Knocked out Jacq

Throwing punches at parenthood

18 months old

Can it honestly be only 18 months ago since these two little pickles arrived on the scene? I can barely remember life without them!

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The difference between this month’s monkey photo and the 17 month photo seems quite astonishing to me – check it out on the Hattie and Joe page. They look so much older today!

I’m pleased to report that the two of them seem to have passed through some of the developmental upheaval that was causing a lot of mayhem last month. They seem a bit calmer, all of a sudden, and they’re definitely capable of doing more. In particular, we’ve had a real explosion of language during the past week – check out this video I shot after their dinner today.

Life jogs along. Hattie and Joe are still on their two nap routine, sleeping for 30 minutes in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. One reason for all of the sleep could be the need for energy to fuel all of the tooth-growing: after each only having six teeth for several months, in recent weeks Hattie has cut at least six teeth, and Joe has added at least four new teeth to his collection.

I’m making a concerted effort to get to bed at a decent hour each day, so I can’t write anything more tonight but here are some recent photos.

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Rainbow rice

Lots of twin mothers I know locally have been what the youth of today would refer to as “all up in my grill” about making rainbow rice for Hattie and Joe. Rainbow rice is not colourful rice to eat (although that’s a great idea too): it’s uncooked rice that is coloured, and then gives little kids lots of fun as they measure it out, pour it from one container to another, rub it through their hair, and generally have a good time.

I hadn’t got round to this before because life’s been fairly busy, but the kids played with rainbow rice for the first time at yesterday’s playgroup, and I was stuck at home this morning, waiting for an electrician to arrive (only 55 minutes late – possibly a new world record?), and it’s crappy, rainy weather, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Most rainbow rice recipes involve mixing rice, food colouring, and rubbing alcohol of some variety – the mums in my ‘hood use hand sanitiser. However, at the eleventh hour one of the mums told me that white vinegar can be used instead of alcohol, to help to ensure that the colour sets and isn’t transferable. Given that Hattie and Joe seem to want to taste EVERYTHING, this seemed like a safer option, so I googled and found this ‘recipe’. It worked really well (although I used plastic bags and spread the rice out to dry on grease proof paper, on top of baking trays:

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You can just use standard liquid food colouring that you buy from the supermarket, but I’ve got fancy gel colours from a cake shop, from when I baked and decorated the kids’ first birthday cakes, so I was able to produce an actual rainbow:

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We don’t have an activity table at the moment (although I just bought one on sale and will give it to Hattie and Joe for Christmas, so they can use it for sand and water play on the balcony this summer), but I improvised with one of those long plastic under-the-bed storage containers. The rice looked so pretty when it was first decanted:

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Of course, it didn’t look like that for long. OCD readers, look away now:

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I’m very glad that we thought to put down the drop cloth before we got started, because the favourite game of the morning seemed to involve taking the rice out of the big container:

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Hattie and Joe loved playing with their new rainbow rice, and they could have happily done so for a long time, I think, but Julie’s and my tolerance of mess reached breaking point eventually, and we put the rice away for the day. It will be good when the weather improves and they can play with this kind of thing on the balcony once again.

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I’ve suggested to Julie that she could get busy with the tweezers and sort the rice back into segregated colour bags during the children’s nap, but she’s strangely reluctant…

Still feeding…

For a while I’ve been intending to write a sequel to my ‘thanks for the mammaries’ post that set out, in exhaustive detail, how I spent ten weeks getting to the point where I could exclusively breast feed Hattie and Joe. I know that a fair few twin mums, in particular, have found that post to be quite helpful as they’ve struggled to get their own breast feeding routines underway, which is great news.

I last updated that original post when the babies were seven months old. At that point things were going very well on the feeding front, so I’d decided to try to continue until Hattie and Joe were a year old and could transition onto cows’ milk.

When I was pregnant and looking for twin blogs I found this great post by Cara at Twinthusiam, in which she wrote about weaning her two girls at the 15 month mark. It seemed mind-boggling to me that anybody would be able to breast feed for so long, so it’s quite funny that we’ve now reached the 17 month mark, and Hattie and Joe still have a morning breast feed as soon as they wake up.

When we reached their first birthday we were down to three feeds a day: first thing in the morning; afternoon tea; and just before bed. Of these three feeds, the afternoon tea one was the first one to go – I swapped it for a drink of cows’ milk. The two of them seemed to really like cows’ milk from the start (although to this day they refuse to drink it from a baby bottle, and will only drink from a drink bottle with a silicone straw), but Hattie’s stomach rebelled slightly in the early days, producing some truly toxic nappies. I reduced the amount of milk and then reintroduced it gradually, and she adjusted. I was pretty happy to give up that afternoon tea feed, as the two of them were mobile by that stage, and were fond of latching on for a couple of sucks, and then unlatching and running around the living room before returning for another drink.

