Over the top

I waited a while to write this story because I was waiting for a verdict and the FULL investigation to close, but I can now share the full extend of what it might seem like an episode of a TV series, but it’s actually what really happened at the boys’ nursery a while ago.

One day my husband was called into the manager’s office and asked to sit down. “I have something to discussed about B” the nursery manager said. My poor husband was already tired from a long day at work and about to have dinner with the twins without mummy. He really didn’t have time for this, but he kept listening, wondering who had B bitten that day and why it was so important today. To his enormous surprise B hadn’t bitten anyone, but apparently he had been the victim of child mistreatment. Child services were called and a full investigation was taking place. “As his parent we thought you should be aware and for your peace of mind we have suspended the member of staff involved in the incident” concluded the nursery manager. My husband’s jaw dropped inadvertently.

What really happened is that someone woke up B by splashing his face with a couple of drops of water. THAT’S ALL!

I can only imagine how B would have reacted to that and I feel I should have apologised to the staff member… sending an Italian child to an English nursery, what was I thinking?! I bet he screamed the place down!

I personally believe the nursery went a little over the top this time, but child safety do come first and I’m glad my boys are in a super safe environment.

Just keep swimming…

The boys have been attending swimming lessons since they were 5 months old. It’s part of our weekly routine now and we are used to it, but we shouldn’t take it for grant it. There are so many reasons to go swimming with toddlers, I can’t understand why most of my friends stopped.

Where to start… The obvious one, swimming is an essential life skill.

Compared to most activities is not too expensive.

It’s the only “sport” you can do before the age of 1. Better start them young!

It improves gross motor skills and built confidence. The first time B held on to the side wall by himself he looked like he just won the lottery!

And most importantly it tires them out, which implies a longer afternoon nap! Excellent to catch up on your housework or maximise on cuddle time on the couch.

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Despite all these reasons, for us the original idea behind the swimming lessons was very different. We started the lessons in a time in which I was feeling very isolated. I was still on my maternity leave and I was home alone with the boys for hours and hours every day. Despite signing up for a thousand baby and mum courses, I still felt like nobody could relate to what I was going through except for a couple of other twins mums. On top of that, my husband and I only had one type of conversation “at what time does my shift start?”. T was still not sleeping through the night, in fact he was waking up every couple of hours. We were tired, stressed and occasionally desperate. We needed something to do together. Something to do as a family. After all we were starting to believe we made a mistake and we didn’t really want a family anymore. It wasn’t how we pictured it (it never is) and we couldn’t see when or even if we would ever be that nice little family we dreamt of. Swimming came along as a desperate way to force the four of us to do something together every week. And it worked!

We love swimming now and we wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world. It gave us a chance to see how our unit of four could work. Although it was only for 30 minutes a week. Those were 30 minutes without nappies, feeding, screaming and moaning. It was a small window into the future.

Now that we reached that future. Now that we are a nice little family. Now that we can finally sleep. Now that our conversations are back to normal… Now I can finally write about this.

And like Dory said in Finding Nemo… just keep swimming!

Exhaustion – part 2

I know that technically I have never written about exhaustion part 1, but do I have to?? Can’t you just imagine how exhausting was breastfeeding twins, going shopping with newborn babies or the classical sleepless nights? Even people without children could guess how exhausting that was. Raising toddler boys thought requires a surprising amount of energy…

Not that I thought that it was going to be a walk in the park, but when I do take them to the aforementioned park I would hope to see them running around and enjoy myself while supervising. The cold reality is very different! For every time they go down a slide, you have to pick them up and put them at the top. Every time they want to climb somewhere, who is pushing them up? And there are always two of them! Two!

And then there are the night calls. One coughs and wakes the other one up. One has a bad dream and wakes up crying and wakes the other one up. Or even one farts too loudly and wakes the other one up! If it happens 2-3 times in the night (and you can bet it will) and you still have to wake up at 6.30 the morning after, it becomes exhausting after a while. All of this had some consequences.

You know you and your husband are exhausted when one of the following thing happens:

1) One of you falls asleep on the floor (in the living room, in the kids’ bedroom or even in the bathroom during bath time).

