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.

Vulcano eruption

The boys are finally old enough to help me making some bigger craft projects. This time around we also put a little science in the mixture and built a fully functioning vulcano!

It all started with some paper… actually a lot of paper!

Then we added some water and some glue. The boys really enjoyed squeezing the bottle of PVA glue. Instead of yelling “Stop! That’s too much!” like I do when they squeeze ketchup on their plates. I kept on saying: “A little more… a little more…” They loved it!

With paper machè you can make lots of intricate shapes, but with the limited ability of a 4 year old, the blob shape of a vulcano is all you can achieve! We put all the paper machè around a small bottle (about 150ml) and made sure it stuck to the cardboard underneath as well.

Once the paper was somewhat dry, we did some painting. Brown for T, grey for B and a little red for mummy (the lava effect).

Our final product was left to dry in the sun for days and days… we almost forgotten it was there. Once dry, it was finally time for a proper volcanic eruption…

Mummy carefully put the red vinegar and red food colouring in the volcano, while the boys took turns in pouring in the sodium bicarbonate using a teaspoon… their faces lit up at every eruption. I lost count of how many we did.

The moral of the story is… children are never too young to enjoy an explosive chemical reaction!!

Duplo + twins = better buildings

Out of all of the toys the boys have, Duplo is the most educational and entertaining by a long way. It is also the most expensive, but in my humble opinion it’s worth every penny.

In the past 2 and half years it has been a pleasure to watch them play with the bright coloured bricks and evolve their level of interest. We went from barely putting two bricks together, to building freely their own creations. In between we saw them building enormous towers and putting together very long trains. They learned the names of many animals through play and definitely all the colours. They loved the “special” pieces, but also valued every single brick. Sometimes only the square red one would do!

This summer we went to a different house for a week of holiday and we couldn’t bring lots of toys, so we brought only a big box of Duplo. It was the perfect choice. Every time they opened the box they invented a new game: robots, trains, chillers (only they know what those really are!) and planes.

The play is occasionaly interrupted by a scream. Someone has stolen an irreplaceable piece… time to intervene! So why an ode to Duplo if it still requires adult intervention?

Because it is extra special for twins. That’s why! It is fascinating how Duplo fuels the boys’ creativity, but also their twin bond. If one comes up with an idea, the other tries to better it. The competition brings out the best in them (most of the time) and makes their creations more and more evolved. A singleton wouldn’t have the push to change his first built. He might, of course, do it of his own accord, but he wouldn’t feel the need to make it bigger and better every step of the way. Two siblings close in age wouldn’t have the same starting point. Not at this age. The oldest would have a better fine motor skill, a wider experience in building and a more developed creativity; while the youngest would probably copy (and learn). This is all very different for twins!

So although the snatching of pieces is still a problem, it is definitely outweighed by the time they can spend playing with minimal supervision. And after all, isn’t independent playing every mum’s dream?

Thank you Duplo!

The time I realised it was twins…

When a woman is pregnant with a child (or two) her body changes dramatically. Hormones, boobs, bump, more hormones… the body of daddy-to-be is not really affected.

When a woman gives birth to a child, her body is devastated. And after a C-section the effect of the change are indelibly marked on her body by a huge scar. The new daddy is untouched.

So how does a man become a father? Well, I do not know. Maybe it’s like in the movies. The first time he holds his baby… almost by magic.

Becoming a mum, on the other hand, is definitely something that hits you like a lorry while crossing the road. For me and any other mother of twins, the lorry was well over the speed limit when it ran us over! It hit me when I was lying in a hospital bed, several cables attached to both of my arms, half way through a blood transfusion. It was the middle of the night and the student midwife had just took one of the boys away after feeding. She came back with his brother and with a quiet voice she said “time to feed, mummy”. I opened my eyes, barely recognising where I was, and said “I have already fed him”. I closed my eyes determined to go back to sleep. She stopped for a second (probably looking at me puzzled). She smiled a little and pushed the baby into my arms. “You have twins, mummy”.

Oh crap! I do!

Two against one!