Saturday is Caption Day: A New Superhero?

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Captions please!

For more captiony opportunities just click the pic:

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The Joys of Being Comfortable

In what now feels like a former life – the one before I became a stay-at-home / hands-on Dad – I used to go out to work, a lot of the time to work in an office.

I did the usual.

I carried a briefcase. I’m not really sure why: most of the time it only contained a newspaper & (sometimes) my lunch.

I had shiny black shoes. When it was cold I wore a big, thick overcoat. When it rained I carried a black umbrella & wore a (usually beige) raincoat.

No bowler hat though – what do you take me for?!
Continue reading “The Joys of Being Comfortable”

Space or stuff – can I have both?

I’ve written before about how frustrating it is here to have so little space; the house is fine for 1 or 2 people but add active young twins and it’s just way too small. I have to admit ‘though that with twins running around we found space to be a problem even in our old home. I expect we will too even after we move; we could always do with a little more space.

A lot of the things the twins had when they were babies I’ve given away or taken to charity shops. A lot of it is still in storage! I could really do with selling some of the larger things, but it’s difficult when most of it is in another country!

It’s not as if we don’t need the money. We’ve been paying the mortgage on an empty house for a year, as well as full Council Tax now: thank you Mr Cameron. I know that times are hard, and saving money is a necessity. These adorable little 3-year-olds of ours just won’t stop growing – I’ve asked them to stop really really nicely but they just won’t listen – so we’ll always need to buy new stuff for them. 1-DSC00565

With them having just started pre-school, for instance, we don’t need reminding that children’s gear can be pretty expensive. We’re always on the lookout for places where we can get hold of inexpensive stuff that will last ages so a competition where you can win loads of stuff has to be worth a look.

Bounty itself also seems worth having a look at, if only because of the community; there is a lively community board there full of great advice for both new & experienced parents, & lively debate. I’m quietly smug now that I can actually answer a fair few questions, as well as ask them.

Every month, Bounty offer a prize draw with some pretty amazing prizes. This month you could win £2000 worth of baby products. All you need to do is sign up to become a member of the site, which is easy enough.

With twins you need two of everything! That’s not just food – nappies, prams, cots. It’s double the trouble – but to be fair, double the fun. Mostly. Anything that could save me money has to be a good thing, so if anyone comes across any more competitions and the like that might be of interest to Dads of young kids just let me know!

Disclosure: in association with Bounty

Memories

When I’ve spent time at the old house* I usually come back in a somewhat reflective frame of mind.

Take this picture, for instance, which I posted back in June & meant to explain but never did:

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I was working really hard: clearing, cleaning, supervising tradesmen, sorting, throwing out rubbish, organising storage & removals, trying to get leaking roofs fixed or replaced in torrential rain, sanding & revarnishing the 100-year-old wooden floorboards: that was a nightmare! I was desperately trying to get the place ready to go onto the market as soon as possible. I needn’t have bothered, as it turned out: despite dropping the price a lot – too much, I think – we still haven’t sold it.

One of the jobs then was cleaning the chalk off the back wall. This wall. It was some of Jake’s & Ellie’s first attempts at art, at making shapes. It will eventually lead to writing, drawing, who knows what else.

To wipe it all off, to erase it from existence, to remove their precious scribblings: it  just seemed wrong. I really didn’t want to do it. But I had to.

1-DSC00326Everywhere I go there I see memories. The big garden I loved so much: we had so much fun there, especially in their second year when they were more mobile & playful & I was their main carer. They loved messing about with sand & water with the play-tables, & playing with the hose. Jake never ceased to amaze me with his ability to find & pick the ripest & juiciest blackberries from the vines which were threatening to dominate all else there. Sometimes we’d just sit on the seats & watch our world go by. Other times we’d climb around & explore, & be fascinated by the insects, birds & frogs we might find. We weaned them in that garden, & would eat outside as much we could in the warmer months. In the house there are toys still there that we haven’t had room for in our little, supposedly temporary house.

1-DSC00325So many memories! They’ll never leave us, of course, but the house feels empty; just memories there now. I feel like it should be full of the sounds of laughing, running children – but it’s still, & quiet. Too quiet.

And it got me thinking : some of the most precious moments that we as parents will carry with us will be from these times: when our young loved ones were 2 or younger.

The age up until which we human beings are meant to have little or no memory of anything that happens to us.

So things that we’ll carry with us & that will be some of our most treasured memories will be things they’ll know nothing about?

I can already see myself reminiscing with Jake the teenager about the blackberries, & getting: “Oh Dad, stop being so soppy!”, before he runs off to his room to play some very loud music. Via his Ninsamyo Holodeck, probably.

Just one more of parenting’s, & life’s, ironies I guess.

I wonder what else this Daddying lark has lined up for me?

Now, if I could just remember where I put my keys…

* A year ago we reluctantly moved from our home in the Midlands to Wales because of work. We had a little place there which we had been renting out, & the plan was to move in there for a few weeks while we sold the old place, then buy a new family home in Wales. But we haven’t been able to sell & we’re still living in a house which just isn’t big enough for 2 adults & active twin toddlers. So we’re stuck. But we do have a Plan B.