2) Shaking with cold when outside there’s sunshine and 20C.

3) Waking up at all hours of the night (it’s counterintuitive, but if you are too tired it can be more difficult to sleep).

4) Meeting your neighbor at the park and not having enough energy to recognise who she is.

5) Putting a dishwasher tablet in the washing machine!

6) Writing a really boring blog post…

I guess I’d better go to sleep then.

The 15 minutes wash cycle

When I bought my washing machine two years ago, I was puzzled to see that among the normal washing cycles there was also a 30 degrees 15 minutes super quick cycle. I often wonder who could be in such a hurry to wash something and only have 15 minutes to do it. Apparently having toddlers answers a lot of questions…

At 1.30AM on a Wednesday morning normal people are asleep in their comfy warm bed, but I have twin toddlers so I am not in the normal people category. I was awake and using the 15 minutes super quick cycle on my washing machine!

It all started when B woke up and screamed. Although this happens often, this was a very strange scream. Almost as if he was hurt. So I went to investigate and found him being sick all over his bed. I let my husband deal with him while I changed his bed and calmed down his brother. After a wash, a new pyjamas (for B) and 2 long lullabies (for everyone), both boys were in bed and ready to go back to sleep. Even daddy was back in bed. Mums though, can’t really go back to bed that easily, so I adventured downstairs.

Putting everything in the washing machine to be washed immediately was an obvious choice, but choosing the 15 minutes cycle was a brilliant idea! In 15 minutes I managed to empty the dishwasher, drink a cup of hot milk, get myself ready to go back to sleep, prepared a hot water bottle and even started to write this entry to my blog.  What a perfect length washing cycle!

Bedside table

A lot of things have changed in the past 16 months, but nothing has changed as much as my bedside table.

I know it sounds strange but 17 months ago I had a lamp, a picture of me at 10 months with my dad, baby books, pregnancy vitamins and a box of tissue. Then the twins arrived and with them a lot of new things to dump on my bedside table just before collapsing on my bed.

When I was still breastfeeding, I had a breastfeeding pump on it, lots of water and a collection of muslin squares. The baby books were quickly substituted by “how to breastfeed multiples” and “what to do when you are having two”. Another important change was the numerous ear plugs. 2 should be enough usually, but in the dark you definitely need more!

After Christmas 2014, the boys switched to formula, so I had lots of empty milk bottles at the end of every night. I also had an alarm clock set at 3AM to go and switch places with my husband and let him sleep from 3 to 7. 4 hours each seemed a lot at the time then. My dad’s picture was there to remind me of an easier time.

At 6 months, T finally decided to sleep more than 1 hour at the time, so my husband and I could finally go back to sleep in our own bed without shifts! The bedside table started a revolution. No more bottles, but a book to read at bedtime. For a brief period I thought everything was going back to normal…

Then the teething started. The bottles came back accompanied by various syringes for Calpol. The nights were long again, the bedtime reading book ended up in the drawer not to be seen again.

After a long long summer, we reached the time for mum to go back to work and the boys to start nursery. My bedside table still had a bit of room for the occasional bottle of antibiotics to fight ear infections or a red pen to mark some last minute homework. My dad’s picture was still there to guard over me.

When Christmas got closer, a tablet appeared on the dusty bedside table. Last minute presents have to be bought online as the only time available to a twins mum is after bedtime! Some more medicines started to be deposited as well, with winter come sore throats, colds and pleuratis. Closely followed by codeine, throat sprays and Sudafed. My dad’s picture was sadly lost behind a pile of used tissues.

A new year a new bedside table, a bigger one to hold more things. One ready for the life ahead, but also an empty one as the boys can now walk and grab everything. Drugs cannot be left out, a tablet would go toward certain death, even a book cannot be seen on the table without being dragged somewhere else in the house. The only thing that is still there is that picture of a 10 months old baby trying to steal her father’s hat. Somehow the boys look at it, but don’t pick it up. It’s almost as if it was untouchable. It will stay there to guide us through the next phase, through more sleepless nights and hopefully towards some lazy Sunday mornings in the future.

