Category Archives: Growing up

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!

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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.

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!

Another airport, another flight

If you have read anything about our previous flights, you will know we are experienced travellers and prepared for any occasion. Flying with 3 year olds twins is much easier than with toddlers and requires less equipment that with newborns. A (almost) quiet and calm flight thought, was not what I expected.

In a nutshell, we sat down in our lovely and comfy seats. We had some food and then the boys fell asleep till it was time to land. If only all flights could be like this.

At the start of the journey, when people were still taking their seats, a lovely flight attendant quietly approached me and told me they were trying really hard to move me to a better sit near my partner and I simply needed to be patient. In a moment of honesty, I informed him that I was already sitting with my family and I didn’t need a better place. He turned is head towards seats D, E and F to see two smiling boys and a utterly confused husband. He apologised for the confusion and left.

A moment later B started to moan cos he wanted food and I did think that maybe I should have accepted the offer of a better seat after all.

As I said the rest of the journey was great and I can’t really complain. But we know that the proof is in the pudding, so that’s why when we woke up T for landing (we needed to move the arm rest) he started to say “I’m tired” every 10 seconds. Then the landing gear came out. T raised the tone of his voice and kept on saying “I’m tired! I’m tired! I’m tired!” and finally… we landed.

And all T had to say about that was “I’m tired!!!”

I’ll meet you there, mummy!

As the boys grow up, I have to adapt to all these new changes. Some are more than welcomed (no nappies! Yeah!), others are unsettling.

When the boys started to walk confidently and we reduced the use of the pushchair, it took us months to find a way to adapt. Every time we went out we had a long conversation about the pros and cons of taking the pushchair… in insight I simply think we wasted so much time.

The latest change is the fact that in certain places they do not need (or want) to be with mummy at all time. For example, last year in a soft play area they would have been with an adult 100% of the time, while now they go in and who knows if they’ll ever come out again!

I look up occasionally and spot one of them on the top level. I wave. I know they will probably come out when they are hungry.

I adapted to this very easily, especially while sipping a well deserved cup of tea OUTSIDE the play area.

The change I struggle with is this new sentence “I’ll see you there, mummy”. You will see me where exactly?? I need to see you here and now!

In our local country park, the boys feel so confident they would happily walk away by themselves. For example if I say “let’s go to the slides”, they would start walking in the right direction without making sure that I’m with them. Unfortunately mummy doesn’t approve of this strategy. This implies some running and some praying… running to catch up with them and praying that they will BOTH run in the same direction!

Brief identity crisis

A few days ago we were in the car coming back from a friend’s house. Half way through the long journey, B surprised us with an announcement:

“Mummy, daddy… I am a girl

Mummy and daddy were silent for a few seconds.

We have to admit that we are not very open to this sort of conversations, but we were trying to be very politically correct and modern…

Daddy: “Why you think you are a girl?”

B: “Because I say so”

At this point T intervened with a very matter-of-fact tone: “No, you are not”.

Unbelievably my husband and I kept a straight face.

Despite T best effort though, the conversation was not over.

B “Yes, I am T. I am a girl”

Daddy: “Who said you are a girl?”

B: “I did”

T: “You are NOT a girl. Boys have willies, girls don’t. You are a boy!”

Daddy (still without laughing): “B, do you have a willy?”

B: “No, it fell off

We almost crashed the car!

The end of an era

Tomorrow B and T will go to their first “solo” swimming lesson. No more mum and daddy to hold them and make sure their are safe. We will be by the side of the pool, but we won’t be needed in the water anymore.

If you have read the previous post “Just keep swimming”, you already know how important swimming is for our family. We don’t do it to keep fit or so that the boys can become Olympic swimmers, we do it because it’s our family activity. We love the individual time we spend in the water with each twin and the together time when all of us have a shower and get dressed. We love it!

We started when the boys were only 5 months, so it has been over 3 years now… rain or shine we have always been in the pool on a Saturday morning. They have grown so much in this time! I still remember having to give them a bottle of milk after the lesson as they were starving. They still ask for a snack now, but certainly not formula milk! We moved from baby swimsuits to swim nappies to children swimwear. Mostly importantly of all, we never had a poo in the swim nappy! A true miracle.

At the end of their last lesson (only B was present unfortunately), the swim teacher gave B a huge hug. She was sad about them moving on, like a primary school teacher at the end of year 6. I almost cried.

It is amazing how in all these years, we didn’t simply teach them a life skill. We didn’t simply spend time together as a family. Looking back at each kick and dive, it now feels like the boys were learning to swim (almost), while we were learning to be parents… almost.