Tuesday, December 3, 2019

To My Toddler: About To Become a Big Brother

Dear A,

In a short while, your world will change - my world will change - in ways we couldn't have imagined. And that makes me both happy and sad: happy that you'll (hopefully) gaining two healthy siblings but sad that our time together, just the two of us, is coming to an end.

Every morning, when you stir around 6 or so, and I try to get you to stay a little longer in your cot, telling you softly, "Down down, please", while fishing for your dummy or handing you some water, I chide myself under my breath for relenting too easily, too quickly, and picking you up - hefting your legs over my 33-week-pregnant-with-twins belly and carrying you to the guest room, where we both cuddle for half an hour or so in bed. As you immediately turn into me and run your little hand up and down my arm, or tuck it into my robe for comfort, I worry, "How will I do this when the twins arrive? How will I do this when I'm recovering from birth?" And I feel your small, warm feet dig into the tops of my legs and I think, 'I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.'

Because right then, right there, I don't care. Whatever the future brings in tantrums and tears and screaming fits, it's worth it: those precious 28, 29, 30 minutes I get to spend with you in the darkness of early dawn; the stillness.

On Saturday, you climbed up into your Montessori learning tower and helped me make sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving dinner. I handed you marshmallows, one by one, and you carefully placed them on top of the mixture, exclaiming, "Oooh!" each time. I never imagined I'd have a child one day to share my Thanksgiving traditions with - and the sudden realization that it was actually happening shook me to my core.

On Sunday, I was tired from cooking, and I got down on the floor with you to watch Carl's Car Wash on YouTube, which I had never done before. You love that show, with its catchy tune, friendly characters, and assortment of vehicles going through the car wash. I laid on my side and felt the babies stretch, then kick and punch - the walls of their world getting smaller and smaller as they grow. I nestled my head into your side and wrapped my arms around your waist, expecting you to be too mesmerized by your show to notice. But you leaned into me: your head gently resting on my arm, your cheek collapsing into the crook of my elbow. Tears pricked my eyes then, because I knew you loved me too.

My firstborn: I love you so fiercely, it hurts. There isn't a moment from your childhood so far that I don't want to claw back: your gurgles, your first carrot puree, your first smile, your first steps, your first haircut, your first, your first, your first. You first.

I will understand in the coming months if you sleep worse, eat worse, act worse - want/need me more. You won't understand why I can't lift you as much or cuddle with you in the dark or lie on the floor to watch Carl's with you. At least, not immediately. But I promise you, we will have one-on-one time together each day, whether it's for 5, 10, 20 or 60 minutes - because I can't bear not to.

You are going to make the most wonderful big brother; we know it.

And we love you. To the moon and back.

Mama x

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Gestational Diabetes

When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in this pregnancy, I was relieved - then resentful. I had suspected undiagnosed gestational diabetes as the underlying cause of my son's premature birth (and his abnormally large birth weight, plus low blood sugar and jaundice), despite the fact that I'd been tested at 28 weeks and told by my midwives that the outcome was "normal". Looking back, I had so many classic symptoms of diabetes - symptoms that I repeatedly reported to hospital consultants, GP, and midwives, with each one dismissing them as "normal" in pregnancy.

This time, at a different hospital and with a monochorionic (identical, two babies sharing one placenta) twin pregnancy, I pushed the consultant to test me sooner for GD. She said it was unusual to test so early, but agreed to at 21 weeks.

And my blood sugar readings were raised - to everyone's surprise but mine.

From there, the diabetes team moved quickly: scheduling a meeting with the diabetes nurse, who gave me a blood glucose testing kit to use once in the morning and one hour after every meal, and another meeting with the hospital dietician, who helped come up with a meal plan in an attempt to lower my blood sugar levels.

Initially, we tried to control my GD through diet and exercise. But despite being extremely restrictive (at one point, I was eating zero carbs, which was neither healthy nor sustainable) and going out for a walk immediately after every meal (not the easiest when you're pregnant with twins, especially as the pregnancy progresses), my glucose levels remained high - and I felt like such a failure. Like I hadn't tried hard enough.

The diabetes nurse was incredibly kind, and assured me that it had nothing to do with me - typically, GD develops during pregnancy and disappears after birth (though, given my family history of diabetes, it's likely to stick around permanently). It occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin to support both you and the baby - or, in my case, the babies (apparently, twin pregnancies have a higher rate of developing GD).