Isn’t 2 AM the perfect time for a family snuggle?

The thing with twins is that if one wakes up… The other one follows! Not EVERY time, but certainly at the most awkward times.

Last night B woke up with a fever (as every week), so we needed to check his temperature. Then he needed some medicine, then he needed some milk, then… T needed exactly the same! Obviously T didn’t have a fever, so he only got some water of the Calpol syringe, and he didn’t really want any milk, a sip was more than enough. The important thing was not to miss out on something!

Twins often copy each other and that is part of their unique learning process. No singleton will ever have the same upbringing as a twin, because they will not have the constant comparison and company of their brother/sister. It is a magical bond, one which I envy on a daily basis. It must be so nice to never be alone. I’m sure this will change when they’ll grow up, but I haven’t met a 1 year old who craves solitude: “No mum,  don’t pick me up, I prefer to stay here by myself!”. For the time being they are loving being half of a pair and I am so grateful they constantly learn off each other. They have the concept of friendship and sharing imprinted in their brain even before they are born. We are still working on it, but we have a wealth of  opportunities everyday!

Mummy solo weekend

After 14 months of broken sleep and long nights. After breastfeeding, fevers and antibiotics. After 2 AM nappy changes and poo explosions, I finally spent my first 2 nights without the twins. Daddy took them away for the weekend, so I had the unique opportunity to sleep till 9.30 on a Saturday morning! Just so I can be clear, daddy didn’t take the twins away so I could have a quiet weekend, they just went to a family wedding, but the result is the same: sleep.

It is impressive how many things you can do in a day without children. I completely forgot that it doesn’t take a week to clean a house (little by little). Also the floor can stay clean if you don’t have twins learning to use a spoon. When the twirnado leave the house, it takes hours, but everything can go back to its original place.

Not only I managed to tidy up the house (or what was left of it), but I also put on the washing machine 3 times, put up Christmas decorations, wash the couch(!), wrapped 5 Christmas presents, enjoyed some tv and… drank a cup of tea when it was still hot! I feel so accomplished I could have graduated from Oxford and feel less proud of it.

Do I miss the kids? Of course I do. Would I wanted to go with them? No, I don’t. It’s common knowledge that the good things in life are the ones you have to work really hard for, and there’s no such thing as hard as raising children, but sometimes you need a break. A short break. A quiet break. A weekend to reboot, to stop, to sleep, to think, to breathe… If you still don’t know what to ask for Christmas, ask for a weekend like this. It is honestly all you need.

The 13 hours night

If you asked me a couple of years ago, I would have said that half term for a teacher meant waking up late and do some planning. Unfortunately this year it meant waking up at the same time and chase B all day long!

On the last day of school I found out that the nursery was not going to keep the twins at half term. Despite them NOT doing term time only fees, they decided to do me a favour and leave them home so I wouldn’t have to pay for an extra week. Itself that is a great news and a lot of extra money saved, but they forgot to tell me, so it was an interesting surprise. I could not believe how a place that gives me a call to ask if T is allowed to drink orange juice instead of water, forgot to tell me about not keeping b the twins for an entire week!

I went from being happy about half term to be afraid of half term. I hadn’t spent a full day alone with the twins since they were 11 months old and DID NOT WALK. All of a sudden I was going to spend an entire week with two fully mobile toddlers. On top of that, I had no food as they normally eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at nursery. The week ahead needed a lot of planning…

Step one was deciding when to keep the boys with me and when to look for alternative childcare. Fortunately I have a small army of people who always offer to help, so I asked a couple of them and got some time for myself everyday I needed to work. Then we planned to go to see the grandparents for the rest of the week. To my surprise the plan worked. I don’t know if they behaved particularly well with other people or if because they were taken in small doses, but nobody complained about their babysitting experience with the twins. The neighbours actually brought them to the park two days in a row! I was amazed!

Step two was organising the trip to the grandparents  (3 hours journey). Despite the car got packed like we moved house, actually all I needed for the trip was a pair of ear plugs. When B started to scream at 50 miles from our destination, I was so glad I had a pair in my pocket.

