Saturday, 29 December 2012

Special needs

G and T - 3yrs  M - 14 months

So that's it. I'm no longer a mum to three under 3. The twins have had their birthday, and all I can do is sit back and try to take it in. I did it. I survived. I've been changing nappies constantly for three years, I don't remember how it feels to not have the steriliser running and I long since said goodbye to any semblance of order. And I've laughed. A lot. But sitting here now, over three years after this crazy adventure began, I can't really take it in. I used to dream about what it would be like when the twins were a bit more grown-up, a bit less dependant on me. I thought about the time I'd get to spend with M, the one-on-ones she'd missed out on as a baby. Only now we've all made it, I don't really know how to feel.
For a start, M is only mildly interested in one-on-ones. She'd far rather be doing whatever G and T are doing. Yes, she still runs to me whenever things don't go her way, but she's such a big girl already.
'Read it to M,' she demanded earlier, ramming a book into my face. Her language is staggering, thanks largely to 14 months of hearing two chatty toddlers going on and on and on. She has been walking for six months already and is often spotted flying past after her sisters, exclaiming: 'I running! I running!'
The twins, meanwhile, although they seem to have saved the worst of the 'terrible twos' until after their third birthday, are such little ladies. They will quite happily play for hours without any input from me. They love spending time with Granny, like going to playgroup, and will soon be starting nursery. They just don't need me like they used to.
When we were out the other day, as so often happens, their cute hand-holding attracted the attention of every pensioner in town.
'Aw, are they twins?' asked one lady. 'How old are they?'
'They just turned 3,' I smiled. 'And the little one's 14 months.'
Then she said it. 'You have your hands full!'
That's another thing I can't remember. The last time I went a whole week without someone saying that to me.
'That's for sure!' I laughed for the millionth time. But this time, as I walked away, I couldn't help going over what I'd said. 'They just turned 3.' I could have easily just said: 'They're 3 and the baby's 1.' Why did I feel the need to emphasise the fact that they had only just had their birthday? To play up their youth? To make the gap between them and M seem as small as possible?
Because, I realised suddenly, I was going to miss the attention. As the girls all get older, our family will begin to seem no different than any other. We'll stop standing out. Loads of people have three kids, don't they? We won't be special any more. I won't be special any more. A childish reaction? Of course. One I'm proud of? Certainly not. But raising these girls has been bloody hard work, and I want all the recognition I can get. I want to draw out those looks of admiration and shock as long as possible!
I never planned on having so many kids so close together, but a very successful bout of IVF then a little miracle ensured that I was a mum to three under 3. To three under 2. And I survived. I'm proud of that, and of how my girls are turning out. Yes, loads of people have three kids, but not many do it all in two years, so what's wrong with letting people know that I did for just a little longer? My babies aren't babies any more, and life is nowhere near as tough as it used to be. I was a mum to three under 3, but I survived.
But no one needs to know that just yet, do they?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Best behaviour

G&T - 35-and-a-half months  M - 13 months

As a parent, you spent a lot of time worrying about messing up your kids. Will a few too many cartoons every now and again stunt their learning? Will resorting to fish fingers one night irrevocably ruin their future diet? Will giving in on one too many argument create selfish, miserable adults? Well, no, probably not. But we worry anyway. But every now and again, your kids to something to remind you that you're not so bad as this parenting lark after all.
I live about 50 yards from a handy little shop, to which I can easily pop to grab any provisions. I say easily. That was before M could walk. When I realised I needed milk the other day, I got the girls all ready and started to put M in her buggy, but she put up such a fight, I thought I'd treat her by carrying her instead. She didn't see it as a treat. She struggled all the way there and back, desperate to gain her freedom and refusing to see anything but injustice in the fact her sisters were allowed to walk by themselves. The following day, I ran out of bread (I know, I know, why didn't I buy that the day before? Well, I have a lot of kids, you know. Things drop out of my brain fairly easily these days...) but this time I had a plan. The twins still had their little animal-shaped backpacks and a little (well, a lot) of searching (and increasingly frustrated mumbling to self) didn't reveal one of the clip-on reins, but did uncover a clip-on strap from an old handbag. So, I got the twins into their coats, and M into a ladybird backpack and an utterly adorable all-in-one rainsuit, clipped on the strap and set off, feeling smug about my own brilliance.
M will love the walk to the shops now. I'll get my bread, and we'll have fun...
Turns out, toddlers don't see being on reins as freedom. M completely refused to go where she was bidden, determinedly aiming for every open gate, constantly fascinated by the kerb and completely fixated on a little terrier being taken for his walk on the other side of the road. The 50-yard trip took a good ten minutes, with me cajoling, tugging, carrying and persuading, all the while desperately trying to also keep an eye on the twins, calling at them to stop, frantically paranoid that every passing car was suddenly going to swerve from the road and plough into the precious little girls just out of my reach.
But when I finally made it back into the garden, bread in hand and nerves in tatters, while the girls all splashed happily in a giant puddle in the drive, I realised something. I needn't have worried. Although I did have to keep shouting to the twins to wait for Mummy, they stopped immediately at every call, waited patiently at every kerb without having to be told, checked carefully for traffic and didn't even come close to stepping into the road, instead walking carefully alongside the garden walls. In short, they were perfectly behaved. Perfectly behaved because of me. Yes, they are good girls by nature, but their dad and I have always been careful to drill road sense into them, stopping and looking at every junction, always waiting for green men, no matter how frustrating the delay, and doing our best to instil a healthy respect for traffic. And it worked. I know plenty of people who shudder at the idea of letting their 2-year-old walk off the reins, but I have complete confidence in my girls. They know their limits and, more importantly, they have common sense.
It's not just out in the street either. When we do make it to the shop, we're their favourite customers. All the staff love the girls and we're always being told that the twins are the best behaved visitors they have. They are polite, attentive and friendly. Of course the girls argue when tempers fray, but they are very good at sharing and making sure their sisters get an equal share. T refused to deliver G a rice cake the other day as one of them was broken. Everyone had to be equal. I've always made sure the girls have as many choices as possible, as much control of their own lives as I can give them. They select their own clothes each day, decide between them what they'd like for tea, and I always give them the chance to hand back stolen toys or apologise and make up before I resort to the Time Out corner. Of course, it doesn't always work, and all three girls have the power to drive me completely insane. But I am so proud of them. And of their dad and me. When I see how clever and caring G and T are, and how M is shaping up to be just as sweet, I have to admit that I might just be quite good at being a mum after all.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Who's in charge here anyway?

G&T - 35 months  M - 13 months

So, as predicted, as soon as G decided G was ready to be potty-trained, there was no going back. There have been no puddles for a week, and she's quickly moved on from the potty to the toilet. We're still having a few issues with the more, erm, solid deposits, but I have no doubt we'll get there. In fact, I'm sure we'll get past there. G is working the system.
The twins love JellyBelly jelly beans. I hate them having them, but their dad is a softie, so they do get the occasional little bag, which always sends them into raptures. So, it seemed logical to introduce a couple of jellybeans per pee to help motivate G. And it worked. A little too well. She's gone from only two or three big pees on the floor a day, to sometimes 10 or 12 tiny ones in the potty or toilet. Each time, she leaps off in delight. exclaiming: 'I did it! I did it! Three jellybeans please.' (Cue beautific smile). She's no fool.  I've also had to re-introduce treats for the long-since toilet-trained T, who suddenly started having 'accidents' when she saw G being rewarded for something she did for free.So I've had to introduce a rating system, whereby the bigger the pee, the more jellybeans it earns. Now, G leaps off exclaiming: 'I did it! I did it!' (examines potty contents) 'It's a two jellybeaner!'  I find myself wondering how I got here. How on earth did I reach the point of grading urine?
Well, I did because I always do. Kids are sneaky. They know they're cute, they know you love them and they know your weak points. T has a different approach to getting her way. She's adorably affectionate. She'll look into my eyes, stroke my face, tells me she loves me... and get whatever she's after. Even M is learning the power she has, though thus far, she's going for the physical approach. She's started using her body to get out of things - the 'I don't want to get in the buggy' reverse C-shape, the 'I have been wronged' dramatic floor drop and cry, the 'Don't pick me up' arm lift... The girl knows what she wants - or doesn't want - and isn't afraid to show it. I'm a (relatively) mature, (relatively) intelligent women, who built a (relatively) successful career in a job where people relied on me and trusted my judgement. Now, I'm constantly out-witted by toddlers. So is it true that pregnancy actually costs you brain cells? Or has motherhood just softened me?
My girls have boundaries and rules and they know what's expected of them. I am tough when I need to be and won't let them get away with bad behaviour. But when they turn on the charm, I'm mush. I just hope I'm preparing them well for their lives ahead. Not to use their looks to get ahead, but that sweetness works better than temper. I know I'll have to phase out the jellybeans soon, and I will. I'll ignore those big brown eyes, and those sparkly blue ones. I'll say no and stay strong. Soon. Honest. Just not quite yet...

