Thursday, 27 June 2013

School's out for summer

I loved school holidays. Six weeks of freedom. Long days playing and running, imagining and dreaming. In our three neighbouring terraced houses, there were six of us all about the same age. Each garden was small, but combined, they were our world. A children's paradise of hideaways and secret stashes. Across the road, where the bigger houses were set back, there was an expanse of coloured paving slabs, dotted with rose-filled flowerbeds. Those slabs could entertain six pre-teens for hours. And there was more. Two streets back was a grass-covered cliff full of trees and plants and all the secret dens a child could want. I loved the summer holidays.
But now, I'm on the other side. Now, stretching before me are six-and-a-half whole weeks with no nursery, no dance class, no toddler gymnastics... just me and three bored preschoolers. What the hell am I going to do with them?

Summer with my girls... What could go wrong??

The memory of how hard it was to leave the twins at nursery for the very first time is still raw in my mind, but those days are long gone. Now, they love preschool, running in each day and giving only the briefest of kisses before they dive into the nearest game. They like the routine it's brought to our lives too. On Tuesdays, Granny takes M for the afternoon, while I borrow her car to take the girls to the school, which is a bit too far (and too uphill) for them to walk every day just yet. On Wednesdays, we all get on bus number 7, while on Thursdays, Grandad visits and we enjoy a fun morning at the library or playpark before lunch out and another bus trip. They like knowing what to expect. I like knowing it too. Now, every day is stretching out before us, empty and unplanned. Even the toddler gymnastics and dance class that give our Mondays structure stop for the holidays. All we have to do is whatever I can think of in my own head. My own exhausted, uncreative old head. For a month-and-a-half. We're all doomed.
I know some mums will have stocked up on craft supplies, booked holiday clubs and days out, you know, made plans. It's all I can usually do to get organised enough to get out the door each day. I spent most of my time merely trying to stay on top of the mess. I'm not arty or creative. I read a lot to the girls and can make a mean Brio train track, but will that be enough for six weeks?
I so glad I have family nearby. My dad comes twice a week, and my mum is keeping her Tuesdays free as usual, which is a huge help. We're already planning on her taking M plus one twin at a time so I can finally give G and T the one-on-one time I've been promising them. But all that still leaves four whole days a week to fill. On Saturdays and Sundays, though, we will have Daddy on hand. Two exhausted heads have to be better than one for dreaming up child-friendly plans, surely. OK, so now we're down to just Wednesdays and Fridays to fill. Well, if the weather holds, the garden should take care of some of that. We have a sandpit and a ball-pool and a selection of pop-up tunnels and tents which are great fun (as long as I don't have to pop them down again. Honestly, who the hell can do that without resorting to merely ramming them into a cupboard and slamming the door shut?). Then there are always other children. I've already got invites out and now we just have to set some dates. Visitors here, and trips to friends' houses should provide a wealth of fun. And most importantly, tire the little angels out.
You know, maybe I can get through this. I just have to take one day at a time. I might not be the world's most imaginative mum, but I know my girls.We might get a bored sometimes, we might lose our tempers, and heaven knows, there will be fights. But we'll get through it. We're a family. Spending all our time together is kind of the point. We just have to embrace it. A few months ago, the thought of not being with my girls all day every day was like a dagger to the gut. For nearly three years, they were always with me. Giving that up was agony, so surely getting those days back is a dream come true? We'll have a blast. We'll have fun. So much fun. After all, it's only six weeks. Six whole weeks. Just me and them all day, every day for six whole weeks... Oh dear...

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Better together?

It was the end-of-term nursery assembly. We been looking forward to it for weeks. With the twins showing great leaps in confidence, finally seeming to really enjoy going to preschool, we couldn't wait to see the effects on stage. At the Easter show, both had shyly performed a few actions, but didn't seem to want to sing anywhere near as loudly as they do at home. Now, though, our hopes were high.

