Monday, 30 September 2013

Twin Love - The Best Things About Having Twins

Recently, I'd lost the twin love, they have been quite hard work to parent over the holidays, but now that we've got a new routine in place since the start of the new term, I feel the fog starting to lift and I've finally got my twin mum mojo back. I thought that in celebration of this I would do a quick post on the things that I really enjoy about having twins, especially for those who are new parents of multiples or even those who are still expecting them and might be reading this.

1. Two for the price of one

What I mean by this is that compared to having two singletons a year or two apart (I've done this too so can compare fairly accurately), with twins you rarely have to put in double the effort with things like weaning and potty training.  Instead of going back a step and starting afresh with each child like the parents of singletons have to, us lucky people with twins get to do it all at once with both children.  When I was pregnant people told me that this would be really hard.  It isn't at all.

2.  Having two children at the same stage instead of at different ones

Compared to that moment with my first two children, when I had to try to get them both out of the car at the same time - one baby, one toddler, which one first?  Will I balance the baby on my shoulder while unstrapping the toddler or try to get the toddler to stand safely while I get the baby out? (you get the idea), handling two children at the same developmental stage is far more straightforward.  They also play with and are interested in the same things.  Not only that but there is only one set of toys to store.  Brilliant.


Together we stand...

3.  Feeling like a celebrity every time you go out with them

I love love loved this!  Every time you take your babies out there is always someone who stops you to admire them and more importantly, tell you that you are a supermum.  What an ego boost!  I was especially pleased when I took my twins out for lunch one day and a lady on a nearby table came over to compliment me on their good behaviour during our meal.  I grinned from ear to ear and still do when I think of it now.



4.  Watching them interact with one another 


They are hugging here, really...
My twins are totally on the same level as one another.  I suppose they always have been.  The first time I noticed this was when ds3 had a small operation when they were five months old.  We had taken both twins to hospital with us and dd2 stayed with her brother and I on the ward.  Once ds3's anaesthetic has worn off I remember putting both babies on the bed to change them.  Dd2 shot her brother a huge grin and he responded with an equally large smile and a gurgle while kicking his legs with glee.  It was only then that I realised he was really feeling better and only she could have got that response from him!  I still love listening to their little conversations now.  Even when they are being mischievous I can see that they share a relationship that is something totally different from anything I have witnessed between their siblings.

5.  Twice the love, twice the fun

This is a massive cliché but it is true.  There is really nothing like feeling two small people hug you tight both at once or tickling two tummies simultaneously and watching the resulting belly laughs and writhing limbs.  Whenever I look at them I think "I did that, two at once, it's special", and while every parent/child relationship is special, as a twin parent I feel that it's a different kind of special, like being in a secret club where only other mothers of multiples know exactly how you feel.


Twin cuddles are the best kind of cuddles

I love being a mum of twins.  When I first found out I was having them I really didn't know what to expect (apart from the "helpful" advice you sometimes get from people who generally don't have any experience themselves) and while it isn't always a walk in the park, I'm really really glad it happened to me.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Adventures in Baking - Part One

I thought it was about time I updated you all on my Adventures in Baking project which you can read about here.  Its been a few weeks since I decided to do this but having achieved nothing so far and finding ourselves at a loose end last Thursday I decided now was the time to start.

Dd2 was quite keen to help and so we had a quick rifle through the kitchen cupboards for ingredients and came up with enough things to bake Mary Berry's Chocolate Fork Biscuits which I found in a book my mother had given me (I think she pities my poor baking skills to be honest), Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book - if you are going to learn you may as well learn from the best!

Unfortunately due partly to our over-excitement and also my forgetfulness, we forgot to take any pictures of the baking in progress, but here is a quick shot I took on my phone of the final product.




Also for your enjoyment, here is another photo of a rather excited child wearing an apron.


