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.