We’ve got five on it

Tomorrow I become the joint owner of two five year old girls, which is weird because last time I looked R and G were toddlers and I was wondering if they would ever actually reach school age and if I would be sane enough to appreciate it when they did.

Prior to the girls’ fourth birthday I was wondering whether they would ever actually night train (G managed it in the spring/summer and R in the autumn) and wondering what we’d do in the nine months before they started school. I was determined to just let them be children for a bit before they went on to the full-time education treadmill, with all that entails. I think we managed that and had a fairly amazing summer with a family holiday, the Jubilee celebrations and the whole London 2012 thing.

The girls have been at school since September and as a family we are still adjusting to the changing rhythms of our days and weeks. We were settling into a pattern when they both (separately) had chicken pox and everything got thrown up in the air again. Things will settle down. They generally do.

We attended their first parents’ evening prior to half-term and came out from the meetings with their respective teachers feeling extremely proud and impressed at how well R and G had adapted to school. There have been some teething problems: G’s determination to learn everything and be best friends with everyone at once has impacted on her behaviour at home because she is constantly exhausted (having her at home for the last few days with The Pox has reminded me how sweet she actually is) and R is slowly emerging from her sister’s shadow and learning to tell people how good she actually is at things, instead of hiding her talents and only revealing them when she’s absolutely ready to do so.

They are both fiercely competitive in different ways. G seems quite fluffy and airheaded but she’s got a well-hidden ruthless streak. They both have kindness charts in their respective classrooms and G was very proud when her name went on to the ‘Kindness kite’. R, slightly affronted, asked what she’d done to achieve the accolade. G’s sage reply was ‘Well, you do something REALLY NICE for someone and when you’ve done it, TELL A TEACHER’. R followed her sister’s advice and her name went on to the ‘Kindness tree’ a few days later.  R’s competitiveness is probably summed up best by her reaction to watching GB cyclists ‘only’ winning silver at the Paralympics (even now, when reminded about it, she will berate me for being fair and cheering all of the competitors, not just the ones I wanted to win) and the fact that she finally got the ten achievement stickers she needed to get a prize (a notebook), and promptly giving said prize away to her sister.

I was concerned that the school transition would lead to a rapid loss of innocence, but oddly that hasn’t quite happened yet. They have learned some interesting lessons though. R takes what people tell her extremely literally and was terribly upset when one of her friends said that a party the girls had been invited to had already happened and they’d missed it, when they hadn’t. I had to explain that her friend was joking (not lying – definitely not lying) and that sometimes people did that. We were walking to school one day when one of R’s classmates leapt up to them and said ‘I STOOD ON AN ANT AND IT WAS FARTING’. R and G both giggled uncertainly and R whispered ‘Mummy, what’s farting?’. G lives on her own Lola-like world so I wonder if she’ll ever lose that innocent quality. I think R will become more cynical and less innocent through experience.

I don’t quite know what to expect next. By their sixth birthday they’ll be in Year 1 and Reception will be a distant memory. They might have learnt to swim (every week I watch them at swimming lessons and pray that one day they might actually take their feet off the bottom of the pool) and they may no longer have stabilisers on their bikes. They are already making good headway with learning to read, so I reckon (hope?) they’ll be reasonably fluent by then (there’s only so much phonics one can cope with.)

This will be the last annual update I write on HoT though, as I’m going to end this blog at the end of 2012. There will be a separate post on this so I won’t go into it here but I think R and G’s sixth year is going to be great (although slightly less exciting than 2012.)

Poxy

R had it two weeks ago. G is on day 2 of her 5-day quarantine period. We are Chicken Pox central here. After being exposed to the virus on five separate occasions in their (very nearly) five years we were starting to think they had some strange immunity to it. Not so. Turns out sixth time is the charm for the girls.

R actually didn’t fare too badly with it. She had around 30 spots, large but evenly-spaced around her body. She had a temperature (had to dust off the still-just-about-in-date Calpol that we hadn’t used for months) and was sleepy and off her food for a couple of days but other than that, wasn’t too bad. She was well enough to do art and craft things, puzzles and demanded that Dh do phonics practice with her after lunch because that’s when they did it at school. The main issue was that the girls’ birthday party was on day 5 of her quarantine period, and had to be cancelled. It has been rearranged for early January and both of them were really good about it.

We were rather hoping that, if G were destined to get Chicken Pox, she would get it very soon after her sister. Instead her body decided to wait until the point that we thought she might have escaped it entirely. Yesterday morning she leapt into our bedroom wearing her Cinderella dressing-up dress and bellowed LOOK AT MY RASH DADDY! She is now covered from head to toe in tiny, red, extremely angry-looking spots. She is so itchy that every so often she actually howls in pain (she’s our drama queen but on this occasion I don’t blame her.) We are trying out all of the remedies that were recommended for R and didn’t need: bicarbonate of soda in the bath, calomine lotion and cream. She looks so sad and can’t bear cuddles for very long because they make her itch.

