Dying swans

After debating it for a few months, we have finally signed the girls up for ballet classes. They absolutely adored the one-off class they attended on holiday and G even told her old keyworker at nursery that she had ballet, tennis AND swimming lessons. I had to point out that none of this was true, lest they think that we spoil our children with a zillion extra-curricular activities. Now, at least, G isn’t lying about one of the activities. A couple of their friends from nursery attend a class in a church hall about two minutes walk away from us on Saturday mornings, so it made sense to book them in for a taster session.

The dance school runs ballet classes for 3-4 year olds and ballet and tap for 4-5 year olds. The teacher suggested that as they are nearly four, they could try out both classes and see which they preferred. We didn’t tell their friends (or their parents) that we would be at yesterday’s class so there were some surprised (and pleased) looks when they arrived.

I’ll say one thing for R and G – they don’t lack confidence. There were a couple of other new starters and they were much more reticent but the girls got stuck in straight away. I guess that one of the great things about being a twin is that you’re never alone when you try something new and it probably helped that a couple of people they knew were already established members of the class

Eventually we’ll be able to drop them off and disappear for half an hour while they attend the class but yesterday Dh and I stayed to watch. They are both very co-ordinated (far more than me) and R has the potential to master the technical skills while G is more in tune with the ‘drama’ of the dance. R absolutely adored the tap dancing section of the older class and took the opportunity to stomp around with the other girls.

I spoke to the teacher afterwards and she said it looked like the girls could cope with either class, so it was up to us. I said that they would do the 3-4 years ballet class this term, and move up to the ballet and tap class after Christmas. I’m confident that they could cope in the older class now, but their friends (who both now attend prep school and therefore the girls don’t see them as much) are in the ballet class and from a purely practical point of view I wanted to spread the cost of two sets of ballet and tap gear over a few months, rather than one massive hit.

We’ve been given a list of clothes and shoes to buy – pink leotards, tights and ballet shoes for ballet and the same clothes for tap but different (preferably white) shoes. There’s a shop about four miles away and we’ll be going there to kit the girls out in the week because we went there today and it was closed. The Academy puts a show on at the end of the Summer Term (the photos from the last one were adorable) and, if the girls are still interested, they have the chance to do exams when they get a bit older.

For now, I just want them to have a great time prancing about in girlie outfits. They already do Sporty Tots at nursery (yes, G does it as well now) so I think we’re covering both ends of the activity spectrum. The only sticking point I can see is that, ideally, their hair needs to be neat and ‘up’. As they both have reasonably short hair and absolutely hate having it brushed or tamed in any way, we may have to strap them to a chair or style them when they’re asleep bribe them work on that.

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The end of 46 Days

At the beginning of March I had a crazy idea. Instead of giving something up for Lent, I would try to do something every day. The idea for 46 Days came from there. Today is the 46th and last day.

I thought I’d have a look back through the last 45 days and see what’s happened:

0 people offended (that I’m aware of…)

1 holiday booked

1 disastrous week of night training

1 graduation attended

1 Margot Leadbetter moments

2 bouts of nostalgia

2 guinea pigs (Charlie and Lola) arrived

2 fish (Eddie and Bob) bought

3 fish (Maisy, Eddie and Bob) died

3 Easter bonnets made

4 3rd birthday parties attended

4 One Born Every Minute liveblogs

5 separate illnesses (2 for me, 2 for G, 1 for R)

6 twinny observations (I could have written hundreds of posts on this)

7 Friday photos

8 rants (I’m amazed there aren’t many more)

That’s a fairly average seven or so weeks in the HoT. Ok, so you don’t buy guinea pigs and kill off goldfish every day, but everything else was pretty normal…for us at least. It’s a nice little snapshot of our lives.

I only missed one night – when I was away for work – and I made up for it the next night with two long posts.  I have to say, as the weather improved dramatically in April I found it much harder to generate enough enthusiasm to sit down every night and write a blog post. Last night I ‘cheated’ and uploaded the Friday photos from my iphone whilst slumped on the sofa after another busy day. Thank Steve Jobs for the WordPress app!