Saturday, 3 November 2012

A golden miracle

G&T - 35 months M - 13 months

It's been a few weeks since I've managed to find time to write this blog. We've had tummy bugs, baby jabs, horrid colds, more vomiting, doctors' visits and very nearly a stay in hospital.... In short, it's been hell. But amongst it all, a little chink of heaven has shone through. We've had a miracle. Six whole months since I began the process, I finally, after countless trials and traumas, have two totally toilet-trained toddlers. Well, kind of...
What with little M arriving when the twins were 22 months, then us all upping sticks and moving from London to Scotland a few weeks later, I didn't even start trying to potty-train the girls until they were nearly two-and-a-half. All the signs were there. They had long since had the language and understanding of what was expected. They were incredibly enthusiastic about potties and pees and big girl pants. They were ready. And after a few messy Dettol-filled days, T just got it. She soon started asked for the potty at the right time, then quickly got the hang of the toilet. We swiftly moved out of pull-ups to go out, into pants all day, and she never looked back. I turned all my attention to G, praising, rewarding, cajoling and cuddling. My reward? Nothing.
Frustration soon set in. Aware losing my patience wouldn't exactly help, I gave up and put her back in nappies, waited a few weeks and tried again. And again. And again. Even little M taking to sitting on the potty and announcing 'Poo!' didn't spur her big sister on. I began to panic. I hadn't expected this to be a completely seamless process, but, honestly, how long was it going to take? Would she be trained before she was due to start nursery? Before school? Before her baby sister?? It soon became obvious where the problem lay. G was having fewer and fewer accidents, and had clearly gained control of her bladder. But when the time came, something was just stopping her using the potty instead of the floor.
Five six months in, I decided to just go with it. I put her in pants whenever we were in the house, and just accepted that I'd have to be on the ball and clean up any spills before a curious M got her hands, mouth or anything else on them. It actually wasn't too bad, though I'd only recommend this course of action if you have wooden floors... And after about three weeks, it just happened. We had a living room full of guests when G told her Daddy she wanted to try the potty in the dining room and voila! A pee! A golden stream of wonder! It was a warm, wet miracle! Within days, she was doing everything in the potty, and has even made the odd attempt at using the toilet. I honestly can't believe it. After all this time, it seems to have just happened. Accidents are few and far between and, despite all my fears to the contrary, I have no doubt she will be totally trained before her third birthday next month. The past six months have suddenly become worth every pee-obsessed second.
I've been trying to think of what tips I should be passing on to mums who have all this fun ahead of them. Of what pearls of wisdom these tough few months have afforded me. Only I can't. I don't have any. This isn't an exact science, and I don't have a magic wand to wave.
In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn't have tried to train the twins together. But which one would I have tackled first? Both ticked all the boxes, both were equally willing and able. Should I have been more consistent? Gone with one reward system and stuck to it through everything? Maybe, but it isn't that simple when you have two other toddlers to chase around. And when it comes down to it, I'm not sure it would have changed anything anyway. G started using the potty when G was ready. Not when the books told her she was, nor when I decided she should be. Whatever mental block was stopping her, she simply decided one day to step over it, and that was that.
It's easy for me to say now, and I know I ignored this very advice myself mere weeks ago, but the only thing you can do with potty training is relax. All the experts in the world can't tell you about your own child. T and G have the same level of language, the same comprehension, enthusiasm and sense of fun, but they are two very different people, and I can't force them into boxes to suit me. T has always been more willing to try new things, she's more compliant and trusting. G is a fiercely individual soul, who likes to observe and assess and wait until she's fully ready before she does anything. And that's OK. It's more than OK, it's who she is. It's who they both are. Who all three of them are. I call the girls 'the girls' out of convenience. They are not a set, a neat little group of Russian dolls. They are three wonderful, crazy, challenging, separate little people. And no matter how many heartaches that causes, and how much money I spend on Dettol and kitchen roll, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Smug and proud

G&T - 2yrs 10mths   M - 1

OK, I'm going to say it. I'm going to stand up, take a deep breath, and admit it. My name is Amy, and I'm a smug mummy.
I was reading a very funny blog recently about the snobbish mums spotted rummaging in their Cath Kidston change bags and turning their nose up at soft play cafe food, when I stopped mid-guffaw.Only the previous night, I'd been online perusing the Cath Kidston website for a bag to carry M's things in, to match the one I already have for the twins' bits and bobs. Had I become exactly the kind of mother I'd been laughing about? I do talk about my kids a lot. I boast about their achievements. I honestly believe they are the cleverest, most beautiful girls out there. And the lack of nutrition in those cafes does worry me... Yup, no doubt about it, I am a smug mummy. But is there really anything wrong with that?
I used to have a somewhat glamorous life, with a somewhat glamorous magazine job, a somewhat glamorous London pad, a very glamorous dishy husband... I talked about my work, my friends, my social life. I was probably quite interesting. Now I'm a classic baby bore. I'll tell anyone who'll listen about G's latest incredible memory feat, T's impressive drawing skills, M's stunning walking and talking... And that's not the worst of it. I talk about poo. A lot. Whether it's dismay how many times M's filled her nappy, or delight at T's perfect potty training, I just don't know how's it's come to this. Well, no actually I do. This is my job now. My crazy, unpaid, over-worked, fabulous job. I have nothing else to talk about. Or get excited about. I have a Cath Kidston change bag (or two) because it's just so darned pretty. I used to but great new handbags to go with my outfit or my mood, and now I need to transport spare clothes and nappies, there's no reason why I can't do it with a little style.
I remember buying the twins a new buggy when theirs started to fall apart when they were about one. I simply fell in love with a red sporty City Jogger from John Lewis. After I'd seen it, nothing else would do. I then found the same buggy on for nearly £100 less. No-brainer, right? Well, no. It was black. It just wasn't the same. I was actually mid-huff with my husband over his refusal to pay the extra before it dawned on me that I was being ridiculous. Of course we bought the black one and I still love it to pieces, but that little twinge remains. Because it's all I've got.
I heard a woman on Radio 4 recently (oh yes, I now also listen to Radio 4 a lot. And I bought a pestle and mortar. And I just started a button box) berating the big groups of mummies cluttering up her local cafe. I used to be one of those mums, meeting my NCT friends for our weekly coffee and chat. But I bristled at the interviewee's venom. We weren't yummy mummies swanning around, lounging our days away. Those meet-ups were a lifeline. They were human contact with like-minded people who would not only listen to those endless stories about poo, they were genuinely interested in the contents of every nappy. We were all figuring out this motherhood thing together, and the support got me through some pretty tough times. Becoming a mum is a huge change. You have to give up so much of yourself. But there's no reason a little of the old you can't shine through.
I used to express myself by having fabulous handbags or sleek stylish outfits or to-die-for shoes. Now I put all my energy into my girls, who emerge in adorable ensembles and prettily coiffed hair, while I stick in a rough ponytail and grab my trusty old trainers. But flashes of the glamorous journalist still sneak out. I bought proper fancy dance trainers when my old ones died, even though all I manage these days is a weekly Zumba class. I treat myself to expensive moisturisers and serums, even though nothing can truly hide my epic lack of sleep. I have a flashy buggy and a Cath Kidston change bag addiction. I might be a baby boring smug Mummy, but I'm no worse than the magazine boring smug journo I used to be. So I shall continue to boast and crow and generally go on and on about my bright, brilliant, beautiful girls. My name is Amy, and I am a smug mum. And I don't care.  

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Baby talk

G&T - 2yrs, 9mths   M - 11-and-a-half mths

Am I the only one who'll miss the baby talk? Compared to my kids, speaking with adults is just so, well, dull. In the few weeks since I've found time to write a blog post, little M has picked up at least 15 words and counting. I simply could not believe it when she crawled over to her plastic shopping basket, fished about, held up something and proclaimed: 'Banana!' And there in her hand a was indeed a plastic banana. She also now loves to drop things and shout: 'Bang! Bang!' which, at the dinner table might be carnage, but it's still pretty impressive! But her absolute favourite word is 'flower', which she delights in shouting every time she sees one. You can imagine the noise whenever we're out and about...
Hearing her say it for the first time brought back a memory of something I'd managed to forget. When the twins first started speaking, they couldn't pronounce the letter F, instead replacing it with S or Sh. So, a frog was a 'srog' and they'd count 'one, two three, sore, sive...'. Flower was 'shower', well at least it started off that. Then it sort of mutated. Into something rather unfortunate. I have a very clear memory of taking the girls to London Zoo with their grandad. As we walked through Regent's Park, admiring the beautiful summer gardens, I brimmed with pride as the girls attracted smiles and admiring comments from all the tourists. Then G spotted the flowers.
'Shite!' she exclaimed. 'Shite!'
A little part of me curled up and died. What must people have thought? To this day, I've no idea how Flower turned this way but, within a few weeks, it had turned back and instead of being relieved, I realised it was a little sad. When would speech ever be so amusing again?
Actually, the twins are still pretty cute. T has an adorable toddler lisp, and both girls still insist on pronouncing pillow as 'piddow'. T caught me eating a biscuit the other day.
'What you eating?' she demanded.
'It's called a Hobnob, honey,' I replied. 'Would you like a piece?'
Of course she did. She took a bite and screwed up her face.
'I don't like pob-a-nob-as,'she declared solemnly.
I don't really understand why McVities didn't name them that in the first place.
So, although I make a point of saying things correctly, secretly I'll be devastated when they start saying pillow and Hobnob. That's just so boring. At least I've got little M to amuse me for a while yet. I wonder what gems she'll come up with? Let's just hope they're not too profane...

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The bogeyman

G&T - 2 years, 9 months   M - 10-and-half months

With three children born in the space of two years, we've been through it all here. We've had tummy bugs and tantrums, divas and dramas, and more sleepless nights than I care to remember. But there's one thing with the power to ruin my life like no other. The common cold. No one has been sleeping, everyone has been whining, and I am shattered. This is the worst cold I can ever remember the girls having, and even though the worst mercifully seems to be over, they all still have horrid hacking coughs. It's such a pity, as we've otherwise had a pretty momentous week.
After nearly three years, I finally took the plunge and left the twins with someone they're not related to. Predictably on their first day of playgroup, I cried. Even more predictably, they didn't. After a bit of initial nervousness from G (T shot onto the nearest slide without a second glance), they absolutely loved it, and didn't mind me leaving them one bit. So, we decided to make a big girl week of it, and converted their cots into beds. To say they were delighted wouldn't even be coming close. G, with her fiercely independent streak, was utterly overjoyed to be able to get out whenever she pleased and kept stepping to the side and getting back in, whereas T loved the 360-degree legroom and immediately resolved to sleep sideways. But despite their enthusiasm, once the door was shut, they left M alone to drop off, and played happily (if a little loudly) without causing any real trouble until they eventually passed out. Can't believe we didn't do it sooner. And they're not the only ones knocking down the milestones. My little M has taken her first steps and said her first words! The other day, she managed an impressive six steps, and I'm hoping her newfound skills on the floor distract her from her more vertical obsession of climbing up on everything... At least I can always hear when she's up to something. She shocked us by suddenly moving from babbling to copying whatever we say, then quite clearly being able to say cat, chair and Charley Bear all by herself! The twins were always ahead with language but M is speaking months before they did. I can only assume she's getting an early start just so she can get a word in...
But just when we were revelling in how clever they all were, T started sniffling. She doubtless picked something up at playgroup, and I knew straight away we were in trouble. Within a day or so, all three were sniffing and sneezing and coughing. M, who still uses a dummy to sleep, had no choice but to learn to go without it, as she simply couldn't breathe, while the twins once-rare night-time cries became a constant alarm call. It was a nightmare snot relay. One night, I spent over an hour in the girls' room settling M and finally got her in her cot, only for T to instantly wake up, screaming in distress. It was hell. The house smelt of menthol and cough medicine, and on one morning sick as M decided to top it all off by vomiting her breakfast up over her high chair. The twins spend the days whinging about being tired or fighting about absolutely everything, while M just shrieked and sobbed constantly.Sometimes, I really understand why people look shocked when we say we have three children under three. Most days, it's just all I know, and I wouldn't change it for the world. I always wanted to have children close together, and I still believe it's best to get these toddler years over in one go. But no one said it was going to be easy. It's anything but. It's bloody hard work, and at times like these, I really earn my money. Not that I get any money. Or holidays. Or days off. Or nights off. Erm, why did I think this was a good idea again?!