It’s horrible when they’re ill but I’m actually relieved that the girls have finally got Chicken Pox. All of their friends had it when they were much younger, so they are in a minority of children in their year that have had time off school with it. G should be feeling much better by the end of this week and might even go back to school on Friday if her spots have scabbed over (they might mass together and become one massive spot – scary.) She isn’t missing much: all of the Christmas activities at school are taking place next week and she should be absolutely fine for Christmas, the girls’ sleepover at Nanny and Grandad’s between  Christmas and New Year and their belated party in January.

However it’s the girls’ fifth birthday on Wednesday, which is day 4 of G’s quarantine period and means that she’ll be off school on her birthday but R will have to go in. We didn’t have any grand plans for their birthday as it is on a school day and their party was supposed to have already happened, but we have to make sure that R doesn’t feel left out. She’ll make damn sure of it anyway.

So that was Christmas…

…and what have we done? Another year over. A new one just begun*

I haven’t managed to blog for almost a month because I’ve just been too darned busy living my ‘real life’. There was the girls’ 4th Birthday. All four parts of it – the party with friends, the lunch with my family, the actual day and the taking cake and fruit into nursery day. I decided to make hand-made Christmas cards…but only started doing them on 10th December so most of my evenings were spent sitting on a beanbag in front of the TV, watching Masterchef: The Professionals (Young Steve was ROBBED) while I glued bits of card to my hands and covered the coffee table in sticky fixers. I single-handedly wrapped 3 million Christmas presents (I was helping FC and the Elves out). I worked up until 23rd December. I got shitfaced quite merry at my work Christmas ‘do. The girls performed in their first nativity play at nursery and we had to deal with our first instance of proper sibling rivalry. The girls and I painted a ‘Teapot for the Insane’ as part of my sisters’ Christmas present.

I haven’t even got to Christmas yet…

My In-Laws arrived on the 23rd. They babysat that night so that Dh and I could go out for drinks and enormous Argentinian steaks. My SIL, her partner and daughter arrived on the 24th. Dh and I slept on a blow-up bed in the playroom. I did a Christmas Eve buffet for 9 people, Christmas Lunch for 12 people (my parents and sister came down for the day), Christmas Day buffet tea for 12 people and a Boxing Day cooked lunch for 9 people. I made eleventy million cups of tea and I don’t even drink the ruddy stuff.

Everyone went home on Boxing Day. R and G watched Fireman bloody Sam while I blitzed the house, did countless loads of washing, refilled the dishwasher 54 times, etc.The girls and I watched The Lion King for the first time and I had to answer A LOT of philosophical questions about life, death, relationships, etc.

I had a birthday, which was lovely. I am still in my ‘early thirties’. Round here I am still the young parent of the gang, which blows my tiny mind in quite a good way. In an attempt to reinforce my ‘down with da kidz’ credentials we bought a new stereo with an iPod dock and subwoofers. I have spent the last two weeks playing snatches of early 90s dance tracks and shouting LISTEN TO THE BASS ON THAT! I’m such an embarrassing mother.

We forced ourselves upon visited lots of people. Dh was ill (exhausted) over the New Year period so I was looking after two extremely hyperactive children and nursing him. I don’t like NYE anyway, so went to bed at 10.30pm with my new Kindle**.

Oh and the girls decided they wanted to wear their new knickers (Christmas presents) at night so they have been night training for the past week.G is doing pretty well (4 completely dry nights so far) and R is struggling with it a bit (1 dry night) so we’re doing lots of bed changes at 3am, lots of extra washing, etc.

I went back to work yesterday. My Head of Dept said I looked ‘genuinely relieved’ to be back in the office***

*Ta John and Yoko. Just be grateful you can’t hear me doing my highly questionable Yoko Ono impression.

**I adore my Kindle. It may change my life as much as my iPhone did…

***I’m not going to lie to you, I was nice to sit down in a good chair with a Starbucks hot chocolate, not talk to anyone for an hour or two and answer e-mails.

In short, I’m FECKING EXHAUSTED. The main thing is that everyone else (with the exception of Dh at New Year) had a brilliant time and as I’ve learned over the last four years, it’s not about me any more.

Happy New Year!

Now we are Four

It’s the night before R and G’s 4th Birthday and, once again, I’m in a reflective mood. It’s time for me to catch my breath, review the last year and look forward to year five.

“I think the thing I’m really looking forward to is teaching them more stuff. I actually had a conversation with dh last night about teaching the girls to read. That’s pretty exciting”

Bless. I was so hopeful a year ago. So our little geniuses aren’t reading Shakespeare just yet but I think they’re doing ok. I get milestone e-mails from various parenting websites and I read about 75% of them and think YEE-HA! My children are MARVELLOUS. I then read the other 25% and think BOLLOCKS! They aren’t doing X,Y and Z. I am clearly a terrible parent. I then put down my flagellation branches and remove my hair-shirt and basically get over myself. They can both write their names. They can count to 30. They know their colours and shapes. They can recognise some letters. They use words like ‘ridiculous’ and ‘concentrate’ in everyday conversation (can’t think where they might have heard them). People are kind enough to tell us that the girls are bright and articulate.

