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.
Continue reading

Advertisements

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.

Continue reading

Activities for Active Twins

Back in our old family home near Brum, in what now almost seems like a different life, we used to take Jake & Ellie to loads of really good regular activities; particularly in their 2nd year. There were playgroups at a local nursery, each slightly different, with arts & crafts, messy play, reading, puppets, musical instruments & singing + signing. They were excellent, & it was a great shame when they had to stop due to budget cuts just before we moved. There was also a great church-run playgroup, Tumble Tots, & a home & away playdate.

Since moving to Wales & their spending much of Mondays – Thursdays with Karen’s little group, as a preparation for Nursery, we haven’t done that so much. Karen takes them to a church playgroup but, apart from Tumble Tots until the local franchise went belly-up, that was about it.

Just recently though we’ve found a couple of brilliant activities for them. I think it’s partly that they’re old enough now that they’re able to take on more mentally & physically demanding activities. They’re both on a Friday, which may account for why I’m often so tired on that day!

In the morning – after grocery shopping, which is always fun* – we do Monkey Music. There they learn rhythm, playing percussion, associating actions with sounds & music and some basic dance skills. It’s great, & they really enjoy it.

We’ve also discovered a children’s gym, where we go after they’ve had a nap. It’s huge! It caters for all levels, from the casual user (us) to serious competitive & successful gymnasts. It’s a real find: there’s everything you could imagine there & more: a big central space with soft things to roll or jump on, in or over. Things to throw & kick. A bouncy castle with a climbing wall & slide. A trampoline, a little running track, vaults, parallel & non-parallel bars, beams, rings, a rope swing. Not only all that but the apparatus available seems to vary each week.

What they are brave enough & physically able to do has been a real eye-opener for us, & they seem to be able to do more each time.

And do they enjoy it?

They seem to…

*Sarcasm, yes

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.
1-DSC00036
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:

DSC00033

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…

Flying Solo, Part 2

Well we moved to our tiny little house in Wales so that the Mummy could spend less of her time commuting & more of it with the twins.

Life has its little ironies doesn’t it? Every now & then she has to go to north Wales, & today was one of those days. The roads between north & south Wales are really slow: winding, mostly single lane, over mountains & through valleys. It’s actually quicker to get to the north on the motorways from our old home in the Midlands!

She had left home before the twins were awake. They were with ‘Karen’ & her little group between 8.30 & 3, but it was still up to me to get them up, washed, dressed, make their breakfast, prepare their lunches, pack their bags & meet any ad-hoc needs that arise. It all went without incident, although it was obviously a mistake trying to feed myself as well. Next time I either get up earlier or don’t eat!

When I picked them up at 3 I was welcomed by running hugs & shouts of “Daddy!” by 2 happy little children. I love that. There had been a couple of minor upsets – Ellie seemed a bit wary of a new older boy there – but overall they’d had a great time.

For once the sun was out today! We spent a lot of the rest of the afternoon rolling around in the grass in our tiny garden. We had fun, inside & out, but they are still really demanding. They’re physically very capable, they’re smarter & are becoming very interested in asserting their independence & a lot less interested in being told what to do & having their lives run for them. I believe it’s called ‘The Terrible Twos’.

I mean no disrespect at all to parents of single children, or even of 2 or more of different ages – diligent parenting of any flavour deserves maximum respect in my opinion –  but I’m convinced that looking after twins has a difficulty level several magnitudes higher. And triplets? I can’t imagine that!

“You want some water? OK, I’ll get you some water”- “Oh Jake – did you hurt your knee? I’m coming!” – “It’s OK Ellie: it’s just a worm, it won’t hurt you” – “You finished your grapes? Yes, I can cut up some more” – “Yes, you want some water” – “You want some water too? OK” – “You’re stuck? Just a minute, I’m coming” – “Jake don’t take that, Ellie is playing with it” – “Ellie, don’t hit Jake!” – “Yes, I’m getting your water” – “And grapes” – “Ellie’s on the trampoline now, Jake, you can have a turn soon” – “Don’t eat that please – it’s really dirty!” – “Mummy will be home after dinner”. And so on.

And this is when they’re playful & happy…

By dinnertime I was already pretty tired. That however went amazingly well: for the first time I can remember they both pretty much cleared their plates! And I’ve no idea why! After a very silly fight over the trampoline it seemed obvious they were getting tired, so I resorted to the tried & tested: “Who wants cake?”. Fight over, instant attentiveness.

Luckily I did actually have some!

Ellie had been complaining of tiredness even before dinner so we headed upstairs quickly. Then it got chaotic. They were fighting over nearly everything: my battery checker, the baby monitor, my (out of juice) phone, anything. Running around, chasing, shouting “Mine!” “No, mine!”, snatching, tantrums. I was forced into “If you’re going to fight over it nobody’s having it!” confiscation mode. I think they were both not only overtired but also missing their Mummy.