Not too long afterwards Joe started biting me very hard during nearly every feed. You’ve not known pain until somebody with six teeth has chomped down on your nipple. It was his not-so-subtle “I’m finished with this feed, thanks” signal, and it was very unpleasant. Hattie started only wanting to feed for a minute or so at bedtime, so the signs were clear that this feed would be the next one to go. I swapped it for milk from their drink bottles, and they were totally unbothered. They were definitely ready to drop that particular feed.

However, they’ve continued to be very fond of their morning feed. Tristan gets them out of their cots and brings them into me in the bedroom, and they’re completely disinterested in any cuddles or chatter: if I don’t get my pyjama top unbuttoned quickly enough they start grizzling and tugging at it. And since dropping the bedtime feed Joe hasn’t bitten me.

I really never thought that I’d still be feeding at this stage. It’s funny how these things become such a normal part of your day that you can barely imagine them not happening. This obviously means that I haven’t yet had a night away from the two of them – and man, I can’t even imagine how weird that will be!

I’d assumed that, as with the bedtime feed, they’d eventually wean themselves, or at least let me know that they were over it. So far there hasn’t been any sign of this happening, so I think I’m going to take the lead and declare the milk bar closed when we reach the 18 month mark. They obviously don’t need to breast feed any longer, and it would be nice to draw a line under the experience and accept that my babies are now little kids. Instead of a morning feed in bed, I guess we’ll get them out of their cots and take them straight to the living room for a drink of milk and some breakfast.

Just revisiting how they drink milk: when we started them on cows’ milk I decided that I didn’t want them to see it as a ‘meal’ – I was keen for them to view milk as a drink, like the rest of us do. For that reason the drink bottle of milk works well for us: they have approximately one bottle of milk a day, and are offered it after breakfast and lunch, and at morning tea and afternoon tea time. They’re then encouraged to finish it while having their bedtime stories on the sofa. They don’t always finish the bottle each day, but as they a) also drink water throughout the day, and b) also eat yoghurt most days, I’m confident that they’re getting enough liquid and calcium. The milk before bedtime is particularly at the moment, when they’re teething and being fussy with food, as I know that they’re having something nourishing before they go to sleep.

So that’s our updated breast feeding story: less of a determined tale of battling through the odds to keep the feeds coming, and more a case of taking the path of least resistance! And I don’t have a recent photo of me breast feeding my little big kids (although we’ll have to take one before the final feed), so here’s a shot of Joe about to get stuck into a ‘fluffy’ at a cafe (also known as a ‘babychino’ – frothy milk, basically).

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17 months old

Hattie and Joe are 17 months old – and has this advanced age brought with it newfound abilities to cooperate? They sat very willingly for their monthly photo. Indeed, as soon as they saw Malcolm the monkey they seemed to know what was going to happen.

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While this was marvellously helpful and unexpected, it certainly isn’t characteristic at the moment: we have well and truly hit A Phase in which real toddler behaviour has emerged. It’s like living with two little drunks, actually: they are either riotously happy or absolutely desolate, and they can switch between those two states at eye-watering speed. When they’re happy our lives are full of laughter, smiles, fun times, kisses, and cuddles. When they’re sad, our lives are full of screaming, tears, flailing limbs, angry glares, and general mayhem. As you can imagine, dealing with this in stereo is fairly intense and knackering at times, but it’s such an obvious sign that they’re going through a massive developmental stage, so I’m taking the advice of those who have gone before me, like my lovely friend Emma (mother to 20 month old George and Elsie), and holding tight, as this stage will soon pass – and apparently I’ll end up with proper little toddlers at the end of it, able to listen to me, follow the occasional instruction, and everything! And even at its most tantrum-filled, this stage is quite amusing (and not laughing at some of the more outrageous melodramatic behaviour is actually the biggest challenge, in my experience).

Anyway, all that aside our little chickens are absolutely thriving! I’ve had to replace their wardrobes recently, as they’ve suddenly grown long limbs. Any suspicion that Hattie, in particular, might end up taking after the smaller women in our family (her Auntie Pip, her ‘big’ cousin Claire, or her sadly-deceased Great-Nanna Kathleen, for whom she has one of her middle names) has been allayed: she’s looking like she might inherit my height after all. This will be a problem when she wants to buy jeans in the future, but it will come in very handy when she goes to concerts.

