Knocked out Jacq

Throwing punches at parenthood

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 got six teeth each, and the beginnings of a decent hairdo each.

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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13 months old

Any fear that time would slow down after we hit the first birthday milestone has been assuaged by the speed with which the past month has passed. Here are Hattie and Joe and their monkey:

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It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on these days: the two of them are learning and developing so quickly! Here’s a (very) brief rundown…

Harriet

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Now that she’s been walking for over a month there is no stopping young Hattiekins! She doesn’t actually do much but walk around… all day… round and round the living room… carrying a couple of toys. She’s amazingly steady on her feet, which I attribute to her habit of practising standing up unsupported for several weeks before she got moving. She can mooch along, stop and stand for a while, change direction, and bend down to pick up things. Until a couple of weeks ago if she fell over she needed to crawl to something and haul herself up again, but now she’s able to stand up unsupported as well.

Being able to go wherever she likes had had a huge impact on Hattie – she’s started looking like a little kid (albeit a short, tiny one without many teeth or a full head of hair), rather than a baby. I guess her whole perspective has changed, which must be mindboggling.

On the hair and teeth front she’s cutting her fifth tooth at the moment, and she’s finally giving up the bald look in favour of a gamine crop. I think that her hair’s going to be the same colour as mine when I was a kid – light brown , with a bit of a reddy/golden tinge to it.

Bad teething days not withstanding, Hattie continues to be an absolute joy. She’s such a merry little character. However, she’s also a very determined little soul, and I predict some titanic battles along the lines of “no, I want to do it MYSELF!!!” in a few months. She’s also quite good at playing the crowd. She’s a right little ruffian and frequently launches herself at Joe and tackles him to the ground (thankfully, he’s reasonably tolerant), but heaven help us all if he takes toys off her (which he does constantly): she shrieks her outrage, and cries big crocodile tears – all the while turning to see if I’m watching, in the hopes that I’ll intervene. Sometimes I do, but generally speaking I’m of the opinion that they need to learn how to sort out these issues unaided.

It’s lovely to have such a sanguine little girl. When I take her to play groups and other events with lots of people she just cruises off, checking things out, with little concern about where I am – she’s definitely not clingy. However, she has the sweetest habit of coming over to me several times a day and launching herself into my arms for a micro cuddle. It’s so endearing.

Joseph

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Joe obviously knew that I was about to write an update about him: a couple of days ago he started walking independently (as opposed to just taking a couple of shaky steps between pieces of furniture). I think that watching Hattie has spurred him on, but he needed a bit of extra time in order to build up his confidence. He’s a strong little boy and he’s already pretty steady, so I expect that he’ll be very comfortable with walking really quickly. For now, he’s moving slowly, but he’s managing to cross the floor very well. The impact that this will have on his relationship with his sister should be fantastic – they adore each other already, and now they’ll be able to properly chase each other around.

Joe’s growing into such a handsome boy. He’s got masses of blond hair, with curls coming through at the back, and his skin is just glorious – he’s so tanned that he looks like he’s been hanging out at the beach every day. He’s got six shiny white teeth, and I can vouch personally for their sharpness: for the past couple of weeks he’s finished each of his twice-daily breast feeds by clamping firmly on my nipple. I’ve tried the standard ‘yelp in pain (really not difficult), unlatch baby immediately’ response, and Joe has responded like a promising young psycho: gales of laughter. However, I’m cautiously hoping that he’s finally over this biting malarkey, as I haven’t been chomped during either feed today.

Until this walking thing got underway Joe was a big fan of sitting around and playing with his toys, but this might all change now that he’s on the move. He is a huge fan of music, though, and I’m hoping that he’ll now be able to start dancing! He knows how to work every musical toy in the house, and beams with delight and gets his groove on whenever he hears a tune. He’d become a bit of a fussy eater at meal times, trying to dodge the spoon or smoosh mouthfuls down his chin, so I’ve started playing the two of them Sesame St celebrity videos on my iPad while I feed them. Joe bounces along to his favourite tracks and even claps his hands along with the music.

Like his sister, Joe’s starting to hint at some of the toddler mayhem that I can expect from him in the coming months. He’s got a proper temper, and absolutely roars if I thwart him. He can also maintain a good low-level grizzle for an impressively long time. However, he’s very quick to laugh, even when he’s been in a right grumpy mood: it helps that he’s hugely ticklish.

