Confession Time

There are an increasing number of stay-at-home & hands-on Dads – more power to them! There are many Dads of twins. And of course older Dads. But there can’t be too many who are all 3. That was one of the reasons I started this blog; in the hope that whatever experiences I had might be of interest to others: Dads, Mums, or those just looking.

How this all began.

It was supposed to be about me, me as a Dad, an unusual Dad, and how the experience affected and changed my life. I intended this to be a chronicle of an unusual parenting situation from an unusual perspective: my perspective, a bloke’s perspective. That’s actually what gave this blog its strange name. 1-DSCF3705

Best laid plans, and all that eh?

It turned out that it wasn’t about me – it never was, really – it was always about them: Jake and Ellie, my wonderful – now 8-year-old – twins.

I guess that’s one of the reasons I haven’t been too personal here over the years: not much writing about how I’ve been, how I feel, how all this has been affecting me, despite my blog’s stated aims.

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Another reason of course is that I am a bloke, and generally we blokes aren’t too good at that sort of thing: opening up about ‘feelings’, and ’emotions’ – or at least ones that don’t involve shouting at a bunch of other blokes as they run around after variously shaped balls.  In that way at least I’m what you could describe as a ‘typical bloke’.

And I haven’t posted much here, for a few years now; certainly nowhere near as much as I used to. In this blog’s heyday I was posting daily.  A lot of that of course is just due to the twins just growing up. They’re 8 and in school, and are very active in out of school groups and activities: I just don’t see them as much or spend as much time with them as I used to, so there’s just less to write about.

DSCF5334There’s another reason however that I don’t spend as much time with them as I used to, and as much as I’d like to. I’ve alluded to it here a few times but have never written explicitly about it. I’ve always meant to, but there never seemed to be a ‘right time’ for it. There probably never is. Also I’ve always tried to be positive here, and present my experience of parenthood as a positive one, which it largely has been, and this particular aspect hasn’t been positive. In fact it’s been bloody difficult.

“C’mon, spill it man: out with it then!”. Alright; OK then! That sergeant-major is still in my head it seems: more about that another time maybe…

OK, so (deep breath): we’re separated, my wife and I. Have been for over 4 years now,  since Christmas 2013, about a year & a half after we moved here to Wales, soon after the twins started school, just as we were all set to move into the new family home – which I’d selected mainly as it’s almost literally over the fence from their school.

I’m not going to lie: it’s been, and is, difficult. Any readers of this blog will probably know that the twins were, and in many ways still are, my life. They’re the only thing in my life that has ever given it any meaning, really.

The reasons behind it? I’m not sure I will or even should go into that here. And that’s partly because I’m not really sure. I do know that statistically there is a higher than average divorce rate amongst parents of twins: it can be very stressful! “Double the trouble, double the fun.”

As for the future: who knows? We’re still officially married, and we even actually talk sometimes: amicably, mostly. We should probably do more of that sort of thing.

So, anyway, that’s my News. It’s out of the way, it’s off my chest. It’s not before time that I ‘came clean’ here; I probably should have a long time ago.

I’ve gone on long enough already; I’ll write more another time.

Thank you for reading, if you’ve stuck with me this far. More later 🙂

 

 

 

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Blackberries

DSCF3876For the first 2 years of your lives we all lived together in our big house in the Midlands. The “big old house”, with the big old garden.

You don’t remember it. I do.

I remember how I was your full-time, stay-at-home Daddy. For your first year with Mummy, and for your second year by myself when Mummy went back to work, with reduced hours.

034I remember it all so well. You don’t.
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Death: The Sequel

Words. Just words. Just 4 of them. No big deal, right?

Well, yes: when those words are “How do we die?”

And when they’re spoken by a 3-year-old boy, to his Mummy & Daddy.

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We’re having THAT conversation – now?!

We’d just finished their Saturday morning dance class – ballet & tap – which they’d really enjoyed.

We were sitting around drinking juice & hot drinks & eating crisps in the cafe there, which has now become something of a tradition.

There had been general chat about the class etc. but now, as there often is when children are focussed on eating & drinking, there was silence.

A silence suddenly broken by Jake:

“How do we die?”

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Home Alone

It’s been a strange week.

Since Thursday last week the Mummy has been away with Jake & Ellie, first visiting her relatives in Eire & then her parents near London. She was working in north Wales after the trip to Eire, & has actually found that the best way of getting to & from there is by train from her parents’ house north of London, despite our living in south Wales! They’re due back this evening.

Jake & Ellie love their Nanny & Papa & love seeing them, & vice-versa: they always get spoilt with toys & attention.

I’m very mixed about this.

I don’t like being apart from them, especially for so long. I miss them; that goes without saying.

And yet this last week I’ve managed to get more done than any time in recent memory!

I’m completely up-to-date with all my emails. I’ve cleared piles of work that haven’t seen the light of day in literally – and I’m using the word in its correct sense here! – years.

I cleared my desk! I cleared that cupboard! I fixed things!

Looking back it’s staggering how much I’ve got done, especially given my usual track record.

