him at the end. Juniorette spent the morning sleeping in the shade under the watchful eye of her grandpa.

Not quite understanding how to play Pooh sticks yet

Holding hands

Meanwhile, I did my best to establish a breastfeeding routine with Juniorette. She is either a very lazy eater, or incredibly efficient: generally 10 minutes on a side, compared to Junior's hour-long marathons.


I also started taking her out in the Ergobaby carrier at the tender age of 18 days. Such a lightweight!


She enjoyed her first bath, and seems to be a water baby. I need to find a way to take her swimming...


One advantage of having a boy first, then a girl, is that the younger daughter can wear her older brother's hand-me-downs. Until she is able to state a preference, I am indulging in dressing her in both girly and not-so-girly clothes.


We also spent a day at the Olympic Village in Stratford. Junior had a great time riding his scooter - kudos to S for chasing after him! I imagine we'll spend more time there when the kids are bigger.

Juniorette in the buggy


More adventures ahead, no doubt...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Meeting Juniorette


I had to spend two nights in hospital with Juniorette after she was born, so our families got to meet her on the postpartum ward. S's parents came to visit first.


Then my parents came with Junior.



He was remarkably calm, curious, and gentle. We had not done much to prepare him for her arrival. He was aware that there was a baby in my tummy, and would kiss my bump when I was pregnant, but we did not read him books or talk about it much. Imagine our relief when he showed no signs of jealousy or indifference.



S was also able to spend a lot of time with her after the birth. He held her in the delivery room while I was stitched, and then when they allowed me to shower (this was a revelation, especially after not showering for two days when Junior was born - the difference between having no pain relief and an easy delivery, and having an epidural and a long recovery). Unlike when Junior was born, the hospital had relaxed its rules on visitors so S was able to spend more time with us on the postpartum ward. I was glad to have the company, and S was able to bond much better with Juniorette from the outset.



Back home, Junior brought her all his tiniest toys ("tiny baby! tiny toy!" er, choke hazard, but thanks for being so thoughtful...) and pointed out her tiny hands, tiny nose, tiny mouth, tiny eyes.

As for the rest of us, well, we had our hands full but got our rest when we could.




Is there anything more cuddly than a newborn?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Welcome, Juniorette!

Photo by S, also known as Dad




Juniorette's Birth Story

The 6th of April was a Sunday. Since I was officially one week past my due date, I had a membrane sweep scheduled for the morning. The grandparents entertained Junior while S and I went to St Georges. I was excited to see Sue, my favourite midwife from Junior's early days. She put me at ease and told me that the sweep might hurt. No kidding! Almost as soon as she started, I made her stop. Her conclusion was that my cervix was still tight and my body was not ready for the birth yet. S and I stopped for lunch on the way home, and didn't expect further developments for several more days.

Around 4:30 that afternoon, I felt contractions. Or at least, I felt what I thought might be contractions. Since I had not gone into natural labour with Junior, it was hard to tell. Just to be sure, I timed them and they were about five minutes apart. I quietly told S that I thought something might be happening, but I wasn't sure.

At dinner, I told the rest of the family. My appetite and energy were low, but I still guessed it would be a while before anything happened. We fed Junior, bathed him and put him in bed. I went to relax in the living room, and decided that it might be better to lie down and sleep while I still had a chance.

As soon as I was horizontal, the contractions became more intense. They were lasting around 90 seconds, with about five minutes in between. S came to check on me and encouraged me to call the hospital at 9:30 PM. The instant I sat up to make the call, the contractions changed again - fast and frequent. The woman on the phone booked me in, and told me to take some paracetamol. S told his parents to get the car ready, and we left. By now I had my eyes closed and was going into my internal space. I knew what was happening around me, but found it hard to speak or interact with anyone. I was gratefully aware that there was no traffic, except for a few red lights. S's dad overshot the hospital entrance and we did a u-turn. Inwardly I was shouting, "hurry, get me out of this car!" We drove into the maze of the hospital car park, with its speed bumps and twisty turns. "Getmeoutgetmeoutgetmeout!" It was just past 10 PM; they had closed the entrance nearest to Delivery Suite. We had to go around to the front.

If you've ever visited St Georges' maternity ward, you know this means a long walk through several endless hallways, then up the lift that takes ages to arrive as it slowly descends and stops at every floor. S found a wheelchair, while his mum helped me make the short walk from the car to the front door. Only a few footsteps, but the contractions were coming almost every minute.

At Delivery Suite, we checked in and the triage nurse informed us that they needed to assess me. She asked if I felt like I needed to push - I answered no, then suddenly yes. Yes, yes! Gah, why is no one listening to me? Get me to a room! This baby is coming!

Except, I only said "yes". The rest happened in my head, and it felt like an eternity before they moved me.

The next thing I knew, they were asking if I "wanted" to move from the wheelchair to the bed. I managed to squeak out "yes, but you'll have to move me. I can't do it myself." My bum had barely touched the bed, one leg swung onto it while the other dangled off, I leaned back, and my waters broke.

Now they started to take notice. I kept hearing them talk about putting in a canula and examining my cervix, but I knew it was far past that point. The contractions were one on top of the next. Who cares about a canula?

"Oh, I see a head."


Several pushes later, she was out. I immediately felt better. I asked S what time it was - we looked at the clock and it was only 10:55 PM. We had been in hospital for less than an hour. A few more minutes' delay, and Juniorette might have been born in the car park. But she wasn't. She was perfect, tiny, pink, and healthy.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Grandparents Join Us

One consideration for the arrival of Child #2 is what to do with Child #1 during the birth. We had every intention of a hospital birth, and we knew that Junior could not come with us - if I'm really honest, I didn't want him to be there either. Local friends offered to watch him if I went into early labour, which was a huge relief. But even better than that, the grandparents came.

S's parents arrived a few days before my due date, and Junior was thrilled to spend time with them.


While they adjusted to Junior's routine and our toddler-oriented lifestyle, we kept ourselves busy and enjoyed the sunshine.

Cannizaro House, Wimbledon

The 30th of March was British Mothers' Day, the start of British Summer Time, and my due date. It came and went; still no Juniorette.

My parents arrived on the 1st of April, increasing the house count to six adults, one toddler, and one bump.




Days passed. I had picked my ideal birthdate for Juniorette: April 4th, 2014 (4.4.14) but still she kept us waiting.

And then...