Introducing a new dinner time tradition

I have not been writing much recently as I started a new job in September. This new role is amazing and I never liked a job this much before. Unfortunately it has its drawbacks in the long hours I have to put in and the early mornings start.

As I leave the house before 7, I never get to see the kids before I leave. I don’t really know if it has been more difficult for me to adapt or for them. I never cried, as they did asking for mummy every morning, but I did miss them so much.

Ten weeks in, I’m getting used to it and they barely ask for me when they wake up. It has been a transitioning period but it has been worthy. Mummy now comes home with renewed energy and a smile on her face. She’s happy to play, build puzzles and hide in the castle tent. She is not just dragging herself on the couch to watch one more episode of Blaze The Monster Machine. But most importantly she has also found some time to start a new tea time routine…

To encourage two tired toddlers to eat all of their food in the evenings, we came up with a simple but effective idea: if they eat all their food they can ask (politely!) for a surprise.

The surprise is always edible, but not necessarily sweet. It can vary from olives to chocolate to babybel to slices of banana dusted with nesquick. It doesn’t require much time to prepare, but it did require a good level of imagination and creativity. Sometimes I think of idea ahead of time and I get so excited about them, I am eager for them to finish their food. Sometimes they catch me off guard… What shall I come up with now?!?

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An alternative bedtime routine

Our usual bedtime routine is very simple. At 7PM  we go upstairs for a bath, then the pyjamas go on, then teeth brushing and finally stories. At around 8 lights are out and the twins start their pyjamas party! There’s a lot of talking, someone will ask for a drink and someone else will want the toilet. After a very very long time, they will finally fall asleep. Usually around 9.

Yesterday we had to disrupt the routine as we were 150 miles away from home and ready for an almost 3 hours journey. 

At 7 as usual we went upstairs, but after brushing some teeth and putting the pyjamas on, we all went back downstairs and the boys played with grandad’s iPad while mummy and daddy loaded the car. By 7.40 we were all in the car with seat belts on and ready to go. The journey has started: 150 miles left. 

After an afternoon of playing in the garden and trampolining, we thought the boys were going to fall asleep in no time… How wrong we were! After 10 minutes of chatting and asking for food, we agreed that it was time to go to sleep and be quiet. The agreement was obviously unilateral as the silence lasted less than a mile. 

As per usual, B asked for something to drink, this time though he poured half of the content all over his pyjamas. Mmh… The next request was right on time. T needed the toilet. A stop by the side of the motorway had to do (no services for miles in East Anglia). Once we were all back in the car, I discussed the need for the boys to go to sleep. They agreed and CLOSED their eyes… The fake snoring and consequential giggling started. Only 100 miles to go. 

T asked for a story, after all I did say it was bedtime. So my husband, a man who barely remembers what he watched on TV the night before, recited by heart an entire Hairy Maclary book… Maybe he had read that one a few too many times! 

“Now it’s time to sleep” I announced at the end of the story. It was 9.10PM. The boys told me they were awake and not very tired. Another 70 miles to go… 

A little time later we arrived at a tunnel. On the other side a grey cloud made the sun disappeared almost instantaneously and the boys started to be scared. “Mummy, it is dark” they cried. “Mummy, there’s a ghost!” They were not going to sleep now, were they? The rain started to pour down and the grey cloud got even darker (and scarier). 

30 miles left in our journey. The rain had stopped (and the ghost had left). We had 2 minutes of constant silence. My husband asked “Are they asleep?”. I didn’t even had to check to know their were still awake. 

20 miles left and finally the eyes are starting to close. We had some hope… a huge police convoy with lights and motorbikes passed by! We simply could not believe it. The boys went wild at the sight of flashing blue lights!

At 9.51PM their beautiful little eyes were finally closed… It took 131 minutes for them to fall asleep, but we won! 

Only 15 miles left…

A letter to the boys…

Dear B and T,

We went to the lake last week and you were… amazing! You may not know this, but mum and dad struggle sometimes to take you out and about as you are a handful. You tend to run away in car parks, refuse food in restaurants and even pee on daddy (do you remember our last visit to the zoo?!?). Last week though, you behaved like perfect little boys. 

First of all, I’m proud to say that none of you peed on daddy or any other member of the family. Said this, you also enjoyed the picnic by the lake and you were extremely patient when all the adults responsible for finding a picnic area got so lost they ended up on a different lake! Obviously the olive bread your auntie brought with her was the reason you were absolutely silent in the back of the car, but still, only a few months ago you would have screamed the car down instead. Mum and daddy love your new attitude towards delay of your lunchtime. 