Of not getting things done, that is.

And, if I’m honest, I’ve enjoyed the extra independence. A bit.

As a hands-on parent you’re ‘on call’ 24 hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week.

I’ve had none of that. No-one needing me to do this, go there, get that. It’s been kinda nice.

I could almost get used it!

Almost.

“Almost”: because I don’t actually want to.

It’s been quiet.

Too quiet.

I miss the “I want an apple juice!”.

I miss the “Daddy, come play with me!”.

I miss the silly children’s TV programmes.

I miss my iPod being hi-jacked by ‘My Favourite Mini Disco Songs’. (‘I’m a Barbie Girl’ is Ellie’s favourite; ‘My Friend the Witch-Doctor’ is Jake’s – although I actually like that one. ‘Agadoo’ & ‘The Fast Food Song’? Not so much…)

I even the miss the squabbles & tantrums!

They should be back in an hour or so. then I’ll have the usual running around, the “How have I been here for an hour & not been able to sit down for more than a minute?!”.

The tripping over toys, the play-doh on my shoes, the stickers on my T-shirts, the silly TV, the silly music, the silly squabbles.

I can’t wait!

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.

How to break the heart of a 2-year-old boy

It’s easy!

Stick this on the cover of your children’s magazine:

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He thought it was an iPad – just for him! He was so excited.

When he saw it was made of plastic, hollow, & nothing happened when you pushed the buttons…

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He cried.

We’re now going to have to buy him a LeapPad2 for his birthday in March. And another for Ellie, of course, in order to avoid World War 3. (It’s a twin thing)

Thanks a bunch CBeebies! Yes, Mr Tumble: I’m looking at you! Can I send you the bill?

He got over it.

And we would probably have bought them anyway.

So I’ll let you off, this time.

Just watch it, right? You & that spotty bag aren’t scaring anyone…

UPDATED: Ellie got hold of this after I’d left it out for this post. She seemed intent on expressing Righteous Wrath on behalf of her wronged brother. All she wanted to do with it was to rip out & rip up as much of the notepaper inside as she could! And she did.

Mama Weer All Potty Now!

It’s Potty Training Week here at the Jallie Shack!

So I wouldn’t advise reading this while eating…

We stuck them in pants on Saturday morning. Ellie was totally accepting, but Jake wasn’t having it. They had a reward chart each & every time they asked to use the potty they got a star sticker, then a reward of Maltesers or Smarties after 7 times. All the while we were pumping them full of as much diluted apple juice as they could take!

They were doing well in their scary new nappiless world, & Jake had become more enthusiastic about wearing pants, but there were the inevitable accidents. Which was when we realised we didn’t have enough pants, nor even tissues & paper towels. So the Mummy made an emergency dash to the shops while I manned the fort. She returned bearing gifts! They were doing so well they got them straight away: a shopping basket with toy groceries for Ellie & a mix & match Tumble family thing for Jake. They were pleased.
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We were thinking we’d keep them at home after the weekend instead of going to playgroup but they were doing so well we felt completely confident sending them in their pants! By Monday Ellie was there! She was aware of when she needed to go, pulling down trousers & pants to both pee & poo,  cleaning herself, then pulling her pants & trouser back up all by herself!  Also Karen at playgroup is really experienced & has helped loads of kids toilet-train.

Jake has seemed a bit scared of pooing on the potty but now is fine. They’ve even been dry overnight the last couple of nights.

It must mean a lot to them: this morning they grabbed a couple of colouring pens (actually my highlighters!), asked for some paper then drew this:

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I loved it as they were drawing together, swapping pens & chatting away.

Can you guess what it is? They told us:

“Pee!”

They then showed it to Karen when I took them in. Who then fell about laughing.

It’s not every day that anyone gives you a picture of their pee. Even on Valentine’s Day.

I think it helped that we left it ’til they were a bit older; also that their friends at playgroup haven’t been in nappies for a while.

I’m really proud of them: they’re like proper little grown-ups! It is a bit sad as well though: it seems as if they’ve shaken off the last vestige of babyhood

Roses are red

Violets are blue

I love you Daddy

I’ve done a poo!

Happy Valentine’s Day 🙂

And in case you’re wondering about the bad spelling in the title…

The name’s Jallie. Jake & Ellie

Oh, Tara! Putting a howling pun in your latest ‘Gallery’ linky, & on a subject so close to my heart! You must know I couldn’t resist…

Yes, the subject this week is: ‘Bond’.

Not James Bond.

This bond:

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I know I’ve featured this before but it’s my all-time favourite photo. I’m overwhelmed with love & gratitude every time I see it. They’re 1 day old here.

The bond between twins is a bond like no other. I think only twins can really appreciate how precious, how special, it is. Although not a twin myself I have cousins around my age who are, & that’s just what they tell me. It’s a bond that will never be broken, a closeness unmatched.

After all, you can’t get much closer than this:

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They were born together, they live together. For nearly every moment of their lives, awake or asleep, they are together.

