Hello London: Exploring the London Aquarium

A morning at the London Sea Life Aquarium – the second-largest aquarium in Europe! – is a bite-size, half-day outing. Which is perfect for us right now, because I can’t haul this big ol’ belly around for much more than a few hours, anyway.

Victoria Station London Aquarium Tube Train Breakfast
Grabbing a quick breakfast at Victoria Station before boarding the tube, our last leg to get to the London Aquarium.

The Aquarium’s location is great. We took the public transportation trifecta to get there – bus, train, tube – and then walked across the Westminster Bridge. Dexter got to see and hear Big Ben, we eyeballed the London Eye, and we all peered at the Thames, admiring the boats jetting around despite the wet, grey day.

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Mommy’s little enforcer

Look at that face! If I sent him after you, you’d never see it coming.

Dex, Matt and I are hanging out in the living room, me on the sofa and the dudes playing on the floor. Matt says something teasing to me – I can’t remember what – and without thinking, I say, “Dexter, go kick Daddy in the stomach.”

Dex immediately moves toward Matt.

At this point, I should interject to say that we’re pretty serious about not teaching Dexter that any kind of violence, even play hitting or biting, is funny or fun, because we know how that stuff can escalate and we’d like him to be able to engage in society.

But in that moment, Dex is making a move and it’s crystal clear that Matt and I are both too curious about what would happen next to pull back.

And what happens next is Dexter gently kicks Matt in the stomach. Several times.

Matt: “He kicked me! I can’t believe he kicked me!”

Me: “I kind of can’t believe it, either.”

Matt: “You are a bad mommy!”

Me: “No. I’m a good mommy – my son did exactly what I asked! I’m a bad WIFE.”

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Dispatch from Mommyland

Yesterday, my midwife grabbed and wiggled Cricket’s head from outside of my belly.

That’s all I’m going to say about that moment, because it is impossible to describe how bizarre it felt.

Other than occasional freakshow incidents such as that, and thrilling near-death experiences such as this:

it is safe to say we’re officially entering the boring part of our expat adventure. We knew it was coming – you have to slow down and sleep while you can before a baby comes or you’ll hate yourself once he gets here – but it doesn’t make for very interesting blog content. We obviously are not traveling for a while, and even local explorations are low-key or paused either because I’m sore and knackered, or because it’s been grey and rainy and when it’s like that, it’s more fun to snuggle up with Dex and enjoy these last few weeks together before Cricket invades. 

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A Short List of Dumb Things I’ve Done This Week

  1. This morning, I microwaved NOTHING. I don’t mean I put in an empty bowl or mug, oh ho ho, isn’t that funny? I closed the empty microwave, pressed the buttons to start it, and walked away, apparently expecting a warmed breakfast to appear out of thin air, like magic.
  2. I read a story about a couple whose baby was born at 23 weeks, and died a few hours later. I fully knew what the post was going to be about, and clicked the link and read that sucker anyway. I am now re-hydrating to replenish vital moisture lost to copious tears.
  3. I introduced myself to someone, and she said, “Jamie? THAT is an interesting name!” This threw me off so much I just stared at her for probably a full five seconds before blurting out, “IS IT?!” No response.
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U.S. vs. U.K. (NHS): Prenatal and antenatal care

Dexter shares a snack with me while we wait for one of my specialist appointments. He is a coffee cake hog.

I had Dexter when we lived in the U.S., while enjoying the top notch benefits provided by video game companies. (Seriously. They’re great. Billing people would gape at me all the time, in disbelief over what was covered.)

From second trimester on, my pregnancy with Cricket is under the care of the U.K.’s National Health Service, aka NHS England. Matt still works for a video game company and therefore receives private health insurance, but after some research, we discovered that NHS care would be comparable and in some (boring) ways, better for us and our situation.

For the uninitiated, the U.S. has no national health service. All of my care was provided in private practice, via employer-provided insurance, paid for by us in the form of a paycheck deduction. The NHS in the UK is most similar to a single-payer plan, but does not truly fall under that definition because in addition to being paid for via our taxes, there are trusts involved and as mentioned, private insurance is in the mix.

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Nap laps, tantrums and stepping in poo

Dexter is having kind of a tough week.

On Tuesday, I woke him early from his nap to get to a midwife appointment on time. It’s been cold and wet lately, but that afternoon was sunny and cool so we played in the front garden a bit before heading inside. It was all fun and games until he tried to step down a concrete step onto our driveway, slipped and fell.

That’s when I realized the bottoms of his shoes were coated with poo, about an inch thick.

Dex would like to show you this big leaf he found, in happier times, before he stepped into a poo trap.
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Dexter sees snow for the first time

London snow is unusual. The city is 3-4 degrees warmer than the most of the rest of the UK and we just don’t see flakes very often.

But on Thursday, it snowed, a pretty good showing – almost complete ground coverage with fat flakes still falling when Matt got home from work.

Our usual evening routine is Matt and Dex play while I make/finish dinner, then we eat, then bed. That train doesn’t derail very often, but still, when Matt said, “You wanna put on coats and boots and go outside and show him the snow?” I only had to think a second before saying yes.

Who knew how long it would last, or when we’d see it again?

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Dexter Ian: 21 Months Old

Every time he puts the baby to bed, Dex turns around with his finger in front of his lips and says “Shhhhh….”

We put a fake baby brother on Dexter’s Christmas list.

No one bought it for Christmas but then Matt’s mom sent it for Three Kings.

The idea was to maybe start play-acting some stuff, feeding and holding, to get Dexter used to the idea of a baby in the house ahead of Cricket’s arrival. Dex knows there’s a baby in mommy’s belly, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t get it. Our hope was that Fake Baby Brother would give us an anchor, a way to talk about things so they’re a little less abstract.

We weren’t sure how it would go, but it turns out that Dexter loves that baby. He feeds it, puts it to bed about 493 times a day, wraps it in a blanket and is very diligent of being sure the baby has its paci.

He is so freaking adorable with that doll that if I wasn’t already pregnant, I probably would be by now. 

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Top Books of 2016… and Dexter’s picks, too!

You: “We get it, Jamie. You really like books and reading. You are weirdly dedicated to the library and are super happy that Dexter loves books, too, and you talk about it all the damn time. WE GET IT.”

Me: “BUT HAVE YOU SEEN A WHOLE BUNCH OF PHOTOS OF DEXTER READING BOOKS, ALL GATHERED IN ONE ADORABLE COLLAGE HERE ON THE INTERNET?”

You: “[sigh] No. Fine. Show us.”

Me: “If you insist!”

You: “Don’t push it.”

Dexter reading photos are at the end, but first, my top books of 2016.

Another relatively light reading year for me, but there are some treasures. Maybe next year I’ll get to read more. I hear you get LESS busy with two children, right? RIGHT?

Seriously, though, reading is a big part of my life and one of my 2017 resolutions is to put some effort into it. It’s always come easy because I’ve always had lots of time for books, so if I read a few duds, who cares? There were 3-4 good books for every bad one. Now that that has been untrue for two years in a row, I’m putting some effort into research to make sure my precious reading time is of higher quality. Man, this is some privileged person problems, here. Also note that the links below are affiliate, so if you click and buy a book, I’ll get a few pennies (literally) to put toward my hosting.

Here are previous lists, and here are the 2016 picks:

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