Saturday, 26 November 2011

Let them eat cake!

When you teach your children manners, you never have an inkling that it might backfire on you at some stage.  What parent doesn't want little angels who always greet adults with respect, say please and thank-you for everything (even things they don't like), and who know how to conduct themselves at the table?  And yet...

We were at the party of a child who has been friends with ours since before she was born - literally.  Her mom used to come over and see the boys when the little girl was still in the womb, and they would always pat the preggy tummy and ask why it was fat.  Anyway, the baby is turning two in a few days time (how on earth did that happen - she was only born, like, yesterday or something?), and my tribe were invited to the party.  It was a really lovely party, mostly for the adults, I must say (but then what party for a two-year-old is actually for the kid?), and was very elegantly catered.  People stood around in clusters with fancy snacks like strawberry coulis filo pastries and pesto and brie croissants (I can only ever rustle up a quiche and even then you'd be lucky) while the little ones ran off outside to play.    

My lot decided that they could not wait to go to the loo, and so we made our trek to the toilet.  Getting three kids on and off the loo before someone has an accident is no mean feat.  And then of course each one has to flush the toilet after each go, and there are four pairs of hands to wash (counting mine too, hopefully).  The whole process can take upwards of fifteen minutes.  Anyway, when we got back to the venue,  it turned out the we had missed the whole "Happy Birthday" cake cutting tradition, and walked into the room in that awkward silence that always seems to follow a public karaoke rendition of Happy Birthday to You sung off-key.  All the kids were stuck into the cake, their faces and hands covered with the sticky icing.  My lot were offered a plate of delicious pink and green birthday cake each.  

And that is when their hard-won manners let me down.  In a piercing, disdainful voice, the one exclaimed "I can't eat that!"  There was a collective intake of breath as all the adults in the room fell silent and listened intently to what was going to happen next.  
"Why not, love?" I asked nervously.
"I can't eat cake without a cake fork," he explained in horror.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Madness at the Mall

I think it probably goes without saying that shopping trips are a bit of an adventure with twins and a small baby.  I used to be able to threaten the boys with being put in the shopping trolley if they were too boisterous, but now, with Little Miss Snoopy taking up prime position, that option is no longer available to me.  It is pure Mind Control that is the key now.  Either I don't have much of it, or theirs' is just stronger, but it seems as though they are winning.

Going to the supermarket is nothing short of a military operation.  In the car outside the shopping mall, I outline The Plan, complete with ETAs or Estimated Times of Arrival (which the twins seem to misconstrue as meaning Enactments of Terrible Anarchy) and practically a hand drawn diagram of what will happen if Mother's word is disobeyed.  I make sure that I have their complete and undivided attention before we step out of the car (if I lose the plot before we actually embark on the shopping trip, I might as well turn around in the parking lot and go home). The we emerge from the vehicle, with the twins holding onto me and me holding onto the baby, in order to cross the road to the entrance.  This normally goes well.  The boys tend to lull me into a false sense of security by giving their compliance until we are actually inside the shop - that way they encourage me to foolishly hope all will be well and continue with the mission.  

In reality, their compliance is a cunning plot - once inside the precincts of the shop, they realise that I am unlikely to back out and it is then that they put their "Embarrass the living daylights out of Mom" strategy into action.  When they were little, their anarchy consisted of mostly throwing spectacular tantrums (complete with lying on the floor, howls and kicking of feet), in the fresh produce department.  Once, acting on my own irrefutable advice as a psychologist (given to the mom of one of my patients), I decided to "simply ignore the tantrum behaviour and walk away."  I left one of the boys kicking and screaming on the floor near the fresh fruit and calmly (at least on the outside) carried on shopping.  I think I got as far as the meat section before the screeching child came haring after me.  Not my best or most serene moment as a parent.

Not only that, but having twins along can be likened to having a hyperactive pair of octopi (octopusses?) attached to your cart.  A recent shopping expedition had me standing at the till wondering bemusedly how seven bars of chocolate, a set of toothbrushes and about fourteen boxes of tampons (they liked the pictures on the boxes) got into my monthly shopping.

Now that they are older, they have devised other methods to ensure that I still feel like an unfit mother when doing the monthly grocery shop.  They now have an extensive vocabulary, and piercing little voices to go along with it.  In clear earshot of the person in question, they are able to make the most observant, yet embarrassingly detailed observations of other shoppers.  They have fully mastered the art of the Stage Whisper.  On a recent trip, they were confronted by their first sighting of a cross-dresser.  After staring for a long time (while I silently willed them not to say anything), they were ready to comment.  "Mama," said one, in stern tones, "that lady has a beard like Daddy!"
"Perhaps she forgot to shave," added the other.  
There's not really anything you can say after a comment like that....

