No Letting Go

So you are probably familiar with the famous method of trapping a raccoon with a tin can and some nails? Also works on spider monkeys, I understand. Also works without the can - for instance, you can use a small hole in the side of a hollow log.

Anyway - you secure the can to the ground and hammer the nails into the opening so they are angled down toward the bottom of the can. Then drop either an irresistible morsel of food or something curiously shiny, along comes the raccoon (or the monkey), he sticks his little hand down into the opening, wraps his little fist around the irresistible morsel or curiously shiny item, and tries to pull it out.

But alas! He cannot pull his hand out, because the nails poke into his wrist and the opening is now too small for his grasping little fist. But he refuses to let go, because he is that determined to examine the shiny-ness and/or eat the deliciousness. So he sits with his hand stuck until the trapper comes, at which time he is goners.

Brilliant and sad at the same time.

You might also be familiar with the analogous morals of the raccoon trap story - things we need to let go of in order to be free, yada yada yada. I like those, too, but that's too heavy for my state of mind at the moment.

All I want to tell you is that the little grocery store across the street from us has such a raccoon trap. Only it is for pregnant women.

Perhaps some splendid clandestine photography will help me illustrate the situation:

You see in the corner and against the window, the ice cream case. It holds Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, strawberry shortcake ice cream, Phish Food, and these fabulous Magnum ice cream bars on sticks. We're talking the real goods. The door handle of the ice cream part is on the far right as you face the case and swings open (rather than sliding) on a left hand hinge.

But you will notice that just across from the ice cream case is a little lottery ticket stand/desk next to a railing and it takes up a bit of space between the ice cream case and the railing that is along the wheelchair entrance ramp. The base of the lottery thing is heavily weighted, but the top is lighter and a little tippy, alhtough fairly firmly attached to the base. When the door to the ice cream case is open, there is maybe 1 inch between the edge of the door and the lottery thing.

So, after some trial and error, I figured out that I can easily maneuver myself beyond the lottery desk, squish up a bit against the window, wedge myself fairly comfortably behind the lottery thing for a second and open the ice cream case. Once the door is open, I can pretty easily make my selections - grab with the right hand, line them up on my belly in the crook of my left arm.

But then...I am trapped. Because with my left arm and top of belly holding ice cream, I cannot get beyond the edge of the left-side opening door or reach out to hold it open a bit farther while I get out. If I turn to hold it open with my back side, I bam my (ouchy) belly button against the lottery thing. Somehow, I cannot squish up against the window enough (the way I got in) with ice cream in arms and if I back up even a bit, the lottery thing again goes tipping slightly but precariously over the top of the railing, and there I am, knocking the store over like a bull in a china shop.

But it's just me, a pregnant lady in a grocery store.

And I'm not leaving without my Haagen Daas, dagnabbit.

It's happened a couple of times now - the first time I almost went into a hysterical trapped raccoon bark, thinking that I was going to have to give up the ice cream if I wanted to go home. Now I mostly just feel an affinity with the raccoon or the spider monkey (on a much grander scale, of course), aside from the mild feeling of panic I have just thinking about buying a couple pints of ice cream.

In fact, I'm not entirely sure how I do finally escape and manage to bring home the ice cream for me, the baby in utero, and a couple of bites for the boys, but I do. I think I block all that as a way of coping with traumatic stress. I do know the trap happens each time, but at least I've gotten away with my Chunky Monkey and I'm not quite goners yet.

Here's the thing, though: Being the resourceful and ice cream deprived pregnant woman I am (the first eight months of my pregnancy in Ukraine were sadly deficient in the creamy cold goodness), and being a little more evolved than the raccoon or the spider monkey, the next time I go for ice cream, I'm going to take a spoon along.

That way I'll just enjoy my Cherry Garcia right there, between the lottery desk, the window and the open ice cream case. Then I'll just toss the empty container(s) under the door into the exit aisle, roll out quarterback style from behind the glass, let it swing shut, set the lottery thing straight, wipe my lips with the back of my hand, pick up the empty evidence of my splurge, and pay for what I consumed at the till.

