Wednesday 7 December 2011

Ready for Junior



Well, according to the 12-week sonogram, Junior is 3 days late. According to my own calculations, he is due tomorrow. Either way, we are ready for him when he gets here. I have had my hospital bag packed for several weeks and S is waiting for me to summon him back from work.

My parents arrived from California last week. We were a bit worried that they would have trouble getting here, since the public sector announced a one-day strike on 30 November which included a large number of immigration officers at Heathrow Airport. As it turned out, though, enough passengers were scared off that they got through immigration in about five minutes and no one even bothered to check their six suitcases (one of which was filled completely with goodies for the baby). What a relief!

They have been helping prepare Junior's space in our bedroom. Grandmamasita has been busy sewing, knitting and shopping. Grandpop is engineering a hanging device for the stroller at the bottom of the stairs. And everyone has been waiting anxiously for news...

Meanwhile, I am pleased to report that I am still feeling fine. I always feared that I would have a difficult pregnancy but it has been relatively easy: very little nausea, normal (well, for me) energy levels, decent appetite, almost no pain or discomfort, no swelling. I worked until Week 35 and only took two days off when I was not feeling well. I'm still walking, carrying home groceries, cooking and sleeping well. In fact, I think I might be too comfortable - Junior obviously feels happy inside or he would be making more of an effort to appear.

We are encouraging Junior to come late today or early tomorrow so that S can have the rest of the month off work. Come on, baby! We can't wait to meet you xo

Tuesday 8 November 2011

baby talk

I don't have to tell you that American English and British English are not the same. Sometimes you find subtle differences ("call me at..." vs "ring me on...") and sometimes they are more obvious ("elevator" vs "lift"). Ever since I obtained British citizenship, I like to joke that I am bilingual in English. I can spell it color or colour; organize or organise; curb or kerb.

There are two areas in particular where I have noticed the biggest divide: cars and babies.

Car and vehicle terminology varies widely: tire/tyre, trunk/boot, stick shift/gearbox, gas/petrol, rental/hire. Working in transportation and logistics for the past few years, I have started to adopt the local words, for ease of communication if nothing else.

Now I'm learning a whole vocabulary. While it is not yet second-nature, I figure there's plenty of time to confuse Junior later on - I might as well try to be consistent at first. Here is a glossary that I have started in no particular order (British to American). Hope it helps his relatives on both sides of the Atlantic!

  • antenatal :: pre-natal
  • Moses basket :: bassinet
  • carrycot :: bassinet
  • cot :: crib (although these seem to cross over a bit)
  • bath the baby :: bathe the baby
  • pram, buggy, pushchair :: stroller
  • babygro :: onesie (as well as more terms for each in both countries)
  • dummy :: pacifier
  • nappy* :: diaper
  • breastfeed :: nurse (some cross over, but preferences in each country)

*which gives a whole different meaning to the song we used to sing to put my sister to sleep: "it's happy nappy time..."

Aside from spoken and (eventually) written English, I would like to teach Junior sign language. My dilemma is American Sign Language (ASL) vs British Sign Language (BSL). I studied ASL for several years in high school, and while I don't remember much, it would be far easier for me to pick it up again. But would BSL be more useful in the long run? Or will it really matter if I just stick to a few basic words like milk, more, hungry, want, yes/no...?

Junior, like me, will be a dual citizen. I wonder if he will develop a London accent, which neither S nor I have. Will he be able to switch between American and British accents? Which one will he favo(u)r someday? Will he struggle with other languages? How much Japanese will he learn if I teach him?

It's exhausting/knackering just to think about it!

Invasion of teh Cute...

...or as I have begun to think about it, 'baby creep.'

Not as in 'my baby is creepy' but as in the baby is slowly creeping into our lives.

Junior with Grandma C at 34 weeks

My bump is getting bigger. I went from a small, high bump just under my chest to a beach ball in the space of about ten weeks. Amazingly, most days I don't feel as huge as I look. S compares it to boiling frog syndrome, with the gradual growth over nine months allowing me to adjust to the change. I still have enough energy to walk around, carry bags, go up and down stairs, and run errands.

I can't say that the changes to the flat have been as gradual. The remodel is now done - we have fresh paint on the walls, new carpet throughout, and we have been rearranging furniture to accommodate the small human who will join us soon. We are, or at least I am, in nesting mode now.