They were aware of each other even as little babies. They would reach out to touch each other, & try to communicate. Later on, at an age when children aren’t capable of much more than parallel play, they would try to play with each other. As soon as they were mobile enough they would chase each other. They’d hug & they’d kiss. Now they talk to each other, dance together, sing together, & yes: fight together.

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They’re nearly 3 now & are at an age where they are becoming more independent. They’ve always had quite distinct personalities but as they get older their differences seem to become accentuated. Jake has always been the more affectionate & empathic of the two; it’s usually he who initiates physical affection. Ellie is a little more individualistic; she usually prefers to play by herself & gets irritated when Jake joins in / interferes.

They’re starting to make friends with other children. Up until recently they have always said that the other is their “best friend”; Ellie however now says that a little girl they know from their pre-Nursery group is her best friend.

It’s sad. Especially as I think Jake would still like Ellie to be his best friend. He won’t say it now of course because he isn’t hers any more. I guess it’s just a part of growing up, even growing up together.

Yet despite this their special bond still shines through. When Jake was sick recently Ellie was clearly moved, trying to be as close to him as she could, stroking him, hugging him, trying to make him better. She became distressed when she had to stay with me while he saw doctors with the Mummy. Even this morning when he hurt his finger she was rubbing his arm, showing great concern. Jake is the same with her. They often spontaneously hug,  & dance or sing together.

No matter what I think the twin bond will always be there, & in one way or another they will always have each other.

Jallie: you only live twice. Shaken, not stirred…

Why not have a look at what other bloggers have to say about the bonds in their lives in Tara’s brilliant Gallery? It never disappoints! Just click the pic:

My Old House & My New Headphones

I’ve got a brand new pair of headphones. They’re great. If you want some ‘phones you should buy them, OK? If you insist on wanting to know why, read on…

But I also want to post about my current living conditions, the 4 of us. It’s been difficult since we moved, & we’re stuck until we can sell our old house. I’ve been quiet about it: I tend to clam up when things aren’t as I’d like them to be.

It’s called ‘context’, but it’s also something I’ve meant to post about for a while now.

I enjoy blogging, listening to music, gaming. But the cramped conditions I live in can make this difficult: I no longer have a space of my own to escape to when I need to. There are 4 of us – me, the Mummy & the now 2 & 3/4-year-old twins – in a small mid-terrace 2-up, 2-down. Upstairs we just have 2 bedrooms, 1 of which doubles as their nursery, & a small bathroom / loo. Downstairs there’s just a small kitchen & the lounge / dining room; my PC, surrounded by papers in what now also passes as my office, is on the dining room table there.

When the twins are at home they’re mostly there; a lot of the time I’m looking after them; when I’m not doing that there are jobs around the house that need doing. Even when I have so-called ‘spare time’ – even if I could concentrate enough with the noise & activity around me – if I try to blog or listen to music or play a game the twins will sooner or later interrupt, wanting me to play with them or help them with something. Which is fine: I’m their Dad, that’s what I’m here for. But it’s also very frustrating.

In the evening after they’re asleep – the time of which is getting progressively later as they get older – after I’ve cleared up & done as much washing-up as I can bring myself to do I’m often too tired to manage much more than collapsing on the sofa in front of the telly.  If I do manage something more mentally active like blogging & playing music or playing a game I then often have to do so while the Mummy watches TV.

Which means 1 of us has to shut up. And that would be me as I have the magic wonder of technology that is known as Headphones.

Would it surprise you to learn that they’re no good? They were once; they are Sennheiser noise-cancelling jobbies. They’re just a bit broken. They work OK in normal mode but have a really annoying hum in noise-cancelling mode.

So enough about me; I know I have no right to complain, really, & the twins even though demanding are a joy & a delight.

No, it’s time to introduce the brand new & very shiny pair of headphones I’ve recently received & was asked to review. Bass Buds, they’re called, the 2012 Collection.

They’re in-ear ‘phones. I haven’t got on with those before & I wasn’t expecting much different with these; I find that before long they irritate & then hurt my ears. That was my first surprise: they fit inside my ears perfectly & are really comfortable; they’re really well designed.

My second surprise was the sound quality: again not something I expected from ‘phones which I’d think of as ‘basic’. They’re not: the sounds are crisp & clear, the bass booms, the treble trills & all the in-between bits are where they should be. They’re actually significantly better than my old Sennheisers: that was a big surprise.

The only negative – & it’s a trivial one – was that I found that if I pushed the jack all the way into my soundcard connector the sound wasn’t quite right. When I pulled it out a smidge it was gorgeous.

They also have a built-in mike, especially good when you use them with your mobile ‘phone or iPod. The mike controller can not only take & end calls but also play & skip tracks & enable voice control.

Surprise no. 3: they look great! They come in a variety of colours & styles, there’s 1 to suit any lifestyle or mood – as you can see from the website.

And they’re reasonably priced, as you can also see from there. And in addition quoting the code BB48265 will gain an extra £5 off.

Headphones that sound great, that look great & have a great price: I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Good, so that’s my headphones sorted. Now can someone get me a bigger house please? Thanks.

Also? Happy New Year!