Our vague concerns about the children’s speech development are also diminishing, as both Hattie and Joe are babbling away and increasingly saying proper words. Hattie, in particular, is becoming like a little parrot, repeating the last word of most of my sentences. Both children are hugely fond of “DADDY!!”, and on a trip to the supermarket today they jointly chanted it for about five minutes. “Mummy” doesn’t get as much of a look-in, and – curiously – when you ask Hattie to say “Mummy” she always smiles and replies “baby!”, which is adorable, but offers so many possible interpretations. Does she not quite realise that she and I are different people? Does she think that my name is actually ‘Baby’? Does she think we’re playing a game where we say who we are, and is responding accordingly after I’ve identified myself as Mummy? It’s such a shame that, by the time little kids have sufficient language skills to explain their funny quirks, they will have probably forgotten all about them.

In every other way Hattie and Joe are little big kids. They’re feeding themselves, running around, climbing like monkeys, and generally exploring the world around them with unwavering zeal. How can anybody not be happy, with a couple of merry little lunatics around? The best recent suggestion, which came from Emma, was to get a toddler slide for them to play on, so they could practise climbing and balancing (but not on the sofas and other furniture), and it’s been a godsend.

And I’m cautiously delighted to report that today has been amazing on the sleep front, for the first time in ages. Yesterday morning, when both Hattie and Joe were just about asleep on their feet straight after breakfast, I made an executive decision to re-institute the morning micro nap. It was a bid to prevent Joe, in particular, from being absolutely knackered when his main nap rolled around, as for several days he hasn’t managed to sleep past one 45 minute sleep cycle, and 45 minutes of sleep in a day is not enough for a busy little boy. However, after a 30 minute nap at 8am Joe managed to sleep for a full hour at 1pm, and Hattie slept for more than two hours (that girl loves her sleep). They both went to bed reasonably easily at 6.30pm yesterday, and slept until just after 5.30 this morning (which is still early, but is much better than the 4am starts we’ve been treated to recently – we have become hardcore about wake-up times and will no longer get them out of their cots until 6am). Today, Joe resisted the 8am nap and ended up sleeping on Julie’s lap instead – but he was SO fast asleep that it took a full five minutes to wake him up. We went to our fortnightly twin playgroup, and then both Hattie and Joe slept like angels for a full two hours. And this evening they went to bed at 6.30pm and didn’t make a peep. God, I love it when they sleep well!

Here are some recent photos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

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One nap a day

Well, we had to change Hattie and Joe’s routine and drop one of their day sleeps, and all hell has broken loose as a result. The timing is absolutely perfect, as I’m currently trying to revise for two exams. Joy!

Joe really forced our hand with the sleeps, as he just wasn’t willing to continue with the old two nap regime. We managed to stretch things out for quite a while, partially to accommodate Hattie (who loves her sleep), and partially to wait and make the change when I was at home more (on study leave, and then on holiday), but by the end even shortening the morning sleep to 30 minutes was too much: Joe would either refuse it, or he’d sleep then and refuse to sleep at all in the afternoon.

The problem is that both children are quite early risers, with Joe being particularly fond of waking up long before the dawn chorus. If we manage to sleep past 5.30am at the moment it’s a good day. As I view anything before 6am to be the middle of the night, this makes me very tired. And the kids’ bedtime doesn’t seem to have any impact – it ranges from 5.45pm (if they’ve had rotten sleep that day) to 6.30pm/6.45pm (if they’ve had a good day sleep), but Joe will wake up at 5ish, regardless.

Of course, if you’re 16 months old, being awake from 5ish to, say, 11am, is a bit of a struggle. And if you then only sleep for an hour or so at 11am, staying awake from 12pm/12.30pm until bedtime is also hard work. We have some very tired children on our hands at the moment. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that they’ve both got colds, and are endlessly teething – while she was mid-wail just before today’s nap, I spotted two new teeth that had broken through in Hattie’s mouth. For you Wonder Weeks fans, they’re also at the beginning of their last ‘leap’, which is huge, apparently, and likely to cause all sorts of mayhem.

This afternoon they finally went to sleep by about 11.15am, after Hattie wailed the house down when I changed her nappy beforehand (classic overtired behaviour), and then Joe sat in his cot and screamed his head off until I relented and ‘shush/patted’ him to sleep (also classic overtired behaviour). For the past few days one of them will sleep for more than two others, and the other one will wake up within an hour and refuse to resettle, and each day they take it in turn to be the good sleeper, so today my fingers are firmly crossed that they’ll both give Mummy a break and sleep until 1pm, at least.

Thankfully it’s sunny today, so when they do wake up and have had a snack, we’ll head out for a long walk, in the hopes that some fresh air will knacker them.