My three angels with their Granny Moo

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Thank Heaven for little girls!

 The boys were still very young when I fell pregnant with the next little one.  We were overjoyed - we really wanted our family to be spaced with two years between them, so that the new littlie would be a part of the lives of the boys right from the start, that there would never be a time that they could remember that was without her.  We had also tried especially for a little girl, because we had our boys, and thought it would be a nice rounding off to our family unit.  I can tell you that even the other gynaes at Peter's hospital were impressed when we found out that it was indeed a little girl I was carrying!  For a while Peter had quite a reputation - first producing twin boys and then a little girl, as though on cue.  What a good gynae!

However, things didn't seem so rosy when we almost lost our precious little girl in my twelfth week of pregnancy due to a massive hemorrhage.  I will not go into it, but suffice it to say that it was the darkest and scariest time of my whole life.  When we discovered that she was still miraculously clinging on to life inside me, I cried the first truly ugly cry of my whole life.  You know the kind, I am sure, when your whole face screws in on itself, and you can't control it.  But in spite of the good news, everyone took it very seriously indeed - I was put on immediate bed-rest, and in my six or seventh month of pregnancy, I was advised to give up breast-feeding the twins, who were almost two at the time, because it could cause the labour to start prematurely.  I was devastated - that time with the boys was such a wonderful time of re-connection after a busy day, a time of bonding and closeness and love all mingled together in the peace of a darkened room just before they drifted off to sleep for the night.  I could not imagine giving that special time up.  But I knew that for the sake of the new little life inside me, I would have to.  I wrote a letter to the little boys on the night of our last feed, and I thought I would put it in here now (after all, this space is so much more secure than my treasure chest, where the moths have already eaten up some of the words):  

My Dearest Boys,
Tonight was the first night we didn't have "boobie time" together, boys, and in some ways, my heart is breaking.  Although I know you have to grow up, and that I have to let you, there was something so special about our bond during this time that I don't want to let go.  It was so unbelievably hard for me to say "No boobie-time tonight, just water" to my precious little ones.  But I am so thankful that we have had these 22 months together - so many mums have so much less than we have been granted, and some have none at all.  We have been so blessed, my little ones.  After all, there were times when all three of us didn't seem as though we could make it this far.  

And now there is a new little one to be prepared for, who needs the nutrients you no longer do.  So we can rejoice in our bond, and pray that such a strong foundation can only be strengthened over time, that our love for each other will never change.  
I love you so much, my darlings.

And somehow, at the end of that last feed, there was a peace and a closeness that extended beyond, and endures today.  When Little Miss Snoopy arrived on the scene, she took over greedily from where her brothers had left off, and shows no signs of wanting to stop.  And to tell the truth, I am in no hurry to persuade her otherwise. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Just another day in pair-adise!

One thing you are forced to learn very quickly about being a mom is that your life is now no longer owned by you alone.  Ditto all your stuff, your food, your time, your energy and your abilities.  All becomes subservient to the goal of raising your happy and healthy children.  Guaranteed, the second you head into the loo for a bit of "me" time, a troop of little footsteps will follow in your wake, and piping voices start asking awkward questions like "what are you doing?" (I am never quite sure how to answer this one, by the way.  I mean, are they just being cutely conversational, or how literal do they want you to get?)

A prime example:  You will have just made your littlies a lovely meal, set it out on the table and called them for supper.  Everyone is eating peacefully, until little eyes start darting to whatever is on your own plate.  Your's looks better than what they have!  It's not fair!  Soon, the questions start:

Sam:  "Mama, what's that?" (pointing to my plate)
Me:  "It's fish.  Look, you have the same on your plate."
Sam:  "Please can I have that bit there?"
Paddy:  "I don't have enough chips - please could I have those ones?"
Me:  "Why don't you eat what is on your plate first, then you can have some more?"
Sam and Paddy: "Mine is not crispy enough/is too crispy/doesn't have any salt/doesn't look the same,..etc."

The upshot:  I end up handing over all the food to them and start eating theirs instead.  Peace reigns for a few moments. Then:

Sam:  "Mama, what's that?" (pointing at my plate)...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Young and the Restless

We've had one of those "stir-crazy" days - I am sure you know what I am talking about:  the kids have been a bit off (not sick exactly, but with runny noses and looking a bit peaky) and so we made the decision not to let them outside in order to stave off any sickness that might be developing.  Three small kids ill is no joke - we try to avoid it where ever possible!