“We’ve completed most of the milestone stuff now and the only outstanding thing is night training”.

Moving swiftly on…

 “OHMYJESUSCHRISTGODONASTICK WHEN WILL THESE INFERNAL ‘PHASES’ EVER END? We had a tough time with R a couple of months ago (she still has her moments/breakdowns though) and are currently having a difficult time with G because she lives in Grace-world, which sounds like a lovely place but frequently clashes rather horribly with the real world, where she actually has to DO STUFF.”

The phases don’t really end. R was quite hard work (a little sod) in the Spring and Summer and G took over in the Autumn. They have days where they are absolutely adorable and lovely and parenting them is the easiest job in the world. Just when we think we’ve cracked it, the girls have a few days of being utterly horrid for no apparent reason and we tear our hair out. Their moods are easier to predict now and we’re generally better at dealing with them. Experience brings wisdom, and all that jazz.

Despite that, this is the first time that I’m writing one of these updates and I’m not feeling relieved that we have survived another year in crazy twin-world. I’m actually feeling a little sad that the girls are growing up so quickly and this time next year they’ll be at school. I love their combination of inquisitiveness and innocence. The rite of passage of going to school means that they’ll lose that beautiful innocence very quickly and I’ll mourn it deeply. Although the girls have attended nursery from a very young age and have been exposed to a number of different influences, they have been in a very ‘safe’ environment and aren’t very worldly. Going to school will inevitably change that.

I’m fascinated to see how they deal with school though. They are used to an ‘institution’ with rules and social norms so it won’t be a big leap for them in that sense. It’s very likely that they are going to have to get used to a uniform and also adapt to a different rhythm to their days and weeks. It’s going to be a huge shift for Dh and I as we juggle terms, holidays and after school clubs.

That’s for next September though. I don’t have a ‘plan’ as such for the next nine months. I just want to make the most of R and G while they are still ‘ours’.

Outsourcing

I sort-of hate myself for it, but we have totally outsourced the girls’ upcoming birthday party. They have been to 15(!!) parties since January (I know…) and there was no way that we could repeat the very small, homespun parties the girls have had for their last two birthdays (the thought of fifteen pairs of feet stomping around our house, high on sugar didn’t seem particularly appealing)  so we had to look for an alternative venue.

I narrowed it down to two options:

  1. Hire a church hall, install a bouncy castle, organise party games, let chaos ensue
  2. Book a session at a soft play place

I really fancied option 1 until Dh pointed out that he and I would have to set the hall up, do all the food, make sure everyone (both big and small people) was entertained for two hours and clear up afterwards, all while managing two extremely overexcited pre-schoolers.

So, I begrudgingly booked option 2. We’ve been to three parties there already and it’s a great venue but it just feels so…impersonal. The big plus is that they do everything (food, drink, party bags) for you apart from the cake.

Unlike some (really irritating) places, they allow the grown-ups on the apparatus, including the big wiggly slide. There’s nothing worse (it’s a first world problem, but bear with me) than trying to marshal two small people around a series of obstacles only to abandon them at the top of the slide as you’re not allowed to go down it with them. The girls are actually tall enough to master the obstacles unaided now, but where’s the fun in that? In any case, our parent friends now expect me to make a complete arse of myself as I chuck myself through a revolving tube and they positively embrace the opportunity to point and laugh as they sit on the sidelines drinking coffee. I’m braced for the day that I offer to ‘help’ the girls climb up to the tube slide only for them to look at me disdainfully and tell me to go and sit with the grown-ups. I might actually have a little cry.

I digress. There are only two elements of the party that I can control: the invitations and the cakes. The venue provides blank invitations but I really don’t like the design of them. I decided to put my card-making skills to good use and have just finished the invitations. All 19 of them. All totally unique. Yes, I’m THAT much of a nutbag.

When it comes to the cakes, I may be crackers but I’m not totally insane. I’m a reasonably competent Victoria sponge and chocolate cake-maker but my creations wouldn’t pass muster for a birthday party. Also, we have seen the candles blown out on an amazing array of cakes this year – I think my favourite was the Noah’s Ark with fondant animals – and, frankly, I know that any home-make attempts to better them would result in an entry on the CakeWrecks website*. Instead I’m going to speak to our local bakery about making a Hello Kitty cake for R and a Minnie Mouse cake for G.

*Although they only feature professional cakes.

The invitations are going to be circulated on Monday and I’m already getting my annual party fear. WHAT IF NO-ONE COMES? WHY DID I HAVE DECEMBER CHILDREN? WHAT IF WE SIT THERE WITH TWO CAKES, TWO SAD CHILDREN AND NO PEOPLE? WHY AM I WRITING IN CAPITALS? Argh!

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!