Despite B screaming for hours in the car, despite T sitting on B and looking innocent and both of them having a high temperature, the week went pretty well. I almost feel relaxed now that I am at the end of it!

The best part of the week was Friday morning, as for the first time since they were born they slept 13 hours, from 7.30 PM to 8.30 AM. Both my husband and I could not believe it when we woke up after 8AM and realised the boys were still asleep. That extra 90 minutes in bed made my week! It is surprising how easy you can make twins parents happy… just let them sleep!

From sunset till dawn

When your twins finally start sleeping at night, you know it won’t work every night, but you believe that the long nights without sleep are over. You strongly believe it. You have to believe it! But you are wrong…

Objectively a “toddler night” is not as bad as a “newborn night”, but it’s your lack of training that makes it feel worse than it is. When you have a newborn that doesn’t sleep and you haven’t slept for 3 or 4 months, you just live in a sleepwalking mode ALL the time. You are very tired, but you almost don’t notice it anymore. After you had a few weeks of good sleep, you will find a sleepless night very difficult indeed. Last night was one of those nights.

It all started at 10, when we “woke up” B for his dose of antibiotics. Unfortunately we never really went back to sleep again.

Just drinking 5ml of medicine didn’t quench his thirst, so we gave him some milk, but that clearly wasn’t enough time with mum and daddy, so once we put him back in his cot he started to moan and moan and moan. After 20 minutes my husband had enough and went to pick him up. Mistake number 1. Once picked up, B realised he was in total control and proceeded to scream every time was put down. So my husband decided to bring him to bed with us. Mistake number 2. In fairness he did calm down and feel asleep, but not for long. After a couple of hours he woke up again and started to moan. He had a temperature.

Mistake number 3 must have been gave him even more more milk at 2.30AM. We thought he could be hungry or thirsty now that the temperature was down, so the logical thing to do was preparing a bottle of milk. That gave him the energy to start a rave party right in the middle of our bed. He kept on crawling from a side to the other shouting “Ah! Ah! RAH!”. It would have been really funny to watch… at a very different time of the day!

Finally at 3.30AM we convinced him that it was still night and he was supposed to sleep. So he fell asleep with his forehead touching my husband’s forehead. They looked really cute together, but the position implied that a very small baby now was taking at least 50% of the bed, leaving both of his parents on the edges. Not sure how, but my husband went right back to sleep and they both didn’t wake up again for another 3 hours.

The best part is that in all of this chaos, with people running up and down looking for medicines  and thermometers, bottles of milk and calpol, T kept on sleeping like nothing had happened.

Unanswered questions

Becoming a parent means having more responsibilities, having less time for yourself,  but also having a lot more unanswered questions in your life. I’m not talking about “why is he crying NOW??” I’m more thinking of the little mysteries behind everyday things. For example, how can T fall asleep while B is screaming in the cot next to him, but then if I creep slowly in to the room (ninja style), he walks up immediately? How is that possible?

I also wonder about the interaction between the twins sometimes. Why do they randomly start shaking their heads together and looking at the ceiling? What does it mean? I’ll never know, but they find it hilarious and start laughing every time they do it.

But most importantly I wonder about what other people must think of when they ask me: “Is it hard with twins?” Even one of the girl at nursery asked that the other day! If someone that look after babies and toddlers as a job still ask you this, it must be a very sincere question, right? I have a standard answer, although I’m always so tempted to bluff it and answer something like “it’s much easier than having only one! Are you kidding me? They are 1 year old now and I taught them to change each others nappies!”

Someone asked me: “how can you find the time to raise twins, build a cardboard castle, work full time and still find time to write a blog and cook lasagna from scratch?”. Time seems to change when you become a parent and some days feel as long as a week, but this question will remain unanswered to me, as well.

The day before I went to hospital to deliver the boys, my husband went to the supermarket and destiny made him meet a mum of twins, who told me that the first 6 months were going to be the hardest. Wisely he didn’t mention this till 6 months later! Now that they are a year old, we both ask each other: “how did we survive?” We can’t remember much, we were too tired!

Finally the most important question you ask yourself, that you are a parent of one or ten children, is always going to be: “how long till bed time?”