The weather was warm, the picnic was delicious and the company was excellent, but you were even better. You made every pictures we took a little funnier. You tried your best Italian by asking for “more Bea pane” and you definitely made your nonna very happy when you agreed to look at the camera for 2 seconds.

B, don’t worry about stepping on a plate and throwing food all over the picnic blanket and your mum. Everyone else thought it was funny!  

T, you made me run 100m faster than Hussein Bolt when you asked to go for a poo… when we were really far from a toilet. We made it and that’s all it matter! 
It was nice to see your auntie and uncle and we are happy to hear you calling Fabio with something that resembles his name this time. Pagu didn’t really sound right last Christmas! 

You made it possible for us to really enjoy the time we spent together and we had almost forgotten about the sleepless nights and the smelly nappies. Almost…

It was a perfect day.
Thank you. 

Love, 

Mamma and Daddy

Lost in translation

Learning two languages is harder than it sounds…

Today T was carrying a stick he found on the ground. After a short walk he found a bench and sat on it. 

I sat next to him and asked “fai una pausa?” (Are you having a break?). He answered with a cautious yes. I turned towards my husband and say “T is taking a break, look.” and pointed at T sitting next to me. 

T turned towards me and bent his stick trying to break it. He smiled proudly, then he said “mummy, I’m pausa stick”.

I burst into laughter!

10 reasons why my toddlers wake up at night… at least one of them!

  1. He lost his dog soft toy (found!)
  2. Too hot/cold (easy, I can deal with this one)
  3. Teething (when does this end???)
  4. His brother is screaming (…and I’m going to strangle him!)
  5. He lost his train (later found just under his own bottom!)
  6. He needed a Duplo polar bear (no, I’m not kidding this actually happened)
  7. He wanted mummy/daddy (more daddy than mummy, right? Especially after 1AM please)
  8. His brother went to his bed and woke him up for no good reason (argh!!)
  9. There was a disturbance in the Force (he didn’t tell me that, but my Jedi instinct could feel it)
  10. He wanted to catch a flight to see his nonna in Italy (what?!)

    I have given up! It is obvious that I won’t have a full night sleep till they leave for university. 16 years and counting… 

    Don’t forget the card! 

    It seems unbelievable to me, but this is my third Mother’s day already. I don’t remember much from the first one. I don’t even remember if we celebrated to be honest. I was tired, sleep deprived and depressed. No surprise I can’t even picture if we had lunch somewhere or not.

    From the second one I recall having to go out on Saturday instead of Sunday, as my husband tried to book a table too late. I tremende breakfast in bed, but also the lack of cards. I was probably very tired (as I’ve been for 3 years now), but after that I don’t remember anymore.

    To make sure I had a better day this year, I did what most mums do: I took charge. I booked a table at my favourite pizza restaurant (3 weeks ago!). I made sure my husband knew that “breakfast in bed” was not optional… it was compulsory! And finally I dropped hits about cards. 

    As most men, my husband is not great at remembering birthdays and special events. I buy, write and send all the necessary cards throughout the year. Once he actually told me that this is the reason most men get married. 

    I believe him. 

    Probably it would have been easier to buy my own card, but it would have been extremely sad. So I had to put extra effort in reminding my lovely other half that this event was coming up and a piece of paper was required. I dropped hits in the middle of some conversations, which had frankly no link to the event whatsoever. I bought a card for his mum and made him sign it. I bought cards from the twins to their grandma and great grandma and made him write them too. The preparation was intense and carefully planned. When Thursday evening arrived and it was obvious that no card had been purchased yet, I was tempted to write it on the shopping list… but I didn’t. 

    This morning not one, but two cards where waiting for me on the dining room table. It worked! 

    Not only I had two cards to open, but I had breakfast in bed, an extra hour sleep and the boys sang me “happy birthday” (clearly there’s still some confusion about this event). On top of this B was extra happy and spent most of the morning reminding me that we were going to have cake. And T counted down the hours till “pizza time”. What a memorable day!

    Can’t wait for next year…

    The scary ghost

    A few weeks ago T came back from nursery talking about a ghost. It seemed a little strange, but we didn’t pay too much attention to it. T seemed fine once daddy made the ghost run away from the living room.

    A few weeks went by and everything seemed back to normal. One evening though, the ghost came back. This time he was found in the downstairs toilet. As a consequence T refused to use that toilet for days. Thank God we have another one upstairs!