The old folks got it right when they said idle hands are the devil's playground.  Also, that necessity is the mother of invention.  The result of being trapped inside for a whole day is three small whirlwinds of boredom wandering around aimlessly with destruction on their minds.  So far, they have got hold of a full bag of potato crisps and discovered that if you smack it really hard, it bursts with a satisfying confetti-like shower of small chips all over the carpet and couches.  They have made a convalescence bay for a patient who they "pulled out of a fire" with all of the lounge cushions and a few blankets, pillows off the beds and a few toys (which for some unknown reason are placed over the eyes of the patient in order to cure them).  They have been into the garage and discovered a huge piece of polystyrene from an old box (it is no longer a huge piece - when I opened the garage door and the wind swept in, there were so many tiny pieces of polystyrene floating in the air that for a bizarre moment I thought it was snowing).  They put all three trikes and a dump truck on the trampoline and rode them around and around in circles until they fell off dizzy.  They got hold of a couple of credit cards out of my purse and bent each of them neatly in the middle.  In an attempt to find something interesting to do, they emptied out three huge containers of toys all over the playroom floor and then moved off to play with the toys that had been out all the time.  Someone found a highlighter pen (neon pink) somewhere and found that if you draw on the balustrades or the stair walls, it does not come off, even with meths or acetone.  They have been in more time-out today than time in.

You can learn a lot from your children:  the most important thing you learn is how much patience you have.  Needless to say, as I surveyed the havoc and destruction in my house today, I was not pleased.  Normally, at the end of a Sunday, my house looks marginally tidier than normal because we have tried so hard during the weekend to catch up with housework and washing.  Now it resembles nothing so much as those dreadful houses they show on Oprah where the people hoard stuff for years until it covers every available bit of floor.

My nerves were frazzled and I just wanted to get dinner on and get everyone in bed where I know where they are and what they are doing.  As I was trying to create some semblance of order in the kitchen, I heard a small voice behind me "Here, Mama, I have brought all the cups and bowls from the lounge".  Balancing them all carefully, Fireman Paddy had collected up some of the havoc strewn around and brought it to me in the kitchen.  
"You know," he said conversationally, "I love you so much.  One day I am going to marry you, Mama."

And in that instant, the whole day snapped into perspective.  Instead of bemoaning the mess, I am thankful for the ones who made it.  The piles of dirty clothing, toys strewn around, cushions on the floor are all evidence that I am surrounded by the ones I love the most.  

So I left everything and went and played on the trampoline with the kids until bedtime.  After all, I reasoned, if the mess they have made doesn't multiply, smell too much, catch fire or block the access to the food cupboard or fridge, it can safely stay as it is until tomorrow...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

From Here To Maternity

When I was young, I hated my body.  I saw myself as always too fat, my nose was too wide, my teeth too wonky, my hair too frizzy, and I could go on and on and on....

Now, after having two pregnancies and three children, I realise that I was actually quite a babe then.  I can look back on that pre-pregnancy body and wonder how I did not spend every day marveling at it's amazing parts.

Take breasts for an example (men - avert your eyes!).  I remember a day BC (before children), when the bottoms of my breasts did not make contact with the skin of my rib-cage (under which were actual ribs - I could feel them and everything!).  My breasts were what is called "pert" or "perky" by some of the seedier novelists, rounded, and when I moved my feet, like during exercise or running (yeah right!) my feet were the only things that moved up and down.  There is no doubt about it, my babies were going to get milk from attractive containers!  The other day in the shower, I discovered an awful fact:  having three hungry babies dangling from my nipples for the better part of four years now has had a dreadful toll.  I found that I can fit at least four fingers under my breasts as they dangle rather lifelessly onto practically my stomach.  Not only that, nipples which once pointed proudly forwards somewhat like car headlights now seem to be looking forlornly and aimlessly at the ceiling, almost as though they are wondering what they are doing there.  Exercise (like running after a child - not actual exercise like in a gym - what mother has time for that?) now consists of moving my feet, while frantically clutching at boobs that are bouncing up and down so hard they give new meaning to the phrase "milk-shake".

Likewise my tummy:  in the olden days BC, my stomach boasted an actual six-pack of muscles.  I was very conscientious of maintaining skin-tone during pregnancy, oiling myself up with bio-oil to such an extent that I looked like a female body-builder in competition time.  For thirty seven weeks, I had not one stretch mark, and I smiled smugly when doctors or midwives would exclaim over my beautiful preggy-belly.  However, during literally the last few days of pregnancy, when I could no longer see my own feet, I got a horrible itchy feeling around my belly-button, and sure enough, those crazy little lines were running all over the place.  Not only that, but when the babies were born, the deflated sack that was my tummy looked like a popped balloon, and felt pretty similar too.  Now, I seem to have replaced one six-pack of muscles with another:  in clothes, it looks like I have an actual six-pack (i.e. of cans of beer) strapped to my midsection.  

