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!

Nursery: a collaborative learning environment or a glorified babysitter?

As a result of the complaint I made in December we now have monthly meetings with G’s Keyworker at nursery. Dh and I make sure that we can both attend each meeting and they generally last about half an hour. I instigated them as I wanted to know what the girls were actually up to in the c.28 hours a week they spent away from us.

R and G are going through a stage where we ask them what they did at nursery that day and they say “Nothing”. We ask them who they played with and they say “No-one”. We know this isn’t true because they normally have pen or paint on their tops and mud on their trainers. They also get invited to a lot of parties and playdates and talk about their friends constantly so I’m fairly confident that they’re not sitting in the corner being ignored by everyone.

We get a daily sheet but it’s pretty basic. One of my biggest bugbears is that the activity section of the sheet is already filled in on the computer and printed off. At my request, I’ve asked that a little extra comment is added to the bottom of the sheet each day and G’s keyworker is very good at this, adding a little anecdote to give us an additional insight. They’re also true – not that we’ve tested G on them or anything…

I’m always quite shocked at the parents who ‘drop and run’ each morning and stick their head round the door each evening and beckon their child to follow them home without any interaction with the nursery staff. I understand the morning escape as we all work and have important deadlines to meet and places to be but certain parents seem to treat nursery as a rather expensive babysitter. I accept that they might have different, unseen ways of communicating with nursery about their child but when you speak to a parent and they have no idea what their child is doing or doesn’t even know the name of their keyworker, you begin to wonder.

I wouldn’t describe us as pushy parents but, with my business head on, we’re paying for a service and I’d like to know what we’re all getting out of it. We’re essentially paying for them to have a private pre-school education at this stage and as they’re going to be going to a state primary and we won’t be paying to educate them again until they (possibly) go on to higher education, I want them to get the best start possible.

Plus, we like knowing what they’re up to at nursery so we can reinforce it at home. We were inspired to get Maisy and Eddie by the water topic they were doing recently. They’re currently doing growing and Spring so I was showing the girls photos of their scans and my pregnant bump and explaining that they lived in Mummy and then I gave birth to them (R  looks at me like I’m mental at this point). When we were at the zoo last week we saw some heavily pregnant sheep and explained that it would soon be lambing season. The girls are now obsessed with measuring each other as we did their height and weight last week. They are teaching us new songs: ‘Everyfink (sic) is growing’ is a current favourite.

Dh and I make a point of learning the other children’s names so that we can greet them properly when they say hello and goodbye to us. As a result, we’re sometimes asked to read stories when one of us picks the girls up in the evening and, if we time it right, we get to join in with the late afternoon snack time – the girls refuse to leave until they’ve had their snack.

So, back to the meetings. G’s keyworker is very academic in her focus with her children and she seems to have a strong sense of G’s personality but there isn’t a huge amount of warmth there. Much of the meeting is taken up with discussing the Early Years Foundation Stage and the ‘targets’ (for want of a better word) that they are focusing on. It’s hard not to reference R in the meetings and I have to keep bearing in mind that we’re there to talk about G, although R invariably crops up in conversation. Dh and I feel much happier that we have a bit more knowledge and it seems that G is doing just fine.

We’ve always had a good relationship with R’s keyworker. She’s much less academic in her dealings with the children. So far, we haven’t instigated formal meetings with her as she’s much more available to chat informally, but in the interests of fairness we should have meetings with her too now. We bought R and G’s folders home last week and the different approaches of their respective keyworkers in obvious. Everything in G’s is filled out correctly. R’s is more hit and miss so hopefully the prompt of formal meetings will mean that her folder is also kept up to date.

I know it’s ‘each to their own’ and it’s not healthy to judge the parenting practices of others without knowing the facts – they might think it’s weird that one of us is curled up reading stories or participating in snack time when they come to pick up their child – but I’d feel like I was neglecting my parenting duties if I didn’t get involved in nursery matters.

Upgrade. Reboot.

It’s official. R and G have been replaced. We’ve been getting an upgrade every 3-6 months since they were born, as per the arrangement we made with the hospital and normally they’ve done a pretty good job. To be honest we’ve barely noticed the difference between upgrades, although version 4 was a bit of a shocker. Walking Bots! I could have done without the patch they put on 4.1.2, the one that made G a terrible sleeper, but this was a level two programming issue and was eventually fixed. On this occasion, however, things are a bit different.

The most recent upgrade has seen R and G versions 10.1.1 replaced with sweet, kind, funny children that actually LISTEN to what we’re saying to them. They’re being nice to each other, lovely to us and a joy to be around. G is much less whingey and R is significantly less prone to losing her temper.