Unfortunately, although the biscuits were edible they had a slight taste of burnt cocoa about them.  I think I'd left them in the oven for a bit too long.  Tell me though Mary, how on earth are you supposed to tell whether a biscuit is golden brown when it is the colour of chocolate in the first place? Eh? Eh?  I think that my biscuit baking is going to take further practise, I'm clearly not  heading for a place in the Bake Off just yet.  My poor children will also be sampling yet more chocolate based baking this week as I've discovered an almost completely full tub of Green & Black's cocoa powder that needs using up and I hate waste, especially chocolate.  Watch this space for my next instalment!

Monday, 23 September 2013

New Lipstick

I rarely go shopping.  I don't even food shop much (dh does this!) and I prefer to stay at home and use the internet to buy stuff mostly.  Yesterday though my mother decided to take me shopping and buy me a few treats which was lovely of her and totally unexpected to be honest.

Here for your perusal is my haul - new winter scarf, pyjamas and socks and most importantly a new lip gloss.





I love lip glosses and balms and have lots of them (see my Pinterest board here for details!).  I find it really hard not to buy them when I shop and they are usually so inexpensive that I find they jump into online shopping baskets with relative ease!  I usually go for a Lancome Juicy Tube when mum offers to buy (she's a big Lancome fan herself which helps) but recently I have been favouring a Clinique Chubby Stick which I found in the bottom of my make up bag.  I love it because unlike the Juicy Tube it isn't sticky so my hair doesn't get attached to my lips on breezy days, not a good look on the school run, and so I chose a new one of these yesterday.

Dd1 seems to have recently inherited my love of all things lipstick and has a little stash of her own growing.  She often asks me if I've got bored with any of mine yet and can she finish them off for me!  I don't mind much as glosses are relatively natural and don't stay on for too long and she doesn't have any other make-up apart from this.  I thought that due to her age she was the only one likely to have inherited this trait.



Imagine my surprise then, when on opening my shopping bags yesterday, little dd2 suddenly pipes up, "Mummy, what is that?", pointing to the new gloss, so I showed her.  As I opened up the box and pulled the lip pen from its packet she suddenly squealed with delight "Oooohhhhhhh!!!".  

Looks like I've got another addict on my hands then...

Thursday, 19 September 2013

My Big Night In

I quite like entering the odd competition here and there, sometimes I've even been lucky enough to win one (like the time I won a whole heap of nappies - which was quite handy with baby twins).  So anyway, I've seen a challenge on the excellent blog by Little Stuff to write a blog post about how I'd spend £750 on a really good night in as part of a competition by the people at Two Little Fleas.  Here is my entry.

Dh and I don't get out much so we're good at having epic nights in, or at least we were until the offspring descended upon us.  These days it's a challenge to even stay awake past 9.00 pm but if I had £750 to blow on one evening I'd give it a jolly good go.

Firstly, our evening in would be for us, just us, no other people.  Selfish?  Well, yes I suppose so, but when you've been wrangling small folk all day then sharing anything further with anyone becomes a bit of a touchy subject. Ours would be an evening of memories - things that we used to do or even be able to afford before we decided to become parents.

Mothers' Ruin
Don't forget the mixers
Secondly, there would be gin, really posh gin (something that I never get a chance to appreciate these days) and some fever tree tonic water to accompany it.  Once we'd had a few of those I'd crack open some red wine and order a take away curry, delivered from our favourite local restaurant, because lets face it, life is too short for cooking.  We'd be able to order our own starters and everything that we liked instead of sharing to keep the cost down like usual.

How about a nice Vindaloo?

For entertainment I would buy a nice shiny new Bose sound dock (our current one is actually from the ark and prone to moments of complete silence) and a really top of the range iPod touch onto which I'd load all our music.  I would even let dh buy all those albums he's fancied for ages but has been putting off buying.

Shiny and it works!
Plenty of room for our tunes

I think this is the one he wanted - he's down with the kids you see...