My hair, I realised, was actually quite straight before I was pregnant - I now know what frizzy hair is all about.  In fact, if it is loose and brushed, I often comment that I am modelling my hairstyle on that of the Sphinx.  And don't even get me started on the more unpleasant changes in a body after pregnancy!

But (luckily there is always a but - hmm that's another thing I forgot to mention: my butt) there is an upside to all of this - the happy and contented little baby.  I learnt that breastfeeding does not diminish the charms of your breasts: it fulfills them, giving them a purpose beyond merely the decorative.  They start to look useful - like the house that is lived in rather than one that merely appears on the cover of Home and Garden.   Breastfeeding for me was the realisation of motherhood, a bonding, a gift not only to my baby, but to myself.
Being fat and pregnant lasted for nine months, but the joys I discovered through being a mom have lasted forever.  So that beach-babe body is gone?  Who cares! Not me (anymore!).

Before you were conceived I wanted you
Before you were born I loved you
Before you were here an hour I would die for you
This is the miracle of Mother's Love.
-- Maureen Hawkins

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Three little monkeys, swinging in a tree...

Time:      09:45
Place:     Somewhere in downtown Lower Hutt
Agents:  Fireman Sam and Fireman Paddy (aka Spiderman and Superman at present time) and joined by a new, devious secret agent, Wonder-girl.
Mission:  To conquer the Tree (okay, large bush - there are far too many pointy and whippy branches for it to be called a tree).

Fireman Sam and Fireman Paddy surveyed the territory in satisfaction.  A large, prickly bush, full of unexpected spikes and protruding branches provided the ultimate challenge.  Any sane or unadventurous kid would not consider climbing up there.  Ah, Perfect!  But who else could be roped into the scheme?  They considered the options carefully, but eventually decided on Wonder-girl - after all, she had been following them around for most of the morning already, agreeing with every suggestion and, chances are, would be less likely to question the sensibility of climbing high up into what appeared to be an impenetrable maze.

The three intrepid explorers embarked on their quest.  At first, all went well.  Their small bodies were able to worm easily through the upwards-growing branches (remember this point for later), and within a relatively short time they had attained a vantage point, luckily short of the power-lines, but still about three meters up in the air.  It was the coming down that was not so easy.  In a strange twist of irony, Fireman Paddy, who had shinnied up that tree like a cat up a pole, managed to get one of those same upward-growing branches firmly wedged under the shoulder seam of his sweat-shirt and was unable to move.  While the others wanted to climb higher, he was effectively stuck.  He did what any good secret agent would do under the circumstances:  he began to howl for his mommy.

His yowls attracted the attention of most of the adults in the place.  Whilst the majority stood around at the bottom of the tree, directing operations and offering advice (I was trying to keep the screecher from panicking and falling out of the tree, mostly through my power of will), it was up to the dauntless session leader to save the day.  Without fearing for limb or safety, she launched herself into the tree.  Where bodies smaller (and younger) had wormed their way through, she subdued branches that got in her way, making her way slowly but surely up to where the miscreant hung by his shirt in the tree like a fish on a hook.  She managed to somehow lever him free and grab him before he fell the three meters to the ground.  Crisis averted she maneuvered all three kids down through the branches and once again onto firm soil.

Once his feet were on terra firma, it was all smiles for the rescued fireman, and very little show of remorse.  In fact, he learned so little from this episode that the second our backs were turned, he was up the tree again.  Not only once, but twice more in the space of about two hours.  Luckily, it did not require intervention from the intrepid session leader to get him out again!

As the saying goes - children are a great comfort in your old age, but they certainly help you to reach it faster!  Thanks again to all for getting him out of the tree - especially our fearless leader - sunhats off to you, Liz!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A Fair To Remember

 I learnt a very valuable lesson recently.  I had promised the boys that we would go to the Festival of Fire, a mid-winter carnival where they make huge fire-sculptures on the beach and light them as the sun goes down.  It culminates in a massive fireworks display, set to music and reflected in the waters of the harbour.  It is spectacular and a great amount of fun. 

However, this year, there was a last-minute conflict of interest.  We were invited by the High Commissioner to attend a banquet to do with the launch of the World Cup, and although I had misgivings about breaking a promise to the boys, I must admit that my head was turned by the prestige of the event.  It had a lot to do with the eventual decision that I made - that we would attend the event, but go with the boys to the Festival quickly first.

The well-laid out scheme pretty-much disintegrated when the Festival was running late. They did not light the fire sculptures on time, and everything was pushed back from there.  We had to run home late, having waited for fireworks and sculptures that had not been lit, dragging two very disappointed and crying little boys behind us.  Late for the banquet, when we arrived we found out that they had under-estimated the amount of people who were invited and had therefore not catered for everyone.  Because we were so tardy, we were left standing at the back of the banquet-hall as they handed out starters to those fortunate to be sitting at the tables.  After a warm beer, we had to leave because the baby-sitter phoned us to say the kids had not settled and needed us home.  Disaster all around!