I swear they’ve made a mistake. I’m waiting for versions 10.1.0 to make a spectacular reappearance and get stroppy and tell us to ‘put our listening ears on’. The cheeky monkeys! G is Little Miss Cloth Ears! Or rather, the old version was. This one is – I hesitate to say it – rather adorable. R is rather grown-up and sensible. I’m a bit unnerved by it all. Not knocking it, mind.

I’m tempted not to log on to get the next upgrade, just in case it’s a bad one. In any case, I’m sure their programmers will realise soon enough and instigate a remote reinstall and reboot in the night.


Update 16-Mar Yep, the reboot happened at 11.30pm last night and G woke three times in the night for very spurious reasons. This meant that they were both extremely crabby this afternoon. I miss the 10.1.1 bots 😦

Year Three – in which R and G became CHILDREN.

“I know from reading the stories of others that year three isn’t going to be magically easier. We’re going to have the terrible twos to deal with. There’s the frankly scary prospect of potty training. This time next year the girls will have abandoned their high chairs (that will probably happen quite soon) and in all probability, their buggies. We’ll have to think about turning their cotbeds from cots to beds. Their daytime nap will become a thing of the past (and will be greatly missed)”

Two days before the girls’ third birthday and I’m in a reflective mood. I wrote the above passage a year ago on the eve of their second birthday. If I were a box ticking kinda gal, I’d be feeling pretty pleased. Potty training? Completed by October (2yrs10m). Highchairs? Junked in January (2yrs1m). Buggies? Phased out over the Summer (2yrs7m-ish). Our Nipper Double and single Maclaren Volos sit forlornly in the cupboard under the stairs, gathering dust. I don’t quite feel ready to part with them yet. Moved into beds? Done in (ahem) December (2yrs11m), although, with bed guards we should have done it a year ago. Daytime nap? Sadly dropped in May (2ys5m) and much missed by both of us, although they sleep (touch wood) very well at night, generally.

I realised something a couple of weeks ago. Choosing to have a second (third, fourth, fifth, etc.) child isn’t just about providing a sibling or creating a larger family. It’s also an opportunity to make up for the mistakes you made first time round. When you have a baby it’s a bit like playing a new computer game. Level 1: pregnant. Ooh! Jump over the vomit! Don’t slip over on the ice with that bump! Level 2: newborn baby. You have to look after an infant while fighting off uzi-toting zombies hurling poo and food at you. The first time you play you’re crap – still trying to figure out the controls, wondering if that thing wonder towards you is going to give you a hug or kill you. Second time round, you actually know stuff. You know that three button clicks after killing the zombie with the machete you’ll find a pot of gold. There are things that we would do differently if we had more children but as we’ve decided that R and G are our one shot at this parenting thing, we’re not going to have the opportunity to put this theory into practice.

As for the ‘terrible twos’, closer inspection of the girls’ instruction manual (we have a poorly photocopied Welsh language version) reveals that they actually start when the child is two and  a half and usually last for a year, so that means we’re half-way through them. 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.

“I’m looking forward to having proper conversations with the girls. To explaining concepts and ideas to them. I’m even (god help me) looking forward to the interminable ‘WHYYYYYYYYY??’ questions”.

Ok, so this is quite fun and the conversations we have are hilarious but whenever R asks us to explain something, we’re treated to THE LOOK (a.k.a. The Ruthie Stare), which says “You are talking utter codswallop. That’s clearly not the answer. Why am I stuck with these imbeciles?” Last week I was asked where snow came from. I rooted through my brain and dredged up a bit of knowledge, which I imparted to R. She put her head on one side, gave me THE LOOK and replied “That’s WRONG Mummy”. I felt 6cms high. I asked her what the proper answer was. She didn’t know. I felt better.

So, year four. We’ve completed most of the milestone stuff now and the only outstanding thing is night training. I wasn’t ever very fussed about doing this before their 3rd birthday. The received wisdom is that most children aren’t ready until their fourth year to be fully night trained – you can try before that, but you’ll spend A LOT of time changing wet beds and I don’t know about you but I’m rather fond of sleep now I can have some – so I’m happy to follow the girls’ lead. G wakes up with a dry nappy roughly half of the week and R always wakes up with a wet nappy so there’s no rush.

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. I want to take them on even more day trips. We might even think about going on a proper holiday.

Year One was physically and mentally exhausting. Year two was full of change. Year Three has been intellectually demanding on top of everything else, but it’s been my favourite so far. Let’s see what year Four brings.