So I have been washing tiny clothes.


And buying beds.

Combination infant bed, changing table, and play pen to see us through the first few months while Junior sleeps in our room. Eventually he'll move to a crib/cot downstairs.

And researching every type of pram, pushchair, buggy, stroller, carrycot bassinet, carseat, and 'travel system' on the market. Our main concerns were:

  • Stairs from the front door to the hallway with very little storage space, either at the bottom or the top
  • Transportation dominated by walking, buses, and the Tube
  • No car, but times when we will need to put Junior in a car (for example, getting home from the hospital)
  • Bumpy sidewalks (pavements)
  • Inclement weather, especially since Junior is expected in early December

Originally, a pram with a carrycot seemed like an ideal solution. The pram would allow Junior to face us; the carrycot would allow for easier movement up- and downstairs; and the carrycot could also double as a bed if needed. But we would still need a carseat on occasion, and the pram would have to fold small enough to keep near the door.

Enter the Baby Jogger City Mini.


After a brief flirtation with the (expensive! but impressive) Bugaboo Cameleon, a helpful shop assistant in John Lewis suggested the City Mini with a Maxi Cosi carseat. It was not until he showed me how to fold it - with one hand! - that I fell in love with the idea.


They should market it as the 'folding bike' of strollers. For the same reason that I bought a Dahon, I became obsessed with the City Mini. Turns out, it is quite a popular model with the yummy mummy set in London. It's easy to maneuver on buses and Tubes, it's rugged enough to go to the park or push through snow, it's lightweight and simple to fold, and incredibly it doesn't cost a fortune. Where the consensus seems to be that most families start with Bugaboos and move to Maclarens after a year, most Baby Jogger owners use the same stroller for years.


So Junior has his first set of wheels now. We chose a carseat instead of a carrycot after all - we can use it with a 3-point seatbelt in virtually any car, which will be useful for minicabs, rental cars, and (gasp!) our own car if we ever feel a need to buy one.

We are not quite ready for Junior's arrival just yet. There are still a few key items we need to prepare (primarily nappies/diapers and bathing gear - oh, and a name!) but we are getting closer, at least in practical terms. Mentally I'm not sure we'll feel ready for parenthood until ... ever? ... but I'm enjoying letting this little boy creep into my life.

Monday 7 November 2011

irish wedding

It is unlike me to wait so long before blogging about a trip, but here it is...

Our friends C&S tied the knot over the August bank holiday in C's native Ireland. Knowing that it would be my last chance to fly before the baby arrives, and our last chance to get away for a while, we decided to make it a mini-break.

We flew to Shannon and rented a car; then drove to our B&B just outside Tipperary in the scenic Glen of Aherlow.




 We spent our first full day exploring the area and taking advantage of the well-signposted walks (between rain showers!)




outstanding in their field



The wedding took place on Saturday in C's hometown of Hospital, near Limerick. Try googling "hospital, limerick" for directions to the church... I promise that what you are looking for will be the last link you'll find. But as it turned out, the route was fairly easy and we found seats with all the cool kids.




Perhaps as could be expected at an Irish Catholic ceremony, there was an emphasis on C&S's new married life together and encouragement to procreate. Inwardly, we wondered what their one-year old daughter thought of being excluded from the references to the joys of future children, but the three of them took it in their stride. Maybe words matter more if you place importance in them. The correct sentiments were there in any case, and C&S couldn't stop smiling - which is all that really matters!

The reception was held at the beautiful Aherlow House Hotel, overlooking the valley.

lucky private moment with the bride and groom

We indulged on scones and jam with tea and coffee while the other guests arrived and the bride and groom mingled. Sitting down to dinner later with nearly 250 other people showed just how happy we all were for C&S, and there were very few dry eyes when the bride's father sang her the loveliest song... (S will have a hard time topping it when their daughter gets married someday!) Gradually tables were moved, the band set up, and the dancing began. I'm sad to report that we didn't last long after midnight, but the party continued until at least 4 AM.

The following morning, we woke up late and had given up the idea of breakfast when the phone rang. Our wonderful Irish hosts would not take no for an answer: 'come down and we'll give you breakfast. Go on, go on, go on...'

We continued exploring the area, heading first to Cashel where we found the local brass band playing (practicing?) in the town square.