Now that's a plan. Mwaaa haaa haaa. TescoExpress can't get me!


Heaven in a Big Bowl

We've been eating a lot of Subway lately. Because it's fresh, filling, yummy, not too pricey, easy, and across the street. Mostly for dinner, but yesterday we shook things up a bit and had it for lunch instead. I've just been at a loss to even think up what kind of eat-out cuisine we want to choose and too tired to go get anything else or take three small boys to a busy city restaurant.

And then today, like some kind of epiphany, I remembered something I've pined for in Ukraine and absolutely can't get. Besides Mexican food (which I'm still looking for), I want Pho more than anything I can think of. Tonight, we found Pho. In our part of London. Pho. Vietnamese soupy goodness.

The online info said it is a fairly new phenom here, which I think is funny because in Northern Virginia, there is a pho place around almost every corner, usually called Pho75 or Pho70 or Pho89 - depending on the year the proprietors came to America. They are little holes in the wall usually and specialize in just pho, but one bowl of pho is all a person needs to be happy for a long time.

Anyway, the pho of London is marketed as chi-chi Vietnamese "street food" and has a little more sleek facade to go with it and a slightly higher price tag, but tonight it took me to heaven. It has slightly thicker sliced meat and they use wide rice noodles instead of the the vermicelli type ones that I love, but the hoisin sauce! the chili sauce! the Thai basil! the cinnamony, anisey, beefy good broth.

All those months of trying to find the things to make pho at home in Kiev were just erased. It did occur to me, however, that a pho place would make a killing in Kiev. Soup is a vital component of every menu and Ukrainians think it's positively scandalous (not to mention very bad for your digestive health) if you don't have soup as part of every decent meal. So an exclusively soup restaurant with hearty meat and broth and add-in herbs? I think it would really work.

Except that I don't think Ukraine is high on the list of "places to immigrate" for the average Vietnamese restaurateur. Bummer.

But anyway, I think we'll be alternating sandwiches with pho for dinner from here on out. Dreams do come true.


Quite a Feet

Growing up if one of us had a clutzy moment, you could generally count on my mom asking one of two rhetorical questions:

"Didja have a nice trip last fall?" or "Today the first day with your new feet?"


Thursday I completely missed the bottom step on the stairs in our apartment building, turned my ankle and managed to carpet burn the top of my foot in the process. No one saw it or heard my loud, "Ouch!" as I limped out to go get groceries.

Friday I followed Charlie quickly across a wet lawn at the Princess Diana Memorial fountain to get a hold of his hand before he got to the little slope that I just knew he was going to fall down because he was headed there too fast. I caught his hand just in time for me to slip on the slippery slope - one leg went down the hill and one leg folded under me in a way that it should not fold, and my butt landed hard in the grassy mud. Same ankle twisted, again. It was in the center of the whole park, on a rise, so lots of people saw. Yes, yes, thank you very much. Saved the two-year-old from slipping. Did you see that?

Saturday morning I tripped over the corner of the coffee table in the living room and bruised my knee cap. I seriously thought I was going around the table, but I guess I can't see where things below my belly really are. I will just say that that trip hurt really, reallly bad.

Then I went for a little lunch date with Henry and we walked around a bit looking in shops and getting gelato and trying to find a double decker bus that would take us home and suddenly I realized that I felt both feet flapping against the pavement with every step I took. By the time I got home, both feet were puffing out of my shoes and Henry asked me why they were so big.

I started crying. I've never retained water until after giving birth, there is not a feeling I hate more than that smack-smack tight feeling in my feet, and I also started freaking out about preeclampsia and having to be induced and my husband is not even here and blah, blah, blah, waaa, waaa, waaa.

I took a few deep breaths and started drinking lots more water, I've tried to keep walking a bit so my one ankle won't get stiff and my blood will circulate better.