There was also a poo incident, of which I’ll spare you the details. The cushion cover is beige; I’m pretty sure it’s washable…

Well I somehow managed to get them in their sleepsuits, in bed & with their milk without any major injuries or damage. As usual I read them a bedtime story. Now they’re fighting over ownership of the animals in the bleeding book!! “My bear” “No my bear!”, “My bee!” “No my bee!”. There are actually 2 bees, 1 each. The logic of this suggestion just doesn’t seem to register.

I have to admit at this point I got cross! “Please stop fighting! Both of you!”. I didn’t shout, but my voice was raised. And thankfully they seemed to calm down. Although most likely out of pity for poor struggling Daddy.

And we never got to finish the story. Will Rabbit find a new home? We may never know!

Then I accidentally managed to send them off to sleep with a laugh & smile! I asked if ‘pretty please’ could I go to sleep now? “Pretty please? With cheese?? And peas?”. Adding words 1 at a time that rhyme & were (sort-of) food-related. “And beans?”, “And grease?”. I was tired, OK? “And sneeze?”.  And was getting a little silly. Ellie especially found this hilarious & was soon asleep with a smile on her face, looking at me with an expression that seemed to me to be one of pure love. Jake, putting up his usual fight, followed soon after.

They’re very trying at times, these twins of ours, but it’s moments like that that make it all worth it & that remind me why being their Dad is still the best job in the world ever.

Poor Mummy though! She arrived home after they were fast asleep on my shoulders & so didn’t actually get to see them at all today. She tucked into the dinner I’d left in the oven while I stayed with the sleeping beauties so she could spend some much-needed QT with her friend Dexter.

So: Phew! This is a big week workwise, so I may have to do this again very soon! At least we know we can do it anyway.

There are flights to the North aren’t there? Or maybe we could hire a chopper? Anyone know how much that costs? Sigh…

This post is not only for The Crumby Mummy’s ‘Terrible Twosday’ blog hop but also for this month’s Multiple Mayhem Carnival. Have a look at them both: there are always great posts there!  Just ‘click the pics’.

MultipleMummy

Love and Affection

We’re fans of Attachment Parenting here. Throughout their young lives the only times the twins haven’t been with either me or the Mummy they’ve been with the Mummy’s parents, & even then never for very long. We always try to give them us much attention as we can: to talk to them, listen to them, play with them, laugh with them, comfort them. We feel very lucky that we’re able to spend so much time with them as I know many parents simply aren’t able to, however much they might want to.

Since moving to Wales we’ve been taking them to a kind of pre-Nursery group a few days a week, like Nursery but with fewer children & which seems to get out & about a bit more.

The main difference with this new playgroup, apart from it being more than just the usual hour or so they had before,  is that for most of the time  – for the first time in their lives – we’re not with them. They’ll be going to Nursery soon so we want to get them ready for being in a group with us not there. We’d been worried that they might be distressed there without us: it wasn’t too long ago that they would freak out at a playgroup even if I had to go away for a few minutes to use the loo or to change one of them, although they’ve been OK with that in the last 2/3 months.

So how is it going? I’m actually starting to feel a little redundant! One day last week when the Mummy picked them up Ellie ran over to her, said “Hello Mummy” & gave her a hug then ran back to carry on jumping on the trampoline. Monday she really did not want to leave & went into the biggest meltdown I can remember her having, lasting a good 5 minutes. Van Morrison in the car seemed to calm her down eventually! The woman who runs the group  – let’s call her ‘Karen’ – is terrific & Ellie in particular gets very excited whenever we even mention her name. Hmph! It’s nice to be needed…

This morning when I dropped them off there were 2 other little girls there. Jake went up to 1 of them & gave her a great big hug. She just stood there looking a bit confused: I’ve seen that a lot when the same has happened in other playgroups. Apparently her brother is about Jake’s age & is often quite aggressive with her: she’s more used to being whacked when he doesn’t get what he wants than being hugged.

He’s there too some days, & this morning ‘Karen’ told me that after seeing Jake being so affectionate that he himself has been hugging his sister there, instead of just lashing out. I’m not in the habit of welling up in front of strangers, but… That little guy made me such a proud Dad!

I like to think that his, & Ellie’s, affectionate & sociable nature is in part at least due to the love & attention that they’ve had from us, that the hard work  – if you could call it that – is paying off.

I’m probably being overly simplistic but I think that with children you tend to get back what you put in: give them love & they give love back & are loving to others. If they’re neglected they become insular & nervous. If they grow up with anger they are more likely to become angry & aggressive themselves.