As we were driving home that evening, the Sweetpea and I had a "discussion", during which I berated myself for not keeping my promises to my kiddies above all.  Although he assured me that I was not to blame, I nevertheless felt that if it had not been for my stupid pride, we all as a family would have had a great time out and I would not have been untrue to the people that matter the most in life.  I have always told my children "I keep my promises", and here I had forgotten that most basic of principles.

There was an up-side to this though - since that time, I have endeavoured to keep my promises, no matter how small, so that we don't have a repeat of that fiasco.  So far so good!  I realised that my family and children should come first above all - above my need to keep the house presentable for guests, above my need to have the "perfect family" and so on.  I found a poem that really hit home:

If I had my child to raise again

If I had my child to raise over again 
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger paint more and point fingers less. 
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch,
and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less and know to care more
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields
and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.
I'd see the oak tree in the acorn more often.
I would be firm less often
and affirm much more.
I'd model less about the love of power,
And more about the power of love.

Diane Looman "Full esteem ahead"


Saturday, 12 November 2011

Double blessings...

I was never a motherly sort before I had my own kiddies.  In spite of the fact that I was a child psychologist, I am not sure that I actually got what having children is all about.  In a gaggle of women clustered around a newborn, I would be the one hoping and praying that I would not be the one called upon to hold the baby.  I was always scared I would make it cry, or drop it or make some kind of fool of myself with it.

The Sweetpea, on the other hand, was the total opposite.  Strangely, for a man, he was one of the first in those baby-admiring groups, easily picking up the little one and holding it with confidence that even the mother did not have.  When all others made a baby scream with panic, he was the one who had them hanging onto his beard with a look of wonder on their little faces.  He actually commented to me once that he thought I might be more comfortable holding a snake or a spider.  He knows me well - I would actually have been quite confident holding either of those - just don't give me a baby!

It all came to a head when we were asked to act as a couple in a play in the theater. They had a baby all lined up for us, a placid little creature who was calm and contented until, in the wings, a moment before we were due on stage, it took one look at me and from then on acted as though the very devil was after its soul.  I was supposed to carry the baby onto stage, showing it off to the audience as the son I had desired all my life.  But we couldn't get it near to me.  Eventually, with a large amount of ad-lib, Peter carried the then-cooing baby onto the stage and proclaimed that it was the son we had always wanted.  People always commented afterwards that it was a nice touch for the dad to show such pride in his son - I never had the courage to admit the truth behind our little charade.

I was therefore understandably nervous when I thought of having my own littlies - and not only one, but two!  I was the kind who had made a head-orientated decision to have babies, because time was running out for us and I thought we would be better people for it.  As the time for the birth drew near, I spent hours with the Sweetpea, agonising about if I would be able to love my babies as they deserved.  He always assured me that  I would.  He said he could see maternal instincts in me that I myself was not aware of (maybe he was making use of positive thinking?).  

However, I need not have worried.  The second those two were born (after a labour which was classified as uncomplicated and easy, but which seemed very difficult and a lot of hard work to me), the twins were put naked onto my chest.  And that was that.  I felt, for the first time in my life, that my heart was actually beating outside of my body - vulnerable and exposed in those two tiny creatures.  Everything from that moment on was about them - when I could not see them, I felt bereft; when I heard them crying, I would have done anything to make them stop.  

And when I looked at the Sweetpea, and he could read all of this in my face, he said what any husband in the situation could have been expected to say:  "I told you so!"

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Double, double, toil and ...

One thing about twins is that they always seem to want the same things at the same time.  I am not sure if it is only identical twins like mine, or all twins, but if one has something, even though there are many other items of the same kind surrounding them, they will automatically want only the one that the other has.  

I have often pleaded with mothers of kids attending our birthday parties to give exactly the same gift to each of the twins.  "They need to be individuals" is something I have heard often enough from well-meaning parents.  But when it comes time to opening presents, the boys get a glint in their eyes as they do a scan for whose present they like the best.  It can be exactly the same present in different colours, they will still want only the one.  And this leads to massive fights over who should be the one to have the favoured item first.

