Farewell Charlie

Charlie the guinea pig died yesterday.

Dh went out to feed Charlie and Lola and reappeared with his ‘I have to deliver bad news’ face on. I was really shocked. Charlie was less than two years old and we expected the piggies to live for another couple of years, at least. She hadn’t shown any signs of illness in the last few days (although apparently guinea pigs hide illness as a defence mechanism) and had been eating normally and running around as usual. There were some loud bangs from the fireworks over the weekend but they have coped fine with them before.

I told the girls this morning. R went very quiet, developed a very wobbly lip and launched herself at me for a big cuddle. I stroked her hair as she sobbed quietly. G looked confused for a moment and said ‘Yes but when can we have breakfast?’. I asked her how she felt and she said ‘Not sad’. I suggested that the girls made cards to remember Charlie by. G said ‘Charlie won’t be able to see them and anyway, we didn’t make cards for the fish when they died’. Sometimes G is so very much like her father/Richard Dawkins that it is frightening!

It was with some trepidation that I went out to see Lola this morning. She seems to be fine, although hadn’t touched her food since yesterday. This is also quite common in guinea pigs. The loss of a companion can make them depressed and off their food. I brought her indoors and the girls and I gave her lots of cuddles. She has now eaten all of her food, plus some carrot that the girls and Dh fed her earlier.

We’re going to keep an extra-special eye on Lola over the next few days to see how she copes with the loss of her companion. Charlie was always the first to the food (she practically inhaled lettuce leaves) so Lola is probably adjusting to having first dibs at the buffet for a change. I’m not sure whether I want to get a new baby guinea pig as we might end up in a cycle of replacing piggies. Plus, we don’t know if Charlie’s death was a freak incident or if Lola has something untoward too.

Charlie – you loved your food but didn’t like eating out of our hands. Every time we cleaned your hutch out to tried to escape Steve McQueen-style across the garden. You were always the first to the vegetable buffet. You had quite a lot of junk in your trunk despite the guinea pig run and squeaked indignantly if you thought we had forgotten to feed you. You were a good and true friend to Lola and we will all miss you.

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Interview with dh – personalities and difference

They’ve really developed their own personalities haven’t they?

They’ve been different since they were a few weeks old really. They act differently and like different things

Do you think we’ve made them different deliberately, or are they just different?

They are Identical, but they act differently, despite being genetically the same.

The great test of that was the whole Sporty Tots thing…

…which Ruth loves and Grace refuses to do. Grace did it a couple of times and hated it.

They had equal opportunity to do it and Grace was very definite about saying no. I think we have an interesting perception of them, where we think Ruth is really clever and Grace is more airy-fairy but if you look at the targets, Grace is way ahead in terms of things like number recognition and letters…

…we’re biased, but I think they’re both very clever but like doing different things. Grace will happily sit down and try to write her name. Ruth can a bit, if you can convince her to do it. She likes doing sporty things, like throwing and catching. It’s more about what they’re interested in. Ruth doesn’t like doing things she’s not already good at. She gets so embarrassed….

…for one so young whereas Grace blithely strolls through life being like Lola from Charlie and Lola.

She has no awareness of anything! She’s not self-conscious at all. Ruth is really sensitive. It makes you treat them differently as well. I find that I have to be quite careful about what I say to Ruth because she’ll get really upset.

People think that Ruth is the more confident one of the two, but she’s not.

If she’s taken away from an environment she’s comfortable in, she freaks out.

Grace would be the same if she met the tramp or the pope. She would just be Grace.

Ruth’s a bit all or nothing. There are certain people she really takes to….

….and some that she really doesn’t and she makes it very obvious!

She really loves her keyworker at nursery. She’s very choosy about who she likes and who she doesn’t. Grace is the same with everyone. She’s very bossy.

You think that Grace is really airy-fairy and then she comes out with something that reveals how sharp she really is. We’ll be looking at a book and she’ll say ‘Oh, that’s an e and a g for Grace!’ You think nothing’s going in…

It’s amazing how much they take in.