We walked up to the famous Rock of Cashel and enjoyed the views from above, although restoration efforts meant that it was not as picturesque as usual.



From there, we proceeded to Cahir Castle. Maybe it was the presence of blue sky, or the absence of scaffolding, but I preferred Cahir Castle to the Rock of Cashel. Fortuitous timing also meant that we got there just in time to join a free tour.





On our final day, we drove back toward Shannon Airport via Cork.



Driving in Ireland was remarkably easy but danger never seemed far away. Big trucks rush down narrow country lanes. Speed limit signs of 100 km/hour are posted just before tight curves (how?! and why?!). The slow lane is for passing...or for parking... And there are signs and reminders everywhere to stay on the left.


I could understand it on our rented car (many tourists come from parts of the world where you drive on the right) but presumably the locals should know? Entering Cork was harrowing, only because we ended up right inside the city centre with no real idea of where to go. Fortunately we were able to park the car and walk around.

After lunch, we got back in the car and drove to Blarney. Here are some facts about Blarney and the Blarney Stone that we hadn't anticipated: they charge 10 euro for the privilege of kissing a (presumably unhygienic) rock that has been kissed by strangers for years...and there's not much else to do in Blarney.


So we went along to Bunratty, (immaturely making fun of the name: 'Bunratty, heh heh') but got there too late to go inside the castle.


All that was left to do was have dinner at the local pub, check in to our hotel, check out a mere 12 hours later, and fly home...

We had a lovely trip. Ireland is comfortingly familiar from both an American and British perspective. Born as a Cassidy, I feel an automatic affinity for the Irish. And now that I live in the UK, Ireland's rolling green hills and full breakfasts are similar, though not the same. Looking forward to our next trip to the Emerald Isle. But maybe Northern Ireland for a change?

Wednesday 28 September 2011

not-so-restful rest day

The painters have finished! In 14 days, they painted the bedroom, living room, hallways, and spare room (S prefers to call it his office, but I think Junior might find it useful as a bedroom fairly soon.) They stripped back the wooden banisters and trim and re-varnished everything. They fixed the window sills, inside and outside. They painted the doors, door frames and edging. They even re-painted the wood covering the hole in the ceiling that leads to the attic.

The good news is that we love the new colo(u)rs. We chose a very pale green - almost white - for the main walls and used a slightly darker light green for feature walls in each room. The banisters have gone back to their original dark color. We had intended to make them lighter but as it happens, several coats of varnish scuppered that plan. I would be upset if they didn't look so much fresher than before; plus the dark wood gives a nice contrast to the clean, bright walls. We also chose a glossy white for the doors and trim. I hadn't really thought about the difference between glossy and matte before, but I like the extra sparkle.

During the painting and sanding, however, we discovered that the flat was virtually unlivable. We spent the first four nights camped out on/in our bed (the only piece of furniture we still had access to) amid the dust and paint fumes before fleeing to Brighton for the weekend.

Blustery in Brighton

After one night back from Brighton, S cleverly decided that it wasn't worth putting our health (and Junior's) at risk any longer. He booked us into the local Holiday Inn Express - certainly for its convenience, not for its glamour! Facing the ugly, hated Colliers Wood Tower, and undergoing refurbishment of its own, I can't see how they can justify their prices, but at least it was clean...

Living in a hotel and eating out every night was beginning to wear thin, though. The painters finished their work yesterday and recommended that we give the final coats a day to finish drying before beginning on the carpet tomorrow. So the flat is resting in its semi-completed state.

Living room, still not very livable
Living room, still not very livable

Full bathroom
Bathroom, AKA closet

Almost completely inaccessible kitchen
Kitchen, almost completely inaccessible

The emptiest room: S's office or Junior's room?
Spare room, the only empty space left

Which brings me to the title of this blog. The flat is resting, but I'm not. Some combination of eating out for two weeks, Junior churning in my abdomen, and a possible stomach bug (?) kept me up all night. The midwife didn't think it was anything serious but recommended that I not go to work today.

Of course, after nine nights and a lot of £££, we had chosen this morning to leave the hotel. That left me with several options: extend the hotel reservation for one day/night; go home and rest as much as possible; or go to work after all.