After our curry I'd have some Leonidas Belgian chocolates.  Dh once bought me some from Antwerp as a peace offering for going on a stag weekend - they were so good I did forgive him for leaving me for two whole days with a two year old and an 8 week old (sort of..).

Yummy - one of the best presents dh has ever bought me

Lastly, after all that food we'd probably settle down to watch a film or two so I'd choose our favourite two films, Control and 24 Hour Party People (Both set partly in the town where we had our first home).  Watching them again would certainly be a welcome change to watching the X Factor with the pre-teens.  Although our TV is great I think it would benefit from a Sony sound bar so that we could appreciate the excellent soundtracks, so I'd have one of those too.

Listening in style

My evening may not be terribly fancy or exciting to most people but it would be great for reminiscing about the time before the kids took over our lives.  We're celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary soon and I'd love to be able to surprise my husband like this.  Despite dreaming about the times when it was just us two, I bet the one thing we'd end up talking about the most would of course be this:


Our best achievement to date.


Thank you to johnlewis.com and ocado.com for providing me with the inspiration for this post!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Changing Rooms

We've lived in this house now for nearly 12 years.  When we first bought it we did lots of redecorating, changing the boring magnolia walls for something more colourful, barely a month went by when we didn't paint something.  Then when we found ourselves expecting the twins we decided to paint all the upstairs rooms white to give us more flexibility with room swapping without the major expense of redecorating every time.  I'd like to think this paid off but in reality the children have stayed in the same rooms since.  The older boys have a big double room complete with bunk beds and obligatory games console.  Dd1 had the double room at the back of the house and the twins had the littlest bedroom which my husband had painstakingly made baby friendly with blanking plates over the sockets and a lovely patterned blind at the window to complement the white walls and pale wood furniture.

Four years later, I found myself one evening, after tucking the twins in to bed, looking at their little cot beds and realising that they suddenly looked a bit large in them.  "It's time to get them bigger beds" I said to dh who instantly gave me a withering look.  So out came my tape measure and off I went to research new beds.

I really really wanted them to have bunk beds, the twins really really wanted to have bunk beds, but at the tender age of three (nearly four) I discovered that this wasn't going to be a very safe option unless I fancied outlaying nearly £600 on a quite fabulous looking bunk cotbed which I found here.  I couldn't justify doing this unfortunately as these beds are only suitable until age 6 which would only give us two more years before facing the same dilemma again. I decided that until the twins were big enough for proper bunk beds we would have to buy them single beds that were small enough to fit into their room and cheap enough to be affordable as a short-medium term solution.  Only trouble was, their room was tiny.

"I'll swap with them", said dd1 (really she's not stupid, I think she could see that securing the small room meant that she would have a room only suitable for one person, meaning she will never have to share ever).  So we decided on a swap and I finally chose two Ikea children's beds which would still give them some space to play on the floor and bridge the gap between cots and bunks nicely.

Having never done any sort of room swapping or decorating since we made their original room, I really got into the swing of things.  I even had a Pinterest board!  I decided to keep the very neutral scheme we already had and fortunately the blind in their current room fitted the widow in the new room (advantages of living in a new build!).  We bought white bedding, the new beds and that was about it!  Dh didn't get away with not getting a paintbrush out completely, there was a small amount of drilling and filling and touching up but I have to say it was a far quicker process than we'd anticipated and we are all really pleased with the results.  





This corner still needs work!

The best bit was that on a recent sort out I found a couple of fabric wall hangings that belonged to ds1 as a toddler - they went straight on the walls and fit in nicely with our animal theme.  I'd like to get a few more things for the walls to finish the room off properly, there is a big space where the wardrobe should really go, although we've decided they don't need a wardrobe at the moment so I feel that I need to cheer the walls up a bit with something colourful.  I also plan on getting some colourful throws for the end of the beds, maybe different colours to give them a bit more individual style for each child.  Other than that I'm confident that what we've done should last them a good few years until they require something more grown up again.