A classic example occurred yesterday:  we were invited to go with the play-group to see a new exhibition at our local gallery.  Some enterprising Granddad has spent about forty years of his life collecting and doing up bicycles of all shapes and sizes, and the result is one hundred sparkly new-looking bikes of all kinds of different persuasions.  Not only are there multitudes of colours and paint jobs, but also every kind of bicycle-like contraption you can imagine.  There are tricycles, two-wheeler bikes, trailers and scooters.  There are bikes with pedals and bikes without, huge monster bikes and little tiny motorbikes.  Basically every boy's idea of heaven.  And not only are they allowed to look at the bikes, they are allowed to play with them too!  There is a huge hall set aside for just this purpose, filled with kids on bikes careening around in circles.  Life does not get better than this!

I was lulled into a false sense of security by the sheer amount of bikes on offer there - after all, I reasoned, amongst a hundred bikes, there must surely be a few that will catch the eyes of the twins, and peace will reign.    I was taken completely by surprise then when the boys did a quick scan of the room full of bikes and unerringly and without any consultation with each other at all, headed for the same bike.  To me, it seemed just like any of the other bikes in the room, no different or more spectacular.  In a line-up, I could not have picked that bike out of the others that looked just like it.  Yet this was the one they both wanted.  Chaos ensued as each tried to put forward the arguments as to why they should have the bike in preference of the other.  While all the other boys in the play-group had happily donned helmets and were sailing off around the room on their chosen bikes, mine each had hold of a handle of the same bike, and were screeching hysterically.  None of my attempts to point out other bikes of equal interest ("Look, this one has flames on it - how cool is that?!") made even the slightest impression on them.

And so, for the next hour, I sat with first one then the other as they took turns riding the same bike around the room, while the other hundred bikes sat behind us, forlornly ignored.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A cat could very well be Man's best friend, but it would never stoop to admitting it...

We live in a countrified area in the middle of a city, and we have always liked the idea of being close to nature.  The great outdoors, the wild, the little creatures of the forest running around, etc.  It was lovely until one of those "little creatures of the forest" got into the house one night.  I was fast asleep when I felt something moving on the bed.  Now, I am a light sleeper at the best of times, and my transition from asleep to wide awake in this case took less than a millisecond.  I flung the whatever it was off the bed and heard it land with a huge thump on the other side of the room.  When I turned on the lights, it had gone out of the open window.  But not without leaving the evidence - a huge rat poo and wee on the pillow next to where I had been sleeping!   Obviously my quick reaction had startled the wretch and he had got a fright of a more physical nature.

I could not sleep in that room again, even with the windows firmly shut.  The Sweetpea was hysterically commissioned to "Do something!" although what exactly I expected at two in the morning I could not say.  I started entertaining the thought of getting a cat.  I have never been a cat person - we have always had dogs, so there didn't seem to be much point, but now, I could think of all sorts of reasons why owning a cat would be a Good Idea.  When I mentioned the plan to the Sweetpea, he was reluctant to say the least.  He pointed out that in addition to three children, we also have two large dogs, 37 fish and a fairly busy set of lives.  It was time to increase the pressure on him.  I researched how owning a small animal is good for children, as they learn compassion and responsibility from an early age.  Armed as I was with this ammunition, there was pretty little the Sweetpea could do but give in graciously, although he made it clear he was agreeing only by duress.

I started the cat hunt.  We had a couple of false starts where we went to see highly-pedigreed (and just as highly priced) moggies described as "good with children" who turned out to be breeder-raised and almost feral as a result.  Then I turned my attention to people who wanted to move away and did not want to take their pets with them, but these turned out to be mostly fat and over-pampered lumps doing nothing more interesting than waking up to eat and go back to sleep again.  Following my reasoning that we were looking for a cat that would be good for the boys and Little Miss Snoopy, it was a definite no on both counts.

Finally, I made a trip to the local Animal Rescue Center, and there found our perfect kitty.  When he was let out of his cramped little cage to meet me, it seemed as though he thought his saviour had finally arrived.  He twined himself around my ankles so fast it was like I was wearing a pair of furry ankle-boots.  Asking them to keep him for me, I went home to tell the family the good news.  The Sweetpea, muttering about "crazy woman", and "we don't need a cat", was duly dispatched to pick up the new addition to the family.  The Cat took up residence in our home.  

He bonded instantly with the family, and being relatively young, was soon playing with the boys and chasing bits of string.  

However, when everyone was in bed asleep that night, I came down the stairs to find the     Sweetpea lying fast asleep on the couch. With the cat on his chest.  And that is how it has been every night since.

As for the rat?  Never been seen since.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Playing with fire is only bad if you burn yourself...

I am never sure why, but Guy Fawkes is a big holiday.  Everyone celebrates it here, and for at least two days before and about three weeks afterwards, fireworks are being set off as soon as the first stars are seen in the sky.  I am sure if you had to question anyone closely on it, very few would actually know anything about Guy and what he got up to.  But, as with Halloween, actually knowing what you are celebrating is a sideline to the fun of celebrating whatever it is.  

