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! 

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Potty training boot camp

The latest parenting ideas from the US is “Potty training boot camp”. 3 days of intense training on how to remove nappies. Basically you don’t leave the house for 3 days and you put your poor child on the toilet/potty a ridiculous number of times each day. Sounds strange? Impossible? A waste of time? 

T, daddy and I are doing it right now! 

Preparation phase

Browsing the Internet you can find long lists of essential items for the training to work, videos on what to do (day by day) and in general a huge quantity of information. My preparation had to be very different as daddy was going to do day one almost entirely by himself!

Not only I prepared plenty of clothes and underpants, laundry detergent and waterproof mats, but I also wrote two lists of possible indoor activities to do. The easy list and the difficult list. In the easy list there were the usual: drawing, duplo, watching TV, etc… In the difficult list there were much harder tasks, such as painting and baking. 

In the build up to day 1 we managed to convince T of how wonderful going to the toilet is, instead of using nappies. We told him that only big boys have underpants so he asked us to see the underpants of the only big boy in the house… That followed a very strange, but hilarious moment for my poor husband.
Day 1 – Nappy off, pants on!

Accidents number: 2

Day 1 was a breeze. Mainly because I was at work! Except for the usual toddler tantrums, he behave really well.

On the morning of day 1 we put some pants on and explained how they need to be kept dry. We reminded him that it is a very important thing to wear underpants and only brave big boys do it. T thought about this and then asked to have a pair of pants for his train as well… Mmh… That was not in any of the videos I watched online!

Day 2 – Adventuring outside the house

Accidents number: 1

We didn’t plan to try our luck outside the house so soon, but after a great first day we felt confident enough to go swimming. Yes, you read that right: we felt confident enough, not him. The thing is that he doesn’t really know what it means to be embarrassed because he peed in his pants in public. He doesn’t have to clean up the mess and he certainly doesn’t realise how expensive his car seat is! The good news is that the car seat was fine, but the cold had the better of his bladder and caused the accident. If you notice a little puddle outside my front door, you now know why. 

Day 3 – Regression

Accidents number: 2

He pooed in his pants… do I have to add anything? 

Christmas holiday review

If my Christmas holidays were a movie it would have had to be a 5 out of 5 stars. It had everything! Drama (the cancelled flight to Italy), surprise  (visiting the English grandparents earlier) and a little sadness (missing my mum’s birthday). It also had some suspense (when the new flight was late and we didn’t know if it was going to be cancelled again) and even a grand finale with a trip to lake Maggiore on the first of January. 

Next year though, I would rather have a boring Christmas with no cancelled flight and avoiding arriving on Christmas Eve at 2AM. That’s cutting it too close for conformt.

The boys are getting the idea of Christmas although it’s still more about the lights and decorations that about the birth of Jesus or the presents giving and receiving. Also this year we focused on the introduction to reindeers. In December we went to a theatre performance called “How do reindeers fly?” which took the boys right into the Christmas spirit. They loved it from start to end. Their little eyes showed so much concentration! 

If there’s one thing we need to work on before next Christmas is the presents. Although the vast majority of presents were really good and enjoyed by the twins. We had too many “opening days”. We opened some on the 22nd with the English grandparents, some on Christmas morning (obviously!), the “socks” on the Epiphany (Italian tradition), but we still have their biggest present to open yet! It is too big to transport so we didn’t take it to either Suffolk or Italy and now we don’t really know when to give it to them… mmh… it’s the middle of January!!!

Housebound

If you ignore the horribly contagious disease, today has been a great day! B has chickenpox, so him and I stayed at home from nursery and work and spent all day together. Not sure when was the last time I had the chance to spend all day with only one of my boys. 

We had so much fun I almost feel guilty, as I should have been at work. Although obviously he couldn’t have gone to nursery so…

We said goodbye to T and daddy and dived straight into the Duplo box. The box is so big, B can actually fit in it! We built a train, a tunnel, a red train station, a yellow train station and even a green one. We took many passengers on and off. Then poo happened! 

We went for a bath, a long one with fish, penguins, squids, turtles and not one but 4 boats… all for B. No sharing! He was over the moon!

After a quick visit to the doctor, lunch and a nap we went back to a little bit more playing. We made a wristband! We coloured it, cut it and then… put it on a giraffe’s neck. Why not! 

It gets dark very early now, but that’s not a problem if you have light tubes to play with! Look at the smile on this little boy’s face… priceless!

By 5 PM we were ready to slow things down, so B picked up the Ratatouille DVD. He had never saw it before, but he likes “topi”, so he thought it was a good choice… I agreed! 

We didn’t have time to watch it all, but we really enjoyed the first bit and I stop myself from explaining the difference between topi and ratti. I didn’t want to spoil the fun, you see. We definitely have to watch this again and maybe, just maybe, invite T as well. 

At 5.15 grandad arrived. He’s taking over babysitting duties tomorrow so I can go back to work… my day home alone with B was over.