Friday, 13 September 2013

I tweet, do you?



Yes folks, in a bid to get a few more readers here and there I have been and got myself a twitter account.  Anyone who knows me in real life will realise what a big deal this is for me.  Usually I am the mother in the school playground that can be seen standing far away from everyone else, busying myself with whatever my offspring are up to or in many cases into, and definitely not engaging in any type of school run conversation.  My mission is to get the kids and get the hell out of there.  Anyway, if there's one thing I've learnt over the last few weeks of blogging is that I've got to get myself out there and *deep breath* be sociable.  So, to the right you'll see the button.  If indeed you would like to follow the posts of an antisocial Luddite such as myself then click and watch as I launch myself into the twitter-sphere (is that even a word?).  You may even laugh especially as you come to realise that I don't know what I'm doing.  After three years I'm just about ok with Facebook and I've nearly given up totally with google+.  Twitter, therefore, will be my platform of choice for getting noticed, but I'm only giving it a go providing that they stop suggesting I follow Wayne Rooney or Phillip Schofield.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Bubble Blowing

I'm not a massive user of Pinterest by any means, I'm not even very good at using it.  I still have a board of Christmas ideas left from last year, none of which we actually attempted, but with the end of the holidays looming and trying to stick to a bit of a budget, I was wondering what we could do to fill up our last afternoon together without spending any money.

My girls and I quite enjoy browsing Pinterest on the iPad (the boys less so, unless it's a decorating idea for a Super Mario themed bedroom or something equally hideous) so on one of our browsing sessions we managed to find a couple of tutorials for making bubble snakes.  It looked like fun and so we gave it a whirl.

Things we used:

Some empty fizzy drink bottles
Some old socks
Washing up liquid
A shallow container to put the bubble mixture in




Firstly, we cleaned out our bottles and took the labels off as well as any of the plastic around the neck. You will notice that we didn't have any fizzy drink bottles available and so had to improvise with tonic water bottles.  I really hope you also appreciate exactly how many gin and tonics my husband and I had to drink in order to complete this activity - sometimes parenting is really demanding after all.

Next I cut the ends of the bottles off with some sharp scissors.  We then popped a sock over the open end of each bottle.

I put some washing up liquid into a shallow container and added a small amount of water to make a bubble mixture.  If you are going to do this you might have to play around with the quantities a bit depending on the type of washing up liquid and hardness of your water. 

We dipped the sock covered end of the bottle into the bubble mixture and blew through the bottle to create the bubble snakes!

I have seen some posts where people used food colouring too.  You can drop various colours onto parts of the sock and the bubbles that then come through will be coloured, but we didn't have any food colouring on account of me being rubbish at baking, so we gave that a miss.

The results were fairly impressive although would have been better if we had some sports socks as the towelling keeps more bubble mixture in its fibres meaning that you don't have to dip the bubble blower in the mixture so often.






Unfortunately my pictures aren't very representative of the fun we had, mainly because the kids found it quite funny to try and cover me in as much foam as possible!  We will definitely be repeating this activity when the weather warms up again next year as it was so simple!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Progress

Its been a very busy week here but I suppose its only to be expected when I've been getting used to not only the new school term but also a move to high school for dd1.  As a result of this I've been reflecting a lot on my family and how they are changing.  

Something that happened recently made me realise how grown up the twins in particular really are becoming.  Maybe it's because they are my last children and I do still think of them as the babies, I'm not sure, but they are now far less reliant on me for so many things.  When they were born, each stage they went through always seemed to last far longer than it had with my older children.  Perhaps it was just the monotony of caring for twins that made me feel this way.  Weaning them it felt as though I needed to sprout some extra arms, octopus style, just so that I could deal with each child and help them with their food.  Potty training seemed like an eternity, constantly asking "do you need a wee?", piles of pants and trousers to be washed daily.  I think when your are in the throes of  any of these types of child related events they often feel like they'll never end, but with twins, for me at least, everything just seemed to meld into one great big never ending drag.