I speculated at the beginning of all this that a period of sustained creativity might make me want to do some creative writing. It hasn’t, but only because I haven’t had time after writing 46 Days posts. There are a couple of ideas percolating in my brain but I can’t commit them to screen just yet.

Instead I’ve been exploiting my creative mind in different ways. I’m really into card-making at the moment. If there’s an event coming up I’ve probably made a card for it! My cards aren’t going to make me rich and they definitely look ‘home made’ but I hope people appreciate the effort. I attempted my first scrapbook – a graduation present for my Mum. I love getting creative with photos, bit of paper, a stack of embellishments and a ton of pritt stick. I have also made great progress with my latest cross-stitch and am already thinking about the next stitching project. I might do something really challenging this time…

As I get older I can no longer sit in front of the telly of an evening once the girls are in bed. I have to be doing other things, so that I feel my evenings aren’t wasted. That reminds me…I have very strict rules on my ‘me time’ activities. They are all done in the evening in the precious few hours I have when the girls are asleep and before I go to bed. During the day I’m either spending time with the girls or working.

I’m looking forward to having a few nights off (maybe even a week or two) from blogging – or the tyranny of the blank page (which only affected me twice in 46 days) and the feeling that I ‘have’ to write something. I might try something similar later in the year. November is my bogey-month so I might try 30 Days or something like that to ward off the SAD.

That’s all in the future. Now, I’m off to make a Mojito and await our take-away delivery.

Cheers and thanks for reading!

Sporty tots

Identical schmidentical.

On Thursday afternoons at nursery R participates in Sporty Tots, which is a sports session designed specifically for pre-schoolers and run by Arsenal FC. Each week, she and a group of children learn about different sports and get to try them out. Today for example they did some rugby, which involved keeping hold of an oval ball whilst running about, from what we can work out. Last week they were catching balls in nets. You get the idea…

G has also been offered the opportunity to participate in Sporty Tots and point-blank refuses. Each Thursday morning we ask her if she wants to try it out (the first session is free; it’s £3 a week thereafter) and she says yes and by the afternoon she has changed her mind and stays indoors playing with her friends while R take part outside. At first glance G appears to be the more amenable of the two but when she decides she doesn’t want to do something she really won’t do it.

In the interests of fairness (if not my bank balance) I’d like her to get involved but I totally understand why she might not want to. I wasn’t particularly interested in playing sports as a child and was far happier in the company of adults or curled up with a good book. R is very good at throwing and catching balls and is a speedy little runner so I’m not surprised that she loves doing sports.

I’m now looking for an activity to G to do to even things up a bit. There are some local ballet classes that I need to investigate but, again in the interests of fairness I need to take both girls along to see if they like it. If R wants to take ballet classes as well I can hardly say no can I?

Winding forward a few years, I can see myself becoming a Saturday morning ‘Soccer Mom’, ferrying R to one activity and G to something else. The main thing is that we’re giving R and G equal opportunity to take part in activities and develop their interests. The rest is really up to them.

A day at home

We spend so much time dashing around doing ‘stuff’ with the girls that it’s nice to spend a day predominantly at home for a change.

Yesterday we took advantage of the sunny weather to move the piggies into their new home and did a few jobs. Dh and I threw away some told toys that had inadvertently been left outside over the winter – it’s amazing what you find under the trampoline – and cleaned out the indoor guinea pig cage so that we could store it safely away until the piggies need it later in the year. R impressed us with her pedal-pushing prowess on her trike: note to self – remove parent handle from back of trike – and G donned her helmet and showed us some nifty moves on her scooter.

After lunch (I made some rather awesome omelettes) we popped to the shops en masse and bought cake-making ingredients and comics for the girls. Dh and I have fond memories of reading comics as children and R and G love them. They’ve moved on apace since our childhood though. R selected a Peppa Pig comic (sorry, magazine, as she insists on calling it) and G eventually after prolonged deliberation chose a Charlie and Lola comic. The gifts on comics are fab. R got some domino cards and G got a bead bracelet making set. Much more fun than the nail varnishes, hand creams or ‘bags for life’ I get on my grown-up comics.