Friday, 24 August 2012

We are family

G&T - 2 years, 9 months   M - 10-and-a-half months

As soon as people see you have twins, their first question is always: 'Are they identical?' It has nothing to do with what they're wearing, their hair or eye colour. I've even known mums of boy/girl twins who've had the same question. It's just one of the things people say. And I don't mind. I like how the fact the girls are twins makes them stand out. But they don't look anything alike. Not even remotely. Willowy G is a mass of long limbs, with a headful of blonde curls and big brown eyes. Powerful little T is shorter and stronger, with long brown hair and bright blue eyes. Their personalities too are poles apart, and I've been very careful never to treat them as a pair. They don't have 'matching names', they don't dress alike and I never buy identical toys unless they both fall in love with the same one. They're twins simply because they happened to share my womb. Above all, they're sisters.
Since I moved back to my hometown from London nine months ago, I've had to get used to hanging out with my own sister again. We've always been close, irrelevant of geography, as we both are with our big sis. But I'd forgotten what it was like to live in the same town. I am forever getting funny looks from people in the street. Sometimes they seem curious, confused. Sometimes downright offended, as though annoyed I haven't said hello. It only clicked when my sister and I started going to the same Zumba class.
'Are you two twins?' asked the lady dancing next to us. Of course! Everyone here thinks I might be her!
My sisters and I are all carbon copies of our mother, who's a double of her mum before her. We have some pretty powerful genes. My eldest sister has the advantage of extra height to set her apart but, although I have darker hair, my little sis and I are similar in height and build, and always being mixed up. We don't mind being mistaken for twins (well, I don't, as I like to think it means I look younger) but it does make me a little sad that my husband's genes managed to break in on my three.I've mentioned this before, but T, and now M, are following in their mum's family tradition. Comparing pictures of the two of them to each other at the same age, then to my sisters and I is quite breathtaking. But G fell from a different tree. She is the image of her dad. I love how my twins have each other. They are confirmed best friends and, although they fight, a lot, I know that they are always there for each other. But will they be missing out because the rest of the world doesn't know they're sisters?
My family complain about being mixed up but we all know we love it really. It's tribal, I guess. We're family, and everyone knows it. T and M will doubtless spend their lives being asked if they're twins. G won't. Who knows if she'll mind or not. Perhaps it'll make her stronger, more independent. Or perhaps this is just another imaginary problem that no one will care about except their exhausted old mum. G and T are twins and will forever share that bond, but all three of my girls are sisters, first and foremost. They're so lucky that they're going to be facing the world together, no matter who looks like who.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Playing favourites

G&T - 32 months  M - 10 months

When a good friend of mine was pregnant with her second child, she tearfully confessed to me a secret shame. She was terrified that she wouldn't love her new baby enough. After all, how could she possibly love anyone the way she loved her son? When her daughter arrived, she snorted with laughter at the very suggestion of favourites. Asking which of my girls I love best would be like asking if I love my heart or my lungs most. If I prefer breathing in or breathing out. If I'd rather have Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry's... Ridiculous. I'd lie down in front of a train for any one of my girls. I love each of them more than I ever thought was possible. Sometimes, though, it's harder to like one as much as the others...
We've had a diva in our house this week. G has been always been the more prone to tantrums and drama, but this week she crossed a line. Yes, the tantrums multiplied, and she spent many a fraught few minutes screaming bloody murder from the 'Time-out corner'. But I understand tantrums. Fun they might not be, but I get them. She's exerting her independence, trying to gain control. As my parents will delight in pointing out, I was the tantrum queen, and G is my karma. But that means she doesn't know who she's messing with. There isn't a strop she could throw that I can't out-stubborn. This week, however, she went from tantrums to hitting out. At her baby sister. Out of nowhere, she suddenly started grabbing M's ears, and gave her two scratched cheeks. It was all I could do to stay anywhere near in control. She seemed so vicious. It was horrible to see and really put a strain on our relationship as she took trip after trip to the corner, and my throat became raw from shouting. It was hard too, to avoid the impression that she was 'the naughty one' to T's 'good girl'. That is something I always fear - making one of the twins feel less loved. But as G first had treat privileges removed, then snacks, then puddings, I couldn't punish T too, and had to tread a fine line of emphasising T's good behaviour without branding G 'bad'. It was one of the worst days I remember having since becoming a mum. Even bedtime didn't bring relief. Having calmed briefly with Daddy's arrival, the volcano erupted once again when it came time to go upstairs. An argument over a straw escalated to her refusing to walk up and being carried, screaming like a banshee, to her bed. There followed five minutes of chaos as she sobbed and roared and tried to climb out of her cot. Then... silence. I went upstairs to check T and M were calm enough to settle, then gritted my teeth and headed over to G. She was lying on top of her covers, fast asleep yet emitting pathetic tearful gasps, clutching the all-important straw in her little hands. I almost wept with love. She was so sad and beautiful, it was all I could do not to scoop her into my arms. I didn't, obviously. I ran. But I couldn't believe the change. That sleeping beauty was my real G, and I knew that nothing she threw at me could change that.
We've had two more hard days, but slowly, my cheeky charmer is on her way back. M is still a little wary, pushing her away if she gets too close, and that breaks my heart. G was by far the more enthusiastic about M from the start. T was indifferent and a little irritated by the screaming bundle that had invaded her life, until M became the interesting playmate she is today. G however, adored her from the beginning, and the main problem we've had is her being a little too keen to cuddle and kiss her. I can only imagine this phase is G trying to hang on to a bit of being a baby. With T pretty much fully toilet-trained, I'm once again trying to get G interested, but she's still resisting. I think anxiety combined with a few disturbed nights thanks to M teething combined to cause the pressure cooker to boil over. I just hope that's the worst of it over. I want my bright little button back. I hate feeling nervous when she's around M. I hate getting angry. I hate not trusting her. I hate not liking her. But just as T's tired whining can drive me crazy and M's tooth-induced refusal to sleep has nearly brought me to breaking point, they are all my babies and I love each one as fiercely as the next. Especially when they're asleep.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Games girls

G&T - 32 months  M - 10 months

I fear I may have damaged my children. They have developed an uncontrollable compulsion, and it's all my fault. Whenever I turn on the TV, they start to scream... 'Go GB!' Yes, we have Olympic fever!
I love The Olympics. Adore it. Get so caught up in it. But last time it came round, I was a young newlywed with no responsibilities and all the time in the world to get completely addicted to sports I didn't even remotely understand (fencing anyone?). Now, with three small kids around, I feared I wouldn't have time to enjoy it, but the girls have turned out to be addicts too. Usually, the TV stays off all day, save a little news for me, and a CBeebies hit for them to give me space to make tea. For the past week, it's been on constantly, as athlete after athlete reduces me to an emotional wreck. And I've dragged the girls down with me.
'Is he a GB one?' 'Where's the GB lady?' 'Go GB!' 'Mexico!' (I think with the last one, they just like the word...)They don't have a clue what's going on, but they love it anyway. T announced that she wants to do running when she's bigger, 'like that GB lady' (Jessica Ennis), while G fancies spinning and tumbling like the gymnasts. Even little M has been getting in the spirit, proudly wearing her cute GB flag nappy!
I remember having my own sporting dreams as a young girl. I was never the fastest or the strongest, and my sporting achievements were limited to a few hockey games for my school, but I always dreamed of being a dancer. I can't say I really regret never properly pursuing that West End career. After all, I wouldn't trade my girls for the world. But I do get wistful, imaging a life of bright lights and high kicks. The twins are both great little movers already, so I'm going to take them to dance classes when they're 3. Not to live out my fantasies through them, just because I know how much I would have loved it if such things had been around for me, and an innate shyness hadn't stopped me pushing myself. If they don't like dancing, fine by me. We'll try something else until they find their own dream.
I don't mind if they become dancers, or gymnasts, or heptathletes, or doctors, or shop assistants. I just care that they don't want to be reality TV stars famous purely for the sake of it. I love that they're getting to see strong female role models celebrated for their achievements and hard work, rather than the size of their cleavage or how many footballers they've bedded. Some people complain there is too much sport on TV, but if it inspires our children to forget about Peppa Pig and rush outside to race their twin sister round the garden, it's done its job. Who knows, it might even inspire the not-so-young amongst us to get up and move. Now, where did I put that dance school timetable...