I’m not pretending that they’re little angels – far from it! The do all the normal 2-year-old things like fighting over toys, & lashing out at each other & us in frustration when they can’t get what they want. But the love is there & it shines through every day. And that’s what matters, right?

So how about you? How much time are you able to spend with your children? Do you think it’s as important as I do? Or are things like providing for them materially & keeping a clean & tidy house (which we often don’t!) more important for your family?

It Feels Like the End of an Era

I’d written last week about a bit of a shocker at 1 of the playgroups run by a local Nursery / School. They announced that all but 1 of their playgroups for babies & toddlers were stopping after Easter. That’s 2 of the 3 that we go to every week. Then on Monday they announced that the 3rd was stopping too.

“Severe budget cuts” the explanatory letter reads. “From April 2nd we are required to provide our services to those families who are most at need”. (They seem to have missed out the word “only”). These I think are things like “Triple P” programmes & classes for struggling families that are by “Referral only”. I certainly can’t argue with that; anything that can help parents become better carers for their children should be supported.

Parenting isn’t easy, that’s for sure! We had been trying for children for a while, & when two turned up at once it was a dream come true, especially for my wife. They were loved from before they were born. That isn’t always the case. Some children are born unplanned & unwanted.  Parents can resent their existence & the demands placed upon them, the restrictions on their lifestyles. And then there’s PND; as I understand it a very real illness that can affect anyone.

And while we are by no means rich we are able to provide our children with a nice life. They have good food when they need it: nutritious with the odd treat. They have milk, juice & water to drink in abundance. They have clothes to keep them warm & dry, shoes for their feet, nappies for their bums. They have space where they can play, inside & out, & quiet rooms in which they can sleep peacefully. Toys to play with, books to read & have read to them. Music to listen, sing & dance to, & yes: fun & educational TV to enjoy.

And I certainly don’t mean to sound superior or boastful, in any of this – far from it. But I think it’s fair to say that both my wife & I are fortunate in having the benefit too of a decent education & enough intelligence to be able to think & reason our way through the hardships that family life, & life in general, throws our way.

Many children aren’t so lucky, especially in these times of austerity. So I applaud the services that remain. If they’re as good as the ones we’ve been to they’ll be of great help to the families who use them.

But I still can’t help but think that so many families will lose a great deal in classes like these being stopped. We ‘nice middle-class parents’,  if that’s what we are, we who are careful about their diet & health, we who read to our children, talk with them, recite numbers & letters with them, help them identify colours & shapes, play with them. Do we need help?

Of course we do! Every parent does. Any parent who feels that they have nothing to learn has stopped learning.

We & especially our twins have benefitted so much from these classes. Their communication has been greatly helped. Jake was signing long before he could speak, & still does, which apparently is quite common when taught. Fantastic for communication: I’m sure I don’t need to tell parents that frustration in expressing themselves & being understood is a major cause of tantrums!

I can still see Ellie jumping up & down with excitement & trying to do the actions as we all sang “Wind your bobbin up” or “The wheels on the bus”. They have gone from being utterly confused by anything creative to demanding to “draw!” every time they see me with a pen in my hand. Being around other children & parents has greatly helped their social skills.

There’s also the aspect of ‘more accomplished’ parents being role models to those who might be struggling, simply by virtue of us all being lumped into the same room together; talking to & learning from each other. Really important, I think.

And we parents have taken what we’ve learnt back home; we’ve become better parents. Isn’t it as good for society if our children grow up better adjusted, happier, healthier, smarter as for those “most at need”? Does starting from ‘further up the ladder’ mean that we can’t also travel at least as far up again as those starting from ‘lower down’?

Rhetorical questions, but valid nonetheless I think, addressing really the principle of universality in public services  – which increasingly appears to be under threat under the Government’s programme of cuts.

So what now? At the last class I suggested the possibility of continuing 1 or more of the classes as fee-charging, financially self-supporting. I know we would gladly pay more than the usual nominal fee for at least 1 class per week, & I know other parents there feel the same. None of the managers seemed to have even considered the possibility, & told me that it wasn’t just cuts, that the room we use had been “claimed by the Nursery”.

And I think this is what annoys me most in all this, apart from the suddenness of it all. The classes seem to have just been dumped, with no thought as to any kind of alternative being offered. One of the playgroup staff at least that I know of has lost her job; it seems to me that this might have been avoidable.

The woman who runs the main group is a bit bolshy & slightly eccentric: I like her. She is organising a get-together to talk about future action so it will be interesting to see what comes out of it.

Life moves on, but it’s a shame.

UPDATED 26/3: The Monday group is going to try to carry on as self-supporting & fee-charging, but in a smaller room at the Nursery. So maybe 1 of the other 2 will too, we’ll see. It looks like our complaining has had an effect!