This year, we bought into the whole fireworks thing (the boys are of an age to appreciate them and not be scared witless anymore) and so packed all and sundry into the car to go to the beach, from where the official firework display could be viewed without the hassle of being in a crowd estimated to be about 150 000 strong.  The thought of having my two escape artists in a crowd that large was beyond my comprehension!  

Everyone in our area had had the same idea, it seems.  The beach was packed with revelers, all eager to set off the biggest fireworks.  There is a thing about a man and his fire that has always fascinated me.  Just watch men at a barbecue sometime - the man who controls the fire controls the world.  It is a symbol of a man's potency (also probably from caveman days), and heaven help the man whose fire goes out with a damp fizzle - he is forever regarded with a mixture of pity and scorn by the other males of the group.  Anyway, the same can be said of a man and his fireworks.  The man who comes to the beach, dragging a firework that he cannot properly lift up is regarded with awe and deference by all those males out-classed by the monster display of male prowess.

Fireworks were being set off on all sides and the boys were wide-eyed as they watched the proceedings.  Anticipation for the start of the main event was high, with the question "Is it starting yet?" being asked about a hundreds times from the car-park all the way to the end of the pier.  Then, just as the main event was about to start, a kind couple with a girl about the same age as our boys offered the twins a sparkler each.  As the music was striking up and the huge fireworks started shooting off into the sky, the man was using his lighter to light up each of the boys' sparklers.  As showers of stars fell on either side, they waved their sparklers around with abandon.  The fireworks went unnoticed as each boy discovered the joy of owning his own fire for the first time:  "Me Man - Me make fire".  And when the one sparkler went out before the other, I definitely caught that same look of camaraderie passing between them that I have seen on so many barbecuing men in the past.  The next generation of fire-makers was upon us.  

As the last of the large fireworks above our heads disappeared into embers, they looked up from their now-dead sparklers. "Has it started yet?" asked the one.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Bring on the playpen - I want to get into it!

If you are of a sensitive or squeamish nature, it's probably best for you to avert your eyes for this one due to the graphic content!  It has been on my mind a lot lately, as I have been moving through the exciting territory of toilet training yet another littlie.  I started thinking about how much we change as we move into the exciting and challenging world of being parents.  And thanks for reminding me, Nigel - it's not only the mothers who have to change, it's the fathers too.  

As I was picking poo up off the carpet for the umpteenth time, I pondered this fact.  When I was a lot younger, even watching someone vomiting on television was enough to provoke several reflex heaves in me.  Mention of toileting, bowel movements or passing wind of any sort was not tolerated (I still can't think of the word fart without blushing - even writing it is too much for me).  So there must be something hard-wired into us when we become parents that changes all of that.  It is like a light switch goes on and something tells us "You're not as important as you thought you were - there is now someone else in your life that means more."  And that circle widens to include not only our children, but our spouse/partner too.

If someone had told the younger me that I would one day hold my bare hands out to accept all manner of "offerings" from my children (which have run the gamut from squashed slugs or beetles, to nose pickings, to dog or horse poo, to human poo and projectile vomiting), I would have laughed in their face (okay, I would have heaved first, then possibly laughed in their face).  Yet, clutching the hot, heaving little body of my eldest as he threw up again all over me, the couch and my beautiful Persian carpet, there was not one thing in the world that could prise me away from that moment in time.  It was priceless for the very fact that I could be there for him at that time, that when to the world he was at his most unlovable, I loved him fiercely and protectively and wanted to be there for him.  My own wishes and desires became nothing compared to his needs.

Being a parent changes you fundamentally.  Chances are it is only the parents or those of very strong constitutions that have made it this far into this blog without feeling a bit queasy.  But it is a good change.  Being a parent is not about being perfect, but it is something that perfects us.  It is more about us growing up to be good parents than it is about us rearing a good child.  When we can work that one out, we are starting on the right track.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A man who says he sleeps like a baby obviously does not have one!

It is normally just around the time that you finally feel you are getting the hang of the whole parenting thing that things go spectacularly wrong.  Our boys were about six months old at the time, eating and sleeping well and the Sweetpea and I were starting to feel human again.  I had even managed to put on make-up once or twice, and had been out of sweatpants at least once, a giant leap forward.  I had been out of the house to the twin club and to the shops, no minor feat for someone totally unused to being accessorised by two small babies.  Life was good.