Where Hattie spends time at play groups touring around, Joe tends to stay put and get to grips with all of the toys. One of the many brilliant things about him is the way that he’s almost always completely relaxed about me temporarily leaving him in order to retrieve his sister. And while he’s not yet in the habit of seeking me out for a cuddle, when I scoop him up in the arms (a hundred times a day – he’s delectable) he puts his arms around me and snuggles in like a koala cub.

One last thing: Hattie and Joe have always got on fairly well, but their relationship has gone up several levels in cuteness recently. Aside from the endless games of peek-a-boo, they still catch each other’s eyes and crack up on a regular basis, and our new thing is to encourage them to give each other a kiss good night, which they’ve taken to with some enthusiasm. And I nearly dies from an overload of maternal adoration last week, when we were at Inflatable World and Hattie put her arms around Joe and gave him a cuddle (the first time I’ve seen them be spontaneously demonstrative). Finally, here are some additional photos from their monkey shoot today:

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And yes, they’re STILL wearing those same pyjamas (size 3-6 months)..! If you check the Hattie and Joe page you’ll see that they have been wearing these pyjamas since they were six months old! They’re starting to wear out some pairs at the toes – that’s how much value we’re getting for our money.

Life (with twins) is complicated

After a year as a mother of twins I like to think that I’ve got my act together to some degree. I mean, I think nothing of scooping up two babies at once, feeding two hungry little mouths (even breast feeding the two of them in tandem occasionally), and keeping an eye on two little people as they do their best to touch/eat/climb on everything they find. I’ve managed to organise them to the extent that they sleep at the same time 99% of the time, and I’ve even developed an excellent line in twin-related small talk, in order to deal with the never-ending “TWINS! How lovely! Is it very hard? Are they identical? Do twins run in your family? Do you get any help?” questions. I can even change a pooey nappy in less than a minute, while simultaneously stopping one baby from getting his/her hands in said pooey nappy, and preventing the other baby from poking the reclined baby in the eye. It’s all good. It’s bloody hard at times, but this is normal.

HOWEVER: there’s no denying that having twins makes life a big hassle on many occasions. The challenging bits aren’t the big “am I able to love two children equally” or “will my stomach ever stop looking like uncooked dough” questions (the answers are “yes” and “no” respectively). No; the challenging bits are the really dull things that you have to cope with in day-to-day life.

My main complaint about having baby twins is the drama involved in running a simple errand. If a singleton mother is driving home from somewhere and realises that she needs to buy milk, she can just stop at the supermarket, scoop the baby out of the car seat, carry it on her hip, put it in any trolley she finds (if she realises that she needs several other things), and away she goes. If I realise that I need stuff from the supermarket, I have to debate whether to unload the kids into the pram (in which case I’ll only be able to buy as much as can fit in the pram), having first heaved the 15kg pram from the car, or to put the kids in a twin trolley. Wait – what’s that you say? There’s only one twin trolley at the supermarket, and it’s inside, buried at the back of all the other trolleys? And I have to figure out a way of getting two babies safely into the supermarket with no pram, because I can’t leave them in the car? Awesome. (My solution is now to go to the supermarket after Tristan gets home and the babies go to bed for the night, or – if we just need a few things – to do the big pram unload at the supermarket. Or maybe get home and then walk to the supermarket to pick up a few things.)

Anyway, today we had a real “if only I had one baby this would be so much easier!” moment. Hattie, Joe and I went to the other side of Auckland to visit my lovely friend Helen and her equally lovely twin girls, and after a bit of a play and some lunch we chucked the four babies into our two prams and headed off for a big walk (and, for the babies, an afternoon nap).

We walked down the hill from Helen’s house and, after 45 minutes, stopped for a drink. And then we set off back towards the house, and discovered that my high spec, all terrain pram had a flat tyre. Given that the pram + two one year olds weighs around 32kgs, pushing it on a pancake-flat tyre wasn’t an option: it would barely move. We managed to get it to a nearby bike rental booth, and the guy here pumped up the tyre for me, but it was flat again within ten minutes – it was obviously punctured. And we were a good long walk away from home.