The unexpected babysitter

As T had chicken pox this week, we had to come up with a plan to keep him out of nursery but not to miss too many working days. In a desperate moment of madness, I suggested my 25 year old brother-in-law, Kieran. Why madness? Well, before this week he had no experience of children or toddlers. He had never even changed a nappy and my plan was to leave him with a sick grumpy toddler. As I said, madness.

He was perfect! The weakness on his babysitting CV was his strength. Because he had no experience of toddlers, he listened to every word I said. We had a schedule, which he followed to the letter; a simple menu, which worked well; and a quick nappy masterclass to prepare him for the inevitable. T didn’t even poo on the first day. What a welcoming child! 

Kieran is not really interesting in jobs in childcare, but I would give him a great reference. He spent 4 solid days playing with trains. Only trains! But he never complained. He made T dance, eat, sleep, play and draw. He made sure he had lunch at the right time and a clean nappy before afternoon nap. In 4 days he only made one mistakes: broke a babybel in half (T went nuts!).

When it was time to say goodbye on Friday night, T said “bye bye” then pointing at Kieran he added “Kieran mine”. I couldn’t have chosen a better baby sitter for the week. I thought chicken pox was going to be a nightmare but I was wrong, someone up there has a masterplan for me and my boys and He always surprise us.

An empty house

Everyone needs a break at some point. My point is usually during the first school term. If you are not a teacher it is difficult to explain, but basically teachers work only a few weeks at the time because they work all the time in those few weeks. It’s not sustainable so God invented half-term. 

If on top of your full time job, you also have twins toddlers you will reduce yourself to a comatose state, your house to a rubbish tip and your fridge/cupboards to a wasteland. My half-term begun by sleeping 20 hours over a 36 hours period. I was exhausted!

The boys and daddy went to stay with the grandparents, so that mummy could recharge her batteries. She could also rebuild the house brick by brick, she could eliminate some interesting leftovers from the fridge and even empty all washing baskets. So a break for mum is not really the same as a holiday or a weekend at the spa, but it feels like the best time ever anyway. There’s no screaming and no waking up at 6AM on a Saturday. There is no eating dinner at 6.00 PM, because 6.03 is too late. The programmes on TV are not animated and there are no trains involved, but most importantly mummy can have a wee by herself!

This time I don’t even feel guilty. Maybe I am wiser or maybe even more exhausted, but I really believe I deserve a break. They are having a great time in the countryside, chasing toads, playing with model trains and riding the loan mower. I have an empty, silence and clean house for a few days, they get spoiled by grandpa and grandma… It’s a win-win situation.

Do I miss the cuddles? Yes. Do I miss the screaming? No. As I said to my husband on the phone, I look at their pictures and I miss them, but I also enjoy the silence in the house. He offered to take a video of them screaming tomorrow. What a generous husband I have!
Another thing I really missed is not having to plan dinner. Whatever is in the fridge/freezer will do. I worked from 3 till 6.30 today and then I adventured towards the kitchen looking for food. No time pressure, no hungry toddler at my feet and I could even use the oven without standing guard to avoid a trip to the burning unit! 

An empty house can really be a blessing… Once a year. 

The Dark side of parenthood

Life as a parent is not easy. In fact people will tell you it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. They will also tell you it’s the best thing you’ll do, but it takes time to appreciate it. Sometimes I still wonder when I will appreciate it fully…

A couple of days ago I was talking to my husband about something that happened a few years ago and I said “yeah you know, that was something we used to do before our life stopped”. He knew exactly what I meant, but he corrected me “you mean, paused”. He looked at me as to say: it won’t be like this forever. His reaction made me wonder. Does your life pause or change when you have under 5s? Depending on your point of view you will certainly have a different ride as a parent. If you believe, like us, that your life pauses for 4 or 5 years when you have kids, you’ll probably struggle. You definitely won’t have any more children! Like us. 

I remember my life before children as perfect. Obviously it wasn’t, I’m not stupid, but I am too tired and busy to remember all of the details. I know I had entire phone conversations without a break. I know I used to sleep at night. I also remember distinctly being able to leave a room without hearing anybody screaming. It was a long time ago…

I don’t even remember last time I had breakfast without someone trying to steal it or asking me to change a dirty nappy! 

When your toddler screams for 70 minutes on a 75 minutes journey and then wakes up the other and they screamed together for the rest of the journey… can you really appreciate parenthood? 

Some days are really bad, some others start badly but end up great. What I still struggle with after 2 years is the crying. The long uninterrupted crying. Despite not being newborns, the boys still cry every single day. Twins cry much more than single children as they have more to “complain” about. For example they would cry “in stereo” when they both want mummy to take them upstairs or feed them breakfast. Or one would cry when the other twin steal his favorite toy. And most importantly one would scream when his twin is wearing something he want at all cost. This accumulate to a lot of crying… every… single… day! Some of those days all you need is a break… but do you know the hardest thing about being a parent? There are NO breaks! 