In order to celebrate the return of our lives to relatively sane levels of functioning, the Sweetpea decided to take some leave so that we could spend some time together as a family.  Obviously unused to having their dad around full time, the twins decided to make the most of the situation.  They collectively decided (I cannot imagine that anything so well thought-out could be purely random) that they would not sleep again until he returned to work.  From that moment on, they took it in turns to sleep for only forty minutes at a time, day and night.  Better still, they timed it so that after twenty minutes of one being asleep, the other would wake up, and after nineteen minutes and fifty seconds of frantic rocking, would fall into a sound sleep, just in time for the other to wake up.  This continued the whole night and throughout the day, for the whole of the month of August.  The Sweetpea and I did not know what had hit us.  We still refer to it as the suicide month.  Sleep became like a unicorn - although rumoured to exist, it was just something we were never going to see!  When we tried to work it out at a later stage (when our brains started functioning again), we figured that we each had been sleeping less than forty minutes in a 24 hour period.

It was time for drastic action.  We were firmly convinced that as parents, we wanted to raise our children according to the principles of Attachment theory, which maintains that little ones should be nurtured and never left to cry or feel rejected.  It was as though the boys wanted to see how committed we were to the principles.   We decided that they only way for us to survive was to split them up, and so for the first time in their short lives, they were assigned to different rooms, and were more than four meters away from each other.  The Sweetpea and I would assign ourselves a different child each night and spend that time rocking and comforting and doing whatever it took to get them back to sleep again.  We slept on the floors beside their cots for most of the time, and on the few occasions when we both ended up in our own bed at the same time, it felt as though there was a stranger climbing into bed with us.  We would look at each other in a bemused way, grunt, and then fall straight back to sleep again.

We were never sure what happened to change it, or perhaps the diabolical attachment test was over, but as quickly as it had started, it finished.  The Sweetpea headed back to work, vowing never to take leave again, and the twins started sleeping like angels.  

Just goes to show - you can do anything you like, but until your kids decide to change their behaviour, you are wasting your time.  So who is really running our families?  I think our children are kind enough to let us believe it is us parents in control, but the reality is far from that!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Flying the coop...

I was in two minds whether to share this one or not.  After all, I have worked hard to cultivate an aura of being in control and knowing what is going on (not!).  But having spoken to several of my friends, who have all said "That happened to me too!"  I feel a bit better and will share it anyway, even though my sense of competence as a mom has taken a hefty knock!  So here goes:

It's a bit of a cliche to have a nightmare happen on Halloween.  I mean - how cheesy can you get, right?  Far better for any plot of interest to happen on another day of the year - Valentine's Day, for example, or perhaps Labour Day Weekend.

Life is not like movie plots however.  My own personal worst nightmare happened on Halloween this year.  As in all good tales, it happened when I least expected it.  The two boys asked (innocently enough, I thought) if they could go and play outside with the dogs, as they often do.  I was feeding Little Miss Snoopy at the time, so said they could go ahead, and if they needed me they could just call.  We have a fully-fenced garden - what could happen, right?  Wrong!  A few minutes after they had disappeared outside, I became aware that it was very quiet out there - you guessed it - too quiet.  I immediately put Little Miss Snoopy down and went to investigate.  What had seemed like a perfectly safe garden was obviously not - the boys were nowhere in sight.  Inevitably, denial was the first emotion - I spent quite a few minutes running around frantically in what is actually quite a small garden, looking under plants that are obviously too small to hide two very large three-year-olds.  All the while, I was screeching their names like a banshee and sounding more hysterical with each passing moment.  They were nowhere to be seen.

I searched for about five minutes before making a wild call to the Sweetpea.  Then I grabbed the little girl and started running up and down our road looking for them.  Its funny, but normally I find it really difficult to even walk up from the post box to our front door after fetching the mail (yes, I am that unfit).  However, adrenalin lent wings to my feet and I managed to run up and down the road, carrying a ten kilogram baby, as though I was strolling through a mall, and scarcely even breathed harder.

On my second trip down the road, surrounded by ghosts, goblins and ghouls all out for a bit of Halloween fun, who should I meet coming calmly up the path, as though nothing was wrong? The boys, of course.  they didn't even have the grace to look shamefaced as I grabbed hold of them, crying hysterically.  They merely looked at each other somewhat confusedly as if to say, "Now what's wrong with her?"

When the story finally emerged, it turns out that they had boosted each other over the very large wall, and, seeing all of the interesting people in costume walking past, followed them down the road to a house three doors down where a Halloween party was in full swing.  No one even appeared to notice the two extras wandering around.  After a while, the boys got bored and came home.  The Sweetpea, when he arrived home, was left to deal with the situation, while I tried to get control of my shattered nerves.  Needless to say, the boys are not going to go out into the garden again anytime soon.

Not my proudest moment as a mother!  I have come to the conclusion that:
One child, playing quietly = relatively innocent.
Twins, playing quietly together = hatching a plot of diabolical proportions.

Do you have things like this happen to you?  Or is it just your worst nightmare come true?  Let me know!