Double Christmas

Spending the Christmas holidays in two different countries not only implies the use of two different languages, but adapting to two different cultures. To an adult this can prove challenging, especially if you are not used to different traditions and customs during the Christmas season, but to a child who grew up this way, nothing is strange… not even having two days with presents and two Christmas trees.

My boys have spent every Christmas with some time spent in England (before Christmas) and then Christmas day and the rest of the holiday in Italy. Despite being British, they never had turkey and roast potatoes; they are accustomed to lasagne and Italian antipasti instead.

I think sometimes they are confused between Santa and Babbo Natale. Is he one fat person in a red suit or two different ones? As long as he keeps on bringing presents, I don’t think they will mind though.

What I found most unusual is that every year the boys open their English presents on the 23rd and their Italian presents on the 25th. As a consequence, they think it’s normal to spend Christmas Eve at the airport!

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Indoor camping

I haven’t slept on the couch since the boys were a few months old and I were still breastfeeding at night. I do not have great memories from those days, I simply survived night after night. Tonight I chose to sleep on the couch one more time to keep company to the boys, but it’s a very different story now…

My husband got called away for work at the last minute and B has a fever which I need to keep an eye on over night. Also I hate sleeping on my own. All of these seemed excellent reasons to decide to do something new. Camping in the living room sprang to mind as the perfect solution to all my problems: I get to have some company, I can keep a close eye on B and it is super fun!

The ingredients for the perfect indoor camping are:

  1. An old inflatable bed found in the loft
  2. Some glow sticks leftover from a party
  3. Pillows and duvets from the boys’ beds
  4. Some excellent bedtime stories
  5. Plenty of soft toys
  6. A couple of Ikea throws and pegs to make a tent

There’s only one rule left to explain: too much noise and we go back in our proper beds.

It worked like a charm. After I said it was time to sleep I went into the kitchen to prepare a cup of tea. I came back in and T was fast asleep already. Just before, I heard him telling B off: “It’s time to sleep now. I’m tired. ” Ah the mature twin!

I know this means going to sleep earlier than usual, but who doesn’t need an early night now and then? Good night!

Emergency skills

In the attempt to prepare my boys for an Olympic medal, or just to tire them out so they go to sleep at night, I have started to take them to a taekwondo class every Thursday evening.

Each lesson is divided in two parts: martial art training and another skill. This term the “another skill” was emergency services. The boys learned the emergency number (999), how to put someone in the recovery position and even what to do if you’re on fire! They finally had to learn their phone number and address in case they get lost. My husband and I were given 3 weeks to achieve this. I honestly thought it was impossible, but my husband (the main care giver) raised to the challenge and within 2 days had the boys learning the area code of our phone number (that’s 5 digits). I started to believe…

Daddy made them sang their phone number in the car on the way to nursery every single morning.

Instead of chocolate, the reward for finishing their food at dinner was being able to call the house using daddy’s mobile… as long as they remembered the correct 11 digits!

Both my husband and I were put in the recovery position most nights for 3 weeks. B even learned that walking over an unconscious person was not going to help!

The day of the grading came and I was more nervous than the boys were… When the examiner told B he passed, he jumped up and down as if he had just won the lottery. Although I wanted to join him, I contained myself, waiting for the verdict on T… What if one passed and not the other? It’s every parents nightmare! When T also passed I felt 10 pounds lighter.

What I loved about all of this was that both of the boys looked at me with a proud grin after each verdict. Despite finding learning all those skills important, what I would like for them to learn from this is a simple fact: if you put time and effort into something, you can achieve a lot.

This time is just a badge and a purple taekwondo belt, next time it might be a degree, a new job or that previously mentioned Olympic medal.

Little chef

As I am Italian, one of the questions I get asked a lot is “can you make fresh pasta from scratch?”. The answer is yes, I can. But the real skill is making it while entertaining 4 year old twin boys!

Making pasta is easy, but it takes time. 4 year olds are not famous for being great at waiting, are they? Yet there are parts in which they can help substantially, so they don’t get bored. Siving flour is one of those tasks… as long as you accept a 10 to 20% loss of material, of course. I can guarantee your kitchen will look very snowy!

B was very proud of his siving technique, but it was very slow. He loved to add the egg to the centre of the volcano. And he loved even more when some of it ran down the side and I had to catch it quickly. “It escapes like lava, mummy!” He shouted.

Once the dough was ready we left it in the fridge to rest while having lunch. I needed a break at this stage anyhow. After about an hour, B and I started making actual pasta. When we finally got to a 1mm thin sheet, we decided to cut it as tagliatelle and T decided to finally join us. He came only for the easy part at the end, but I was still happy that he joined in.