The nurse suggested I start on Metformin, a pill, but I asked if I could move directly onto insulin, as I'd heard the Metformin caused stomach upset, which I really couldn't deal with when I was working and looking after a toddler in the evenings. They immediately agreed and prescribed Novorapid before meals and Humulin, before bedtime - so, four injections total, per day.

The resentment came in when I realized that, despite the insulin, I'd still need to follow a strict Keto-like diet, which was the last thing I wanted to do when pregnant. I constantly craved pasta and missed cakes; I was angry that I felt deprived and hungry a lot.  

Now, in my 32nd week of pregnancy, I can honestly say that this diagnosis of gestational diabetes has been a blessing in disguise. I've never felt healthier and better in myself: less sluggish, more fit, and just generally healthier.

Of course, I have moments where I'm annoyed because I would love to have a slice of cake for dessert instead of Skyr, a handful of raspberries and one square of 90% dark chocolate, but once I got used to the diet, I found that I stopped craving a lot of sweet things (though I find myself missing carbohydrates, for sure).

What surprised me was how many misconceptions people have about diabetes. A lot of friends volunteered to bring me "vegan cake" or "savoury muffins", which was very sweet and well-intentioned, but vegan cake still has sugar (natural or refined) and is high in carbs, and savoury muffins are (unless made with a flour alternative), also a total carb-fest.

I did have a few dreams where I was stuffing my face with bread and endless bowls of pasta (oh, how I miss pho and ramen! AND WHITE RICE!), but ... at the end of the day, I want to give these twins the best chance of being healthy at (and after) birth.

And the fact that I feel better for it all after this lifestyle change is the figurative icing on the cake.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Frankly, I'm Terrified

The first thing the midwife said to me when she read my file and saw that I was expecting identical twins (and that I had an 18-month-old at home) was: "You'll need to let some things go."

She was kind, but firm in her advice. And what she meant was: I won't always have a clean home. I won't always have time to put my son to bed and massage his legs after bath time and read three stories after dinner. I won't always be able to head out into the world with a full face of makeup and a chic, put-together outfit (not that there's much of that these days anyway, unless I'm heading into work!).

John has been gently reminding (read: nagging) me to start by letting some things "go" now - for example, stop making separate meals for our son (one weekend morning, I found myself simultaneously stewing apple, oranges, prunes and cinnamon to help with his constipation and preparing a slow-cooker chicken soup with four different types of veggies so I could freeze it and ask his nanny to give it to him for lunch).

"Your perfectionism will destroy you - or us," he said.

And he's right.

At the very root of the anxiety and depression I've struggled with for years is this obsession with "being enough". Doing enough.

And after the recurrent miscarriages I experienced, together with my son's difficult birth and subsequent hospital stays, the way I dealt with the trauma was to do my best to provide the best for my child.

To me, this meant breastfeeding him exclusively for nearly a year (until his interest naturally waned and he became fully weaned), even if it meant I was waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. to pump when he was asleep; even if it meant I bled from over-pumping; or that I couldn't get my hair cut for months because I was so anxious about getting back in time for a feed.

And when he transitioned onto solid foods, it meant preparing meals from scratch for him (luckily, his nanny does the lion's share of this now and she is an excellent cook), ensuring he had a fresh supply of whole fruit replenished every week, and that I was baking sugar-free cakes and waffles that I knew he'd love as snacks.

It meant creating the perfect nursery for him: with perfect Scandi-inspired decor, the perfect breathable pillow to rest his head on, the perfect sheepskin mattress topper to "keep him cool in the summer and warm in the winter", the perfect organic cotton cot sheets, and the perfect hand-knit doll that I felt would best comfort him at night if he were to wake.

He doesn't need any of these things - I know that. I know it. (Though - can I just say - his bed looks insanely comfy?)

And I know I've been doing all these things for myself, more than I've perhaps been doing them for him. Reassurance. Insurance. An apology for those terrible first days and weeks. Because somehow I still see it as my fault.

Because each four-layered muslin blanket and soft toy is a whispered, "I'm sorry."

And I know what he wants more than anything else - more than any green garbage truck replica (his current favorite) - is for me to play with him; to hold and cuddle him. Which I do. As much as I can.