Sunday, I even got Calvin and Henry to each rub one foot. They need a little more practice, but it was sweet and made my feet feel a little better. They are still getting puffy at the end of the day and my one ankle is still sore and a little blue, and my knee cap is stiff, but I'm waddling around all right.

Today I am just waiting for the day when I can see my feet again and have some sense of balance.

I can't wait until the first day with my "new" feet. Hopefully I'll be able to walk on them a little more gracefully.


The Month of the Watermelon

I was hoping for a more original fruit analogy, but watermelon it is. I think I haven't quite reached the extreme watermelon proportions (check these out!), but it's not too far off. Some days it feels like the watermelon is on end, pushing up my esophagus, and sometimes it feels like the watermelon is sticking straight out - my belly button hurts like crazy!!!

Anyway, we're in the final countdown - from week 37 until I deliver, our little green melon is 18.9 to 20.9 inches tall and 6.2 to 9.2 pounds. From the ultrasound I had last week, the doctor is estimating that she is already around 7 pounds. We'll see. My babies have gotten larger each time (Charlie was 10 pounds even), and David touts their birth weights as a matter of pride. I've told him he can't do that with a girl. It does feel like she's getting quite big, though...

The elevator in our apartment building wouldn't lift us the other day (it's a very sad elevator) and Henry told me confidently that it was because of me - "You're just too big, Mom."

Calvin was reading the placards at the zoo (every. single. placard. He is so our child...) and he cheerfully told me, "Mom! You're about the same size as a gorilla! I mean, they're in the 200s. That's not too much more than you." He knows too much. Dang kid.

At the first meeting with my doctor here in England, he said I looked like a healthy lass. I get a kick out of that. I felt like telling him that I was healthy and buxom. But that part is pretty obvious.

Besides my buxom, healthy, gorilla-like watermelon-ness and the usual "I'm done being pregnant now" feeling, I am actually really looking forward to the whole birth experience here. Part of the maternity care here is a staff of midwives, one of whom will be coaching me through labor the entire time. Since I'm delivering at a private hospital, the doctor will "catch" the baby, but I will have support for natural labor with a minimum of medical intervention (No mandatory IV! I can eat a little if I want! No constant itchy fetal monitoring belt! No staying in bed the whole time!) That is a beautiful, beautiful thing to me.

The nurse I happened to get when I delivered Calvin is who made all the difference to me and I seriously wanted to send her flowers or something because she helped me dig deep and use my own strength and not be afraid - no one besides David has done that for me since then. But I get an extra dose of it this time for sure!

And now the waiting game...David won't be back in town until a week before my due date, but I'm really hoping (against hope) that I will go into labor on or before my due date this time. This is a big girl, I'm a big girl, and it's just time...We'll hold out for David to get back to London, but after that...

She's on her way!


Practically Perfect in Every Way

I'll keep my fingers crossed, but we have now had four taxi rides, two bus rides (one of which was at the end of a very long, walking-intensive day), and an entire day at the zoo in which the boys acted like someone else's children.

No, they still acted like my children, only better. Stayed in their seats. Buckled up without strangling eighty billion reminders or slamming the folding taxi seats up and down or pushing all the buttons (there are a lot of those in a black cab). Came happily when it was time to move on or go home. Cooperated with one another and with me. Stopped and held hands to cross streets. Didn't scream or hit in public.

It's been loverly. Truly.

The London Zoo is fabulous, by the way. I'm a big fan of the National Zoo in D.C., of course, mostly because it is free, but London does a zoo right. And we even got to see the snake window that featured in the first Harry Potter movie.