24 months later…

Here we are again. Another year, another birthday. If the first 12 months seemed to fly, this second year was travelling at the speed of light. Between full time work and nursery, it feels like a barely saw the twins since last September. Then I remember the funny Christmas holiday, the rainy Easter weeks, the travelling May half term and the long and hot summer break and I realise how much I have actually seen my boys grow up despite my full time job. 

In the past 12 months they learned to walk AND talk. No other 12 months periods in their lives will have 2 major milestones together like this year. It’s amazing how much they have changed physically, but most importantly mentally. Their personalities are so clear now. It’s not just a guess over a cheeky smile, we know B is the one to keep an eye on. It’s not a parental intuition, we know T wants to play the role of the responsible older brother (that 1 minute makes all the difference). We know them now!

We also know when they are tired or hungry or bored. We know why they cry and how to make them stop. We know why they laugh and how to make them laugh harder. We love our boys and they are totally part of our lives. It took only two years, but we are a proper little family now.

Their second birthday is not only a celebration of the twins presence on planet Earth for the past 24 months, but it’s also a commemoration of the sacrifices we made for this to work. It’s a big day and we ought to celebrate in style!

Can you survive parenthood without Calpol?

Although the twins are pretty healthy little boys and they never had anything major, we occasionally have a fever (or two) to deal with. In my household we follow a very simple plan:

Cool – take all clothes off and see if it works

Cuddles – we have reached 10 episodes of Thomas & Friends in a row once!

Calpol – when it all fails, there’s always paracetamol 

A few weeks ago one of my colleagues was telling me about feeling his son kicking for the first time. That brought me right back! He confessed how what worries him the most is the fact that he won’t know what to do if (or when) the baby becomes ill. On the spot I told him not to worry and that lots of help and support is always available, but the more I think about it, the more I found that I was wrong. He will worry about it and that will make him take the right decisions. Do I need to call a doctor? Do I need to give him some more milk? Babies cannot talk and they cannot tell you if it hurts or where it hurts, they can only cry. It’s very frustrating of course, but it’s also empowering. You are in charge. You make the decision! 

You also make the mistakes…
1) Driving to the doctor with a very unhappy, sick and feverish boy… and seeing him improve and cool down in the waiting room. The doctor told me he had never seen such a healthy toddler in his life!

2) Wake up in the middle of the night with a crying child and after 20 minutes of uninterrupted scream, give him some medicine (just in case)… to then find out all he wanted was food and proceed to feed him 8 biscuits and a cup of milk.

3) Be absolutely convinced that those small spots on my feverish child were mosquito bites… to then find out he had had Chicken Pox and we didn’t notice!

4) Sending one child to nursery despite being sick at breakfast and hoping for the best… and being called 2 hours later to pick up the other one for being sick!

5) Rushing B indoors after falling in the garden, to wash his leg and clean his wound. Worrying about bacteria and infections… to then find out that all you need is a plaster. Of course, he is a toddler he forgets anything within 3 seconds and loves plasters!

Despite all the mistakes, the most important thing is that they survived 23 months and they will survive 23 more. After that I hope they will be able to tell me where it hurts or at least if it hurts.

Splish splash splosh

The twins and I are on holiday in Italy to see nonna. The weather is as usually sunny and that inspired me to organise some water play at last.

On the first day, I didn’t have time to inflate the paddling pool, but with a temperature of 30°C I had to think outside the box. I collected some old washing up bowls from the laundry room, I found some measuring cups and I even froze some water and food colouring to form coloured ice cubes (my Pinterest addition is out of control). The result was a fun hour of water play. The boys loved transferring water from cups to jars to bowls and back again. On the other hand, they couldn’t care less about the coloured ice cubes! Good to know so that I can save some time in the future. 

I think that the best part of it all was seeing the boys playing together and not fighting. Maybe it was the lack of trains, which are usually the source of many arguments, or maybe it was the availability of more bowls and cups than they could possibily use. Whatever helped, it provided mum with a much deserved break. After all what is difficult about being with the boys is not playing with them, it’s not watching cartoons, it’s not cooking for them… it’s breaking the fights! The interminable fights!

Water is an excellent toy. It doesn’t stain, it cools you down and there’s plenty to go around. Thank God we are on holiday in a very hot country, so yesterday we took the boys to a water park with slides, sprays, bubbles and an amazing pool. They didn’t fight once! I love a day spent without toys, as it means a day without arguments. Parents of single children can’t understand this, they love toys! Their lonely child doesn’t have anybody to play with, but also doesn’t have a brother ready to steal his toys as soon as he turns. The single child doesn’t know what it means to fight to be able to get one more piece of Duplo. He doesn’t know that sometimes screaming is not enough… biting is a much more powerful weapon. 

It must be so easy having only one child… I can only imagine!