G and T seemed to have left their shy days behind them

G and T have both come on in leaps and bounds. T especially always bursts in each day, showing off whatever she's wearing to teachers and children alike, and throwing herself into the nearest game. G is still the shyer of the two, but she always seems pleased to be going, and has begun to talk to the teachers in a voice they can actually hear. They have both spontaneously drawn pictures at home that they insist on taking to their teachers, and are always telling tales about their little friends. In the dance class I take them too, they are in their element. By all accounts, they have the whole class in giggles as they gleefully pretend to be elephants or fairies. At home, they sing from dusk until dawn. They know the words to any nursery rhyme you could care to mention, and aren't afraid to ad lib if they do find themselves at a loss. In short, I was sure they were going to stand on that school stage and shine.
And, well, one of them did. T grinned from start to finish. She joined in all the actions, smiling a huge smile at the teacher hidden away behind the curtain if she did need a memory prompt. She looked so proud as she waved to Mummy and Daddy, Grandad, Grandma and her wee sister, and laughed and smiled with the little girl seated next to her. M, in the audience, copied along as best she could, singing and wiggling and generally having to be restrained from jumping on the stage. My girls are clearly born performers. Well, two of them are.
G did nothing. Seated on the other side of the stage from her sister, she sat cross-legged, with her arms folded in front of her and didn't utter a word. She'd been handed a pair of socks to hold up during the Spotty Sock Song, but they sat, untouched, on her laps, despite the best encouraging efforts of her teacher. When she had to move at one point when a few of the older kids stood up to sing, she was physically shuffled along by the teacher. Nothing could bring a reaction. She was still. Mute. It broke my heart.

But what's going on behind those big brown eyes?

Maybe she wasn't as confident as I'd thought. Maybe she was still scared. She looked so small. I wished they'd seated her with her sister, sure that she would have felt so much more comfortable. Sure enough, as they filed out, at the end, I don't know whether G reached for comfort or if T sensed her sister needed her, but they were hand in hand. I melted. They had each other again. They could always have each other. With still a year left to make the decision, I resolved there and then that I would request they be placed in the same class in primary school. My husband and I talked about it that night.
'I think it made the school decision easier,' I said after we'd discussed the show.
'Yes,' he nodded. 'I think it is right to separate them.'
Maybe we need that year to decide after all.
We both saw each other's arguments. I feel they have a huge advantage and I don't see why we should deny them it. I know most kids goes to school alone, but they haven't had a constant companion their whole life. They've faced everything together. We would be ripping the girls apart. But they are by no means joined at the hip in nursery, often playing separately and barely noticing if the other is taken out of the room. I don't think they need to be split up, so why do it?
My husband meanwhile pointed out that G perhaps needed a push out of T's shadow. She's perfectly happy playing alone, but tends to follow T's lead when joining with others. Most of their friends I think are ones T has made for both of them. If they go to school together, they'll probably sit together and the pattern will continue. Perhaps they'd both benefit from having to find their own way.
We ended up even arguing the other's side. My ever-practical husband wondered whether separate classes would mean separate activities, and our lives would become a logistical nightmare. I meanwhile, conceded that it would be good for the girls not to be seen as a set. Although I think this is far less of a problem for non-identical twins like mine, there is a tendency to see multiples as a unit, to think that they share the same skills, have the same personality. Nothing could be further from the truth with G and T, but perhaps our placing them in the same class would emphasise this stereotype.
We were getting nowhere. All I knew was that the thought of separating them was like a dagger to my gut. And that my finding it difficult shouldn't be a determining factor.
For now, I'm going to have a word with G's key worker, and check that my original thoughts were correct. That G has grown in confidence, and that the show was a blip. I hope that she shows her true personality to everyone there. She is brights, bubbly, emotional, feisty and oh so clever. I worry that by being shy, she is not being stimulated. She has always has a flair for language, and having been doing spelling and phonetics at home, both G and T are starting to be able to read. If she says nothing, will she be getting bored? Do the teachers have any idea what she's capable of? Or does she sit quietly, saying nothing?
I take comfort in my own early school reports, which always highlighted my good test scores and obvious intelligence (my skills may have waned in the past three decades, but I was quite the clever 5-year-old you know!) but time and again, said I was painfully shy. My parents couldn't understand it, often double-checking the name on the report. I was anything but quiet at home. I was cheeky and loud and always had to be the centre of attention. I eventually came out of my shell in the outside world, and I'm sure G will too. I just can't decide how best to help her do it.
To separate or not the separate. We've got a year to decide...