Fast forward then to last week.  We were cleaning out our shed (minor mouse infestation!) and I found the proper swing seat for their garden swing.  I wondered when we would need to swap the baby seat that they have been using for the last two years for the one I had found.  A quick google later and it turns out that the baby seat is only suitable until three - they are about to turn four, so I swapped the seats over.  I thought I'd keep the baby seat just in case they weren't ready, but after an afternoon of wobbly swinging and some falling off they have both worked out how to use the new seat.  I'm always mindful of not making our children grow up too soon, or pushing them on to the next stage before they are really ready, but it seems on this occasion I was wrong!  Dd2 has even managed to get on to the swing by herself a few times, she is so proud of herself (you may at this point be saying "so what?" but she is quite tiny and still in age 2-3 clothes).  She made me take a picture, although this was mainly because she wanted to put it in her "talking box" for pre-school (more on that another time).

Dd2 shows off her new skill
Like a lot of mothers this week, I have been comparing two particular photos of my eldest daughter, one taken on her first day of primary school and the one I took on her first day in high school, just a few days ago.  Yes, obvious I know, she's grown up as you'd expect her to, but seeing the two pictures makes me think of all the frustrations that she's had over her time at primary school, learning to read and write, making new friends, changing schools, all things that at some point she has had trouble with.  I know we've both got challenges still to come but the girl I see in the most recent photo is responsible, organised, patient, keen to try new things and a great friend.  She makes me so proud to be her mum (although she probably doesn't realise this).


Dd1's first day at primary school

Dd1 at High School - How did that happen??

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that regardless of how many different things parenting has thrown at me over the last 13 years, sometimes, just sometimes, I can see light at the end of the tunnel.  It might have taken me a while to get there but whether it's a large tunnel or a small one, the end is always quite pleasing to see.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Starting Secondary School - My Top Five Tips

Before the children broke up for the school holidays I met up with some of the other mothers of year six kids, all off to the local high school in September.  Although this year I have the benefit of hindsight in terms of what to buy and what not to buy, it was clear from my conversation with my friends that they all felt pretty much at sea with what to expect, as their children were all first borns.  What was supposed to be a quick post school run coffee soon turned into a conversation about dos and dont's for mums of new starters.  I thought it might be helpful if I blogged about it and I've tried to keep things as general as possible although obviously all schools are different so some things won't necessarily apply to everyone.


Getting ready for Secondary School - it's not just about sewing on name tapes you know...

Firstly let's talk about uniform.  This year our school has introduced a new uniform, rendering anything I might have been able to pass from one child to another completely useless.  Our school had helpfully specified a uniform supplier that only dealt with online, postal or phone orders so we couldn't try anything on.  My main piece of advice, if you are in the same position, is to measure your child properly, also remember to allow for growth.  It sounds obvious but even though I measured dd1s blazer (she was a size smaller than the smallest available size so we went with the next size up) it still doesn't look too generous.  She is petite so I am quite happy with this but many parents like to buy only two or three blazers to last their child's time at school rather than one a year so getting the fit right is crucial to saving money in this area.  In addition to this, consider purchasing a second tie for that day when they will find they've lost the first one on the way home/after PE/because someone stole it for a laugh.  Far easier to be prepared than for them to get a detention for not having the correct uniform.

Do make sure you have twenty million black biros (approximately) and leave them in a prominent place.  Your child will go through them at an alarming rate.  If they aren't the type to write lots you will probably find they've lost them or lent them to a friend, either way, if you don't have a permanent supply of cheap pens you will most certainly end up like me on more than one occasion, tearing every pen tidy, drawer and handbag apart until you find that elusive last black pen in existence, five seconds before they need to leave the house in the morning.