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Single trouble

G and T - 2-and-a-half    M - 9-and-a-half months

When you have twins, you get a lot of attention. Everyone coos at tiny babies, but the comments and cuddles soon peter out, don't they? Not when you have twins. I love that people still smile at them in the street and stop to say hello. Usually, they'll wink and add: 'Double trouble, eh? You've got your hands full!' And they're right. I do. With my singleton.
M is into everything. Well, not everything. Just everything I don't want her to be. She's a lightning-fast crawler, pulls up on anything she can gets her hands on and spends her days cruising round the furniture trying to join in the twins' games. She made a grab for the laundry basket by my bed the other day. Unfortunately, it's a pop-up one that crumpled beneath her. She missed the corner of the bedside table by millimetres. But while I leapt up in a panic, she simply wiggled round and reached up for the table instead. She's fearless. And I'm exhausted.
When summer finally made an appearance this week, we all piled outside, delighted to be set free. But no sooner had a popped M down on the picnic mat than she was gone, heading full pelt towards the nearest stone she could get in her mouth. Gone are the days of her sitting happily playing in the shade while I hang up the washing. I've spent two days on constant watch, snatching her up seconds before she heads down the stone steps or tumbles into the flowerbeds. The twins are great at diving dramatically to retrieve stones and bits of soil from her chubby paws, but they're not the most reliable babysitters. Far too easily distracted by a manic game of Ring-a-Ring-a-Rosies. In the end, I decided to pick my battles. Just hope Daddy isn't too upset by the rather naked-looking plant I sacrificed in a bid to distract her...
When the twins were this age, life was a bit simpler. We lived in a flat then, and I simply caged them. We got ourselves two metal playpens and joined them together to essentially turn the living room in a toy-filled jail. Of course, the girls weren't trapped in there all the time (tempting though...) but it at least meant there was a safe but fun place for them to be when I needed access to both hands simultaneously. Things are very different when you have toddlers around. Babies don't care if you go out much. G and T get cabin fever. When they were little, I was in charge of what was on the floor. Now, there are crayons, stickers and all manner of little toys just waiting to be popped into a curious baby mouth.
I always wanted to have my children close in age, but it does have its drawbacks. The twins always start with good intentions of keeping forbidden items out of reach, but they're toddlers. They have fish-like memories for anything other than promises about after-dinner sweeties and trips to the playpark. I'm certainly not going to deprive them of toys, so little M is having to grow up fast. It's looking very likely that she'll be walking before the twins did at 11 months, and I'm hoping that when she can join in their games properly, she'll be less of a handful for her exhausted mum. Or she'll just be able to get into even more mischief. I'm not getting a rest any time soon, am I?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Panic stations

G&T - 2-and-a-half   M - 9 months

What is it about being a mum that turns you into a neurotic, over-anxious diva? Honestly, what is it? Is it the hormones? The post-traumatic shock of having had to actually give birth to the things? Or does your sense of perspective simply exit your body with the placenta?
This week, we confronted yet another parenting rite of passage. At the grand old age of 2-and-a-half, we finally ditched the twins' dummies. I never wanted to use soothers. There weren't any in my hospital bag, or at home, waiting to be popped into two mewling newborn mouths. But after about ten days of constant breastfeeding, refusals to be put down and crying relays, I cracked and sent Daddy off to Boots for two little plastic lifesavers. And I think they did save my life. Or at least my sanity. Sometimes, when there are two people screaming at you, both demanding all your attention, now, you run out of options. The dummies gave me breathing space, provided blessed relief from the agonising sound of them crying for a mummy who couldn't get to them. As the twins got older, I limited the dummies more and more. I've never liked the sight of a child playing silently, sucking away, so the soothers became nothing more than a sleep aid. I intended to go by the book, and have them vanish entirely by the time the girls were 1.
But they've just started sleeping through the night. I don't want to rock the boat... 
OK, they'll be gone by 18 months.
But now I'm pregnant. I can't be getting up all through the night again. I'm so tired... 
I'll ditch them by the time they're 2.
Getting rid of dummies with a new baby in the house? I'm not crazy... 
So here we were, at 2-and-a-half, and every nap and bedtime, the twins would pop a dummy into their mouth and drift off. But I knew it had to end, so I scouted baby mags for tips. I knew I couldn't just sneak them away. The girls wouldn't stand for that. And a suggestion about burying them in the garden sent shivers down my spine, imagining the carnage the next time the girls were set free with their sandpit spades... So we plumped for the dummy fairy. I explained how we were going to be posting the dummies away, and how the grateful fairy would deliver gifts. Helpfully, the girls had apparently had their eyes on a few goodies, so were quick to suggest appropriate presents. My heart raced as we popped the dummies into the envelope and walked to the local postbox. The twins waved them goodbye then, overexcited by the prospect of presents, insisted on running all the way back. The sight of Igglepiggle and Upsy Daisy on the doorstep stopped them, wide-eyed with wonder, in their tracks. There was a wobble at bedtime when the reality of going into their cots alone sank in, but after about half an hour of singing and hilarity, and without a single cry or dummy demand, they both dropped off. Simple as that. Turns out it was yet another parenting dilemma I'd blown out of all proportion in my mind.
Sleep training, getting rid of bottles, changing from sleeping bags to duvets... Every time, I've spent days agonising over how the twins would react, and every time, they've barely batted an eyelid. Even potty training. OK, so it's not been easy, but I've realised that's only because I've got it double. T has been relatively easy and if I'd only had G, I'd simply have realised it wasn't her time and tucked the big girl pants away for another day. So what's with me? I don't think of myself as an anxious person. I'm pretty easy-going most of the time. Has becoming a mum made me this way? Am I resigned to a life of stomach-churning fear every time the girls go to school, or to a sleepover, or on a date? Seemingly it gets even worse when you become a grandparent. My dad, who spent my childhood returning to the house, shamefaced, with a grubby, happy child and a broken buggy, because, 'They'll remember the experience of the speed down that hill,' makes a grab for my daughters if they so much as stand on a chair. He can't explain it, but he sees danger everywhere, imagines every worst case scenario. I scoff at him and tell him that they need to learn to fall, but really, I'm no better. Having been determined to be an ethereal and serene earth mother, I never imposed a routine on the girls, but they ended up choosing one for themselves, and I ended up clinging to it, terrified of anything that would stop them sleeping. Stop me sleeping. I think that's the answer. It's self-preservation. My days are exhausting. Full on and fun, but exhausting. I need every precious minute of sleep I can get, and I live in fear of those bad nights when my body aches to be lying in bed, but just can't get there. So I'll keep dreading the changes, and with any luck, the girls will keep proving me wrong. I'll keep right on being an over-anxious diva of a mum and look forward to the day I can be an over-anxious diva of a granny instead, and just sneak off home for a good night's rest.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Flower fairies

G&T - 2-and-a-half  M - 8-and-a-half months

My house is full of flowers. Pink ones, white ones, red, yellow and blue. In the living room, in the dining room, the kitchen and the playroom. Tall, short, big and small. All supplied by the twins' fantastic imagination.
In the past few weeks, the girls' ability to conjure up whatever they want has exploded. I first noticed it in the nightly bath they share. G grabbed the plug chain and turned to T. 'Which banana you want?' she enquired. T thought it over. 'The purple one,' she decided. So G plucked it off and handed it over, before T scoffed it. I don't know where they've even seen bananas on trees, but it was just the start. The following day in the garden, T spotted a small piece of wood, which she placed upright in amongst some gravel, then asked for her little watering can. I filled it for her, then watched with a mixture of pride, amusement and overwhelming gooiness, as she watered the stick, and instructed me to come and look at her 'beautiful pink flower'. Now, every time they start up a little game, there is some element of the fantastic involved, making it even harder for me to guess what's going on inside those gorgeous little heads. After tea tonight, for example, they started chasing each other round the table (much to M's delight, by the way. She's feeling the benefits of their flights of fancy too). Suddenly, 'T started shouting: 'I'm a pancake! Catch me! I'm a pancake!' Soon, G was 'a pancake' too, much to everyone's utter joy. Yes, they're weirdos, but they aren't half cute! And it has been a very welcome light relief from what's been a tough few weeks.
They do say things come in threes, so I really ought not to have been surprised when toilet-training and tummy bugs were immediately followed by teething... Just when the girls all started sleeping through the night without feeling the need to wake up screaming and bringing up the contents of their stomachs, cheery little M suddenly became a fist-gnawing, bottle-rejecting, whining, crying nightmare. I know 8 months is hardly early for a first tooth, but it took me totally by surprise. I didn't get any teeth until I was one, and although G got her first at 9 months, T was 11 months before hers appeared. Recently, as her personality has been emerging more than ever, it's become obvious just how much M is like her middle sister. G is Daddy's girl, in looks, in personality, in everything. But T has always been my wee copy. She looks like me, acts like me, delights in tormenting her sister like me... If I look back at videos of the twins at M's age, the similarities are truly breath-taking. Yes, M as a singleton is a bit bigger, but she is the absolute double of T, even sounding just the same. And so far, they've been going toe-to-toe in the milestones. Holding their heads, creeping, crawling, pulling up... All within a few days of the other. So I just assumed the teeth would be the same. But sure enough, I can see two little white outlines beneath poor M's red raw gums already. It was a wake-up call I think I needed. 
I'm always telling Daddy off for comparing the girls, for calling M 'T mark two'. But it seems I was doing it too. And after all these months of the nagging worry that M will always be left out, I now find myself worrying about G instead. I have no doubts that the other two will spend their lives refuting suggestions that they are the twins, that G is the odd one out. Will she begin to resent her perfect little face? Her blonde curls and big brown eyes, amongst all the blue-eyed brunettes? So far, she's just delighted whenever anyone points out how much she looks like Daddy, and I hope that continues. In a way, I'm glad that G's the different one, rather than T. She's so independent, so sure of her own rightness, whereas T is a little more sensitive, outgoing and friendly, but deep down, a bit more insecure. So I guess maybe nature has been rather clever. G and T will always have such a special bond, but now M has an obvious connection too. They are all sisters, and that's all that matters.
I often wonder what it would have been like any any of them been boys. As one of three girls myself, I can understand my three, their bond and their closeness. OK, so the teenage years will be interesting to say the least, but I'm on safe ground. Hormones, I get. Queues for the bathroom and fights over hair straighteners, I can understand. I've been there. But boys are a mystery to me. Of course, had I had one, I'd have loved him completely and delighted in the new experiences, but I'm secretly pleased to have got all my little ladies. Their poor dad maybe could have done with a little testosterone around here, perhaps one less to worry about discovering boys, but it suits me just fine. Lots of pink and cute little dresses. Plaits and bows and imaginary flowers. Sugar and spice and all things nice. Unless one of them is getting a tooth, of course.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Something's been bugging me...