    I contacted the nursery to enquire about this “scary ghost”, but no one seemed to know anything about it. In the main time the ghost had left the toilet (at least according to T), so we all moved on with our lives. Later on that week, a book with a “scary ghost” was found and removed from the nursery library. Surely we had seen the last of him! 

    Last night the ghost came back (again!). This time both boys were so scared they didn’t want to eat dinner. They wanted all the lights on and couldn’t be left alone. Strangely though, once we went upstairs to bed, they seemed to have forgotten about the ghost and were even happy to be in the dark. 

    Teaching the boys about “feelings” wasn’t the nursery best idea so far. The two main results are: B smiling while saying “I’m sad, mummy” and both boys terrified of a ghost. One thing is certain. I’m not looking forward to seeing the result of the lesson about being angry… They might destroy my living room! 

    The sleepover

    It started 2.5 years ago and it has not stopped yet. Every night there’s a reason to be silly and stay up as long as possible and when you have your best mate with you… The sky is the limit!

    In the past few weeks we reached the top of the top. We had several giggling sessions. We had one shouting a name of a Paw Patrols pup and the other replying with another name. We had B taking all of his clothes off! Why?? And finally the other night we had the inevitable twin thing: they were both in bed together.

    They looked so lovely together, in silence, with no arguing… I had to take a picture.

    After contemplating our boys, we moved B back to his bed and noticed that not only he moved to sleep with T, but he brought all his toys with him. He brought a Duplo giraffe, a bear and a pig and his digger which he usually sleeps with. T was asleep with his reindeer and a goat when this happened, so we moved the correct animals to the right bed and left the rest. We now know that if T wakes up in the middle of the night without what he started off with, he will wake you up as well to help the search for the missing item. And looking for a Duplo reindeer at 1.30AM is not my idea of fun!

    Gordon in trouble

    As for many little boys who lives in the UK, Thomas the tank engine is an obsession. An addiction that cannot be cured. My boys are not immune and in fact they learned at least 10 different train names before they could mention anyone of their friends at nursery. 

    “Gordon in trouble” is one of the many books we have about Thomas and his engine friends. For some reason it has become T’s favourite as a bedtime story. We don’t even have to guess which book he is going to choose. We know it will be “Gordon in trouble”.

    In brief this is a story of the train engine Gordon, who cannot pull his coaches anymore because he needs a wash, and of James, who takes his place but cannot go up Gordon’s hill by himself. This really simple story has changed our family life…
    First of all, my husband has read this so many times he knows it by heart. This is remarkable for someone who cannot remember birthdays and people’s names (without his wife help).
    Secondly everything that slope up has become a “Gordon’s hill”. Mummy’s bent knee while sitting on the couch. A ripple on the carpet. The road going up and out of our close. A cushion on the couch with a slight angle. Literally anything that a toy train can climb.

    “Careful! The hills are slippery” is the line that Gordon says to James in the book. My husband and I now say that to each other (and the boys) on a regular basis. “Careful mummy” says my husband in the mornings when I am about to leave for work. “The hills are slippery” he adds quickly with a grin. 

    If our lives can be changed this much just by reading a 6 pages book. What is going to happen to us when we hit Harry Potter in a few years time? Are we going to wear cloaks and drink butter beer at the dinner table? I can’t wait! 

    One way or another I’m sure we will be fine as long as we are careful… because the hills are slippery.

    Parents’ evening

    As a secondary school teacher, I’m not really a fan of parents evenings. It generally means talking to 26 pairs of adults in the space of 2 hours in a freezing cold gym. Not my favourite pastime. Parents evening at nursery though is very different…

    First of all, you need to sit on tiny tiny chairs. This creates an atmosphere which is much better than the aforementioned freezing gym. Strangely my first thought was “is this going to break?”, but my immediate reaction also was “Don’t be stupid! Now, shall I sit on the red one or the blue one? “. As an adult, you don’t usually get to choose the colour of your chair anymore. It is obviously a sad part about getting older. 

    The conversations were centered around much more important things than GCSE subject options. For example with T’s key person the main topic was “stickers for pooing on the potty”. A much more pressing matter!

    Although we agreed that B is not trying hard enough to talk at the moment and that his vocabulary could be expanded, we also agree that we are not to worried about his GCSE English language exam in 2031.

    We set targets for T:

    1) Learn to count to 5 

    2) Learn the colours

    For B we decided to let him choose what to learn next as there would be no point otherwise. For example he knows all the sounds of animals (such as cow, lion, snake, et …), but it has been two weeks that for daddy he only does the sealion noise.

    In many ways this was a typical teacher- parent meeting, but it was definitely so much more fun not to be the teacher for once!