Happy Mother’s Day!

It was all very hush-hush.

At Wednesday playgroup the task was to glue petal-shaped bits of coloured paper onto a CD.

But as the only Dad there I was privy to Inside Information. The organiser took me to one side, looked around furtively, then whispered conspiratorily into my ear. “Don’t tell anyone, but this is actually for Mother’s Day. We’re going to take photos of the children & put them on the other side of the CD for you”.

It’s great being In on a Secret. She also told me that she was in fact Jesus’ great-great-great-great-great-great-great- (I lost count) niece, but I ignored that.

I don’t know what happened to the Mums’ CDs but mine, complete with photo, was thrust into my hand like a baton in an Olympic relay race as I left the building. Only pausing to point out that it was the wrong one, & those definitely weren’t my children in the photo, we quickly swapped & I ran off before our sordid little secret was uncovered.

It looks good I think (barring the loss of 1 or 2 petals):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly their own work too; I pretty much just pointed them in the right direction.

So, this morning, with a flourish, I presented it to the Mummy: “Happy Mother’s Day!”. She loved it!

She was also very good in overlooking the fact that Mother’s Day is actually tomorrow. Yes, I got the day wrong.

But it’s the thought that counts, right? Right?

So, er, Happy Mother’s Day, Mums! For tomorrow. Maybe you should read this again then…

Once Upon a Time in the West Midlands

There was a bit of trouble in the badlands of the Wild West Midlands today!

In the course of which my faith in humanity has been both damaged & bolstered.

The front wheels of our pushchair fell off this morning so I had to drive the twins to their afternoon playgroup at a local Nursery / School.

They had a terrific time, possibly the best ever there. They were running around happily, playing & laughing with each other & other children & parents there, there was a little obstacle course they enjoyed going over / through / around, pushchairs, little vehicles, they were making flowers with CDs, coloured paper & glue, they enjoyed the story, the singing & signing, the bananas & raisins, everything. It was a great crowd of parents there too & I had a great time chatting with them & with the staff.

I had a parcel to pick up afterwards so I drove off to get it. When I arrived I realised I’d left the card & my shirt back at the Nursery.

So (cue music) I jumped back on the saddle & mosied on back to get my vittals. When I turned around to go back out there was a locked gate blocking our exit. Whoa Lightning! This was sure news to me. It was reckoned that the man in the ironmongers shop next door had the key. So, donning my white hat, I strode in & asked him gosh-darn nicely if he woulda be a-minded to unlock that thar gate. He done gone & told me to – well, I won’t say. I’m sure he was a-wearing a black hat. I told him I had the young un’s on the steed, & that they’d only gone & been away from home for more’n 2 hours. He done & gone said: “So go & look after them then!”. Nice.  In some here parts he might a-been called a Varmint. A dang Varmint!

I skedaddled to the Nursery but even they were unable to talk sense into this piece-a-work! Half an hour gone, I’d took them inside, & we were still trying to get this thing fixed. At his leisure then the Ironmonger Man in the Black Hat had mosied on out of his small shop & over all of the 4 feet to the gate & had let us out. Us & many other right cross Mammas & Daddies with their young’uns in tow.

He was laughing. It was a great big joke to him.

Trouble is (& I’m leaving the slightly laboured Western metaphor now…) apparently I was now the bad guy!  As my car was at the front of the queue to get out drivers behind were madly honking their horns & yelling abuse. In front of my 2-year-olds, who’d remained astonishingly calm throughout all of this. I & a staff member were busy strapping them in as fast as we could, yet still the tirade of horns & abuse persisted! I don’t understand why people have to be like this.

Even the teacher who was kindly helping me -1 of the nicest people I’ve ever met – came in for abuse, & apparently is quite upset. I’m seeing her in a group she runs tomorrow, & I’m bringing chocolates.

I love this Nursery, its people & its activities; the twins do too. They’ve had so many great times there, have learnt so much: singing, signing, arts & crafts. But a man who has no connection to it other than proximity having the ability to effectively detain children & their carers inside, allowing & blocking access & egress at his convenience? Who appears to take pleasure in detaining & distressing small children & their carers?

This also I don’t understand.

So how has my faith in humanity also been bolstered? Firstly in the kindness of the teacher in helping me get the twins back in the car, under fire. A lovely woman: Thank You.

Secondly in the unexpected support I received from a complete stranger & total twitter newbie. He tweeted to me that he was there in the school car-park & was shocked by the abuse we were getting from the Mums there. He also told me about how inconsistent the gate-keeper is & how frustrated many parents there are with him. I won’t name him as he may not want to be dragged into my sordid little affairs, but Thank You too. You know who you are.

Good. So how was your day?

*Rides off into the sunset. Cue orchestral music, roll credits*