G&T - 2-and-a-half   M - 8 months

This week, I finally took a break from thinking about poo, as my brain was freed to focus on higher matters. Namely vomit. With a 2am wail of despair, M experienced her first proper puke. She had no idea what was going on, and was distraught as I lifted her out of her sick-filled cot, before she let rip again, covering me, herself and the bedroom floor. And so began our week of fun. The following day was spent with a tired, emotional eight-month-old, two increasingly fractious toddlers and the slowly dawning realisation that the next phase was unavoidable. Sure enough, the next night saw four outfit changes for G, then the following morning, any hope of T escaping vanished, as she brought up her breakfast all over the dining room table, prompting G to perform an encore on the floor. Don't you just love a tummy bug?
Having all the girls ill at the same time did at least allow for a little reflection on how far my babies have come. Dealing with the twins was, in many ways, easier than taking care of M. At least I could help them understand what was going on, explain that it was temporary, that it would help them. Poor little M, who had no way of understanding, simply clung to me, worn out and scared. Despite the crushing exhaustion, it was agony to put her back in her cot and attempt to get any sleep myself. Recently, as she's been babbling away, crawling and attempting to pull herself up, she's seemed so big, so grown up. But that frightened little mite snuggling into my chest was suddenly my tiny baby again. The twins were struck by a similar bug at about the same age. My bubbly little girls vanished for a few days, replaced by two tearful little urchins, who refused to do anything but cling to Mummy and Daddy. Two years on, they coped so well, bless them. G cried as she was sick, but straight away asked to go back into her cot to get her desperately needed sleep, while T somehow managed to take even throwing up in her stride. Yes they were whiny and cranky, but I was so proud of them. I'm hoping, however, that their courage isn't called on again for a while.
I lost count of the sofa cushions and cot bedding I cleaned, all the while swallowing down the nagging nausea that suggested I'd be next. It turned out I wasn't. Daddy was. As I sat in the girls room on night three, settling a still off-colour M, I heard him rush into the bathroom and, well, let's hope I never live to hear those noises again. Poor bloke. An intended business trip to London had to be postponed, and the following day, he and the twins spent most of their time cuddled up on the sofa feeling miserable.
Mercifully, I was spared anything more than nausea which, having been pregnant twice, I was well-practised in putting to the back of my mind while I got on with things, and by day five, things were looking up. The girls all had a bit of colour and even some appetite back, and Daddy felt almost human. So he rebooked his flights and, on day six, headed down to London. After a tough day with the still grumpy and over-tired toddlers, I got them into bed and finally breathed a sigh of relief as I started to settle M. We'd made it. I  gazed down at her chubby cheeks and allowed myself a subconscious pat on the back for getting us all through this. M wiggled a bit, looked up at me with her big, beautiful blue eyes... and projectile vomited all over me.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Twice as nice

G&T - 2-and-a-half  M- 8 months

So, one week on, and potty training doesn't seem that bad after all. A few accidents, yes, but many requests for, and deposits in, the potty, a sticker chart full of rewards, a few toilet attempts... All in all, progressing very nicely. Well, it would be if I was only training one child.
The other day, T just got it. We managed to time it right to catch a couple of pees in the potty, and that was it. She suddenly started telling me when she needed to go, and the puddles virtually disappeared. OK, so she's having a bit of a timing issue with more solid deposits, seemingly telling me she needs only when they're actually on the way out, but we're getting along very nicely thank you. And as for G? Nothing. She just won't do it. Stickers, chocolate, cuddles, pretty pants, princess-themed toilet seats, twin-induced peer pressure... Nothing can convince her that potties are the way forward. Yes, I might just have to accept that for all her intelligence and language, when it comes to this, she's just not ready. But I don't think that's it. She's just waiting. Waiting until she's seen her sister test the water first. Waiting to assess all the pros and cons. Waiting until she can do it perfectly before she even begins.
That's my little G all over. It was exactly the same when they learned to walk. G took her first steps within a week of her sister, at 11 months. But whereas T went on to slowly build up her ability a few steps and tumbles at a time, G just went back to crawling. Nothing could convince her to get up and walk again. Then, when she was 13 months old, just when I was beginning to worry she was being left behind, she simply stood up and strolled across the room. Within days, she was just as proficient a walker as T. It was the same recently when they discovered the mini carousel in our local shopping centre. At first sight, T launched herself at it, attempting the scale it herself and demanding Daddy feed it money. G meanwhile stood back, observing. Waiting. Then,the other day, after several weeks of careful observation, she turned to me and said: 'My go now, Mummy.' And we haven't looked back. She's the carousel queen, grinning and waving as she trots round on her favourite horse. She just likes things to be just so, just right before she commits. In this, as with everything else, she takes after her dad. A scientist and an accountant, he's careful and considered when it comes to anything new, analysing all the variables before making a choice. It turns out, G is not only his double in looks, she's a little mathematician in waiting too. But she has an advantage her father didn't have. She's a twin. And she's a twin with a sister who takes after her mum. T, like me, is more of a leap in head first, think about the consequences later type of girl. She's perfectly happy to be G's personal tester.
Once again, I'm in awe of people who have just one baby. My girls are so lucky to have each other, and the fact that they are such opposites does them both good. Sometimes we just can't believe they are so different, that of all the possible embryos created during IVF, fate gave us one perfect little clone each. (M, by the way, is shaping up to be a Mummyalike too. Not that I'm keeping score...) So, I'm just sitting back and letting the twin-ness work its wonders. G's back in pull-ups for now, until she decides it's time. Until she's let her whirlwind little sister show her it's all OK. And that's fine by me. When I found out I was expecting twins, although I always knew I might be, I was still shocked, still a bit apprehensive. Scared even, about the challenges that lay ahead. But now, it just makes sense to me. Of course children should come in pairs, each with a ready-made friend and confidant, a foil for their little quirks and a ever-present rival to push them along. Sometimes, I'm even a little sad that M isn't a twin. Until I think about having to potty train two at the same time all over again. Maybe singletons aren't that bad after all...

Friday, 1 June 2012

#Tippingpoint Writing for Syria

G&T - 2-and-a-half   M- 7-and-a-half months

I can't read it. I've tried several times because I know I should, but I can't read it. I get a few paragraphs into the now infamous Times front cover on the Houla massacre and I have to look away. The details of the horrific killings are just too much.
I didn't use to be able to watch animal programmes. There was a blanket ban in our house on Animal Hospital or Animal Rescue, for fear that a pet cat or dog wouldn't make it, and I'd be reduced to a gibbering wreck. But ever since I've become a mum, I've found it's the news I have to be wary of. I'm a journalist by trade, and I believe in the power of the media, in the responsibility of the press to tell the stories that we need to hear. But now, every horror story involving a small child just makes me think of my own, and my brain shuts down at the slightest suggestion it could happen to them. The reports from Syria tell of scores of dead children. Dead babies. Dead, mutilated babies. It's the 21st century. How can those words even fall in the same sentence? When I tried to read the Times article, I thought about someone looking into my girls' innocent, trusting eyes, and... I couldn't even bring myself to finish the thought. I shut down the computer, snuck upstairs and just looked at them all asleep in their cots, resisting the almost overpowering urge to scoop each one up  and never let go. But if you feel you can read about what happened in Houla, you should. Because we have to do something. We have to know. We have to remember. We have to shout. And we have to be heard. That's why I'm writing this piece, even though I'm struggling to keep it together as I do. Even though it makes me never want to let my girls out of my sight. When we're thousands of miles away, the only thing we can do is care. One person can't be heard. But what about a thousand? A million? Please, sign the Save the Children petition. Add your voice to the cry for change. Join the #tippingpoint roar on Twitter. Write about it, talk about it. Be enraged.
Suddenly, all my potty-training stress seemed silly. Celebrating getting a good night's sleep seemed so small. But it's not. Life's little victories are exactly what's been stolen from those children. All that's left now is to pray that their parents died with them. That they didn't have to live having seen them die. Those mothers and fathers would have given all they had to clean up accidents or tend to their baby at 3am. And they would have got stressed and annoyed too. Because it's hard work. It's stressful, tiring, frustrating. And wonderful. And we owe to those parents to live, to become exasperated at the difficulties and revel in the victories. And we owe it to them to do it all in their name.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Potty mouth