Things that go bump in the night

Many months after their peers moved from cots to beds, we finally took the sides off the girls’ cotbeds yesterday. We’ve been debating it for months and always had it in our minds that we’d make the transition when the girls started climbing out of their cots, but they never did. I knew the game was up when we went to visit the girls’ old nursery (oh how we miss it) a few weeks ago and I mentioned that we only had two things left to do to help the girls become pre-schoolers rather than toddlers: 1. Get them night trained, 2. Move to beds. To their credit, they disguised their horror/surprise well (about the cots at least) and kindly gave us some advice.

The girls went to bed as normal at 7pm and were rather excited about their ‘Big girl beds’. Instinctively, dh and I went to lift them up to put them in their cots and felt silly when the girls clambered into bed by themselves. They went to sleep pretty quickly and all was well. We had debated buying bed guards but dh po-poohed the idea and was convinced that the girls wouldn’t fall out. I was fairly certain we’d need them. G can fall over walking in a straight line (she gets it from her mother) and has always been a wriggly sleeper so, to my mind, there was no way that she would stay in bed all night.

At 10.30pm we head a ‘bump’ on the monitor (yup, haven’t got rid of that yet either) followed by a wail and G shouting ‘CUDDLE MUMMY’. I went upstairs to find a rather confused G sitting on the floor surrounded by her duvet. If she had been a cartoon she would have had stars and birds whizzing around her head. I gave her a big reassuring cuddle and popped her back into bed. R was snoring throughout.

In total, G fell out of bed a further three times in the night. I sent dh in each time to sort her out. On the last occasion she had fallen out, clambered back into bed herself but had forgotten to take the duvet with her, so he had to help her with that. That’ll learn him, I thought, smugly. R didn’t fall out at all. Typical really.

So, this morning we went out and bought two bed guards – the flexible ‘roll-up and pull out’ variety. Dh paid. They have been installed and the girls are sleeping peacefully. For now at least.

Twins as individuals

As they (rapidly) approach their third birthday, the girls are working out their relationship with each other and carving out their personalities. They now understand that they are sisters and relate the term to each other i.e. R/G is my sister (if one wants to get the attention of the other they will shout SISTER RUTH or SISTER GRACE) and they have worked out that Aunty J is my sister and Aunty D is dh’s sister.

They sometimes call each other twins but I don’t think they actually understand what the term means. I have tried to explain that they both lived in my tummy and were born at the same time but they just look at me like I’ve completely lost it. Maybe when they’re three they’ll start to understand…

G acts like the older sister (which she is by a minute and we all know that R will be FURIOUS when she finds out) and treats R like a slightly wayward younger sibling that she has to keep an eye on. G has become extremely adept at talking R ‘off the ledge’ when she’s having a wobbler and also encourages R to join in her imaginative play, often as a distraction technique when she senses that R might be on the verge of losing her temper. G likes to help with household chores and wants to do things by herself and be ‘a grown up girl’. At nursery the carers have noticed that G watches out for R and tries to mother her a bit when it comes to joining in with games and activities. If we let her, G would dress R and look after her. We are gently discouraging this by thanking G for being so helpful and kind but encouraging R to do things for herself.

R’s attitude is very much ‘Why have a dog and bark yourself?’. We have watched open-mouthed as R has ordered G to do something for her i.e. collect a toy that she wants and dutifully bring it over to her. Again, this is something we are discouraging. R is the more physically active of the two and encourages G to join in with her running, climbing, jumping and hopping. Interestingly, when she’s on her own R becomes incredibly grown-up and sensible. I’ve taken R out alone a few times recently and she’s an absolute pleasure to be with. She listens to what I say (rare when they’re together), chats in a very knowledgeable and mature way about whatever she sees and does.

In many ways the girls complement each other: G is imaginative and R is very physical and they bring those traits out in each other. However I firmly believe that as they get older, they need to spend more time apart in order to blossom fully. At nursery their carers are making even more effort to treat them as individuals – giving them separate pegs for their coats and bags, for example and putting them in different groups for activities and reading. We’re trying to spend more time with them individually, so dh will do something with G and I’ll do something with R.

When they go to school I’m going to ask for them to be put in separate classes. I’ve already checked with the local primary school and they’re happy to do this. I don’t want to get reports about ‘The Twins’. I want to hear about R and G. They each have very strong personalities and I want them to blossom as individuals whilst still maintaining the innate twin-ness that they absolutely have, even if they don’t quite understand it yet.