Anyway, that’s one of the main things that is going on with us at the moment – I’ll save everything else for their monthly update in a few days’ time. In the meantime, here’s a photo of them trying popcorn for the first time yesterday (most of it ended up on the floor):

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And guess what? Joe’s just woken up…

Our multiple birth club is running an information evening with the Baby Sleep Consultant next Thursday, so I’ll be sitting in the front row, desperate for suggestions about how to sort out this early waking issue.

16 months old

Where is the time going? I swear that I only wrote the 15 month update a couple of days ago!

Here are our lovely 16 month old big baby kids:

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It was so difficult to get a photo of them this month! After two failed attempts to get them to sit with their monkey on the sofa, I had to resort to the high chairs. This photo does show off their long legs quite well, so that’s good.

Hattie and Joe are on excellent form. We’ve had a busy month, with Pat and Richard departing (boo!), and Julie, our lovely French au pair, arriving (yay!) We also took a trip down country to visit my family over Easter, and spent a couple of days in Wellington as well.

The degree to which Hattie and Joe are becoming cool little kids was shown when we drove out of Auckland on Good Friday (our original plan of driving through the night on Holy Thursday being scuppered by the terrible weather that day), and promptly hit a huge traffic jam. We’d intended to drive through their afternoon nap, which would have taken about 90 minutes, and then continued for another 90 minutes before we reached Taupo, home of wonderful Kate and Stephen. After some time to relax there, and dinner all round, we’d then intended to drive the rest of the way to my parents’ house after the kids’ bedtime, in the hopes that they’d sleep for most of that part of the journey too. Instead, it took over six hours to reach Taupo, during which time we had to stop at a cafe and feed the kids their dinner. They were such little treasures – they hardly grumbled during the long and dull drive, slept during the drive from their dinner location to Kate and Stephen’s house, woke up and had a lovely time playing with their boys, and then went back to sleep as soon as we returned them to the car.

On the whole, life is just ticking by as normal. Hattie is starting to talk much more, and her current vocabulary is: “Joe” (so adorable); “Hattie” (but said in Julie’s accent a lot of the time – “At-tie”); “Tui” (and she was so delighted when she’d started saying that one night in the bath, and I figured out what it was); and “cook”. We don’t really know what’s going on with “cook”. We suspect that she might mean “book”, but she can say her b sounds very well, so who knows? It may be that “cook” is her new catch-all word. She hasn’t said “no” much recently, but she certainly knows how to use body language to express her disapproval…

Meanwhile, Joe continues to say “yup”, or, more often “dup”, and not much else, other than a bit of “Mum… MUM!” in the car. He is a very enthusiastic head nodder and shaker though, and rarely leaves you in any doubt as to his wants and needs.

I did talk about language development with our Plunket nurse at the 15 month check-up, because it’s an area where twins often lag behind (largely because they get much less one-on-one conversation time than singleton toddlers). Anita, our nurse, wasn’t overly concerned, but she suggested that I get in touch again at the 18 month mark if I don’t feel like they’ve mastered a few more clear words. I’ve since seen this very helpful list of language ‘red flags’ for different ages, which was really interesting. Going by this, we’re pretty much on track (phew!).

Another area where Hattie and Joe have made good progress this month is in feeding themselves. They now have their own little forks and spoons, and are becoming good at spearing their food and getting it up to their mouths with the minimum of fuss. We’ve changed their meals around a bit and tend to give them their big, hot meal at lunch time, as we were finding that they were often a bit too tired to be bothered about eating much at dinner time. It’s working very well – if they are tired as we get near to bedtime, they can just have a sandwich and some yoghurt and fruit for dinner, since I know that they’ve eaten well earlier in the day.

I can’t tell you how much I love this toddler stage. It’s just brilliant to have two little people running around, cracking themselves and us up all day, and discovering new things. They’re such funny, merry little kids, and when tantrums strike (oh yes, they certainly do), the storms tend to pass fairly quickly. We are so lucky to have these amazing children! Here are some recent photos for your viewing pleasure.

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Naps

Maria, a reader of the blog, posted a comment the other day asking about our current nap situation, as her daughter is a similar age to Hattie and Joe. Here’s what’s been going on with us…

We’re still on a two nap a day schedule, although it’s been touch and go for a while. In late January I became convinced that the two of them were ready to drop down to one nap a day, primarily because we were struggling to get them to have two day sleeps. They were settling well for their morning nap, but one or both of them would then refuse to sleep at all in the afternoon. I consulted with another twin mother in our multiple birth club – a very wise and helpful woman whose own three children (twins, and an older sister, follow good routines), and she gave me a sample one nap routine to try.

