Tuesday, 31 January 2012

It's the little things in life that matter...

Over the holidays, while we were staying with the grandparents, there just seemed to be a lot more quality time.  I am not sure if it is a placebo effect, but we just seemed to be less busy, possibly because there are always a couple of extra pairs of hands to get things done, like make supper, or look after the kids while you use the toilet so that you don't have all three in with you saying "what are you doing?" (and really wanting to know too!), etc.  I can really see the advantage of living in a community - what's that saying? It takes a village to raise a child? 
 I totally agree.

But the upshot of all the extra time was, well, time.  We got to do things that we normally don't get a chance to.  Night-times consist of rushing from supper, to bath, to teeth, to bed, to sleep.  But with the extra hands, we were all in bed in plenty of time, certainly enough for leisurely stories and long talks.  And we were not so tired that we could not give of ourselves at this part of the day too.  We started what has now become a tradition:  saying thank-you for something every night before we go to sleep.  We always ask the boys "what are you grateful for today?"  The answers are sometimes surprising, and always different, which is interesting in itself.  So far, they have been grateful for friends that they have been able to play with, for their new bunk beds, for lovely meals, for KFC and MacDonalds (both of which they hardly ever have, so I am not sure where that comes from), and of course for Mama and the Sweetpea and Little Miss Snoopy.  They have been happy about sand to play in, for a kitty to love, and for cars.  They have also mentioned the tent, the ability to be Spiderman, and for pretty much anything else they can think of.  The pattern is always the same though:
Me:  Boys, what are you grateful for today?
Boys:  Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh (until they think of something) Worms!

It has had the knock-on effect that they are more grateful for other things during the day.  When we narrowly avoided another car who shot across a stop-street, they were both grateful that we were safe.  Also they said they were glad I drove so well (yay - plus points for me!).

Little Miss Snoopy has obviously been listening in on all of these conversations too. I decided to ask her the same question the other night too.  She copies her brothers in everything:
Little Miss Snoopy:  Uhhhhhhhhhh (with the same expression on her face as the boys) Boobies!

Monday, 30 January 2012

Why are wrong numbers never busy?

I love the different phases kids go through on their path to adulthood.  It is always so amusing to see how they handle various challenges that confront them and what they do to resolve conflicts.  At the moment, the challenge course of choice is Telephone Answering 101.  

In the beginning, it was always interesting to see their little faces light up when they put the phone to their ears for the first time and some bodiless person on the other side started speaking to them.  My lot, growing up in an era of Skype and computer-based communication, could not get the hang of speaking on the phone where the other person could not see what they were up to.  They had long conversations with Granny Moo, where they "showed" her all of their toys or other interesting things that they had been up to by taking the phone to various places and pointing a lot.  I remember them getting quite cheesed off when she seemed perversely unable to answer their questions such as "What's this?" (holding up an object to the phone).  I think they thought she was deliberately not answering their questions when she tried to guess at what they were doing.

Then came the excitement of discovering that, if they dialled out, someone would be sure to answer and talk to them.  The most surefire way to get someone to talk to them was to dial 111.  We were mystified a few times when some hacked-off operator phoned us back to ask us not to keep dialling their emergency number.  We then realised that the boys had been phoning up for a chat.  Luckily, they had not yet got to that stage where they shout into the phone "It's an emergency!" otherwise we might have had the fire service beating down our door on more than a few occasions. 

Now, however, they are of an age when we really need to start teaching them a bit about phone ettiquette.  I have phoned home from work on a few occasions where the phone has been answered by a heavy breather (and not the exciting sort!) who then proceeds to hang up on me.  Clearly an intervention is called for!  So far, we have had several dry runs, where the Sweetpea or I go onto the upstairs extension and "call" the downstairs one by beeping the intercom function.  Then we get one or the other of the twins to answer the phone in the correct way.  So far, so good.  When I recently phoned home, I was able to have an intelligent conversation with a little one (I could not tell who it was, though - horrible mother!) and also managed to be passed on to their dad without too much fuss and only five minutes of talking about everything else under the sun (which I really enjoyed, but the work-people listening in didn't).

However, now Little Miss Snoopy thinks this phone thing is a lark too and insists on being included in the tribe who "get to say hello to Granny Moo".  So Granny Moo has to sit for half an hour listening to the heavy breathing and the occassional "ess" or "no" coming from the girl-child.  Like a true woman, she is already able to clock up her time on the phone!

Photos today are courtesy of Paddy's new digital camera!  I particularly like his version of "self portrait".

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Boys and their toys

One thing I have had to learn very quickly about children are the Laws of Possession.  Attending first a play-group and now a kindergarten with my kids, I realised that what we as adults believe about possession, and what kids believe about possession are two very disparate entities.   A typical scenario emerges as follows:

We arrive at the kindergarten, and my two (or now three, since I see Miss Snoopy doing it too - the effects of modelling other's behaviours made uncomfortably tangible) make a beeline for their favourite object.  In the case of the twins, this object will be ninety-nine times out of a hundred the same item.  Usually (but amazingly, not always) it will be a superhero costume of some sort.  This item will then become their's exclusively for the duration of the time that we are there.  This means that certain unwritten laws come into being as relates to their possession of the item.  These laws are based on certain irrefutable principles, which include:

Principle 1:  If I lay eyes on the item first, no matter who gets to it first physically - it automatically becomes mine.