G&T - almost 2-and-a-half   M - 7-and-a-half months

I am obsessed with poo. And pee. And everything bottom-related really. Yes, we're potty training. Well, that's the idea anyway. Mostly, it's just me mopping up puddles and maintaining a falsely cheery face while scooping up crap. Quite simply, it's hell. I have no objection to the mess really. I have three kids under 3. Mess is the default position around here. It's just that I can see no hope of it changing. They're just not getting it.
I don't like to boast, but my girls are pretty clever. Well, OK, I do mean to boast a bit. They're little chatterboxes, often surprising people with just how much they can say. I've long since stopped counting how many words they have. They have language. I'd just read in a mag about how, by the age of 3, children should 'have about 300 words, and put them into three- or four-word sentences' when T wandered up to me. 'Mummy,' she informed me. 'Yesterday, you went in a car. I went on a choo-choo train with Daddy and Morris. This is Morris here,' she added helpfully, holding up her monkey. 'We saw elephants and rhinoceros and meerkats,' G piped up. Not words. Language. It's not just that they repeat things. They understand.
I assumed I'd start training the girls by about 2, but when they were 22 months, along came M. And two months later, we upped sticks and moved across the country. Life kept getting in the way, and all my efforts were a bit half-hearted. The potties have been around, and G even managed a couple of deposits a month or so back. But then she went through a bout of constipation, and the potty progress stopped. So I decided to take matters into my own hands, and ditch the nappies. They proudly carried their 'big girl pants' home from the shop, and went to bed delighted at the prospect of the day ahead. Come D Day, on went Peppa Pig and Princess, and... nothing. The whole day, not a thing in the potty. Puddles in the living room, the playroom, the garden (thank God for the hot weather and the ability to just let them run bare-bottomed outside), soiled undies and even one ill-timed present on our bedroom floor... They just couldn't be persuaded to use the potties. They sat on them frequently, but they remained stubbornly empty. At one point, I changed T, telling her, 'Never mind. Next time you need a pee pee, you can take your own pants off like a big girl and go on the potty.' She showed up five minutes later pants-free. I couldn't find them, there was nothing in the potty, and I have no idea if and where she'd peed. It was exhausting. Oh, and I also had a grumpy baby to deal with. Of course, she'd chosen D Day eve to wake up countless times and end up in our bed, shoving me off the edge and preventing any meaningful sleep. And of course, she refused to do anything but stand up holding my hands. By the time they were all in their cots, I was totally wiped out, despairing to their dad and seriously considering giving up. But I couldn't. Not after one day. They'd have never been sleep-trained or learned to feed themselves if I just gave up. So on to day two.
M helpfully slept like an angel, and I woke up full of positive thoughts and potty dreams. Twelve hours on? Nothing. Not a tinkle. It's not like I expected them to just wake up and calmy ask for the potty every time they felt the urge. I was fully prepared for accidents. I just expected something. Anything. Some progress. Some hope. I know they know what's expected. Where am I going wrong? Are they simply not ready, despite being so advanced in everything else? Or am I the problem? Perhaps trying to train two toddlers and look after a 7-month-old is too much. Maybe I just can't watch them as closely as I need to. Just one tiny little wee in my plastic nemesis, and it'll all be worth it. So tomorrow, I'm abandoning all my principles. Chocolate stars bought and ready. Let's see if bribery does the trick...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


G&T - 29-and-a-half months   M - 7 months

Names, appointments, where I put my keys... My memory has always been a somewhat unknown quantity, failing me when I least expect. But even by my standards, my brain has completely short-circuited since having kids. Half the time, I can barely remember the word for crayon. But that's not what they really mean by mum-nesia. The trivia is expendable. As a mum, there are just so many things going on, your mind has to sacrifice something. What's odd is that the big things are gone too.
This week, I was reading Edspire's excellent blog ( She's a thirtysomething mum to twin toddlers, who's just had a baby, so you can see why I'm interested. Unlike me, she somehow summoned the superhuman strength to write blog posts just after the little one was born. It was fascinating to read about life with a brand new baby, the joy, the difficulties, the sibling jealousy. My first thought was to feel a little sad that I don't have such a memento of M's first few days. What a wonderful thing to be able to show your children in years to come. But when I thought about it, I realised I like my memories a little more fuzzy and sugar-coated. I loved M's tiny days. Simply loved them. There must have been hard days, but I don't really remember them. An excellent feeder from the start, she soon figured out night and day, and other than a little resistance from T when she realised this noisy little bundle was actually hanging around, her sisters took the change in their stride. As for the twins' first few weeks... They were so cute! My tiny little miracles with their squishy little faces, all pink and happy... Those rose-tinted specs are firmly in place. The brutality of the sleep-deprivation this time has taken me totally by surprise. When the twins were really young, I can recall complaining of exhaustion, and remember being stuck on the sofa, pinned beneath them for hours at a time. I can think of at least one tearful conversation to my husband, begging him to come home from work to help. But thinking about it is like reading someone else's story. They are just pictures.
Recently, I was sympathising with a friend in the throes of morning sickness. She was feeling sick from morning until night, begging for the relief of throwing up that never came. That was exactly what I went through, so I ooh-ed and aah-ed and dished out advice about peppermint tea and dry baked potatoes, but the truth is, it was difficult to really empathise. My mum-nesia has firmly kicked in there too. Before I fell pregnant with M, I remember discussing nausea with my husband. 'I felt a wee bit rough for a few weeks, didn't I?' I said one day over dinner. He nearly choked. 'A bit rough? You were a wreck for four months. You told me you wanted to die.'
But even having gone through it just as bad a second time, I still can't really remember it. And I don't care. Just like the scars and the saggy bits that make it hard to remember the toned midriff of my youth, the tough times don't matter when compared to the great ones. If I could go back, knowing fully how hard it all is, would I swap my girls for a bit more sleep? Hardly. Give it a few months, when M is sleeping through the night, and I bet I'll read this post and shake my head. 'I bet I wasn't really that tired... '

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Living the dream

G&T - 29 months  M - 7 months

I used to love shoes. Mary Janes, slingbacks, sparkly, stylish, the higher the better. If I saw a pair I wanted, I'd think about them, visit them, try to convince myself I didn't need them... Then delight in the gorgeousness of my feet when they were mine. I was nearly six months pregnant with the twins when I went to a friend's wedding in a pair of sky-high Miu Mius. Yes, I was enormous and exhausted... but they were Miu Mius. These days, leaving the house is an irritation because it means removing my infeasibly comfortable pair of bootie slippers. Even if I do wrench them off my feet, nine times out of ten, it's only to put on trainers. My life these days is somewhat less than glamorous. Instead of fabulous footwear, I get excited about buggies and T-shirts with Minnie Mouse on them. The other night, I spent a good 45 minutes constructing an impressive multi-line Brio train track, complete with MegaBlok tunnels. My husband thought it was hilarious, pointing out that if, for once, the twins hadn't made an epic mess that I had to tidy up, I should perhaps, you know, relax. But the truth is, I enjoyed my engineering exploits. That's what passes for intellectual stimulation for me these days. The old me had a job with deadlines and responsibilities. The new me has wooden train tracks. The old me had novels and newspapers, the new me has Spot the Dog and nursery rhymes. The old me thought counting was working out if I could afford one more pair of shoes. The new me spends time counting how many odd baby socks I have that have inexplicably lost their pair (23 at last count, by the way. How? How? How???). The 25-year-old me would laugh herself silly at the sad old woman I've become. Well, no, actually she wouldn't. Whenever I find myself wistfully reading friends' Facebook posts about fab nights out or Tweets from one glamorous party or another, I remember. I had that life. I had an absolute blast at uni, making the best friends I will ever have, lived the high-life in London, working my dream job on a magazine, I partied, I danced, I was thin... And the whole time, there was a little thing missing. A baby. Or three. I always wanted to be a mum. OK, so my 25-inch waist is a thing of the past and instead of donning a tiny mini and a strappy top, I now consider myself dolled-up if there's no sick on me, but it's now that I'm living the dream. I laugh. A lot. My girls are such little comedians. In the past week alone, the twins have independently choreographed an entire dance routine to Spirit in the Sky, started copying my baby-food choo-choo and feeding one another, and decided that it's hilarious to replace the words of familiar songs (and my name) with 'Nunk'. And then there's M's adorable new-found ability to launch herself onto the floor and wiggle like a madman in order to reach something six inches away. Yes, it's tough having three tiny tots so close together, and glamour is not a word any sane person would apply to me, but I wouldn't change a thing. My little trio are so full of fun, I don't really mind that I'm not. I do miss the shoes, though...

Sunday, 29 April 2012

An admission of guilt

G & T - 29 months   M - 6-and-a-half months

Most days, I just can't believe my luck. Three beautiful, bright, funny little girls. I wouldn't change a thing in my life because it's all brought me to them. But I am struggling with something. Birth guilt. Ever since M was born, I've felt like a bit of a failure. Like I cheated. When I was expecting the twins, I made plans for as natural a birth as possible. No more than gas and air, lots of moving around and absolutely no epidural. I hated the idea of being out of control far more than the idea of the pain. Then a scan at 32 weeks showed my girls were breech, and with two in there, there was nothing I could do to turn them around. I was gutted to be told I'd need a C-section. In the end, I went into labour five days before the scheduled op, so we did the whole waters breaking in the night, husband finding a cab at 3am while I tried to get dressed through the contractions thing. In the taxi, the pains came with barely time to catch my breath between them. When I was examined at hospital, less than two hours from the first contraction, I was 6cm, G's bottom was starting to come out, and suddenly, the room went from calm to medical emergency as I was rushed into theatre. Until the spinal block went in, I hadn't had a drop of pain relief. Don't get me wrong, those contractions were mind-blowingly painful, but I could handle them, and by 5am, I'd met my girls. Expecting M gave me a second chance at a natural birth. She gave me a scare by turning breech briefly during the third trimester, but dutifully flipped round again, so we were all set. Then I started to get the false labours. With G and T, I'd had hundreds of Braxton Hicks, but they were intermittent, short-lasting, and I never mistook them for the real thing. This time, almost every night in the week leading up to my due date, the pains came, gradually getting closer together until I felt I had to write down the timings, just in case, only for them to tail off again. Teamed with watching two toddlers all day, I was exhausted. Finally, at 40 weeks and two days, I woke up at 3am with contractions coming every five minutes and getting worse. We headed to the hospital and, sure enough, in the cab, they got closer and closer. But the time we got there, they were two minutes apart and pretty intense. I was examined at 7am, fully expecting to be pushing my little girl out in time for breakfast. I was 2cm. Just 2cm. I was stunned. Just how long could this go on? The pain was already crippling, as though someone was trying to rip my insides out every couple of minutes. But worse was the fact that there was no respite. I'd hardly have time to muster a sob before the next wave of pain hit. At 11am, I was examined again. Please, 7cm at least... No, just 5. Oh God, I can't do this. They broke my waters to try to move things along. As they went and another contraction hit, I screamed like a woman possessed. The pain was indescribable. And I knew. I just couldn't do it any more. 'I need a break, chicken. I need a break,' I sobbed to my husband, over and over. He got the message. 'Are you sure?' he asked, looking into my wild, teary eyes. When I nodded, he took charge and, after a couple of missed attempts with the needle, the epidural went in, and the pain vanished. The rest of my labour was a positively lovely experience, chatting with three great midwives, periodically topping up the epidural... Until it came time to push. I just couldn't feel anything. The drugs hadn't had time to wear off. For an hour, we waited to see if M would move closer on her own, I threw up violently, then for another hour, I tried to push, with the midwife guiding me. But I couldn't feel a thing. In the end, a doctor was called in as M's heartrate was erratic, and a ventouse finally helped her out. She was placed on my chest, but before I had time to breathe, she was whisked away. Without a sound. I can barely even type the memory of seeing a little mask being put on her face. The midwife was fabulous, calmly telling me she was fine. But they're probably trained to say that. My husband was the real hero. As I sobbed hysterically, begging to have her back, he stood between us, reassuring me, saying he could see her move. In fact, he admitted later, he was terrified. She was totally still, and those two minutes were the longest in his life. Then the most wonderful relief as she let rip a wail, and was finally handed back to me. Just a little shocked by her sudden birth after so long stuck, she was fine. She is totally fine. Reaching every milestone, a happy, funny, loveable little angel. But I can't kick the guilt. I let her down. I couldn't push her out. I put her in danger. Turns out, I was topping up the epidural too much, thinking it was preventative, rather than responding to the pain. Having shunned the very idea of having one, I hadn't bothered to find out anything about them. And frankly, when it was going in, the surgeon could have been telling me I was signing my soul over the the devil and I wouldn't have cared. I guess when I was having the twins, the pain was easier to handle as I knew an end was in sight. I just wasn't prepared for the intensity of the agony second time round. I thought that either my labour would be as fast as with the twins, or it would be more like the textbooks. Ten minutes between contractions, then nine, then eight... Not seven hours of constant pain. So, I feel like I failed. Most of the time, I don't care. M is my little angel. It doesn't matter how she got here, she's here, and she's wonderful. It's more important that I raise her well, and each time she lets rip with a cheeky wee laugh, I know that I'm doing OK. It's just hard to let go of the memory of that tiny little mask. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of Daddy's book. I brought up the subject of M's birth one day, worried he'd nod and say: 'Yes, I was disappointed in you.' So, did he have any regrets? 'Yeah,' he said. 'You kept calling me chicken. It was so embarrassing...'