And so, I'm scared. I'm scared that I won't know how to cope when the twins arrive and I literally can't "do it all".

Because doing it all - or attempting to do it all - is what keeps me sane, even when it's driving me to madness.

My goal in the next few weeks and months is to try to gradually begin to find a balance in all of this ... and to find time for myself and my husband too.

But it may be the biggest challenge I've ever faced, and I'm terrified of this journey.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Freddie's Flowers: Beautiful, Lasting Blooms

One of my favorite luxuries is having fresh flowers in the house. They brighten up any room, but I especially love having a bouquet standing smack dab in the middle of our dining room table. It's one of the first things I see when I come through the door, and it brings a little bit of the outside "in". Even when it's dreary outside. Even when I'm feeling under the weather.

And I used to treat myself to fresh flowers at the flower stand outside the tube station after work every few weeks or so: a small bunch of fluffy peonies here; a handful of blush-pink roses there. But now that I'm rushing home to a small child, every second counts - and my floral habit was the first to go.

I'd seen Freddie's Flowers, a floral delivery service, advertised before. But, can I be honest? I never tried it because my previous experiences with similar fresh flower deliveries resulted in  disappointingly sparse and droopy bouquets that didn't last longer than a day or two.

But not my deliveries from Freddie's Flowers. I woke to my first box on Monday morning. They'd been delivered to my doorstep when I was fast asleep, around 5:45 a.m. or so. I opened the box to the heaping pile of beautiful blooms above, carefully selected for their subtle but complementary colors - nothing stiff or old-fashioned about this bouquet. 

No - this was modern, fresh, and felt so very me. They instantly looked like they belonged in my home; something I would have chosen if I'd had time to peruse a flower shop for half an hour.

The plus side? This stunning bouquet stayed strong for over a week and a half before it began to show any signs of fading.

My second delivery from Freddie's Flowers arrived exactly one week later. This time, I knew whatever was in the box was bound to be fabulous, so I eagerly anticipated it all day (our nanny kindly took them in and arranged them for me, but you don't have to be home when the box is delivered!).

When I got home, I saw the most impressive bouquet of gladioli waiting for me. All Freddie's Flowers' arrangements arrive in bud and slowly bloom over a few days, so you can fully appreciate the flowers (and they last so much longer).

These gladioli were a magnificent statement piece in our house for several days (again, lasting well over a week) - especially when the bright pink, purple, and red reached their peaks.

I especially love that each delivery comes with detailed information about each variety featured in your bouquet that week, along with a sweet "snapshot" of how it looks when it's displayed. Plus, there are helpful, detailed instructions showing you exactly how to arrange them in a vase (raise your hand if you've been completely flummoxed before, and ending up hastily arranging the flowers in a way that resembles nothing close to what they were intended to look like!).

I have to say, as a former skeptic of flower deliveries, Freddie's Flowers has totally changed my mind. Their premium yet affordable bouquets are worth the treat - especially since they last for quite a while and the deliveries fit seamlessly into my busy lifestyle as a working mom. It's made me realize that maybe I can indulge in one of my favorite little luxuries once again.

Great news! Freddie's Flowers is offering Angloyankophile readers their first two boxes of fresh flowers delivered to their door for £12 each (saving £24!) with the code 'JAIMEFF' . Treat yourself! 

(I received my beautiful blooms as gifts from Freddie's Flowers. All opinions are my own.)

Friday, July 26, 2019

18 Months

Dear A,

Last night, you had a coughing fit. I went to your room and you were sitting up, crying - feeling very sorry for yourself. I picked you up and smoothed your hair back and held you in my lap until your eyes rolled back and your lids began to flutter closed. It was then that I noticed your feet were propped up against Goodnight Moon on the sofa. When did your legs get long enough to do that? I marvelled at this new discovery. As hard as I tried, I couldn't remember a time when your feet barely extended past my side - hovering mid-air, as I nursed you to sleep. I closed my eyes, partly through exhaustion, but partly because I wanted - so badly - to remember that time. 

I couldn't. 

You have grown again.