The routine involved keeping them up until around 11.30am, at which point they’d go to bed for what was designed to be a long (two – two and a half hour) nap. They’d have breakfast at 7am as usual, a morning tea snack at 9ish, lunch at 11ish, and would then go straight to bed – with an afternoon tea snack when they woke up (and that was to be no later than 3pm, and there were to be woken up if necessary). She warned me that we’d probably need to bring dinner and bedtime forward a bit, while they adjusted.

Hattie and Joe coped well with this change initially, although the first one nap a day sleep was only an hour or so long. The length of this nap lengthened after a couple of days. However, they were so knackered by the end of the day. On the fifth day they woke up very early in the morning, and so we decided to revert to a two nap routine for that day (my friend had advised that we should make the change and then stick to it, but other people had suggested that it’s sometimes easier to accept that the kids may need an occasional two nap day, to ‘catch up’). On this particular day Hattie and Joe slept for 90 minutes in the morning, and again in the afternoon, and were on excellent form for the rest of the day. We tried a two nap routine the following day, and again they slept very well, so we’ve stayed on a two nap routine ever since.

It seems that most children drop their second day sleep at some point between 12 and 18 months. My two were not ready, but as another month or two passed it became clear that we still needed to tweak their sleeping habits a bit. The two main problems were: one or both of them (usually Joe) taking ages to settle for the afternoon nap; and one or both of them (almost always Joe) takes agggges to settle to sleep at night. I ended up having a chat with the amazing Baby Sleep Consultant. As you’ll all know by now, I have no problem with paying for expert help when it comes to child-related issues – I work on the theory that a relatively modest expenditure can save us a huge amount of drama and hassle, which makes buying advice a very good investment. I had a telephone consultation with Emma, the Baby Sleep Consultant and talked her through our routine, and other pertinent details: eating habits, sleep environment, etc. I was starting to wonder whether we really did need to bite the bullet and drop the second day sleep.

Emma suggested that the children’s willingness to sleep in the morning meant that they did still need two sleeps, but their occasional lack of interest in an afternoon sleep meant that they sometimes weren’t tired enough in the afternoon. Her advice was to reduce the morning sleep gradually. She also felt that the nighttime settling difficulties were because the day sleeps weren’t quite right, and as a consequence Joe was overtired.

We took Emma’s advice and reduced the morning sleep down to one hour initially, and this made a difference straight away. As she also advised, we reduced the morning nap still further when afternoon settling issues reemerged – currently, the morning nap is 45 minutes long. Hattie and Joe are always out for the count when we go to get them up from their morning nap, and always need to be woken up, but the one time when I decided to let them sleep on, they flatly refused to sleep in the afternoon, and we had epic bedtime meltdowns.

Occasionally they’re taking as long as 20 minutes to settle to sleep in the afternoon, but it’s rare that I don’t get at least an hour’s sleep out of them. Every now and then Joe will flatly refuse to sleep in the afternoon, so I get him up and leave Hattie in peace (although I swear that child can sleep through anything, bless her).

I’ve also become far less rigid about bedtime, in that I’ve finally realised that, if the children are too tired, I should just put them to bed earlier. That sounds fairly obvious, doesn’t it! For some reason, I kept persevering with their standard 6.30pm bedtime, even though they were obviously too tired (and they’re just awful to put to bed when they’re overtired – Joe gets so upset). Now, if they only sleep for an hour in the afternoon, I put them to bed by 6pm. And on the rare day that Joe won’t sleep at all in the afternoon, bedtime is 5.45pm. It’s made a huge difference.

They’re now 15 and a half months old, and I still don’t see much sign of them bidding farewell to their morning sleep – they always settle straight away, and always need to be woken up. We just juggle the times a bit. If they’re awake at around 5.30am, we put them to bed at 8.45am for 45 minutes, and they then have their afternoon sleep at 1pm. Today they slept until just before 6am, so they’ll go for their morning nap at 9am, for 45 minutes, and I might push out their afternoon nap to 1.15pm.

I’ve also learned that they need to get some fresh air and exercise every day, weather permitting. Giving them a chance to run around outside increases the chances that they’ll sleep well.

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The obvious complication with twins is trying to decide whether to keep them on the same routine. If I was at home with them all day, with no other commitments, I’d be more inclined to try it, but given that this is no longer the case, I really can’t be dealing with dual schedules. I do try to tweak it for them where necessary – for example, if Joe wakes up at 2.30pm and Hattie is still out for the count, I’ll let her sleep on for another 15 minutes. We’re lucky because Hattie is a very good and reliable sleeper.