Now, if I’d had one baby I would have extracted it from the pram, folded up said pram, asked a nearby shop or cafe to stow it for me, and then walked home with my singleton balanced on my hip. I might have ended up with a sore baby-carrying arm, but it would have been possible.

With two babies, I was well and truly stuck. After a few minutes of fevered strategising, we decided that Helen would have to walk home with her girls, load them and her pram into her car, drive back down to where Hattie, Joe and I were stranded, swap my buggered pram for her working pram, and then drive home again and leave me to walk back. She set off, and I hauled the pram to a cafe.

After 15 minutes or so I realised that there was a significant flaw in the plan: my car was parked in front of Helen’s garage, and my car key was in my pram. So I called Helen, and she came back to collect it. What fun!

It was a very warm afternoon, and I had two seriously bored babies on my hands. We crossed the road and hung out under a tree. I couldn’t give either of them their liberty from the pram, since there was a busy road very close by (and that’s another complication of having twins: having to run around after two mobile children moving in opposite directions), and because they didn’t have sunscreen on. They were grumpy, and I was forced to try to do a bit of a ‘feeding the 5,000′ trick by giving them tiny morsels of the few baby biscuits I had with me.

When Helen returned in my car I was delighted to see her, and even more so when I discovered that her husband had been at home when she’d got there, which meant that she could leave her girls at home and we could all drive: no walk home for me!

So, yeah. Two babies = complications at times. Here’s a photo of said ‘complications’, just to remind us of why they’re undoubtedly worth it (and to remind myself that, one day, they’ll be able to travel independently of me!)

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One year old!

Well, we did it: we’ve successfully kept Hattie and Joe happy and well for an entire year. Hurrah!

Here’s the obligatory monkey photo:

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Their birthday passed reasonably calmly yesterday, with a lovely morning tea with our wonderful neighbours, followed by a photo shoot and cake smash in the afternoon. Today is shaping up to be pretty low key, but tomorrow everything will go mental: we’re throwing a birthday play date and turning our living room into a baby mosh pit for the morning. We decided against doing the standard “we’ve survived the first year, let’s invited all of our nearest and dearest” type of celebration because we did that for the babies’ baptism in October. Instead, we thought that it would be nice to just let the kids have some fun, so we’ve only invited Hattie and Joe’s baby friends and their parents. It’s going to be crazy – we’ve got 16 or 17 babies coming!

Anyway, to celebrate our gorgeous children’s big milestone I thought that I’d share with you the birthday cards that Tristan and I wrote for them – he did one, and I did the other (I think we’ll do it like this every year).

Joseph

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My darling Joseph,

Whether Joe, Joe Pickle, Little Monkey Man, you have been the most wonderful son in this your first year.

We have loved you, laughed with you and taken absolute joy from seeing you grow and learn.

The year has flown by, my darling little boy. It seems like yesterday that we were seeing you come into the world. You were, even then, a quiet little soul and that is a trend that has continued. You sit and watch the world go by and occasionally pop out a coy little smile, charming all around you.

As you can probably tell, your mummy and I are absolutely besotted with you.

With every ounce of love we have to give to you and your wee sister,

Mummy & Daddy xxx

Harriet

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Dear little Hattiekins,

You’re one year old! How exciting!!

The past twelve months have been so much fun as we’ve got to grips with life as Mummy & Daddy to you & Joe – we’ve stumbled through it, learning on the job, but you’ve both been very tolerant of us…

Hattie, you are the world’s most brilliant little girl. Already your sunny personality and charming nature make everybody smile when they see you – and that’s not even taking into account the fact that you’re absolutely beautiful! I love your independent spirit: the way that you’re always looking for something new. I’m so proud of your fearlessness, because it reassures me that you feel so happy & secure every day.

I love how happy you are, and how much fun you have each day – the way that you catch my eye and smile hundreds of times a day, and find ways to entertain Joe & me each day with your games of peek-a-boo. I greatly admire your tenacity – you’re already walking, you clever little pickle, and it’s because you were so determined to do it! I’m so delighted for you!

And I love the way that you take a moment every now and then to gaze into the distance, sucking your thumb and daydreaming. I can’t wait to discover what my gorgeous girl will do next. I love you so much – thank you for being my wonderful daughter!