Last week, I took you to a play centre: a little town designed for babies and toddlers, with mini garages and a mini store and mini Bentleys and mini ice-cream vans and mini everythings. You always go for the cars. But halfway into the session, it was carnage: older kids commandeered wheelbarrows, shoving them into unsuspecting bare ankles while their moms chatted and ignored; smaller babies threw soft vegetables. A fabric eggplant landed by my feet. You'd wandered off - probably in search of a car to steal - but I was watching you across the room. As soft oranges flew and a wooden London bus was mounted, I saw you looking. Searching. You weren't scared - I wouldn't let you be. Just looking: tummy poking out, feet slightly turned in, arms in T-rex position. And then: you saw me. And the smile that crossed your face - oh, my darling. A thousand cliches come true. In that instant, my heart had never felt fuller. Until you reached me - over the fake grass, past the ice-cream van with the wooden cones now discarded on the floor - then it nearly burst. 

Last month, we took you to the beach for the first time. The pastel beach huts, lining the neat semicircle of the promenade, were shut for the morning. No one was visiting, except for the early-rising dog walkers, because high tide was just an hour away and the beach would disappear soon. The clock was ticking. Yet, time somehow slowed. I remember it being very bright - the sun was already fairly high, and your father slathered sun cream on your legs and face as I fastened your hat below your chin. You'd never even seen the ocean before. But somehow, you just knew: charging ahead with delight, curling your toes around the sand beneath your feet. You aimed straight for the water. I held your hands as the first tiny wave lapped towards us, covering your ankles. You shrieked with joy. You wanted to go further in. "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I laughed, holding you back. The second wave caught your bloomers and soaked the edges. Again, you laughed. And I felt the happiest I'd been for a very long time. 

Because I remembered: we met in the ocean. 

An hour after you were born, I was wheeled - drugged and half asleep - to the maternity ward while you travelled by incubator upstairs to SCBU. In my post-labor/post-birth daze, I had a vision: we were both submerged, deep in the inky blue darkness of a vast sea. I saw you first, paddling towards me, gently pawing your way to me as I held my arms outstretched. Waiting. Ready. Your face had a curious, but certain, expression. 

You knew. So did I. 

You were not wrenched from me with forceps 18 months ago in an operating room with bright lights and doctors in scrubs and masks. You did not meet me for the first time wrapped in a white towel stained with both our blood, my finger shakily grazing your left cheek. You did not leave the hospital with notes that read, "born in poor condition". I did not weep for hours for you in the shower when we were apart. 

No, that is not how we met. We met before - in this brilliant blue ocean, surrounded by the force of love pulled from another dimension. I knew you, and you knew me, already. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

5 Tiny Changes I'm Making to Protect the Environment

Shopping more mindfully. I love, love, love new clothes. Love them. Nothing excites me more than walking into Zara, or COS, or & Other Stories or Mango and picking up the newest midi skirt or blazer or perfectly cropped culottes. But. I tire of trendy pieces easily, and they often end up in the donation pile with only one (!) or two wears - which is terrible. A lot of these items are cheaply made in factories from polyester or other synthetic fibres and I've started to think about how these items will impact the environment long after I'm gone. So, in an age where the latest trends on Instagram rule, I've scaled back my fast-fashion purchases and am focusing instead on beautifully made clothing from independent makers, like the linen top and trousers I'm wearing in the photo above from notPERFEECTLINEN and my favorite new purchase, a chunky cotton-knit cardigan from The Knotty Ones, who employ full-time mamas living in rural Lithuania.

Buying second-hand kids' clothing and toys. Where possible, I try to buy second-hand clothes and toys for my little boy, or else clothes that are ethically-made using sustainable and natural fabrics. The latter can be tricky as these quality items are usually higher in price, so it's tempting to order mass-produced goods when he's outgrown his latest sleep suit, for example. But for clothing and toys, we have a wonderful local "sell or swap" group on Facebook, where I've found brand new Clarks sandals for him for £4 (!!!) and a selection of beautiful wooden cars that he currently enjoys pushing around the house. eBay is terrific for second-hand kids' clothing - I bought a nearly-new Polarn O Pyret fleece jacket for A a few weeks ago.

Using a KeepCup. I often grab breakfast on my way in to work in the morning, which usually consists of a soy hot chocolate and a pastry of some sort from Pret. I down the hot chocolate when I'm at my desk, then scarf down the pastry around 10 or 11 when I start to feel a dip - not the healthiest, I know, but I do sometimes have eggs or granola instead! One day, the realisation of the impact of my plastic-lid-and-paper-cup usage hit me like a semi-truck and I was not only horrified, but also embarrassed. My dad recently bought me this beautiful glass and cork KeepCup, which I'm looking forward to using when I'm back at work next week.

