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.

Love,
Your Mommy xxx
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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.
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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




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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.
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