Lots and lots of love,

Mummy & Daddy xxx

Feeding themselves

I don’t think I’ve posted too much about Hattie and Joe’s adventures with eating solids, largely because I’ve been too busy making their meals and then trying to convince them to eat them to be able to actually write about them! At times I’ve started to understand one of the reasons behind some women’s choice to breast feed for a very long time: it’s a damned sight easier than preparing food for babies to spoosh down their chins, blow back at your face in raspberries, or hurl overboard.

However, tonight I’m setting aside the traumatic memories of dishes lovingly prepared and then largely rejected: tonight, I’m singing the praises of my good eaters! My big challenge has been to move Hattie and Joe away from spoon-fed mush and onto self-fed finger food. Joe has been reasonably good about feeding himself – he really likes food, in news that will surprise nobody – but Hattie is a trickier proposition. Faced with any food more complex than a smooth mash, and she wrinkles up her nose, sometimes deigns to taste it, and then chucks most of it away. We’ve gradually been able to introduce some finger food to her diet, like crispbread with hummus, and the occasional sandwich, but for the most part she’s just sat in her high chair and wanted for the Mummy-feeding portion of the meal to begin. And that mix of spoon feeding and finger feeding has had to continue, because if I didn’t do it she’d miss a few meals and then want more breast feeds, and that’s not the path we want to go down.

Anyway: tonight. I have no idea what got into the two of them, but check out these two action shots from dinner…

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I made them pasta with chopped up ham and grated cheese, and fully expected it to be summarily rejected, but they both started eating straight away! And what’s more, Hattie was the most enthusiastic eater! And they also ate a steamed carrot stick each, and shared a spoon-fed bowl of mashed kumara, pumpkin, carrot, and Granny Smith apple, and shared a bowl of custard and peaches, and ate a mini gingerbread man each, and a rice cracker each. Biggest meal ever!

Given that this five course banquet was followed by a bedtime breast feed, I really hope that they might manage to last past 4am tomorrow before wanting their morning feed…

First Christmas

We’ve just returned to Auckland after spending a week with my family and celebrating Hattie and Joe’s first Christmas. We had such a lovely time! As always, my mother did everything she could to make life as easy as possible for us, which included buying two great high chairs for her littlest visitors:

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We stayed with my parents, and my two sisters and their husbands, partners, and children spent most of the day with us. Everything was very relaxed, with presents, snacks, and a yummy evening dinner.

Hattie and Joe were spoiled rotten, and received crazy piles of presents. We gave them a little pile of things – some small toys, a new outfit each, and a couple of books – and then my family (my lovely parents, in particular) went absolutely nuts and bought them heaps of things. We flew home for Christmas, and we couldn’t fit most of their presents in our bags for the return trip! Luckily, we’ve got relatives visiting from Scotland at the moment, and they’ve agreed to act as a courier service for us.

Here are a few shots from the big day itself:

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Those photos are very Joe-heavy because Hattie rarely stays still for more than three seconds at a time these days!

Here are Hattie and Joe with all of their cousins (who doted on them):

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The whole week that we spent back home was lovely – we took the kids swimming a couple of times, did a lot of hanging around and relaxing, and generally took it easy.

Once we got back to Auckland we managed to combine chilling out with getting a few things done around the house. It’s been so hot here, so we’ve had plenty of walks on the beach, and eaten a lot of ice cream. We also gave the babies their big Christmas present, which couldn’t fit on the plane with us:

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It’s proved to be extremely popular:

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And now it’s only two more sleeps until Tristan has to be back at work, which sucks! But we’ve for lovely things to look forward to this summer, including a visit from Pat and Richard, Tristan’s mother and stepfather, and – of course – the big first birthday!!

Eleven months old

Oh yes: we’re well and truly on the downhill slide to the big first birthday! Here are my two big eleven-month-olds, enjoying some frozen mango with their best monkey friend.

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We’ve had a fairly tumultuous month, filled with happy and miserable milestones…

First steps: Hattie is striding along behind a dolls’ pram or walker, and Joe has taken the occasional, very tentative step. Hattie’s also standing unsupported for increasingly long periods, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she tries to walk unaided within the next few weeks. Both she and Joe are pulling themselves up into standing really easily, and confidently cruising the furniture.