And on the subject of cups (TMI alert) ...

I'm on the hunt for a comfy but effective menstrual cup. I've read so many reviews and have had so many recommendations, but I have a feeling it's going to be a rather frustrating case of trial and error (though it will be better for the planet in the long run, so ... I'd really ought to try). Do you have any recommendations? I'd love to hear them in the comments below.

Carrying a reusable bag with me wherever I go. I am the worst at forgetting to bring a reusable bag with me when I change handbags, but I really, really must get better at remembering. We almost always bring our own bags when we do a "big shop" at the store, but when I'm grabbing a few things that are too big to be stuffed into my bag or carried loose in the stroller basket, I've shamefully asked for a plastic bag - and the guilt is bad. Must. Do. Better. I have this one that I really like.

What small things do you do everyday that have a huge impact on the environment (whether good or bad)?

p.s. John and I also had a long conversation about cutting back our meat consumption. Stay tuned. We're working on it.

p.p.s. This blog post contains affiliate links, which means that I earn a teeny tiny amount if you click through and make a purchase (and when I mean "tiny", I mean that I have made a whopping £0.46 so far from all the affiliate links on this site - no joke).


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A (Baby-Free!) Spanish Feasting Brunch at Aqua Nueva

My best friend likes to say that we live our lives 'in parallel': when I studied abroad in England, she studied abroad in Spain. There, she dated a Juan while I dated John. A few years after I moved to London, my ultimate dream came true and she moved to the city too. We got engaged on the same weekend. And then: our babies were born four months apart. See? 

Sandwiched somewhere between the years above, when I was studying for a Master's degree in Renaissance Literature at York, Udita moved to Huelva, Spain - a little town outside Seville - and taught English to schoolchildren there. John and I flew to Jerez to visit her over Easter weekend and I have vibrant memories of waking groggily to the sounds of a Semana Santa procession; of drinking freshly squeezed orange juice with the scent of jasmine hanging heavily in the air; of shyly ordering a Shandy Cruzcampo at the bar in a terrible attempt at Spanish. Of an everlasting friendship that would ensure distances across oceans, continents, and life changes. 

So, Saturday, we found ourselves at Aqua Nueva on Argyll Street near Oxford Circus, excitedly eyeing the new Saturday Spanish Feasting Brunch menu. 

Neither of us had a drop of alcohol when we were nursing our babies and the temptation of Cava, wine, AND sangria on the menu was all too real. 

We tucked into crispy slices of pan con tomate and delightful little spheres of croquettes, before sharing a bitter leaf avocado salad between us - all the while laughing at our own inside jokes. 

Because that's what brunch is REALLY for, after all: a relaxed, easy way to share food and memories with best friends. 

The tortilla arrived at our table and I was excited - a traditional Spanish recipe I try so hard to get right (and always get so wrong: too egg-y or too potato-y or too bland). This tortilla was delicious: dense yet refined; light, yet packed with flavor. I would have liked more, but then there wouldn't have been room for the seafood paella, which I made the unfortunate mistake of letting go cold as I took it outside to photograph. 

With generous helpings of saffron, this paella deserved to be enjoyed outside on Aqua Nueva's beautiful roof terrace, but the weather that day unfortunately didn't play ball, so we heaped portions onto our plates indoors instead. 

The much-anticipated dessert was a plate of light and airy pistachio churros, served with a tangy mango and passion fruit sauce - not too heavy, which was perfect for us as we slinked off afterwards to check out the homeware and kids' sections of H&M just a stone's throw away, taking advantage of this very rare baby-free opportunity. 

I can't think of a better way to spend a lazy Saturday morning: brunch at Aqua Nueva, followed by a mini shopping spree on Oxford Street. 

We were guests of Aqua Nueva. All opinions are my own. The Spanish Feasting Brunch is available at Aqua Nueva every Saturday from 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm and is priced at £35 per person. (Information correct at the time of publication, but please call ahead if you want to confirm!).

Sunday, March 24, 2019


Last weekend, I drove with my baby in the car for the first time.

It was terrifying.

