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.


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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 selectspecs.co.uk from mammatwo.com. 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 glassesdirect.co.uk. 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 cubitts.co.uk. 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 collectplus.co.uk for shipping and returns, so you get delivery and returns information by email.


My box from Cubitts was beautifully presented:


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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.


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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:


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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.


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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, 8 April 2014

Meeting Juniorette

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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.


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Then my parents came with Junior.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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Is there anything more cuddly than a newborn?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Welcome, Juniorette!

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Photo by S, also known as Dad


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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."

NO KIDDING.

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.


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


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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.


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



And then...

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Preparing for Juniorette

Funny how priorities change when you're awaiting the birth of your second child. Before Junior was born, I started maternity leave at 35 weeks and used the time to research and buy all the baby stuff I hadn't had time to acquire until then. With Juniorette, we already had most of the things we needed. The biggest purchases were a used Phil&Teds double buggy, and a new travel cot. I didn't buy many clothes in advance - I was overwhelmed by the proliferation of pink - and it didn't even occur to me to buy any new toys. It was unclear until the very last minute when my maternity leave would start, but I was again able to stop working at 35 weeks.


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So I relaxed as much as possible while Junior was at nursery.


I booked a facial.
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I had my hair cut, coloured, and blown dry.
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I finally organised my office after living here for nearly six months. We prepared the house for visitors by buying a new sofa as well as a new dining table and chairs.
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We put frosted film on the windows to give us privacy in the living room without sacrificing light - nice for breastfeeding without feeling exposed.
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I finished reading The Cuckoo's Calling, which S had given me for xmas. I watched a few films that had been on my list for ages.


At 38 weeks, I finally packed my hospital bag. I felt better prepared in terms of what to bring/not to bring, but even still I didn't pack enough clothes for Juniorette, and S had to bring some on the first day.
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I also started to panic about the birth. What if she came early? Who would watch Junior? Would it be better if she came during the day while he was at nursery, or on a weekend when friends would be more likely to be available to watch him? What if she came in the middle of the night? What if S had to stay home with Junior? Would I be prepared to give birth alone? Would S be prepared to miss it? How would Junior handle the sudden disappearance of his parents? And the appearance of a whole new person?

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Junior's 2nd Birthday: As It Happened

Following is a live blog of the events of Thursday 12 December, 2013, to the best of my ability and memory. Junior is K, I am B, and S is S.


7.30        B and S set up K’s birthday train in his playroom
7.35        Went to K’s bedroom to wake him up; he was groggy, crying
7.36        B softly sang ‘happy birthday to you!’ but he shushed her - twice
7.40        Went downstairs for breakfast
7.41        Perked up immediately when he saw the present from Grandma F & Grandpa A that they had left for him this summer – ripped it open
7.42        Threw half of the books on the floor
7.43        Interested in the placemat: ‘dinosaur’
7.44        Started reading the nature book: ‘squirrel!’
7.45        S gently pointed out that it was a rabbit.
7.46        Turned the page: ‘squirrel!’
7.47        Again, it was a rabbit
7.50        B brought her breakfast to the table; K reached over and took a piece of cereal
7.51        B prepared a bowl of cereal for K
7.55        K proceeded to eat his cereal, then reached over to B’s bowl for more
8.00    Picked up a piece of cereal covered in yogurt. Licked it. Put it back in B’s bowl.
8.10        Once breakfast was done, S took K upstairs to get dressed
8.15        After he was dressed, K rushed back downstairs to play with the fridge magnets
8.16        B put his cake and candle in a bag to bring to nursery. K helpfully added a letter ‘m’ from the fridge.
8.17        B stealthily removed the ‘m’
8.18        In the meantime, K added several more letters to the bag, then went back for more
8.25        Eventually, S and B were able to wrangle K into his jacket and shoes. He added a few more fridge magnets to the bag as they left the house.
8.26        K happily ran down the street toward nursery, picking up the compost bins along the way and giving them to Daddy.
8.30        All of a sudden, he stopped, cried, and indicated that he wanted Mummy to carry him across the street to nursery
8.31        At nursery, he got back down and knocked on the door
8.32        Inside, he was happy again. Then not so happy. Then happy again.
8.35        As Mummy & Daddy left, he sat down for second breakfast: Cheerios

