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

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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…

I choose, you choose, we choose

Learning to make your own choice is an important part of growing up. For twins though there is an extra layer of complication: peer pressure. As a parent I find it hard to guide them in the right direction. 

If peer pressure can make you do stupid stuff when you are a teenager, think what it could do when you are 2 years old. It can literally make you stand on a table… like it happened this morning when T suggested to B to climb a table to reach a light switch. If T suggests something, B will go along with it and this may have some comical, but also some dangerous consequences. 

The twins can choose simple stuff independently. Every morning, for example, they choose the colour of their cereal bowls. The colours do change often, so it feels like they are actually making a decision (not repeating a pattern). Sometimes though they would want the same colour and this signal the end of the world as we know it. Cries and screams could be heard from miles. For example, B this morning was adimant that he wanted the yellow bowl which T was using to eat his breakfast. He cried and cried. He screamed to the top of his voice “YELLOW MUMMY! YELLOW MINE!”. He kept on pointing at T’s bowl and screaming. Nothing would calm him down.
Not an offer of chocolate milk. 

Not an offer of a cuddle. 

Not even when I pointed out that he already had a yellow bowl. In fact T had a green bowl all along and B simply didn’t know his colours!

The broken ketchup

There are many things I didn’t know about till I became a parent. No, you’re not going to read about lack of sleep or the true meaning of exhaustion. Everyone knows that! But did you know you can “break ketchup”? I didn’t… till I had toddlers.

The boys are really good eaters. As all two years old they are a little fussy about some foods, but I can’t honestly complain. Anyway, as all parents know, there’s always ketchup to help! If they don’t want to eat something, a little bit of it will go a long way. So yesterday my husband put a dollop of ketchup on T’s plate, then he took a piece of meat with a fork and dip it into it… T started to scream like his arm had just been cut off! We starred at him confused. He obviously wasn’t in pain, so what was wrong? “You broke the ketchup!” he yelled, while tears started to roll down his cheeks. 
And that’s how I learned that you can indeed break ketchup. 

New words

The world of toddlers is full of magical discoveries, exciting adventures and incomprehensible words. They are so eager to communicate and share!

T, for example, loves trains and that seems to be all he talks about. What I mean by that is that his first word every morning is “choo choo” and his greetings every evening after nursery is still “choo choo”. We are trying to convince him that not everything big that moves goes “choo choo”. No, a bus does not choo and not even a lorry! He lives loves loves loves trains. Then if you put him on a miniature one, he screams and wants to get off straight away, but that’s a topic for another time.

B can’t really say much. Recently he has learned some new animal noises, but words are still a mistery to him. He can say mamma, dada, nonna, door, “denti” (teeth) and fish or his own version of it: “pesch”(the Italian “pesce” and the EnglIsh “fish”). More recently he has learn a couple of vital words: “more” and “Clangers”. Guess what we have been watching a lot lately? Let’s not forget is favourite sound of the week “nee naow”. He enjoys so much pushing around his ambulances and fire trucks! B is actually very expressive and very creative, so he communicates in his own way. If he wants something to eat, for example, he would take your hand and literally drag you to the cupboard. Make sure you pick him up and then point to what he wants. Simple!

My favourite new word is “olo”, it means olive and it’s T fave food by a mile. A little unusual for a toddler but it works. You need him to drink his horribly tasting medicine? Offer him an olive as a reward. You need him to calm down after a toddler tantrum? Here comes the jar of olives. You’ll not be surprised when I will tell you that I buy 1kg jar of olives now! 

T is making enormous progress with words lately. He has learnt to say “come back”. A two-word sentence you need a lot when your twin brother steals your toys on a daily basis! Last month we realised he can sign as well. I knew they could both sign “sleep”, but I didn’t know T signing vocabulary was so extensive. He can say thank you, please, duck, drink and he can obviously choo choo!

Being twins they tend to copy each other a lot, so as soon as T started to sign “thank you” for his drink, B copied him immediately. At the moment it feels like I will need to teach good manners to only one child… and the other will copy! 2 for the price of 1!

When the rulebook goes out of the window

I am a very strict mum. There’s no doubt about it. I have a set of rules that everybody needs to follow (mainly the twins obviously). The no chocolate rule. The tidy up your mess rule. The going to bed at 7.30 rule. Etc… Sometimes I can be a little too rigid about my rules, but it’s only because I strongly believe it’s in the boys’ best interest. So IF my mind can be changed, I can be extremely flexible. And that is what happened last week… 

Monday

I’m about to go to work. B is not looking too good today, but I think he should still go to nursery.  Daddy calls 30 minutes later to tell me that he threw up. Mmh…

All rules still apply.