We were on our way to a first birthday party (there have been lots of those lately!) just an 11-minute drive away. And though there were no meltdowns from either of us (thank goodness) and though I successfully navigated two incidences of cars playing chicken with me on narrow roads (one of which was a police car with sirens on full blast), I was still shaking when I reached my destination and close to tears when I asked my friend to check that where I parked was okay.

But, I did it, and I talked to A in the car the whole time - trying to keep myself calm while listening to his sweet babbling.

On our way home, my GPS didn't take me the back the way I came for some reason, and I ended up on the roundabout of my nightmares, plus the freeway! Instead of panicking, I just laughed. Much like my first solo trip to IKEA (where I took a wrong turn and ended up on an industrial estate before going the wrong way down a one-way street while a bemused driver watched as I reversed onto a busy road), I took it as a sign from the universe that I could handle the unexpected.

And, thankfully, although I got into the wrong lane for the 20th time at yet another roundabout while exiting the freeway, I managed to get us home and through the door in one piece.

I know I need to practice more and I know my confidence drops the less I drive here.


Oh, how I miss the wide lanes and generous parking spaces in the US!

Stay tuned for more driving adventures ...

p.s. how sweet is this hanger from Red Hand Gang - and this Tobias & The Bear tee (a gift from a friend!)?

Friday, February 8, 2019

To My Son, On His First Birthday

Dear A,

I got a paper cut the other day when I was opening a box of party decorations for your birthday. It was one of those stiff, cardboard Amazon envelopes and it sliced into the crease of my middle finger and palm, just as I tore it open. I yelped, but forgot all about it until I went to wash my hands later and felt a sharp sting: ah, that paper cut.

Just like how, after twelve months of getting to know you (of loving you), I've forgotten how much it stung to hear the words, "I'm so sorry, but the embryo stopped growing some time ago," in a darkened ultrasound room. The tears I cried when I saw the pregnancy test read 'negative' again. And again, and again. How I felt ripped in half when you were taken from me in the delivery room and whisked straight to the Special Care Baby Unit in an incubator your Daddy called, "the little fire engine".

Those paper cuts were cuts on my heart, but you healed them.

You know, your Gung Gung wrote me the nicest note when I told him about my miscarriages (note: your Gung Gung is one of the kindest, funniest human beings in the world, and you are too lucky to have a Gung Gung like him). He said: "Jaime, don't feel too sad about it, because it was not meant to be. Take good care of yourself, and a real healthy little person who is truly belong to you will come along [sic]."

And he couldn't have been more right: you truly belong to me, and to your Daddy, and you to us. You, with your expressive eyebrows and your mischievous grin; you, with your long lashes and perpetually flexed feet; you, who loves to explore your surroundings safely from atop the "Mommy Perch" i.e. in my arms.

My darling: on your first birthday, I want you to know just how loved you are, and how your Daddy and I wanted you - you - in our lives so very, very much. You have brought us more joy and laughter than we could have ever imagined and you make me, your mom, so happy every minute of the day.

Even when you sneeze oatmeal on my work clothes. Even when you bust out of your sleeping bag after I tell you not to. Even when you flip on your stomach and push the bear nightlight off the changing table when I'm getting you dressed in the morning. Even when I wake up with your feet firmly wedged between my eye and my nose, your big toe occasionally twitching (btw, sleep training officially resumes after your party. Sorry, mister!).

All these things make me smile.

And I hope we make you happy too: when Daddy blows raspberries on your tummy in the morning; when we take you to the park and push you on the swings; when I make cinnamon apple waffles for your snack.

I love you, A, always and forever. Thank you for making these past twelve months the most wonderous days and nights of my life.

Your Mommy xxx

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Juggle Is Real

I stole this line from an Instagram friend (@anglopologie), but it sums up my first week as a working mama pretty darn well.

I mean, it was a shock to the system!

I'm currently working four days per week: Monday - Wednesday in the office and Thursday from home. On Monday morning, I anxiously woke before my alarm went off, peered at my little one's sleeping face, crept out of bed, and proceeded to dress in the dark (I plan my outfit the night before now!). Gone are the days I'd change 5-6 times before leaving the house because I was unhappy with my original outfit. And buh-bye rolling-out-of bed-at-the-very-last-minute!