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!

Bookworms

I picked the girls up from nursery tonight and when I arrived R was nowhere to be seen (busy putting a princess dress on) whilst G was curled up on a beanbag reading a Charlie and Lola book, utterly oblivious to the chaos unfolding around her.

I immediately identified with G. I have always loved books and can think of nothing better than ploughing through a stack of brand-new paperbacks. As a child, I visited our local public library every week, always taking out the maximum number of books allowed on my ticket and working my way through the pile. I still devour books like a crazed Ms Pacman.

It probably sounds a bit bonkers but we’ve always read to R and G. I did try reading aloud to them when I was pregnant but I felt a bit silly reading to myself. Dh and I started reading to the girls as part of their bedtime routine when they were tiny. After their bedtime feed we would prop them up on cushions and read them picture books. We were aware that we were only really entertaining each other but it’s something that we’ve continued throughout the girls’ lives.

As R and G have got older their participation in bedtime stories has increased. We read them two stories every night and they get to choose one each. They are read to throughout the day as well and they now make up stories to read to each other: “Everybody SIT DOWN! Can you see Ruth? Ok. Can you see the pictures? ONCEUPONATIME there was a little rabbit called Miffy….PUT YOUR LISTENING EARS ON RUTH!” We’ve accumulated quite a stack of children’s books over the years and we take them to the library every fortnight to get more picture books. They know certain books by heart and have favourites that have to be read every night for a week or two, before they move on to the next one.

We had a playdate with some friends a few weeks ago and the girls spotted The Gruffalo among the books. R and G picked it up and started reciting the words, to the astonishment of the host. “Are they actually reading that?” she asked? I grinned and said the girls just had really good memories. If I didn’t like her quite as much I might have told a teeny tiny white lie…

There are certain books that we all love:

  • The tiger who came to tea by Judith Kerr
  • Room on the broom by Julia Donaldson (we love all of her books and own most of them)
  • The Wibbly Pig books by Mick Inkpen
  • The Kipper books by Mick Inkpen
  • The pigeon books by Mo Willems (if the girls get invited to a birthday party they invariably take pigeon books as presents)
  • The Miffy books by Dick Bruna
  • What does Daddy do? By Rachel Bright
  • The Maisy books by Lucy Cousins
  • The Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child
  • The Hairy Mclairy books by Lynley Dodd
  • The Knuffle Bunny books by Mo Willems
  • Wild about books by Judy Sierra

I’ve already started collecting books ready for when the girls are actually able to read: Roald Dahl, Mallory Towers, St Clare’s, Dick King-Smith, Winnie the Pooh, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Tom’s Midnight Garden… I loved these and many, many more as a child and I hope that R and G love them as much as I did (I still remember my shock at finding out the protagonist in the Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler was actually a girl) and I’m sure that they’ll introduce me to authors that weren’t around when I was growing up. I was already an adult when Harry Potter and the Georgia Nicolson (Louise Rennison) series were published but I connected with them as I imagine I would have done as a child and young teenager.

R and G aren’t old enough to learn to read yet but they already seem to be developing a love of books and we’ll do everything we can to encourage that.

Guinea pig manor

After a week in their warm, cosy indoor cage Charlie and Lola have been turfed out into their Spring/Summer quarters  – the rather grandly named guinea pig manor. It’s been lovely to have them inside with us as it’s given us all time to get used to each other. On a practical level it makes sense for them to be outdoors most of the time though. Plus if they’d lived in the house for very much longer the dining room would have started to get a bit smelly.

Dh and I have been sharing feeding and cleaning out duties and the girls have been getting involved as well. They love stroking the piggies and have been helping to change Charlie and Lola’s bedding, straw and food. C & L love broccoli, celery and cucumber so the girls help to wash the veg and put it into the cage. G would dearly love to hold and cuddle C & L but they are extremely wriggly so we’ve reached a compromise where one of us holds them and G snuggles into us. R loves observing their behaviour and keeps up a running commentary on C and L’s movements. She frets that they’re not using their salt lick and playing with their toys but finds their (massive) straw consumption fascinating.