Tuesday

B has been ill for a couple of days now. He actually went to the doctor twice in two days. He has tonsillitis and then he had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics today. 

Rules still apply.

Wednesday morning

B is still not well and he has not been eating for 3 days now, so today I called the doctor simply to find out how long can toddlers carry on without eating (apparently two weeks!) The doctor though sounded really worried. Not about the lack of eating, but by the lack of drinking. We went to the doctor (again!) After checking that B wasn’t actually dehydrated yet, the doctor came up with lots of ideas to get him drinking again. In the end she said “try anything you want as long as he drinks something”. 

After trying everything in the usual list of drinks (water, juice, milk…), I went to the kitchen and got him some squash. I know many kids his age drink squash already, but I am not a big fan of it. After all it’s basically food colouring with a lot of sugar. It didn’t work anyway! 

Wednesday afternoon

I start to worry… We haven’t had a wet nappy since yesterday. 

Rules do not apply anymore! 

Anything liquid in my sight is now acceptable. He starts to drink a bit of my Earl Grey. Not great, but it’s a start. 

I try an ice lolly… no luck! 

Watermelon is even worse! 

I’m starting to panic so I drive to McDonald’s. All children love it, why not B? It works!! He drinks lots of Coke (not in the rulebook, but who cares) and we finally have a wet nappy. I have never been so happy to change a nappy! 

The day ends with chocolate milk. Yes, you read that right: chocolate milk. 

Chocolate? No, thanks!

When did you first give chocolate to your child? The twins are 20 months old and have never had chocolate. People find it strange or even cruel, but I can’t see why. Although chocolate is lovely and I have it on a daily basis, it does contain exiting substances and trust me when I say that the twins don’t need any help to be hyper!

At nursery they occasionally serve chocolate, so I asked for the boys to have an alternative dessert when chocolate is on the menu. This request was found so unusual from the staff that I had to explain it to the nursery manager to convince them. They even tried to make me believe that the boys seemed upset when everyone has chocolate but them. That may well be the case, but as they had never had chocolate how would they know what they are missing out on? Do vegetarian children feel upset every time someone in their class has a sausage? Do children on a gluten free diet start to cry at the sight of pasta? I hope not!

One of the hardest moments in this battle happened last weekend. We had guests over and we bought 2 cakes, one with strawberries and one with chocolate. I ate only the non chocolate one and gave some to B, who happily ate it and then moved on to another thing to do. On the other hand, my husband decided to eat the chocolate cake, but gave T only bites from the strawberry one. That did not go down well! T was determined to have what daddy was eating and nothing was going to stand in his way… except for mummy! I immediately convinced daddy that he could say no to his son. Even if he was crying. Even if he was using his best version of the this-is-so-unfair look. If you don’t say no to a toddler, when will you start? When they are 5 and they can argue back? When they are teenagers and taller than you? No, this is the time to say no. No to biting your brother. No to climbing on top of the coffee table. No to another episode of Thomas the tank engine. No to chocolate.

Sometimes I think it’s a matter of principle more than dietary requirements, but I still think it’s a very important lesson in parenthood. When daddy said “Sorry T, mummy said no” and then quickly added “and daddy says no too”. I knew I won a small battle, but the war is still long… I know.

The wrong trolley

Going for your weekly shopping with twin toddlers is not as hard as it sounds, but you need a twin trolley!

This afternoon I adventured out knowingly that the shop wasn’t going to have twin trolleys and yet I went anyway. I’m not sure what possessed me. Maybe I simply felt brave. Maybe I thought I could handle them. Maybe I fell and hit my head, but I don’t remember it. All I know is that I will never ever do this again…

Getting the twins out of the car and walking to the shop obviously wasn’t a problem as we do that daily. Walking, I mean. Once B was in the single seat trolley and T on a harness, everything started to get worse and worse with each step. At the entrance of the shop there’s freshly baked bread, which T proceeded to grab. So I bought it. Then there’s a fruit and veg area, where I had to stop T from grabbing even more things, but doing so he started to get a little frustrated. When we reached the frozen fish aisle he was determined to open the freezer. When I tried to stop him, he had a proper toddler meltdown (with audience). Fortunately I left quickly and he followed.

After a few more random cries and shouts, T noticed that I put some bananas in our trolley and he was determined he was going to have one. Shouting “nana! nana!” he decided to sit on the floor. He wasn’t going to move! Not till he had his banana! Not even when a woman with a full trolley and a car seat tried to run him over! Fortunately mum is quick on her feet…

T was moved to the trolley and B was set free. Unfortunately he was not feeling so good and he had no intention to walk. I tried to hold him, push the trolley, avoid them kicking each other AND carry on my shopping, but it was too much. I must have said “I give up” out loud, because some people turned to see me walking off in the direction of the tills.