Between daytime TV at the hotel but no internet, or internet but not much else at home, I chose to come home. I restocked the kitchen with a few essentials that don't require much prep and would be kind to my tummy (milk, bananas, yogurt, bread). I changed the sheets on the bed. And I'm catching up with hundreds of articles in my RSS feed. Not the most restful day ever, but far better than the chaos of my office.

Sunny bed with clean sheets

I'm looking forward to having the carpet installed so that we can put everything back together again. All in all, several weeks of inconvenience is a small price to pay for a virtually new flat but it feels longer than that. I just hope Junior likes his home as much as we do!

Sunday 11 September 2011

preparing for junior

Living room shelves
living room shelves

We remodeled our kitchen a few years ago. Then we remodeled the bathroom last year. We have always intended to work on the rest of the flat - new paint, new carpet, fix the windows - and we started researching the project in March just before we found out I was pregnant. We would have done the project anyhow, but with a little one on the way, we decided not to wait.

Bedroom shelves
bedroom shelves

One of our main objectives has been to use our small space better. Perhaps there is a better way to arrange the furniture. Perhaps there are better shelf options. Perhaps our choice of colo(u)rs will make a big difference.

We also want something that is easy to clean and maintain. Even without a baby to consider, neither of us is particularly good at cleaning on a regular basis (I admire people who can do it daily or weekly, if that gives you any indication).

Filthy walls
apparently the walls were both lighter and cleaner at one point

So we decided to hire an interior decorator, not that we didn't think we could figure it out on our own, but we figured that a professional might have some other insight or expertise to offer. After several months of contacting people, it boiled down to a woman whose style sense was more traditional and posh than ours, and a man who can best be described as a hipster. We went with the hipster.

As the clock kept ticking, we entered the summer months. We went to California for two weeks. Just as we were ready to kickstart the project in August, we found out that the hipster was going on holiday for most of the month. We spent the next few weeks on our own, finding a decorator/builder, sourcing carpets, choosing paints, and generally doing the things we expected the hipster to do.

what's left in the bedroom

We are now ready for the project to start tomorrow. Or at least, we are as ready as we'll ever be. I used to wonder why so many people wait until they are six or seven (or even eight) months pregnant to move, remodel, paint, etc. Now I know: they may not have a choice!

In the meantime, S has been a superhero, carting books and valuables up to the attic we never used before. We have filled every inch of the crawl space in the bathroom with clothes and other essentials. We are anxious to see what tomorrow holds - where will they start? Will we have to move out? Have we packed enough?

Stay tuned for the continuing adventure!

Sunday 31 July 2011

California, baby...




S and I spent two weeks in Berkeley and Lake Tahoe with my family. Unlike our usual trips, where we spend most of our time focusing on sightseeing and scenery, the major themes for this trip were people, food, and relaxing.


At 18-20 weeks pregnant, this was Junior's second trip abroad before birth. Any worries I had about a ten-hour transatlantic flight were allayed by the comfort of Premium Economy seats on Virgin, and a relatively easy pregnancy so far. The effects of jet lag and altitude sickness in Tahoe were not worse than usual. Even better, I had the benefit of support, hand-me-downs and advice from my sister and best friend, who had babies within three weeks of each other in April and May.

This was The Baby Trip.


It was so nice to see my sister and brother-in-law as proud new parents, not to mention my parents as doting grandparents. This small (but rapidly growing!) person has taken over everyone's heart.



But if one baby manages to attract the attention of every adult in the room, two babies and an energetic 3 1/2 year old is almost unbearably cute.




I wouldn't normally post a video of someone else's child(ren) on the internet, but this is too funny not to share.

At the park, H discovered the curly slide - an upgraded plastic version of the metal one I used to play on when I was little. With determination and enthusiasm, he climbed up and slid down again and again...







And we did manage to do some light hiking and exploring as well.

Memorial Point near Incline Village, Nevada side of Lake Tahoe

Eagle Falls near Vikingsholm Castle, California side of Lake Tahoe

Snow in Tahoe Meadows

Above Lake Tahoe, near Brockway Summit

Stow Lake, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Stow Lake, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

It was a great trip and I miss everyone already... A bit scary, but mostly exciting to see what lies ahead for us with Junior. I had such a good time reconnecting with friends, family friends and family. Thank you to everyone who came to our party and a special thank you to everyone who kindly gave us gifts for Junior. It's becoming more real everyday!