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17.30   Picked up K from nursery
17.31   Nursery staff reported that K had had a good day; enjoyed his cake and was generally good
17.32   Nursery staff asked if we ever play Daft Punk at home – he sang along to ‘Get Lucky’ when it was on during the party
17.33   Nursery staff also praised K’s recent verbal developments. When shown a picture of a ‘bird’ in a book, he corrected his teacher by saying ‘penguin’
17.34   K blew everyone kisses and said ‘bye bye!’ as B and K left
17.35   Outside, K started running down the street. Then stopped, looked up, and said ‘mooooon’.
17.36   Arrived home. K rang the doorbell. B had forgotten that K had previously changed the doorbell chime.
17.37   Ran inside looking for Daddy and headed directly upstairs.
17.38   Daddy joined him and supervised while K explored S’s office and the guest room
17.45   B coaxed K back downstairs with the other present from Grandma F and Grandpa A. K opened it with great enthusiasm. ‘Pajamas!’ Then proceeded to name everything on the different pairs of pajamas: rocket, snowman, digger, truck.
17.50   K opened the new sleepsack that Grandma F had made. ‘Car! Steering wheel!’ Then lost interest. Then found the crocodile card from Aunt S. Then found his toy airplanes.
17.55   Proceeded to the kitchen to play with the fridge magnets again
18.00   Webchat with Grandma F and Grandpa A. He showed Grandpa his airplane, pretended to eat it, and rubbed his tummy as if to say ‘mmm, delicious.’ Grandpa obligingly imitated K, and K laughed and did it again. Grandpa did it again. K did it again. Everyone laughed. Finally, Grandpa had to leave so we said ‘bye bye’ and logged out. K immediately demanded to call back and do it again. Despite a bad connection, he continued pretending to eat his plane and rubbing his tummy.
18.05   S put on ‘Get Lucky’ to test K. Sure enough, he started dancing and singing along.
18.10   Discovered, much to his delight, that the magnets fit under the fridge. But wouldn’t come back out again.
18.12   B found a long, skinny pole to use to retrieve the magnets. K thought this was a fabulous game, and slid several magnets back underneath.
18.15   Dinner was served. S made spaghetti bolognese. K wanted to play with the magnets. A minor meltdown occurred while he refused to sit in his chair or eat. When B settled him on her lap, he grabbed her fork and shoved some meat sauce in her mouth, imploring her to ‘eat it!’
18.30   K demanded a tissue to wipe his nose, except that we have kept a roll of toilet paper on the table for this purpose for a few weeks now. K figured out how to rip off a square, wipe his nose, open the rubbish bin, and throw out the tissue. Guess what happened next?
18.35   After filling the bin with balled-up toilet roll squares, B and S intervened. A minor meltdown occurred.
18.40   B coaxed K upstairs, explaining that it was nearly time for bath, stories, and bed.
18.45   K discovered the train set in his playroom. All was forgiven. ‘Choo choo!’
18.50   K happily played with the train set. B showed him how to work the farm silo; K pushed her away and shouted ‘leave it! Leave it alone!’
18.51   K went back to the trains. Every time a train derailed, he said ‘oh boy’. B and S remarked that they had never heard him say that before.
19.00   B started to get ready for K’s bath. K ran into S&B’s bedroom and jumped on the bed. He then proceeded to look out the window at the cars and trees, drink some milk, climb off the bed, climb back on the bed, and repeat – all the while, chattering about…well, we’re not entirely sure what. He started shushing again, and warning S and B about the ‘baby sleeping! Shhh!’ Hmmm. Where did he pick that up?
19.25   Bath time. K played with his toys, sang songs, and kept saying ‘baby sleeping!’
19.40   Bath time finished too soon for his liking. Minor meltdown when he was removed from the tub. Brushed his teeth and hair, but showed his annoyance.
19.45   New snowman pajamas softened the blow a bit
19.50   Pushing aside their better judgment, B and S offered K some more milk and 2 animal crackers to make up for the fact that he had not eaten dinner
20.00   Story time. K showed no signs of being tired, so B did not reinforce the 3 story limit. They read Owl Babies, It’s Time to Play (a most unhelpful bedtime story), Room on the Broom, and every word of Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.
20.35   K relented and put on his sleepsack
20.40   After a brief cuddle, B placed K gently in his cot, rubbing his back
20.50   K popped back again and demanded another cuddle

21.00   After being rocked and reassured, K drifted off to sleep. Sweet dreams, big 2 year old!