Photos copyright SS Kelman (

Sunday, 16 June 2013

S2S2D Blog Hop!

Today, I'm honoured to be hosting the Shoulder To Shoulder To Day (#S2S2D) Blog Hop for Emma Day at Crazy With Twins. Mine is only a teeny blog, but I'm delighted that it has led me to a group of people willing to stand together with someone who needs a wee boost. When Emma was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer, then found out she needed to be isolated, unable to touch, let along cuddle her husband and three kids, Vic at VerilyVictoriaVocalises, and FireflyPhil decided that we needed to do something. we needed to make Emma smile!
We were all delighted by the news that Emma managed to kick her treatment's arse just as firmly as she is going to kick cancer's arse. But the decision was taken to carry on with the Blog Hop. And the brief remains the same. Emma's still going through a very worrying and exhausting time. So let's make her smile!
I'd love for you all to link up a wee post below (this is my first ever Linky, so sorry if there are any teething problems!). Anything goes, as long as it's cheery!
So, to kick things off, I thought I'd share what makes me smile. My girls.
Emma and I have a few things in common, not least that we are both mums to twins plus one. We both know how hard it can be to have three young kids on your hands. And we both know that no one will ever ever make you laugh as much as they do.
My girls are comedians, and have been from day one, so below are a selection of my favourite shots of my absolute favourite people.
Get well soon Emma! x

These little angels were the answer to my prayers
They soon grew cheeky...
... and always had a smile!

G was a classic beauty
While T was full of cheeky charm

They had some odd habits...
... could always strike a pose...
... and were known to run riot!

They always had each other

Then suddenly, they had a new playmate!
But Mummy's little bundle of joy...
Soon turned just a cheeky as her sisters!

And she always had entertainers on hand!
In short, these girls are my lovable, hilarious life!

Silent Sunday

Monday, 10 June 2013

Parenting under the influence

This week I got drunk. I went out with actual adults and drank actual alcohol. I never do that any more. Turns out there's a very good reason for that. Oh God, the hangover... I wanted to curl up in a ball and sob. Only I can't. I'm a mum-of-three. Mercifully, it was Sunday, so my husband was there to take up the slack. Having attempted to get up and help them get dressed, but been unable to actually hold myself upright without vomiting, I pleaded for mercy and retreated back to bed. I needed a day off.

 I love this little lot... but a day off would be nice

A day off. I haven't had one of those for three-and-a-half years. Before kids, if you are ill or exhausted or have the hangover from hell, you can pull the duvet back over your head and plan nothing more for the day than a heroic trip to the loo or, if you're feeling really ambitious, the kettle. But as I curled back round the sick basin, the guilt pounded in my already-pounding head. Mine is not the kind of job that comes with sick days and holidays and tea breaks. It's an 24-hour, seven-days-a-week kind of deal. 
I've got up and cared for my girls through vomiting bugs from which I was also suffering, I've survived on barely any sleep, but still made it to the playpark, and through four months of morning sickness, I provided two toddlers with three meals a day, every mouthful of which made me want to throw up.
But finally, after three-and-a-half years, I was beaten. I don't know whether it was my age (possibly), the fact I hardly ever drink now (probably) or the beer that seemed a really good idea after an evening of wine, wine and more wine (most definitely), but I felt awful. Skin-tearingly, soul-devastatingly awful. I could barely move without vomiting, and just wanted to sleep forever. It hadn't helped that little M had decided not only to have a disturbed night, but also to reject her father and demand only her wreck of a mummy sit up with her half the night. Unable to sleep off my excesses, they hit me fall-force the following day. 
But I never take time off. I've had a few days out, and get some regular time to myself every Tuesday with the twins and nursery and M with my mum. But I still get them dressed, I still get them breakfast and find their shoes and make sure everyone has their bag. I still get back in time to cook their tea and bath them and kiss them goodnight. I've had only one night away from my girls in their life, and that was unintended when a flight back from a funeral got cancelled. I'm a full-time mum. Literally.
But I couldn't do it. I had to go back to sleep. So I swallowed the guilt (then threw it back up again. Probably) and shut away my world. Until lunchtime. Even dying didn't get me a whole day off. By 2pm, I was up and dressed, and taking the girls round to see their granny, who went all maternal herself, and nursed me with tea and toast. I guess you never take time off from being a mum. I know as the girls get older, they'll start making their own breakfast, taking their own baths, going out with their own friends, and I'll get more time off. I'll be less vital. I may even take more time for myself. I'll be about to go out with friends, relax and have a glass of wine... Not that I'm ever drinking again... Where's that basin...