I did my make-up in a flash and scooped up the baby, who looked as bewildered as me to be up at this time of the morning. I changed him ("No, really, stop - STOP - wriggling. Mama does NOT have time for - STOP. STOP IT!") before plonking him in his high chair downstairs and proceeding to run around like a chicken with its head cut off in the kitchen, defrosting frozen cubes of food I'd prepared the day before for his lunch, while making peanut butter toast fingers for his breakfast and periodically feeding him spoonfuls of oatmeal.

Before I knew it, I heard a key turn in the door and our nanny arrived with her baby in tow (who's three months younger than mine), shouting a cheerful, "Good morning!". I threw on my coat and babbled, "He's not finished with his breakfast. He's due a poo today. He can have a yogurt as a snack and the porridge fingers I made last night. OH. I accidentally left his snowsuit in the washing machine, so you'll need to put him in the back-up-snowsuit if you take them outside. THANK YOU!"

And - silly move on my part - as I closed the door behind me, I looked back. What did the movies teach us? TO NEVER LOOK BACK. And I did, and it was THE WORST. My baby's high chair is (foolishly) positioned in view of the front door. So what did I see when I glanced back? The worried and confused expression on his little face; his neck craned to get a better look at me, his brows upturned in two perfect inverted commas. Right before the door clicked shut.

My eyes pricked with tears as I sped-walk to the bus and my emotions were made all the more worse when the bus route took us past the hospital and - I'm not kidding - the actual room I labored in. I mean, crazy, right?

But as soon as I got on the tube, I was in "work mode" again and everything quickly became both strange and familiar: the crush of commuters angling for an empty seat; the passive-aggressive 'tuts' and sighs when someone took up too much room in the doorway or aisle; the rush to get out of the station.

At work, everyone was very lovely and kept exclaiming how glad they were to have me back. I spent my first day or so filing away some papers (and re-reading previous emails I'd sent, surprised at my confident and authoritative tone and wondering if I'd ever achieve that level of assurance again) and scraping the dusty crevices of my brain for answers when co-workers came to ask me questions. They were there - just a little out of reach. I realized I need to re-familiarize myself quickly; like returning to school after summer vacation.

I nervously checked my phone for WhatsApp updates from our nanny (she sent pictures of a smiling baby clutching a balloon, then eating a mini quiche with his hands) and bolted out the door at the end of the day, running - no, sprinting - for the train home.

And he was not happy to see me. He was angry. I opened the door to a furious baby, standing in his Stokke Tripp Trapp chair, flapping his arms and angry-crying with an accusatory look as if to say, 'Where have you BEEN?' But, as soon as I picked him up and we had a cuddle, he forgave me (and when his dad came home from work early, he was even happier - I thought he'd take flight, his arms began flapping so maniacally!). We did his bath-time routine together as a family and put him to bed, before John and I cooked dinner together and caught up on our day.

By the time Friday rolled along, I really, really cherished having the whole day to ourselves - just the two of us. More so, admittedly, than if I were home all week long.

I still feel a little sick to my stomach on Sunday night just thinking of the workload ahead of me (I'm effectively cramming five days into four) and I'm sad that my juggling act has taken a real toll on this blog and my Instagram presence, but - I hope to carve a tiny slice of time out of my schedule to keep writing and creating.

Sending lots of love to working mamas (and SINGLE mamas - how do you do it?) out there. The juggle is very, very real.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Just A Spoonful of Sugar: The Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea at Aqua Shard

I was on cloud nine when I passed my UK driving test in November, so I took this feeling rather literally and treated myself to the Mary Poppins afternoon tea at Aqua Shard, a restaurant with stunning panoramic views of London located on Level 31 of the Shard.

Now, I don't want to ruin any surprises for you (in case you decide to treat yourself too), but suffice to say, the Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea is full of them. It's a tea for those who want to be delighted and dazzled; charmed and enchanted.

In short, it's anything but ordinary - and those who know P.L. Travers' books well will fan-girl all over the details.

From the menu etched into a gold-framed mirror (a recurring symbol in the books) to the plates adorned with Mary Shepard's original illustrations and the little bottles of "medicine" (homemade rum punch, lime cordial, and strawberry liqueurs that can be added to your champagne glass) - not to mention the warm scones which are presented at the table from within Mary's bottomless carpet bag - nearly every little detail from the books has been cleverly re-imagined for this afternoon tea with a literary twist.