Obviously I picked the wrong queue! No, it wasn’t too slow or too long, but the person in front of me put a bunch of bananas on the belt and the “nana, nana” corus started again!

The naughty corner: twins edition

Discipline twins is not as straight forward as it might sound. What if twin A starts something naughty and twin B just follow him? Is it right to punish both of them? At 18 months can they really recognise when it’s wise not to follow a bad example? I don’t pretend to have an answer to this, but I’ll tell you what happened when T and B got both into trouble.

It was a nice Friday afternoon and it was time for a snack. Mummy prepared something really tasty, so the twins started to eat ferociously. For some unknown reason, T decided to pick up a piece and throw it on the floor. Nothing new there, he is a toddler after all. Before I could react, B thought it was a great idea to follow his brother, but being B he wanted to exceed the previous result and proceeded to throw half of his food on nonna (grandma). They immediately got sent to the naughty corner(s).

Now, if you have one child, you need one naughty corner (or step), but if you have two? Well, send them to sit down together and have time to plot the next mischief doesn’t sound worthwhile; so T was sent to the left and B to the right corner of the dining room. T spent his minute there in silence, then mummy went to explain why was he put there and off he went. B on the other hand…

If a naughty step is a way of punishing children, surely it must be a way to stretch their creativity as well. B tried to leave the corner in so many ways I lost count. If only he could fly he would have tried that as well, I bet. He started by walking away. First to the left, then to the right. Mummy brought him back. Then he thought he could crawl. First to the left, then to the right. Mummy brought him back. So he thought he could stretch by keeping one arm in the naughty corner. Stretching to the left, then to B the right. Mummy brought him back. So he trew himself on the floor and start sliding on his belly. Mummy dragged him back. He also tried to walk backwards and sideways and hide behind a chair and dragged that along with him as a shield. It was getting very funny by this point, but mummy brought him back… EVERY TIME.

The best part, the one that supernanny will not tell you about, is the fact that you can even leave the room if you would like: if B moves a special alarm goes off! It’s his twin who will point a finger and sound surprised and ashamed that his brother could even think of leaving the corner. T’s expression of indignation made it very difficult to keep a straight face in this process, but it made me feel less stressed about having to keep on bringing B back to the naughty corner. Sometimes it’s really fun to have twins!

Snacking

Once I read somewhere on a twin mums forum that all you need to go out of the house is a beaker of water and a snack. No nappies?! No, now they are old enough to “almost” predict if you are going to need a nappy and they are not potty trained yet to need extra clothes for possible accidents; so all you need is a snack!

The other amazing thing is that any snack will do. Cracker, breadsticks, rice cakes, fruit, yogurt, but even something a little unusual like dry brawn flakes. Every night when they come back from nursery I’m there to greet them and B asks for brawn flakes. He never gets them, as dinner is usually ready, but he tries every night: comes in, walk into the kitchen, smiles and points at the cereal box.

Daddy thought he was Superman when on the way back from the swimming pool on Saturday morning, I finished all of the crackers I brought with me and the twins were screaming for more food. Daddy realised that he had a packet of rice cakes in his pocket from the day before and took it out with the most accomplished smile on his face: “look at me, I saved the day!”. For the rest of the weekend, he managed to bring that up so many times I lost count.

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I have just spent an entire week on my own and “snacking” is what saved my sanity. When you are truly 1 against 2, you are allowed to use all the tricks in the book. Bribing kids with brawn flakes was just the beginning. By the end of the week, both boys were allowed to eat holding their favourite soft toys, Chewy and Mu, a bad habit which I have started to regret already. On the other hand when I took them away we had a proper meltdown including 2 full bowls of soup on the floor, clothes, highchairs and walls. I couldn’t have coped with another change of clothes, so the following meal both boys were holding proudly Chewy and Mu and everything went swimmingly.

Another routinely snack are the crackers of the 9 AM Sunday service. Without those crackers we would have a pair of extremely loud toddlers running around the church. I didn’t even consider bringing food to a mass, till I saw another parent arriving with 3 bread rolls, a few breadsticks and a croissant. And he didn’t have twins! I thought, if that boy can have all of that, mine can eat a couple of crackers without guilt. I still maintain that there’s no food allowed when we cross the church door to go and get the communion. B wasn’t very pleased about it on Sunday, but he reluctantly started to walk with me and T without a cracker in his hand. He looked confused though. I bet he was wondering why all these people were queuing up for food and yet he wasn’t allowed any!