It would all be much easier if they came with instruction manuals, wouldn’t it!

15 months old

The toddler train has well and truly left the station, and our time in Babyville is merely a distant memory!

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Life is ridiculously busy in our house these days. Hattie and Joe are in perpetual motion, and the newest fad is climbing everything that they can find. Our living room is gradually emptying of furniture as we attempt to minimise the risks of them falling to their death. When they first conquered the sofas Pat and I were all “NO! On your bottoms or on the floor”, but I soon realised that preventing them from standing up was completely futile, and particularly when I was trying to manage them single-handedly. When you’re trying to prevent one toddler from toppling off the sofa and the other one climbs up and runs the length of same sofa, laughing delightedly and looking over their shoulder to see if you’re noticing, you begin to realise the true meaning of the word ‘outnumbered’. With Joe, in particular, every time he clambers up onto the sofa – or indulges his new trick of climbing onto the coffee table ordinarily reserved for toys:

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… he’s doing it solely for attention, and the more I fuss about it, the more he’s going to want to do it. So I’m now employing a different tactic, which is benign indifference to most mountaineering attempts. My hope is that the novelty will wear off before either child falls and splits their head open, and so far it seems to be working: since I tried this approach, the climbing has become an occasional thing, rather than an all-encompassing obsession. And let’s face it, all the vigilance in the world isn’t actually enough to prevent kids from taking the occasional tumble, is it?

Climbing aside, Hattie and Joe continue to be absolute delights. They are rapidly approaching the ‘wilful toddler’ stage, there’s no denying it, but hopefully we can all survive the next year or two with our senses of humour intact. And they are so sweet and funny when they’re not being raging despots. Hattie’s latest trick is to mimic absolutely everything she sees, including winking (which looks hilarious), and folding her arms. She’s also having very long and involved conversations with us, albeit in her own version of English. We’ve had a couple of recognisable words from her: ‘no’ (imagine my surprise), and ‘Joe’ (which is too cute for words).

Joe has his own version of ‘yes’, which sounds closest to ‘yup’, and which he uses whenever he’s asked a direct question (and particularly when he’s being offered food). Both kids are very enthusiastic head shakers and nodders now, and I’m making that work for me by encouraging them to communicate their preferences, particularly at meal times. They seem to really enjoy being able to confirm that yes, they’d like some milk now, or no, they don’t want another sandwich.

I’m also using this newfound communication with each of them to begin very early steps towards what will eventually (this time next year, probably) be toilet training. When either of them smells a bit whiffy, or has been recently sighted squatting somewhere and grunting, I’m asking them if they have a dirty nappy. From Hattie, in particular, I get very definite responses, and she’s correct nearly every time. I’m hoping that this means that she’s starting to recognise the sensation of having a pooey bottom.

We had our 15 month Plunket appointment on the 16th, and Anita, our lovely Plunket nurse, was delighted with their progress. She weighed them, and our tiddlers have definitely bloomed recently: Joe now weighs 10.48kg, and is 79.5cm tall, and Hattie weighs 9.7kg, and is 78.3cm tall. They do look very tall all of a sudden. The 16th was a big day for the two of them, as they also had their 15 month vaccinations. These aren’t much fun – a shot in each leg, and one in an arm – and Hattie went first and shrieked the clinic down after each injection. By the time that she’d received the third one she was in major meltdown mode, but I’d come prepared: thanks to some words of warning from fellow mothers of toddler twins, I’d brought some fragments of an Easter egg with me. I placed a tiny morsel on her tongue, and as soon as she tasted it the tears stopped. The exact same thing happened with Joe a couple of minutes later: an epic meltdown, swiftly followed by a chocolate-induced instant recovery. It was the first time that either of them had tasted proper chocolate, and I’m so glad that it had sufficient novelty value to work such magic!

One last note about Hattie: she has no fear. Seriously, it frightens me to watch her in public. I took her and Joe to the beach a couple of weeks ago, for a bit of a play, and she responded to her liberty by running headlong into the sea, cackling with delight. The tide had started to go out just before we got there, so the beach was quite sloped at the shore line, but she didn’t let uneven ground stop her: she hurtled onwards. I was paddling with Joe at the time, and saw – with some degree of terror – as Hattie plunged straight in to knee depth, and then looked to go deeper still (and I could see that she was going to be waist deep within another couple of steps, thanks to the slope of the beach). At that moment Joe sat down in the water unexpectedly, so I had to haul him back to his feet while simultaneously trying to catch Hattie. Before I could lay a hand on her, she was knocked by a tiny wave and went in face-first. I immediately plucked her out, coughing and spluttering, and although she wasn’t in the least bit upset, I was sure that this would dampen her enthusiasm a wee bit. I couldn’t have been more wrong: unless I had a hand on her, she spent the rest of our time at the beach trying to head straight back into the surf. Long story short: I can’t take them to the beach unaccompanied…