Aside from being totally different cosmetically, C and L have very different personalities. Lola is extremely feisty and doesn’t really fear anything or anyone. She spends much of her time gambolling around the hutch like a newborn lamb. Charlie is much quieter and more timid but loves cuddles – when you can get hold of her! She’s a bit of a speedy Gonzales.

Just a quick note on the goldfish. Maisy and Eddie are doing really well and Dh actually allows R and G to give them fish flakes every other day. I think they felt a bit upstaged by the piggies and Maisy seems to be shimmying around the tank more enthusiastically now that C and L have moved outdoors.

I keep thinking about one of the animals in the adoption section of the pet shop. Hobo was a lop-eared rabbit that appeared to have alopecia. He had bald patches on his head but the information sheet next to his cage said that the hair should grow back in time. G was quite fascinated by him and insisted on going to visit him on the numerous occasions we went to the pet shop. Normally the turnover of animals in the adoption bit is quite high but Hobo had been there for a few weeks. Last week R and G sat next to his cage for ages and chatted to him. If he hasn’t already, I hope he finds a suitable owner soon. I was half tempted to suggest to dh that we adopt him but guinea pigs and rabbits don’t really mix…

I have these little guinea pigs…

…..they are small and very funny…

So after our (ahem) overnight success with the goldfish we decided we just had to add to the menagerie. We are now the proud owners of two female guinea pigs (we only do things in twos in this house) called….Charlie and Lola.

We’ll come back to the potential gender confusion later. Buying guinea pigs is a breeze compared to fish. We went into the pet shop, selected our piggies and left the shop 20 minutes later, me carrying a cardboard box containing two scuffly little creatures and dh carrying an indoor cage and a guinea pig starter kit. We drew a little crowd in the shop as one of the staff lifted our chosen piggies from the pen and handed them to dh and I. Charlie and Lola squeaked with…fear? Excitement? Hopefully the latter.

We’ve been debating adding guinea pigs to our collection (of two fish? Yeah. Massive collection) for a while but it took me a bit of time to bring dh round to the idea and to get permission from our letting agents. I’ve always had a fondness for guinea pigs. Less rodenty than a gerbil or rat but marginally less of a commitment than rabbits, they seemed like our kind of pet. Plus they’re sociable creatures and there’s nothing worse than living with a sarky hamster or a cantankerous rabbit.

So, why have we called two girl pigs after a boy and a girl? You’d have to ask R and G about that. Since we told them the piggies were coming, various name combos have been floating around. I quite fancied the idea of Frasier and Niles, Daphne and Roz or Albie and Dustin. G briefly wanted to call them George and Toby but friends of ours will be relieved to hear that I quickly dissuaded her. Percy and James were in the running for a while but G came up with Charlie and R added Lola and it felt ‘right’.

No photos of Charlie and Lola yet as they’re still settling in. They currently reside in an indoor cage while we all get used to each other but the plan is for them to live in an outdoor hutch (the grandly named guinea pig manor) for most of the year and to come indoors in the depths of winter. Lola (black with brown highlights) is the more feisty of the two and has darted in and out of their sleeping area today to check out the environment, sneak food and poo. Charlie (white with large brown patches) has spent the whole day hunkered down in his/her sleeping quarters. At one point I made dh check that we hadn’t freaked him/her out so much that he/she had gone to the piggy heaven in the sky. Charlie is fine, just a little frightened and possibly quite confused. They are approximately twelve weeks old, so were ‘born’ in December 2010.

I don’t think we’ll be expanding our numbers again now. I rather like having eight creatures – three women, one lady fish, two female guinea pigs (one with an identity crisis), one slightly terrified looking boy fish and dh who is beyond description – in the HoT.