Photos copyright SS Kelman (     

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Cast away

I've always loved Radio 4. Loved it. Runs in the family. I was practically weaned on it. I was listening to Desert Island Discs the other day (I say listening, it was more 'struggling to hear over the incessant questions and fights and accidents...) and automatically started trying to choose the eight songs I'd take with me if I were cast astray. Turns out it's not as easy as it seems. I'd caveat these choices with the note that there were a lot of discs that only just missed the cut, and if you asked me to write this list again next year, or even next week, it'd probably be different, but nonetheless, here they are, my Desert Island Discs...

1) The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. Like Radio 4, I was weaned on Simon and Garfunkel. My mum was a massive fan, and I probably first heard this song in the womb. It will forever remind me of the long drive up to see my grandparents in Nairn, singing harmonies (admittedly not that harmoniously) with mum and my sisters.

2) Can't Take My Eyes Off You by Andy Williams. This was the first dance at my wedding, largely because my then-fiancé, loved singing his own lyrics along to the chorus... 'I love you, Aaaaaaa-mmmmy, da da da daa daa da da da, Aaaaaaa-my, blah blah blah'. Will always and forever make me smile, even if I can't ever remember the real words.

3) Don't Stop Me Now by Queen. This became the theme song of the first magazine I ever worked on in London. We were a new launch, all thrown in together, working (and playing) hard to make it a success. It was, by the way, and we had a lot of fun doing it!

4) Graceland by Paul Simon. Quite simply, the best song from the best album ever written.

5) Mr Brightside by The Killers. Impossible not the dance to, and I plan on dancing a lot on my little island with no one there to tell me to stop.

6) Cello Suite No. 1 by JS Bach. The greatest piece of music ever composed. On my island, I'd be so far from home, but this music has the power to lift me up to the skies. Soul-movingly beautiful.

7) Horny by Mousse T. OK, so perhaps a leap from Bach, but this song recalls Kavos in 98. Me, my best mate, sun, sand, ouzo, oh so much ouzo... and the best girls' holiday ever. And, you know, I'm going to be cast away without my husband. A woman has needs...

8) Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by my daughters (and Mozart). Bit of a cheat here, but if someone is banishing me across the sea, I can at least demand that they record my babies all singing together. They all love to sing and dance, and no other recording could ever capture that for me. To me, their crazy, shouty version is the best!

Book. So, Radio 4 give you the Bible, and the Complete Works of Shakespeare, which would keep me pretty busy, but this is a tough one. Although I don't get nearly enough time to do it these days, I love to read. But is it wise to take a trusted classic I'd read again and again, like Pride and Prejudice or East of Eden, or risk something new that I will keep me busy on the long, lonely days? I've agonised over this one, but in the end, I've decided that if I don't find time to read on my island, I never will, so I'd take a book I just never seem to get round to getting into, but know I'll love. Les Misèrables by Victor Hugo.

Luxury item. I always imagined that this would be a bed. I love sleeping. A firm mattress, clean, fresh sheets, snuggling down after a hard day's fishing or swimming or generally pottering around my island... Bliss. But motherhood has changed me. Although my girls are in my head forever and always, I'd like a photograph album full of them, my husband, my family and my friends. If I can't have them in person, I'll need the memories.

And finally, if a storm swept my new home, and I could only rescue on precious disc, which would I grab from the waves. This is almost impossible. A world where I never hear Paul Simon's voice again seems wrong, and the lose my girls singing would be heart-breaking. But in the end, I know I wouldn't need a record to hear them. They are always in my head. I just can't imagine living without hearing Bach again. I'd save the cello suite and use it to transport me to another world, high above my little island.

So, there you go, my Desert Island Discs. I'd love to hear yours!!