Two bespoke teas have been created for this delicious afternoon tea experience, which I think work beautifully well with the selection of sandwiches and sweets: "Mary's Tea", which is an exotic but delicate blend of Darjeeling from India, Ceylon from Sri Lanka, Keemun and fragrant rose petals from China (a truly worldly blend!) and "Bert's Tea" for those who favor a smokier, richer fragrance to their tea (Souchong and Keemun from China, plus Ceylon from Sri Lanka, a hint of vanilla and Sussex cornflower).

The delicious finger sandwiches include Cackleberry farm egg and truffle (my favorite - I could eat that every day for lunch and never tire of it - the truffle lends a wonderful umami flavor), Dingley Dell honey roast ham and mustard, Ploughman's and a Devon crab and cucumber brioche (my second favorite!), plus mini crumpets topped with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

If, like me, however, you like to rush through the savoury bits of an afternoon tea just to enjoy the sweet selection, the Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea does not disappoint in this respect. My favorites were the oh-so-creative Mary Poppins' "hat" (mousse covered in dark chocolate with an edible flower brim and a black cherry on top) and the more understated homemade plum jam, which I greedily slathered onto warm raisin scones (pulled straight out of Mary's magical carpet bag!) before topping with clotted cream.

And of course, the "Fairground Candy Floss" (or "cotton candy", to my fellow Americans) was a very (and literally) sweet way to end the afternoon tea experience.

I savoured the view as much as I did the sandwiches, scones, and cakes (we had an incredibly sunny day, which offered spectacular views of the Thames and beyond) - and left humming, "Just a spoonful of sugar ..." on my way to the tube.

The Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea is the perfect gift for the New Year - I can't think of a better way to kick-start 2019 than with this whimsical tea (which will have you humming, "Just a spoonful of sugar ..." in no time).

Huge thanks to Aqua Shard for generously hosting us. All opinions are my own. The Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea is currently running until 3 November 2019 and is priced at £49 per person, or £66 with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne, and £72 with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rose. Book your table here


Monday, January 14, 2019

One Whole Year

My baby's bedtime routine makes me drowsy. I have, on occasion, settled him in his cot and fallen asleep beside him - only to find when I wake that it's 10 pm and all the lights are off downstairs, with John already in bed upstairs.

Our routine begins with a warm bath, followed by a leg massage and milk straight afterwards, then at least two stories ("Goodnight comb and goodnight brush! Goodnight nobody, goodnight mush.") and then a lot of hand-holding and adjusting of various stuffed animals. It's very sweet, but also incredibly soporific.

Sometimes, he has trouble getting down, and I pick him up and sort of do this bounce thing. His head drops on my shoulder, his hands grip my arms, and slowly, I feel his breathing slow and his weight drop into my hands - that's how I know he's falling asleep, and I gently place him back in his cot.

Last night, I was doing this bouncing thing and staring straight ahead at the felt garland hanging above his bed - white clouds alternating with grey snow-capped mountains. Suddenly, I had a flashback of standing in the same spot, 11 months earlier, staring at a blank wall and just feeling so, so sad that I'd come home from the hospital without our baby.

And that, when I did, I was terrified of him; this small (yet robust!), jaundiced little human asleep in his bedside cot: arms raised by his ears, mouth set in a tiny down-turned line. Every time he looked at me, I felt like I'd been caught out - a fake, a fraud. Not capable of being his mother. Totally clueless. Unworthy.

And then the seasons changed, and the frost melted between us - literally and figuratively. We went to Baby Sensory classes: me sitting cross-legged with him on my lap, both hands clasped protectively around his belly, watching him watching balloons being tossed in the air or stars being projected onto the ceiling. I sang to him: during diaper changes, bath time, car rides ... all the time. I took him along to Baby Cinema, where I ate popcorn and watched Sandra Bullock orchestrate the perfect getaway in Ocean's 8 in a darkened, air conditioned theater, while he gurgled before falling asleep in my arms.

Today, nearly a year has passed and I'm soothing this baby who reaches out to me; who cries when, to his consternation, I've walked out of the room (we're working on this!). Who giggles uncontrollably and chews on a finger when I threaten to "roll him up like a sausage and eat him like a sandwich" while slinging him over my shoulder and burrowing my head into his stomach. Who is settling in with his new nanny before I head back to work next week.

This past year has been the most adrenaline-fuelled and terrifying - but happiest - dream ever.

And I don't ever want to wake up.
© angloyankophile

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