On the home front, I feel a little guilty because I have mostly given up home cooking, but I have a plethora of good excuses: (1) grocery shopping / food preparation here has me baffled (we're in the midst of the commuting city, and going to a larger supermarket is WAY more trouble than it is worth), (2) the oven doesn't work in our apartment right now (there is a dirth of foods at the small grocery that can be cooked on the stovetop or in the microwave - also odd, huh?), and (3) we are enjoying the availability of semi-wholesome food that comes from reliable sources, not to mention (4) Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken (although they don't have extra crispy OR mashed potatoes and gravy here. What?!) within walking distance, (5) I'm pregnant and really don't feel like thinking up what to eat, what to buy to fix it, how to fix it, and how to get my kids to eat it when it's fixed, and (6) it's too hot to cook. Really.

I do want to say that I've been toasting a lot of English muffins in the mornings for breakfast. English muffins are to die for here, if you can imagine. And they have the most delicious jam.

So, things this week are better.

I still miss Hubs and we've watched a little more Scooby Doo Where Are You than I would like to admit or would ever like to watch again, but it's OK. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down...


I've Had Better Weeks

So David left on Sunday and things (at least in my mind) have steadily unraveled since then. I'm a needy wife. I was never (blatantly) needy until I got married. But I need him. Even when he is nothing but present, everything is better. I'm a baby. Having a(nother) baby.

There is relentless city noise here - we are on a busy street and the apartment gets rather stuffy if there is not a window open, but I realized the other night that it was the noise that never stopped that was really getting to me. So wierd. You'd think I'd be tuning it out by now instead of getting more bothered by it. I think it's because it's not like the noise of the ocean, which is also relentless but more or less the same noise all the time. There is no soothing rythm here - it's always punctuated by intermittent honks or squeels or pointless car alarms or drunken yelling. I've found myself wanting everyone to be quiet and realizing that everyone I can actually tell to be quiet is being quiet.

We planned on Tuesday to go to the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. The guidebook says it is kid-friendly. Tuesday morning started out with Henry being too wild and rebellious to go anywhere so he and Charlie stayed home with Megan and Calvin and I decided to have a mother-son outing. (With the thought that Henry would be pricked a little by Calvin getting to do something fun outside of the apartment.)

It was a complete bust. Calvin couldn't see anything, I didn't know exactly where to stand so as to maximize viewing, and the Changing of the Guard (which I pictured as something like what they do at the Tomb of the Unknown in D.C. - military and simple and relatively short) turned into a band concert of sorts that you could hear but not see through the throng climbing on the ornate golden gates of the palace. I didn't get it. Neither did Calvin. We did enjoy the brief view of the troops marching into the gate, but after that, ppphtththththhh.

Then the rain started coming down. In buckets. So Calvin had nothing positive to report when we returned home and Henry was perfectly happy to have stayed inside.

Thursday we went to the Science Museum, which, if you ever find yourself in London with a six and under crowd, is a great place to go. Three hours of hands-on playing and looking, and we only saw about a third of the museum. The boys loved it.

Then we headed home and Calvin and Henry took it upon themselves to boom and bang and throw fits and otherwise completely disconcert our taxi driver so much so that they are on a four day we-are-going-nowhere-except-church-in-any-kind-of-transportation lockdown. (This because it is not the first time that they have gone berserk in a taxi or on the Tube.)

That makes it four days until they can go to the zoo or the Natural History Museum or the palace with the maze (all places they have been hankering to go), hopefully with the understanding that transportation is not a place to mess around.

So late yesterday afternoon we walked to the park to feed the ducks. It was a fine little walk. I stopped in at the Subway sandwich place to get me a fountain drink (they have that fabulous rabbit-pellet-like ice in their machine - after a year in a country that doesn't believe in icy drinks and two weeks in a country that doesn't believe in air conditioning, it's a dream come true...) and the boys had a heyday sharing our bread with the hundreds of birds at Regent's Park.