Sadly for Hattie, Joe, and Tristan and me we only have another few days with Pat and Richard visiting before they head back to Europe. The kids will be so sad to see Pat go – they’ve spent heaps of time with her since I started at university, and they love her so much. Hopefully she’ll be back for a good long visit next summer. In the meantime, we’re looking forward to help in the form of Julie, our French au pair! Julie arrives a couple of days after Pat and Richard leave, and ‘baptism of fire’ doesn’t really begin to describe the situation that she’ll soon find herself in, with two little dynamos keeping her busy for half of every weekday! She seems lovely, though, and I’m sure that we’ll all grow used to each other very quickly.

I really need to do some tidying up while Hattie and Joe are having their afternoon sleep, so here are a couple of extra shots, for your viewing pleasure.

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Partying like a singleton mum

We hit a milestone last Sunday: our first solo-child party. It wasn’t intentional: Hattie and Joe had been invited to their little friends Ben and Finn’s first birthday party, but when the day arrived Joe had a heavy cold. Snotty children are seldom welcomed as party-goers, but I had contemplated taking him anyway and just keeping him on my hip the whole time. However, that plan was scuppered when it became apparent that Joe, after having a poor night’s sleep, was suffering from an almighty dose of man flu, and that he wasn’t in a festive mood.

Undeterred, and eager to ensure that Hattie didn’t miss out, I parked poor grizzly Joe with his ever-willing Nanna for a couple of hours, and hit the party as a faux-singleton mum. After all, it would have been a crying shame to miss the opportunity to debut this pretty dress:

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While I try very hard not to be one of those annoying twin mothers who pretend that people who have their children one at a time don’t know what parental struggles are like, I must admit that it was immeasurably easier to take just one child to a party. Hattie is such an explorer these days (and more on that topic to follow in the next blog post), and constant vigilance is required to prevent her from getting up to mischief, particularly at other people’s houses. Ordinarily, when managing both children by myself I spend a lot of time parking Joe temporarily while I race off to rescue Hattie from whatever new potential peril she’s uncovered. To date, this has worked reasonably well because Joe has tended to be an investigator, content to examine one toy and stay in one place. Recently, though, his increased mobility has meant that I have two roaming children to curtail, and Joe has upped the ante still further by becoming a fledgling mountaineer.

But that’s all by the by, as I didn’t have to worry about anyone but Hattiekins at the party. And it was such a nice experience! She had plenty of opportunity to wander around, playing with other babies and generally checking out the event, and because I only needed to keep an eye on her, I could give her more freedom than usual. Also nice: she and I managed to scoff a fair amount of party food (the BEST reason to go to children’s birthday parties, obviously).

Hattie also encountered helium-filled balloons for the first time, and she was filled with wonder:

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When we returned home little Joe was already down for his afternoon nap, after a lovely morning spent snuggling up with Nanna, reading Dora stories. Apparently he was so tired that he fell asleep during a nappy change! I’m pleased to report that he was on much better form when he woke up later, and cheered up considerably when I gave him fairy bread as a treat later on (for non-Kiwis: fairy bread is bread and butter, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands – it’s compulsory party food for Kiwi kids, and their parents usually eat it pretty happily as well):

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The party was probably only the second or third time that I’ve taken one of the children out voluntarily (discounting times when it’s been necessary, such as doctor’s visits). I remember taking Hattie to a baby shower when she was tiny and going through a demand feeding stage, and I’m fairly sure that I took Joe to the beach by himself at one point, when he was only a few weeks old. Generally, the two of them are always together, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that they took last Sunday’s short separation in their stride. Going forward (and I’m talking about the next few years, not the next few days), I’d like it if Tristan and I each spend individual time with both children, because I think that it’s good for us all to remember that they don’t have to just be a unit of two. I know some twin mums who send their kids to school on separate kindy days, for example, to ensure some one-on-one time with each child. As my academic commitments increase I’m not sure that this will be an option for us, but I’ll certainly look for ad hoc opportunities to hang out with Hattie and Joe separately as they get older.

14 months old

Check out our toddlers!

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They’ve grown, all of a sudden! The days of wearing 3-6 months clothes are a distant memory: they’re in 6-12 month stuff now! They’ve each got six teeth, and the beginnings of a decent hairdo.