C is for Ceramicist…

Well, despite my fretting, the girls have taken to their new room at nursery like ducks to the proverbial. They absolutely love it. For the first couple of days they still tried to go into the Bubble Room for breakfast but now they trot over to the Little Stars breakfast table and before dh and I have kissed them goodbye they are munching their cornflakes and chatting with their friends. The transition has been eased considerably by the fact that their little group of friends moved up with them. Many of their friends are now potty training (which makes me wonder why we pushed it earlier…oh! I know!) and apparently sit on their potties or the little toilets (the girls use the toilets at nursery and insist on using their potties at home. Sigh.) together and gossip – surely a precursor to their girlie trips to the loos to chat and apply more lippy when they are older.

It’s certainly tiring them out. G was nodding off to sleep over her pre-bath time milk this evening and R was rubbing her eyes during bedtime stories. They come home with new ‘creations’ almost every day now. Dh: ‘What’s that R?’ R (looks mortally offended): ‘It’s you Daddy’. Dh:(contemplates black squiggles)it’s lovely, thank you R’. R: (rolls eyes). Their speech, already reasonably good, is coming on in leaps and bounds and G in particular comes out with long sentences and Alan Bennett-style monologues that make us shake our heads in disbelief. G already had an extremely good imagination and she’s added even more layers to it in the last few weeks. They aren’t geniuses, or even moderately advanced for their age, but they seem to be doing really well.

Tomorrow a ‘Ceramicist’ is coming in to do mug and plate painting with the children. Once I’d stopped rolling my eyes (can’t think where R gets it from) I filled out the forms (and wrote the cheques) and the girls will be painting a mug each with their full names on. I still get a kick out of seeing their ‘proper’ names in print. They seem to do more activities with outside sources as they get older, so I’ll be selling my body parts to fund their fun.

They are also spending some time in the ‘proper’ pre-school room, which they won’t officially move into until next September (as I said, just normal kids for their age) where they tell us that they ‘do reading’ and ‘Ummm’, apparently. We’ll have to find out a bit more about that. R and G can be slightly unreliable when it comes to information about their day. Me: ‘did you play with L today?’. G: yes. Me: she’s on holiday this week. G: oh.

So, it’s all going well. Dh and I got the girls dressed for nursery this morning and as I waved them off I looked at the two tall slim popular confident blonde girls trotting down the path with their Daddy and felt very proud*

*I still think there was a mix-up a hospital and they aren’t really mine…

The end of the toddler years…

….is nigh. Three months today R and G will be celebrating their third birthday (Actually, I very much they’ll be in bed at 9pm after celebrating their birthday). Tomorrow they are (finally, but that’s another story…) moving up from the toddler room at nursery to the Little Star Room, for the children that aren’t quite pre-schoolers  (the girls become Big Stars and official pre-schoolers next September and start school in September 2012) but are beyond the nappies and toy-bashing stage. I’ve been airily telling people that the girls are now junior pre-schoolers but that’s a bit of a lie to be honest and I should shut up and stop wishing their lives away.

The girls know that they will be moving next door tomorrow but they don’t seem that fussed about it. In all honesty, not that much will change from their point of view. R’s key worker is moving up with her so there’s continuity for her. G’s old key worker was the deputy room leader of the toddler room so won’t be moving up but G will now be looked after by the Little Stars room leader who is also the potty and toilet training guru.

They will now do more formal learning – the emphasis in the toddler room was on free play with some learning whereas they will now be put into reading (to) groups and while they won’t exactly be having lessons I’m hoping that the girls will soon realise that they can count beyond 12 and that ‘Eleventy’ isn’t a real number. I’m also hoping that the girls will learn to say ‘Three’ rather than ‘Tree’ – blame their Irish ex-room leader for that one! We say Three Three THREE until we’re blue in the face and the girls don’t take a blind bit of notice.

I’d better say at this point that we do all this learning stuff at home as well but I find that the girls pay much more attention to the nursery staff than us. Plus ca change…

The girls will be moving up with most of their little gang of friends, which I’m really pleased about. This also means that they might leave poor little T alone, one of the new members of the toddler room, probably about 18 months old, that they have recently taken a shine to. They give this poor little thing massive gooey hugs while she stands there looking bemused and (dare I say it?) a little bit terrified.For her sake alone it is very good that they are moving next door.

The girls may not be that bothered (we’ll see how they are tomorrow morning) but Dh and I feel that it is a more momentous change and the start of things to come. The teeny 18 month old toddlers that started at BDN back in June 2009 are now robust, talking, bright (hopefully…) almost pre-schoolers, ready to terrorise their new and existing carers. The Little Stars room is going to be an interesting place for the next year…