We made so much pasta that B had time for a go himself.

Last but not least, we left some sheets 2mm thick and B cut them into small pieces. Then I pinched the middle of each piece and… voilà! Farfalle were ready to go.

Not sure how long it will be before I’ll attempt this again. After all, it wasn’t easy! One thing I know for sure though, I will still find flour in obscure parts of my kitchen till next summer.

Outsmarted by a 4 year old

T still sucks his thumb. Not all the time, but too much for a 4 year old. My husband and I discussed it and we both agreed that we should help him to change this habit. This is the short story of how I tried… and failed miserably.

One morning, I told T that only little children suck their thumb. I also listed many children his age that do NOT suck their thumb. And finally I reminded him that he will go to school soon and that he cannot suck his thumb there. He agreed to limit this activity to night time and when he watches tv. I was happy and proud of my little boy… then we went to the shop.

The first thing he did was putting his thumb in his mouth. I looked at him, smiled and said: ” Do you remember what we talked about at home?”. In my mind, I thought – I have this, just keep calm, positive and encouraging.

“Yes” he said, with a matter-of-fact tone “Big boys do not suck their thumbs and when I go to school I can’t suck my thumb, but mummy… I still go to nursery, so I can suck my thumb”.

My jaw dropped.

The construction birthday party

It has been over a month since the boys’ birthday party, but only now I have found the time to recap the long months of planning and organising.

My philosophy behind a birthday party is simple:

1) They will get bored of parties by the age of 10 or 11 (not many left!)

2) They are and will be my only children

3) I only have to organise one party per year

4) We can afford it

So let’s go and have a massive party!

This year the theme was CONSTRUCTION. Diggers, dumper trucks, excavators. You name it, we had them. It took me at least 2 weeks to decide on the theme because if it had been down to the boys, they would have had another train party like last year. It has been a challenge to find a theme they would both like. In the end, most 4 year olds like digging and playing with sand, so “construction” was a safe bet.

Every guest was provided with a hard hat to get everyone in the mood. The party table was a road, where the orange paper cups looked like traffic cones. We even had biscuits shaped like excavators and diggers.

Finding games for this theme wasn’t hard. Digging, building and painting were all good starting ideas. I even stole some of my husband’s tools to let the kids loose on some paint… that was fun!

For younger builders (and future civil engineers like T), we had a Duplo corner. It actually proved very popular with people aged 1 to 65!

No party can be a success if the cake is not a true show stopper. As I cannot bake, this is usually the hardest part to plan. Fortunately a “construction cake” is just a destroyed cake with some toy cars on it. A couple of traffic cones candles completed the look.

After all of this work, and I only mentioned the highlights, it was great to see B over the moon with excitement…

On the other hand, it was a little less rewarding to hear T’s comment later that evening: “I had fun, but the train party (last year) was better, mummy!” Well, it sounds like we already have a theme for next year’s party then!

A life lesson for only £6.50

One of the major life skills that every child needs to learn is PATIENCE. They practise daily by queuing for lunch or the slide at the playground, yet having to wait for something for days it’s a difficult concept. There are two problems:

1- waiting it’s difficult for everyone

2- they are too young to grasp the concept of hours and days

Of course, all children wait for Christmas. It’s a major part of childhood and it’s great for them. Said this, the wait is so long that it doesn’t prepare them for what waiting really means in everyday life.

Two weeks ago we visited the National History museum in Oxford. The boys loved seeing all sorts of animals, but what they enjoyed the most was getting close to the T-rex skeleton. So tall, so big, so scary! Before we left we swung by the shop and the boys immediately spotted the dinosaurs section. Initially they were attracted by the usual toy dinosaurs, but after B noticed that we could buy a dinosaur egg, we couldn’t convince them to look at anything else. £13 later (£6.50 x 2), I exited the shop with two T-rex eggs.

The instructions said to put them in water and wait 3 days for hatching and a further 11 days to full growth. The first 3 days were long for the boys. They checked every few hours and then, on the second day, a cracked appeared. The level of excitement was sky high! On day three, a small dinosaur head popped out of the shell…

The wait was over and yet it also wasn’t. Our new family members needed to grow a little longer.

Like a pair of twins, they slowly grew in their watery nest… every morning the boys would check on their progress while having breakfast and then again at dinner time. Slowly, but surely, the little dinosaurs got bigger and bigger.

One day, I removed the shell entirely to let the water access the whole body. B was ecstatic! He actually jumped up and down with excitement. He could feel the wait was almost over.

Two weeks in and we now have two fully grown T-rex to play with and the twins have learnt a life lesson: good things come to those who wait, and these things might be dinosaurs… if you’re 4 years old.

Two against one!