Here’s a very quick update of each little pickle…

Harriet

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My wee Hattie is turning into such a funny little girl! She’s just so merry, laughing all day and playing with Joe, or anybody else who happens to be around. She’s still a big fan of micro cuddles, and fires herself into my arms like she’s been shot out of a catapult. She’s still obsessed with playing peek-a-boo in the curtains with Joe. And something that I forgot to tell you about Hattie last time: her habit of marching round and round the living room with a glove puppet in each hand:

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That’s Puppet Daddy and Puppet Joe – we’ve also got Puppet Mummy and Puppet Hattie, but they seldom make it out of the toy box.

Hattie also has a strange fondness for putting things on her head, and when she was trying unsuccessfully to balance a onesie one day I helped her out a bit, which led to an impromptu fashion parade:

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And all of the walking that she now does necessitated a new pair of shoes:

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Like everybody else, she has her own preferences and chooses upon whom to bestow her affection. Nanna – currently helping me out with child care while visiting us for a couple of months – has made the cut and receives fleeting micro cuddles on occasion, but Hattie’s heart belongs to one person: her cousin Liam. Check out this reunion:

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She’s adorable.

Joseph

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My darling boy has officially joined the ranks of toddler! Being around his sister and her endless route marches has prompted him to really go for it with his walking, so the few tottering steps that I reported in the 13 month update have become reasonably confident strides. Hattie tends to walk with her arms extended and behind her slightly (with a puppet in each one, as previously discussed), but Joe is hilarious and keeps his hands up and waves them around a bit, like he’s doing jazz hands the entire time.

He is also a right little monkey! Here’s one shot of him, caught red-handed after clambering on top of a chair while my back was turned (the chair is now turned, to prevent access, but it’s only a matter of time before he figures out that the sofas and side tables can also be mountaineering targets):

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Joe still spends a lot of his time surrounded by toys, and looking a bit like he’s not really sure how the living room arrived at such a state:

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He’s started initiating more cuddles, which is lovely, but he and I have also developed our own little sign of affection – the hongi:

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When I cuddle him now he’ll stay very still and then push forward towards me with his nose, seeking out the hongi – it’s so sweet. And this early appreciation of Maori customs should serve him well when he begins his career as a professional rugby player. He’s already chosen his Super Rugby side, and I wholeheartedly approve of his decision:

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The funniest thing about Joe is his incredibly low tolerance for boredom, which manifests itself as grizzling (which isn’t very cute), but which can be dealt with if you figure out what is irritating him or failing to capture his interest. For example, when he and Hattie watch Elmo music videos during their meals, he will refuse to eat if he doesn’t care for the song that is playing at the time (and past favourites have now crossed onto Joe’s blacklist, which is a shame for Hattie and me). And for ages he was super grizzly in the car, and I dealt with it by passing back a steady stream of rice crackers, but recently I’ve discovered that a couple of board books will keep him entertained for hours. His particular favourite is ‘Stay Safe with Dora’ (the Explorer) – he’s OBSESSED with this one, and makes Nanna read it to him several times a day. And he’s never even seen Dora on TV: I fear that he might spontaneously combust with excitement when discovers the happy news that Dora exists beyond the pages of his book.

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There has been one big change in Hattie and Joe’s life during the past month: as of two weeks ago, I’m a part time student at the University of Auckland, working towards a BA(Hons) in Urban Planning. It’s a four year degree, but I’ll complete it over five years – I’m tackling the eight first year papers over 2014 and 2015, so I’ll still have plenty of time with the kids while they’re so little.

We’re tackling the child care challenge in the very short term by leaving our gorgeous duo in the tender care of Pat, Tristan’s mum, who is visiting for ten weeks. This is a brilliant result all round: she adores Hattie and Joe; they’re totally besotted with her; and I trust Pat implicitly and can rely on her 100% to keep the domestic ship afloat. And Hattie and Joe are learning so much with her around! She’s realised that they’re like two little person-shaped sponges at the moment, itching to be taught new things, so each day when I come home it seems like they’ve mastered a new skill: giving a high five; posting toy letters into their toy letterbox; and putting their hands in the air and waving them like they just don’t care if somebody encourages them with celebratory noises. At this rate I fully expect her to teach them both how to drive, make omelettes, and speak French by the end of her trip.

After Pat leaves we’re all going to be plunged into a decline that I really don’t want to contemplate right now, but child care requirements force me to plan ahead, so we’re sorting out an au pair. It really is the most affordable form of in-home child care available, and we think it will work well for us, since we like people, have lived abroad, and have enough room in the house for a long term visitor. Fingers crossed we can find somebody lovely! Who wouldn’t want to come and live with this shiny nuclear family, eh?!

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