Check that your maths set and calculator are regulation issue!  I'm not joking, our school have specified the make and model of calculator and type of maths set this year.  Last year I packed ds1 off to school with a cheap calculator and no maths set at all, forgetting that he's rather good at the subject, and once he had been at school for a few months his teacher moved the class onto some fairly complex work.  The calculator was not up to the job and worse still, Amazon had run out of the correct one, necessitating a moonlight raid on Tesco to source the maths set at least, just so that he could complete his homework (which I might add, he had left until the last minute again!).

Help your child get organised and pin up copies of their timetable in the kitchen and their room.  Ok, so  I've stolen this tip from the head of year at school.  Last year I dutifully followed this bit of advice and it really does work so I'm sharing it.  In the beginning, ds1 was quite disorganised and needed me to remind him of what needed packing. Having easy access to the timetable meant that we could both quickly check it and sort out any missing items or books.  He soon became good at knowing what he needed and didn't need to refer to the timetable after a while, but it was still helpful for me to know when PE kits and Home Ec ingredients were required.

Finally, if you don't have an endless supply of cash, discuss a budget for the school canteen and what it can be spent on.  At the start of last year we decided that ds1 would have enough money for one lunch a week and take sandwiches the rest of the time, however, this soon changed and he ended up using the money for additional snacks and taking packed lunches as well!  School operate a cashless system which not only makes it easy to spend any money on account in one or two visits but also means that they can go into overdraft on their account if they don't have enough money available.  This is too much of a temptation for ds1 so this year I am considering loading the money on in weekly installments rather than at the start of every half term.

So, there you have it, my top five tips.  There are probably loads more things too but these are the things that have helped us set off on the right foot this year with dd1.  Please feel free to leave any more you can think of in the comments below.  I'm always looking for ways to save my sanity with the pre teens!




Friday, 6 September 2013

The Lazy Mother's Guide to Shoe Shopping Online

Last year, just before the start of the school holidays, I noticed that Clarks shoes had added a new feature to their website, the ability to buy shoe sizing gauges for children directly from them.  This, together with a special size calculator page on their website, means that you can now order shoes from their children's range and fit them yourself at home.  This is an absolute godsend for me, as the thought of doing the back to school shoe shop during August always sends me into panic.  I usually have to choose a weekend to shop and enlist my husband to help as not only is our local shoe shop quite busy, but it can take some considerable time to get everyone measured and fitted while keeping them all smiling!

To begin with I was a little unsure of my ability to measure the children's feet as accurately as the staff in our local Clarks shop.  Because of this I decided to measure the twins feet first and then go into the store and ask them to check the size again for me.  There is a lot of information on the Clarks website to enable parents to obtain the correct size for their child.  In addition to this the gauges come with a leaflet giving step by step instructions on how to use.  We purchased two, one infant sized and one junior sized to cover all the sizes we needed!  Once I had measured them and had everything checked in store to make sure I was doing things correctly (they had both gone up a size and a half, I thought I'd made a mistake!), I bought shoes during our store visit.  The staff were quite helpful in telling me what to look for when checking them.  

Our shoe sizing gauges


When it came to choosing school shoes for the older three children I decided to measure their feet at home again and order the shoes into store for fitting.  This was excellent as not only were our shoes waiting for us when we arrived, but they were the right size and the children didn't moan about coming away with something they didn't want because their favourite style wasn't in stock.  Result!

This time I am confident that I can measure their feet and so I've ordered their new school shoes to be delivered to our home.  Because I'm so lazy a lot of styles were out of stock on the main Clarks website and so I've used John Lewis, who also stock Clarks shoes and had a free delivery option.  They had dd1's favourite style in stock and also something suitable for ds2.

I thoroughly recommend the fit at home gauges by Clarks, they have totally simplified our approach to children's shoe shopping and are well worth considering if you are a parent in a similar boat to us!

This is not a sponsored post.  All products mentioned have been bought by me.  All opinions are my own, I'm sharing because I really like the products.
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