First hellish nights of teething: Each baby’s first tooth or two popped up without fanfare, but we weren’t spared teething mayhem in the end – early last week we had three nights of terrible teething, with two seriously unhappy babies. I think the main problem was that both babies, and Joe in particular, we’re cutting two or three teeth at a time. Joe’s still a bit dicey at night, and we’ve had a few 1am teething dramas. We should buy shares in whichever pharmaceutical company makes Baby Neurofen, because that stuff is worth its weight in gold. Having twins is not fun when teething strikes, as those awful nights involved tag-teaming. Horrible for all concerned! However, I have friends whose babies have cut one tooth at a time and had a terrible time for every single tooth, so I guess we should be slightly thankful of a) having made it to nearly eleven months before experiencing this for ourselves, and b) having short, intense teething episodes, rather than endless tooth-related grouchiness.

Fussy eating: Teething has not helped matters at meal times! Before the hellish few nights, both babies became super-fussy with food for at least a week – I was rapidly approaching my wits’ end. Joe only wanted to feed himself, Hattie only wanted to be fed runny purée, and every second thing I gave them – finger food or off a spoon – would be dribbled down their chins or raspberried straight back at me. SO FRUSTRATING! It’s seems that both babies’ behaviour was tooth-related: Joe didn’t want a spoon in his mouth, and Hattie didn’t want to chew anything. Joe’s behaviour was also linked to his growing keenness to feed himself, so these days I’m closing my eyes to the mess and letting his hand join mine on the spoon. The eating issues have settled down a bit over the past week, and now both babies get a combination of finger food and spooned-in food with every meal.

First gastric bug: This certainly wasn’t fun good times – we ended up in the emergency room one Sunday afternoon, after Joe started throwing up every couple of minutes. It was quite scary to see how poorly he became in such a short time. The vomiting stopped that evening, to be followed by a day of horrible nappies. Thankfully, Hattie managed to avoid catching it as well.

Lots of playing together:. Their ever-improving abilities to move around the room easily give Hattie and Joe endless opportunities to play together, which is lovely to watch. They really seem to adore each other (99% of the time…), and they make each other laugh all day. Here’s a fairly long (four minutes plus) video of Hattie playing peek a boo with Joe.

In a week’s time we’ll celebrate Hattie and Joe’s first Christmas. We’re heading down to visit my family for a few days, which should be great fun – I’m sure that everybody will make a huge fuss of them. Tristan, Hattie, Joe and I wish you all a very happy Christmas too!

This is my life

These days I find myself remembering my pre-baby life in the manner of somebody vaguely recollecting the plot of a book I once read. When I think about my life, say, three years ago, when I was working in London, it scarcely seems possible that I’m the same person.

My dynamic duo started walking yesterday – wobbly steps while pushing a dolls’ pram. Hattie managed to cross the room first, and was picking up speed and smiling at herself by the end of the day. Joe was far more cautious, but he had the look in his eye of a boy who knew that he couldn’t afford to let his sister gain too much of an advantage in this area.

Ever since they started crawling it’s seemed like I can’t take my eyes off them for more than a second. And learning to stand up has seen our living room swiftly stripped of almost all objects other than large pieces of furniture. Before they reached this stage I swore that I wouldn’t be one of what I thought of as excessive child-proofing people, but the reality of trying to stop two very active babies from burying themselves under an avalanche of books, or shutting their fingers in a kitchen drawer, soon made me realise that it was a case of either bowing to the inevitable or never having a moment’s rest again. And even despite my best efforts, Joe’s graduation to the world of being a standing-up baby has been marked by frequent bangs and crashes. Although both babies quickly learned the knack of sitting down again, he often seems to come into rapid and unforgiving contact with an object on the way!

I think we’ve reached the stage where the benefits of having twins outweigh the challenges. Hattie and Joe crawl around the room together all day, and despite frequent spates over the same impossibly desirable toys (and often ignoring the fact that said toy has an identical twin available just inches away), they seem to have a brilliant time playing together. A couple of days ago they amused themselves for ages when Hattie hid in the folds of the curtain for an extended game of peek a boo. And yesterday’s walking efforts from each baby involved their sibling wanting to join in on the pram-pushing efforts. And even when they’re playing independently they seem to choose to stick together a lot of the time:

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One of my favourite manifestations of their twin relationship is the way in which they seem to share each other’s delight: if one baby is on my knee, playing ‘row the boat’ or hearing the gripping tale of how Miss Mollie had a dolly who was sick (sick, sick), the smiles and laughter aren’t just from that baby – their co-conspirator is always right next to us, laughing as well. I’d expected possessiveness from them at this stage, but to date they seem to take genuine pleasure in each other’s happiness. It’s lovely to witness.