Dh decided (after extensive prodding from me) that he should really clean the car. I wanted to make cake so we asked the girls what they wanted to do. R helped dh and G helped me by licking out the bowls. It was nice to spend some time with the girls individually, although G really wanted to grab and sponge and help dh clean the car. I distracted her with a bowl of chocolate… R hovered the car with minimal input from dh and after before tea the girls and I sat down and made bracelets together.

Apart from a wobbler by R at bath time (she doesn’t cope with life after 5pm) we had a lovely day. It’s rare that all four of us spend almost a whole day at home and it was great to get out in the garden for a few hours. I hate being cooped up in the house in winter and I’m so pleased that spring is pretty much here and we can involve the girls in activities separately. As  much I love our (many) days out I now remember how much I love being at home with my family.

The Mary Poppins Mother…and other terrifying beasts

As someone that suffers hugely with anxiety, I find the pressure to be the perfect parent completely and utterly overwhelming at times. Actually, about 75% of the time. Just when I think I’m doing a reasonably good job, someone comes along and pees on my bonfire. It’s one of the many reasons I left a well-known parenting website (no not that one, the other one) a few months ago. Whenever I logged on feeling remotely smug about something the girls and I had done together, someone would always trump my efforts.

For a long time I tried to keep up. I would work a 37 hour week and then do an activity of one form or other with the girls in the time I had left over. Any day spent in the house was a day wasted. We had to be out and about: trips to museums, zoos, farms. Playdates. The park. If we were at home the girls had to leave the house at least once in the day, even if it was a walk to the local shops or to post a letter. I became obsessed with doing ‘crafting’ and ‘activities’ with the girls. While they were sticking bits of paper to bits of card, I had to photograph them and post the pictures on Facebook.

I found myself taking photos of the girls when we were eating out and deciding that I couldn’t show them to anyone because they were eating unhealthy things, like chocolate brownies and I was worried that someone would think I only fed them chocolate and would judge me harshly. I found the pressure utterly overwhelming.

I had to do something, so I took a step back. What was making me act like this? I worked out it was not so much ‘what’ as ‘who’. I’m not going to name names, but a couple of people in my life were – unwittingly – making me feel inadequate. I think every parent knows someone that can do everything you do, but just a tiny bit better. They are, in true Mary Poppins style, Practically Perfect in Every Way. Complete a cross-stitch project and post up photos of it on Facebook? The Mary Poppins Mother will post up pictures of self-made creatures that develop their own personalities and have adventures*. Made a few cupcakes? The MPM will post up a beautifully-decorated self-made cake. It’s exhausting to even attempt to emulate it.

So why do I bother? I’m that deadly combination of extremely anxious and highly competitive. On my good days, I’m the best bloody mother in the world. On one of my down days, I can barely crawl out of bed because I know that simply letting the girls watch Peppa Pig won’t be enough. They have to do something good.

If I had a pound for everyone that told me I was too hard on myself I could afford to actually hire Mary Poppins. I know I am my own harshest critic, but it’s part of my nature and it’s probably the thing that drives me on to bigger and better things. It’s also the thing that propels me out of bed and makes me face the day – and the girls – when I’m feeling low.

I want to be the best parent I can possibly be, but I have to know my limits. The crucial thing is that the women I measure myself against are stay at home mums. They don’t have an office to go to, deadlines to meet, appraisal targets to reach and customers to keep happy. Their home is their work. It’s not always mine. One of the good things about giving the girls a nursery education is that it takes the pressure off me a bit – if they do papier mache there I don’t have to do it at home.

I’m not saying that I slob around in my pyjamas while the girls watch Peppa Pig from dawn until dusk – as much as they would probably like that! It’s just that I’m trying not to beat myself up now if we don’t do a something in the day. We can just, as my counsellor once told me, sit back from time to time and smell the roses.

* Don’t tell anyone, but I think that this is a bit…um…I’ll leave it there shall I?