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Dreaming of dreaming

G&T - 28-and-a-half months  M - six-and-a-half months

I love sleep. Love it. It is truly one of the greatest things a human gets to experience. Lying there, warm and snug, with a fluffy soft duvet, on a firm, comfortable mattress. I used to love getting into bed early, just so I could enjoy the luxuriant daze of slowly losing consciousness. Bliss... The last time I got a really good night's sleep was three years ago. Just when the twins started regularly sleeping through, I fell pregnant and it was back to the night-time toilet trips and bulky bump discomfort. All the more reason to get little M sleep-trained early. The twins were about one before we attempted anything other than rocking them to sleep in our arms. With two of them, you always worry they'll unsettle each other. In the end though, G decided it was time for a change. She began refusing to sleep on us, instead preferring to nod off in her cot. T was more of a problem. In the end, I spent a few agonising nights sitting by her bed at God knows o'clock, repeatedly lying her down until she got the message that I wasn't picking her up, followed by a few agonising nights sitting in the room at bedtime, waiting a seemingly interminable time until she went to sleep on her own. I gradually moved further from her until I didn't have to be in the room at all. I want to try the 'gradual withdrawal' method for M too, but my problem is again, T. The smallest thing has been known to throw her sleep off track, and force me back to training. If I sit in with M at bedtime, will T get too used to my presence? Besides, the twins are just too raucous at bedtime. They're in their cots by about 7.45, but can always be heard over the monitor singing, laughing or throwing their teddies at each other before silence reigns. Not exactly an atmosphere conducive to baby sleep. Especially when M adores them so much. She'll only want to join in, then where will I be?! So I tried the middle-of-the-night refusal to pick her up. But after two hours by the cot, she failed to see the fun any more, and screamed until I had to feed her just to stop her causing a riot. So I'm stuck in limbo, in an exhausted world, where my dreaming is largely limited to the daytime variety, as I imagine eight hours of uninterrupted peace. I do remember reaching a zombie phase when the twins were babies, but I'm feeling it so much more this time. When they were tots, I could at least collapse straight into bed when I'd finally got them down. These days, I have a day's worth of toddler chaos to rein in before I can stumble towards my mattress and grab what ever blackness I can. I'm so shattered I put T to bed the other night with no nappy on. And she's not potty-trained. I simply didn't notice I hadn't put one on. Thankfully, she stayed dry all night, and we only realised there was a problem when she informed her daddy in the morning that she was peeing on her trousers. Still have no idea how I did it. But I'm not really surprised. I'm living in a bizarre shadow world, where basic functions are all my brain can handle. Please, if anyone out there has any tips, help me... I want some sleep!!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Cold comfort

G&T - 28-and-a-half months M - 6 months

Well, one week down, and I'm just about surviving life without my constant companion. M is all moved in to the twins' room, and our bedroom has been reclaimed as an adult-only oasis. Well, OK, so there is a little toy seepage. All right, toy flood from the girls' room, but we're getting there. Not that the first week of Mission Sleep Train has been entirely successful. I thought I'd be braver this time, you know, less squeamish about leaving my little one to cry. Having been through it all before, I realise a little crying never hurt anyone, and not rushing for every squeak is actually what's required for M to get a decent night's sleep. But I'd forgotten about the monitor anxiety. We were still using a baby monitor to hear the twins, but it pretty much got switched on at bedtime and ignored until our 7am wake up call. The first night I put M in there, I turned on the monitor, brought it downstairs... and my ears ached as I strained to hear every snuffle and snort, poised to leap up and run to her. I told myself it was because I didn't want her waking G and T, but if I'm honest, it's just that I couldn't bear the thought of her missing me. Of her waking up and being scared. Even typing that word - 'scared' - makes me well up, my protective mother instinct twitching, having to contain myself from rushing to her side. If a twin cries, their dad and I sigh and look at each other, willing the sound to go away and, if that fails, willing the other one to drag themselves up to attend. I love them just as fiercely as their baby sister, but they are fully formed little ladies, as a day of being ordered about, laughed at and wrapped round two chubby little fingers proves. If they really need me, they'll let me know. M doesn't have that ability yet, and I just want to wrap her in my arms and never let go. But, of course, I have to, and by day three I was beginning to relax, letting the snuffles go, and trying my best to limit our night-time interactions to only the most basic patting and shooshing. Then we got the visit every parent of toddlers dreads. The snot fairy. Suddenly, no one was sleeping. Our nights were filled with coughs, sneezes and mucous-filled distress from every corner of the room. At one point, I woke up cradling M in my arms in the feeding chair, having been left no option but to pick her up, to find Daddy sleeping between the cots with T snuggled next to him on the floor. Sleep training went out the window as we all just attempted to survive the days and nights in a sleep-deprived, snot-filled haze. But it seems everyone is finally breathing easier again, so now Mission Strong Mummy must begin in earnest. I will resist the urge to run at every sound, and keep night-time snuggling to an absolute minimum. Unless it's with Daddy of course. Though hopefully not on the floor...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Home sweet home

G&T - 28 months  M - 6 months

Well, that's it. My baby has moved out. Little M's cot has been decamped to her sisters' room, and the Moses basket in the living room has been packed away. From now on, she'll go to bed with her big sisters, while I stay downstairs and miss her. Until it's time for me to go to bed, then I'll go up into my own bed and miss her there instead. It's brought back so many memories of the day the twins first moved into their nursery. Their move was perhaps even more stressful, as it not only meant being separated from Mummy and Daddy, but also from each other. Although they were still to share a room, they were moving into their own cots, having shared one since birth. Their dad and I worried for weeks about how they'd take to it, and in fact instigated an elaborate plan to ease the change. We kept one cot in our room, but built one in the nursery and, over the course of a week before the move, the girls alternated between rooms, with one parent and one child in each room. Then came the big day. Both cots were put in the nursery, the girls were put into bed and... a totally uneventful night. They were utterly unperturbed by any of it. Turns out we, or more probably I, was being a drama queen. And I know M will be OK too. In fact, separating from her should be easier. Until just after she was born, we lived in London, hundreds of miles away from most of my family in Scotland or my husband's clan in Yorkshire. It meant there were no ready babysitters and there was always a little adjustment period while they clung to me until they remembered who visitors were. It made expecting M a difficult time, first worrying she'd arrive before my mum came to stay on my due date then, even when Granny appeared, worrying that the twins would be stressed about Mummy and Daddy vanishing. Of course, when I did go into labour in the middle of the night, the girls were simply delighted when they had a whole day of playing with Granny and Aunty R, while I cared about nothing but getting that baby the hell out of me! But I'm glad that now, should I go into labour in the wee small hours (admittedly unlikely) none of us would bat an eyelid. My mum lives literally five minutes away and all three girls love being left with her or Grandad or Aunty S. They're always having far too much fun to notice their parents abandoning them. M has been looked after by Granny far more times in her six months than her sisters did in their first two years. Not only does that give Daddy and me more freedom to spend time with the twins, or even, amazingly, each other, but it's pretty good for Granny too. If I ever see anyone prouder than my mum when she strolls along pushing her little lookalike grand-daughter in her buggy, I'd be surprised. After raising the twins so far from home and coping with them alone and pregnant while Daddy was at work, my life now has transformed. And so has theirs. If I could give you one piece of advice, it'd be move back home. Nothing in the world is better than grandparents!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bye bye baby