Put simply, I’m in awe of these wondrous little people. Life is very good indeed.

Ten months old

Hattie and Joe were ten months old yesterday, and life is awesome.

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These two darlings are coming on in leaps and bounds. They’re both very accomplished crawlers now, and for the past couple of weeks they’ve also been pulling themselves up into standing at every opportunity (and occasionally suffering from a face plant for their troubles, although they have learned very quickly how to sit down again by going straight back onto their bottoms, so that’s good).

I didn’t know at what age the typical baby becomes this mobile, but from what I can gather my two – and Hattie, in particular – are doing it all fairly early. Of course, I will admit to a huge level of maternal pride in seeing my once-tiny babies now able to charge around the room and explore everything, but at times I wistfully remember those few golden weeks when the two of them could sit unsupported and play, without endlessly trying to turn off the Sky box or put their hands in Tui’s water bowl.

A couple of friends have asked recently if I’ve done anything with them to help them to crawl and stand up, and the answer is no! I’m far too lazy to faff around like that. I barely even did tummy time with them, as they didn’t really like it. However, it is bloody amazing to see them learning so much. At the start of last week, and after seeing a friend doing this with her older babies, I began trying to teach them how to get off the sofa safely after a feed: turning around and slithering down feet first, on their tummies, rather than pitching off head-first. I was doing this and assuming that it would be several months before they’d actually be able to figure it out, so you’ll forgive me for my surprise and delight when, on Wednesday evening, Hattie had her bedtime feed and then, as we watched with our mouths hanging open like cartoon characters, carefully turned around and manoeuvred herself off the sofa.

I’ve even reading a book called Duct Tape Parenting. It’s all about how parents should use metaphorical duct tape to stop themselves from nagging, or from leaping up to intercede on their kids’ behaviour – essentially, this approach is the antithesis of ‘helicopter parenting’, where well-intentioned Mummies and Daddies ceaselessly micromanage their children. The aim is to raise what author Vicki Hoefle describes as “respectful, responsible, and resilient kids”. In practice (with older children), this means leaving it to them to organise their own school kit or whatever, and live with the negative consequences if they don’t get their act together.

This approach could be seen as a godsend for the lazy parent, but you still have to be present in your kids’ lives, and equip them on an ongoing basis with the skills and resources they need to actually be relatively independent. I’ll admit to only being a third of the way through the book, so there’s a risk that I’ll keep reading it and discover that the author’s a lunatic and ends up advocating that children should be sent down the mines or something, but – that possibility aside – I like this philosophy. I guess none of us know what kind of parents we’ll be, but I think we all tend to want to raise children who are confident in their own abilities. I suppose you have the exceptions – the parents who crave their children’s endless dependence on them, presumably because it enables them to avoid the messy business of having a life of their own – but isn’t the whole aim of raising kids to help them grow into happy, well-adjusted, capable adults?

Anyway, this duct tape approach certainly fits the free range parenting philosophy that I’d like to follow. At this baby stage, I try to give them as much time as possible to just play. I don’t think they will learn more if I’m hovering around them constantly, handing them toys and narrating the process: by letting them explore the myriad delights of their toy box and our child-proofed living room, I think I’m letting them figure out the world at their own pace. Of course, I’m always there with them, and am ready to swoop in with a cuddle if it’s needed, or to break up a toy-related squabble. And a few times a day – usually when I’m knackered – I lie down on the living room floor and roll around with them. They LOVE that: apparently there’s nothing more fun than full physical access to Mummy.

All that stuff aside, I have an exciting announcement: Hattie and Joe have each got their first tooth! And we’ve been incredibly lucky – very little grizzling so far. I can’t wait for the their little teeth to grow enough to show up clearly when they’re smiling.

We’ve also got babies with hair now, although they’re still pretty bald in comparison to most of their baby friends.

I could write about my two little darling all day. They’re just gorgeous and brilliant, and I am obsessed with them. Happy days!

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