Then we started out walking the two blocks home. Within those two blocks, Henry managed to get loose from Megan and bolt in front of a van (which was just pulling through the light, luckily not going very fast) and get hit. He bounced off the hood and landed on the curb with nothing more than a scraped up elbow and I think the driver of the van and I were more upset than Henry. Well, I was calm while I was checking on Henry and talking to one of the three doctors who happened to be walking home at the same time, and then one of them asked me if I was OK. I bawled all the way home. (And don't think that because I'm so blithely blogging about it that I wasn't up all night replaying it and panicking and feeling entirely inept and out of control and completely cognizant of the fact that he could have been killed. Not to mention that we've lived for months in a country with the world's most insane drivers but Henry gets hit by one in a beautifully civilized country.)

I don't know what to do with him. Any of them. But especially him.

And here we are with a wonderful place to enjoy and I can't go anywhere with my kids, even on foot, without (at best) a scene or (at worst) a catastrophe. But we all get cabin fever in a big way. Them, because they are boys and ideally need about 20 acres or at least a nice dog run in which to expend their energy. Me, because I feel guilty being tired and so I get restless to prove (to who?!) that I'm not lazy. Or something like that. But I also think I was born restless. I want to be doing.

But I'm very tired and very pregnant.

And did I mention that I miss my husband?


How To Tickle Wrestle

Calvin and Henry are enjoying having Megan, our "nanny," with us. She is the oldest of six kids - four of them are brothers. So she knows how to wrestle and tickle and tease in a light-hearted way - David and I are not necessarily the best at any of that - and Calvin and Henry LOVE it.

It's so great because it allows them to let off some steam with someone who will keep it in check and I don't have to be the lame parent who is always saying, "No. That hurts. I can't - I have a baby in my belly." One of the many perks of Megan.

Anyway, the boys formalized what they call the Tickle Wrestle by making a list of the rules / process / strategy for beating Megan at the game. I think they were a little inspired by the Scaredy Squirrel books (Henry has fallen in love with them - I highly recommend all of them), and it made me laugh when I found this crumpled list.

It was written too light to photograph, so picture the following in a six-year-old's handwriting. (The punctuation and spelling are all his. The numeral 2 is written backwards, and the third item is written biggest of all. Henry helped him think of the things to put on the list.)

1. Say, "I can't breeth!"
2. Eknore tikleing.
4. If brother in troble help!
5. Try to Build a trap!

I don't know if Megan stands a chance now.


My Not-So-Real Life

Our first week in London has come and gone. David went back to Kiev this morning and we are on our own (with our wonderful live-in mother's helper) for the next month until he gets back.

We are staying in a nice flat in a nice part of London, within walking distance of the doctor's office, the private hospital where I'll have the baby, some very reasonable shopping, not to mention Regent's Park and Hyde Park. The boys are in heaven with all the green space, and the Tube makes getting to any part of London pretty easy (albeit extraordinarily hot).

The corporate rental company that owns our apartment provides a cleaning service twice a week, so it's almost like being in a hotel, with fresh linens and regularly vacuumed floors.

We've ventured through the parks, found a beautiful shady playground two blocks away where the boys are happy to play. We've also gone to the London Tower, spent a day at Legoland Windsor, ridden the London Eye, and experienced the London aquarium (Baltimore is better, but...), and had some fabulous fish and chips.

It feels really wierd to not have anything much to do besides gestate and sight-see. I do have to reign in my sight-seeing desires because I am huge and it is quite warm right now (a heat wave for London, and no A/C) and because the boys are good for about 4 hours before they completely melt down. However, there are so many kid-friendly and beautiful places to be.

I feel really spoiled right now and it's kinda killing the blog, because I have nothing to complain or be sarcastic about. I hate to admit that. I've also been really lazy about taking pictures. But I'll try to remedy that soon, especially since "Dad" is not on our adventures with us right now.

I'm going to try to do a couple "postcard" London things this week - double decker bus and Changing of the Guard, etc. and post a few pictures. The weather is supposed to cool off, so I think I will catch my second wind and be a lot more energetic.

Mostly I'm just soaking it up and enjoying the blessing of being in a marvelous city and spending every day with my little boys.