G&T - 28 months    M - 6 months

A poop in a potty! A poop in a potty! I swore when such a thing occurred, I would resist the urge to turn into a cliched shrieking mum, but I couldn't help it. As G leapt up and she and T stared at the neat little package in wonder, I was overcome with pride and delight. My clever little girl! G herself was more shocked than anything else. Whether it was the surprise of seeing this strange thing emerge from her, or my alarming exultation, I don't know, but she burst into tears. A lot of praise and cuddles helped her calm down, but a funny thing happened. That evening, as I delightedly relayed every detail to her daddy, I found myself welling up too. With pride yes, but also a little sadness. My baby is growing up. And she isn't the only one. I've just started little M on solids, and boy does she love them. Baby rice smeared everywhere, happily sucking on peppers and rice cakes, she loves being in her high chair, one of the girls with her sisters. She's also just managed to sit up all on her own, and I welled again as I watched her wobbly attempts to join in her sisters' game. I'm now deciding when to wean her off breastfeeding on to bottles, perhaps soon after her imminent move into her sisters' room. It's all changing. She's my baby, the last I'll ever have. I love her sleeping in her cot next to me, being able to just glance across and see her peaceful little face. When I hold her, I love the way she snuggles into me, favouring my cuddles above all others. But truth be told, I've already been relegated to third place in her estimation, behind her ever-entertaining sisters. And it's only a matter of time before I drop down to fourth, when she starts to appreciate, like her sisters before her, the fun-filled, treat-wielding wonder that is Daddy. But I guess that's a full-time mum's lot. Ever-present so a little less sparkly. Always being distracted from games by boring things like cooking or cleaning. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to become one of those women who just keep having children so they always have a baby to cling to them. I'm done. But saying that with such finality does make me a little wistful. I spent a lot of my life imagining having a baby, but I guess now my babies are growing up, I have to as well. I've got a different life to look forward to. The first days at school, losing those first teeth, the first bike, the first boyfriend, the first broken heart (though those last two will only happen when the girls are 40 if Daddy has his way...). A world of firsts just waiting round the corner, and I can't wait. Well, actually, I can wait, just for a while. I'll be a mum of babies for a little longer yet, and I'll love every nappy-filled second.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

What's in a name?

G&T 27-and-a-half months  M - 5-and-a-half months

These days, I really struggle to remember my girls' names. OK, that's not strictly true, but I do find I need at least three attempts to get one right. It's not like I don't know which daughter is which, it's just that my brain seems to just spew out a name at random before it's processed who it's talking to. Since becoming a mum, I've actually had to sit down and apologise to my own parents. As one of three girls myself, I was forever being referred to by the wrong name, and I know I'm now destined to replay those teenage 'You don't love me enough to know my name!' years from the other side. My parents accepted the apology with uproarious  delight. Revenge is so very sweet...  I don't even have the excuse of the twins being identical. G is blonde, lanky and the absolute image of her father, while T is shorter, powerful and my little clone. They're very different wee people, and I've always tried to treat them as such. When I was growing up, people would comment on how my sisters' and my names didn't 'match', as though we somehow came as a set. When I found out I was carrying two girls, I was adamant that there would be no rhymes, no alliteration, no suggestion that they were two halves of a whole. Out and about with them in the buggy, people would forever ask if they were a boy and a girl, even if they both had pink on. I could never understand why until one lady simply said it. She expected two girls to be dressed alike. But why? Surely twins have to fight hard enough as it is to be seen as individuals. If other twin parents want to name them Polly and Poppy, or buy oodles of cute matching outfits, fair enough, but that's not for us. My girls are both beautiful, clever, crazy and wonderful, but both in different ways. G loves numbers and letters, showing all the signs of an academic to be, while T loves puzzles and soft toys, a tough little cookie with a squidgy soft centre. They're not just a twin, they are their own people, and we're going to make sure they get to thrive as such. That's if I can remember their names, of course.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mum on the edge

G&T - 27 months   M - 5 months

This has not been a good week. With the latest in a seemingly neverending stream of colds (no pun intended) knocking the usually fun twins off their game, we've had long days and even longer nights. Sleep has been disturbed and daytime naps curtailed by, well, there's no nice way to phrase it, truly epic amounts of snot. With all of us feeling rotten, it's no wonder tempers have been frayed, and on the worst day, the twins' constant arguments took me to the brink. From the moment they got up a good hour early, before even 6am, things were on a rocky footing. Every toy was fought over and every tiny sisterly disagreement escalated into a shrieking, crying frenzy. All of which, of course, also meant poor little M barely got a wink of sleep. When the twins too just couldn't be persuaded to take their lunchtime nap, there was only ever one outcome. My ears ringing from eight hours of ceaseless whining, sobbing and screeching, it was all I could do to stop myself running outside to lock myself in the shed with a pillow over my head. As I heard myself screaming, 'Stop screaming at me!' at them, I knew I'd lost it. Emotionally and physically wiped out, I lay down on the floor next to where M was playing in her jungle gym. M, by the way, had found my end-of-my-tether roar hilarious, which perhaps doesn't bode well for disciplining her in the future... Anyway, as I tried to calm myself by taking in her cheeky smile, the twins, a little shell-shocked by my outburst, quietly sat down a few feet away. After a minute or so, T picked up their nursery rhyme book. She opened each page in turn, looked at the picture and started to sing. Somehow, without me noticing exactly when, she'd learned practically all the words of every one. When she stumbled over Wee Willie Winkie, G piped up, 'Knocking on the windows...' as they both surreptitiously snuck looks at me. I, of course, melted. Suddenly, they were my gorgeous, cheeky, bright wee girls again. My favourite little people, who I love more than anything in the world. OK, so I'd lost it another seven or eight more times by the point T finally succumbed to exhaustion on the landing as I ran the bath, but I at least I had the nursery rhyme memory to fall back on. It's true that being a parent is by a million miles the hardest job you'll ever do. The lack of sleep, the worry, the neverending demands... But I can't think of any other career which offers so many moments of such heart-melting happiness. And when the next cold hits, I'll just have to keep telling myself that...

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Going, going... gone!

G&T - 27 months   M - 5 months

I've never been what you'd call efficient when it comes to leaving the house. In general, in my pre-mummy days, I'd spend the last few minutes before rushing off for the tube loudly tearing around looking for my magically-disappearing keys, getting more and more irate until I found them in my bag, or pocket, or hand. But now, I see those days for what they were. Blissful. These days, I hate leaving the house. Not being out, the actual leaving. Yes, there are the nappies, the wipes, the spare clothes, all the tools of a mum on the go. But that's not the problem. There are just so many people to get ready. And so many of them can be so uncooperative. If I know I need to leave by nine, I start starting to leave at 8.40 at the latest. In general, little M gets suited up and popped into her buggy first. If I'm lucky, she'll play there patiently until her sisters are ready. If I'm very lucky, she'll fall asleep. If I'm unlucky, well, the loud complaining just adds one more stress to the situation. 'I don't want my cardie, I want my jumper.' 'I want to wear my wellies.' 'I don't want to wear anything.' 'I want to stay here aaaalllllll day.' We never just leave. I'm looking forward to summer not for the nice weather, but simply because there will be fewer layers. Two toddlers, two cardies, two coats, two hats, four gloves, four boots, or shoes, or wellies... By the time I begin actually going anywhere, I'm already frazzled. When I think of my workdays now, it's with a sort of rosy glow. One coat, a bag, a book that I actually got to read, one little set of keys... Just one person who I had to kit out to face the elements. I really wish I'd appreciated it. When my twins were little, all my singleton mum friends would wonder how I coped, but twin mums know who the real heroines are. Triplet mums. In the past, I've occasionally wondered if having three of different ages is harder than three of the same, who at least have the same interests and can be entertained together. But now, when I imagine not being able to pop at least one in the buggy before the leaving marathon, I shudder. Two toddlers to dress up and get out is more than enough. And no, I can still never find my bloody keys.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Sleeping arrangements

G&T - 27 months  M - 5 months

I simply cannot do it. I've tried and tried, but no, there is just no way to run around after two toddlers all day then not fall asleep while feeding a baby at 3am. When she was very small, I got into the bad habit of bringing M into bed with me at night to feed her. Inevitably, she'd end up snoozing happily in there all night, me having drifted off mid-feed. With her dad and I consigned to precariously perching on the edges of the bed, something had to give. Determined to regain our own mattress and prevent a troublesome sleeping arrangement I might have a problem breaking in the future, I took up the offer of the loan of a comfy rocking chair from my mum, and started dragging myself from bed to chair whenever the wee one called. And it worked. For a few days. Then my body seemed to figure out just how comfy that chair was. Cosy dressing gown on, head leaned back, feet up on the bed... I'd wake up two hours after I started the feed, M snuggled happily in my arms, me a bleary mess. I'd pop her back in her cot and crawl into bed but, of course, by then I'd only have an hour or so before food was called for and I'd start the whole thing again. So I tried to think of a plan. I keep a nightlight on in our room, so I can see to M, and the position of the chair means without my dressing gown hood pulled up, the bulb glares a bit in my eyes. So one night, I laid out a non-hooded gown and went to bed. Cue 3am feed. Sleepily irked by the light, I turned my head the other way... and woke up two hours later , M snuggled happily in my arms, me a bleary mess with a sore neck. Perhaps discomfort was the key. So next night, I moved the chair a little away from the bed and turned in. Cue 3am feed. I fidgeted in the chair, trying to find a good position, then managed to slouch down and reach the tips of my toes onto the bed, turned my head away from the nightlight... and woke up two hours later, M snuggled happily in my arms, me a bleary mess with a sore neck, sore back and strange locked-out knees. Cold, that's the answer. I discarded the gown and hit the sack. Cue 3am feed. I fidgeted around, grumpy, uncomfortable and cold, turned my head from the nightlight, perched my toes on the bed, managed to pull the throw I keep on the chair round my shoulders... and woke up two hours later, M snuggled happily in my arms, me a bleary mess with a sore neck, sore back, strange locked-out knees and freezing cold. So I've given up. The chair is next the bed again, my hooded robe waiting in place. I figure if I'm going to be stuck there, I might as well be comfortable. On the odd night, I do manage to maintain consciousness long enough to deposit M in her cot and get a proper rest, but it seems luck has as much to do with it as anything else. So, short of fitting some sort of electric shock device, I'm out of ideas. All tips welcome!