Work

I used to work in finance. Although I have no major qualifications beyond high-school I’m reasonably good with numbers, spreadsheets & tech, and –  if I’m honest, as I always try to be here – less good with people. I’ve worked on that & my social skills have improved but at heart I am still basically anti-social! I gravitate towards screens & am often uncomfortable in social situations.

So I happened on a career in accountancy & finance, not really by choice but just as it seemed to be what I was suited for.

The truth is my heart was never in it.

Office stress 2A lot of the time it bored me senseless: sitting in front of screens for hours on end just to make all the numbers, little & large, get on with each other. At other times it was very stressful & pressured: with fixed daily, weekly, monthly & yearly deadlines for which the right numbers had to be produced. And if they weren’t then others down the line who needed the numbers got stressed as their deadlines began to loom. It could get shouty.

I hated the office politics, pettiness, dealing with annoying people, bullying bosses, tiresome meetings. There were sometimes 24-hour, even weekend-long shifts. And I didn’t even have the compensation of being highly compensated. I did OK but I often struggled to pay my bills, just like anybody else.

I guess I’ve just never been that career-minded. I have often wondered if I’m maybe just a bit lazy: I definitely value my leisure time & try to make as much of it as I can.

But when I became a Stay-at-Home Dad I, along with the Mummy of course, worked really, really hard. I’ve probably said it here before but it’s worth repeating:

It’s the hardest job I have ever had.

1-DSCF3305It was exhausting, particularly the first year. The first 6 months or so are now a bit of a blur; we basically lived in the bedroom for most of that time.

No matter how unpleasant the office was I could still come home, get away from it. It might prey on my mind, even keep me awake at night, but at least I could escape to my own space.

With our slightly premature twins & their minor but demanding health problems there was no such escape. Care was around-the-clock, 24 hours a day. Even when I wasn’t actively looking after them I was always on call, all the time. The stress of taking on new challenges way outside of my experience, with my wife, all the while with the mind-numbing, debilitating sleep-deprivation: that’s something I could never have prepared myself for.

But this time my heart was in it.

So why the difference?

Before, I worked for money. As a Dad: it was love. And that realisation makes me happy.

So: lazy? Probably not. Soppy & besotted? Definitely!

Some posts from around that time:

The Best Advice I Can Give to Parents of Small Children

If I had a pound for every hour I’ve spent clearing up food & toys from the floor I’d be fat. Or something.

I’d also have jeans that don’t get holes in the knees within a couple of months of purchase.

Found this morning:

  • 1 little plastic man, with a swivelling head. Not sure why: he doesn’t look like he’s possessed
  • 1 child’s bracelet
  • 1 dirty sock, mine
  • 1 sheet of star stickers, useful for potty training
  • 1 plastic burger
  • 1 doll’s T-shirt (very dusty)
  • 1 Wizard’s Hat sticker. No idea where that came from. Must be Magic
  • Danny Dog & Suzy Sheep. Yes, together. There’s quite a scandal I believe; I’ve heard talk of “grounded for a month”. Poor Peppa is in a state of shock
  • Another little plastic man; appears to be a Bavarian tourist. Non-swivelly head
  • The obligatory dust & dirt

Not too bad for a whole floor, you say?

Actually, that’s just from under the sofa: the floor was much worse.  And today was a really good day: I’m amazed at how little was there. Not even any leftover food!

I spend an unreasonable amount of time on my hands & knees sweeping under sofas with a broom handle. Not only is there the Daily Sweep, but any time I hear a plaintive cry of “Where’s my <horsey /  airplane / Goldilocks / farmer / hat / pizza / slippers /  blueprint for an inter-stellar spaceship>?!” it’s “Hang on: I’ll get the broom”. And it’s almost invariably there.

So my advice?

For pity’s sake, by all that’s holy, if you can: get a sofa that goes all the way to the floor. ALL THE WAY. No gaps. None. Airtight. Hermetically sealed.

OK? You can thank me later. And buy me a new pair of jeans.

The Two Terrible Twos

OK: they’re 2. Plus 2 weeks.  And I think they know it.

Really, I haven’t explained the semi-mythical, mystical, iconic cultural significance of being 2: the Terrible Twos. But they seem to know about it.

It’s possibly that I’m just noticing more, but I could swear that they’re getting (more) rebellious. They seem to be deliberately doing things that they’re told /asked not to do just to see what happens. And enjoying it far too much. Dropping food or drinks on the floor, being rough with each other or us, grabbing each others’ toys, for instance. And with that look on their faces. Yes, I think most parents will know the one: mostly gleeful defiance.

And they’re smarter. They enjoy doing ‘circuit training’: running at high speed & with great excitement around something, a cot for instance. It used to be that if I wanted to catch one for dressing etc. I’d just have to ‘wait ’til they came around again’. Recently though while I was employing this hitherto successful tactic Jake stopped, saw that I was wanting to grab him for a very wet Jake-bath interface situation, & seemed to decide that running around some more was a far more productive use of his time.

He looked at me, turned around & ran in the opposite direction! I moved over to intercept. He did it again! And again! I think I only got him in the end because he took pity on me. He’s surprisingly quick.

Live & learn though. I now turn it into a game, by joining in the chase, pretending to be a monster, holding my hands in front of me & saying “Rarr” a lot. Not the ideal activity for the end of the day when you’re already tired, but hey-ho, it works. They find it so funny that they seem to want to be caught. At which point they get tickled or I pretend to lunge & miss, falling on the bed. Much hilarity ensues. Next time around I grab one & plop them, protesting wildly, into the bath. Rinse & repeat. And they most times have a great time in there anyway.

Except: pouring water on the floor, on each other’s heads – those are 2 more of their little rebellions, come to think of it.

Yep – they’re 2!


For The Crumby Mummy’s ‘Terrible Twosday’ blog hop. Click the pic for more!

Fancy Words, Insects & Magic

I’ve been a bit lax in noting notable sayings & doings this week. And I have a bad, although selective, memory  – which is half the reason for my doing this blog-hop, & actually my blog in general.

Ellie I think has produced her most comprehensive sentence yet: “Jake & Ellie like jumping in puddles”. Makes me proud!

And she also excelled herself in sophisticated use of language. Pointing to the Mummy’s juice she said: “Yours”. A possessive personal pronoun! See above for my reaction…

It’s fantastic that their language is coming on so well. Ellie is getting to be a little chatterbox, & Jake is a great talker too. His pronunciation & vocabulary aren’t as good but what he lacks there he easily compensates for with his sociability & use of signs & gestures. We feel like we have two little adults here with us now, not just cute but insensible little babies. We can actually have proper little conversations with them, it’s great!

Ellie often grabs my hand so I can join her in a “Tea Party” she’s having; Jake does too. He does so though often to show me something that he’s been trying to tell me about: for instance when in the garden he spotted a tiny caterpillar hanging on a thread from a leaf, which I think was cocooning itself, & a bumble bee he saw flying around.

I also get dragged off the sofa to do “Tree Fu”magic with him. Recently he seems to have decided that the moves are too fiddly, sits down & leaves me prancing about by myself, saying “Ouch” a lot… Kids, eh!

This is for Chris’ ‘Things They Say & Do’ blog hop at her ‘Thinly Spread’ blog. Why not have a look at the other posts there, it’s a great read!

The Things They Say & Do: Bum!, stairs & a stroller

One afternoon this week the twins kept yelling at me repeatedly & excitedly what sounded like “Bum! Bum!”. This is odd even by their standards. I couldn’t work it out. I kept suggesting possible words that they might be saying, to which they responded “No!”,  then more “Bum! Bum!”, getting increasingly agitated. Eventually I figured out that it was a new cbeebies programme, ‘Tree Fu Tom‘. We’d watched the first one the day before & they absolutely loved it, jump-up-&-down-&-yell-with-excitement loved it. I’d kept it, in case of emergencies (as you do), but when I went to find it on the Box it wasn’t there! Apparently they’d asked the Mummy to put it on earlier, she’d watched it with them, didn’t like it & deleted it! Thanks! (I’ve kept all the episodes since; I quite like it too, but don’t tell anyone…)

We live in an odd house. Whaddya mean you’re not surprised?! It’s tall & thin – unlike me! – & has 3 storeys. The bedroom & nursery are on the top floor, the lounge & kitchen on the ground floor. We carry the twins all the way downstairs for their morning milk & breakfast, then usually back up again for a morning play & to dress them, then back down again ’til their bedtime. It’s OK when we’re both at home & we can take 1 each, but when I’m looking after them by myself it can be tricky. I have to carry 1 up or down then come back for the other. Almost always there’s grizzling & upset by whoever’s been left behind, although by the time I’ve come back they’ve usually calmed down. Thursday however I was getting ready to take them back downstairs. As usual I’d decided to take first the one who was most keen to go, this time Ellie. I explained to Jake, as I always do, that I was taking Ellie down then coming straight back for him. Instead of making a fuss he just sat there quietly, saying “Ellie then Jake. Ellie then Jake”. He was still sitting still, quiet & calm, when I came back up for him: what a little star!

On Friday they played together in the most independent & cooperative way we’ve yet seen. They were taking turns – that’s right, you read that correctly; I’ll write it again: taking turns  without any prompting at all from us, in getting into a stroller & pushing each other around. There also appeared to be a ritual involving a pretend onion on a plate which had to be carried by the occupier of the stroller & transferred with great solemnity as they swapped over. The Mummy & I had our flabbers truly ghasted & were very tempted to leave them to it, get a brew & go watch telly. But it was nearing their bedtime so we didn’t. I did take a stroller upstairs though so they could carry on!

Another eventful week! I’m looking forward now to reading about others’ in Chris’ ‘Things They Say & Do’ blog hop at her ‘Thinly Spread’ blog. Have a look, it’s a great read!

And I’ve just realised, as now it’s past midnight, that’s it’s now their 2nd birthday! 🙂