Principle 2:  If I get the item in my possession, it is mine for the duration of the time we are here.  Nothing will persuade me otherwise.

Principle 3:  If someone else gets the item first, it is still mine, and I will make as big a fuss about it as I can until I get it.

Principle 4:  The instant that the item is put down by another child, it becomes mine immediately, even if the other child merely lost their grip on it for a moment or dropped it by mistake.

Principle 5:  If I manage to grab the item during that moment of inattention, it is definitely mine and cannot be returned to the original owner without a huge fuss.

Principle 6:  If, by chance, I have a momentary lapse of attention and put the item down by mistake, it still remains in my possession.  If someone else picks it up at that stage, I can feel free to make a huge fuss until the item is returned to me.

Principle 7:  If I remember having the item previously (as on another day when we visited the same place before), it is still mine on the next visit.  If someone else now has it, I can feel justified in making a huge fuss because I had it first (two weeks ago).

Principle 8:  If I have a similar item at home, then this one is doubly mine, and that means that I can make a good case to take it home at the end of the play time.

Principle 9:  If my brother discovers something else that is cooler than my item, my item automatically becomes his.  His item then reverts to my possession as an exchange.  If he makes a huge fuss about it, refer to Principle 2.

Principle 10:  If I lose interest in the item at any time, I never wanted it in the first place.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Ready or not, here I grow!

Wow - I am so not ready for kindy!  Before the time, it is possible to get away with thinking you are going to handle it - a few hours of alone time (or at least, twin-free time) in which you can potter, do your own thing, catch up on the housework, or whatever.  And then the time is finally on you, and all of those things are suddenly meaningless and a bit daunting.  

Almost four now, my two are ready to take that step into kindergarten.  I spoke to the kindergarten teacher on the phone, just to prepare her for the boys' imminent arrival, but they were well ahead of me - turns out they have no less that four sets of identical twin boys at this particular kindy!  I spoke of my apprehensions, of how the boys have never been away from me before and about how I was worried that they might not be able to cope.  "Don't worry," she said, "it's perfectly normal for there to be a few tears when they start out."  Boy - was she spot on!  Unfortunately, when she mentioned tears, I just naturally assumed she meant on the part of the boys.

As a result of our conversation, I talked the process through with the boys a few times, that we would be going to a really fun place where they would meet lots of lovely friends and have a great time for a few hours every day by themselves.  We spoke about how they might be worried, but that I would always be there to pick them up and then we could talk about all the wonderful things they had been doing and learning about in the car on the way home.  I also took them to visit the kindergarten a few times in the afternoons so that they would be familiar with the environment and where everything was.

So by the time the day came today, they were well-prepared and really looking forward to it.  The sense of anticipation in the car was high, with much chatter and giggling.  They both had their favourite Spiderman T-shirts on, to give them a bit of courage - nothing like a good old alter-ego to help you through a difficult situation.  I watched them in the rear-view mirror as I drove - they both looked so small and yet so grown-up at the same time, sitting in their car-seats, swinging their legs excitedly.  They're just babies still, I thought to myself.  I nervously got them out of the car and gave a last reassuring pep-talk on the way in.  

And then, as soon as we walked in through the gate, I barely had time to say goodbye to the boys.  "Bye!" they both shrieked and they were off into the depths of the kindy, running around with the other boys and shrieking with laughter.  I didn't hardly see them again until it was time for us to leave.

That kindergarten teacher was right.  There were lots of tears.  But none of them from my dependent little ones whom I was setting free to face the big world by themselves for the first time.  

The tears were all mine.  

Perhaps C. Day Lewis puts it best:

Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
with the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.
That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature's give-and-take - the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one's irresolute clay.
I had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show-
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Little girl, big Dreams

If I could design anything that would make my life easier as a mom, items that would give me the upper hand in my hectic and chaotic life that always feels somewhat out of control, I wonder what they would be?  Given that this is an "if" scenario, the technological marvels would not have to be logical or even possible, but sometimes I wonder about what they would be.

Last night (or should I say in the early hours of this morning), I got up to answer the distress calls of one of my brood, and my unsuspecting, sleep-tender foot trod heavily on one of those cursed McDonald's Happy Meal toys (why they are happy, I have no idea.  We got given a bag of them by someone who was probably only too happy to be getting rid of the things as there is one that does not seem to have an off button.  It sings at all times of the day or night, and, but for the fact that it is one of the kiddies most favoured, would be in the bin as quickly as you can say "Unhappy Meal". Anyway...).  The one which was so conveniently placed at my bedside was a chipmunk with an umbrella made out of hard, indestructible (I know this fact through self-experimentation) plastic banana leaves, coincidentally all facing upwards at the same time.  As I cursed and hopped around the darkened room on one foot, trying not to wake the others up, I idly wondered what it would be like to have some kind of forewarning device to prevent this kind of thing from happening.  An alarm of some kind.  After all, it seems like every day that I tread on some kind of car/animal/doll/shoe placed at just the right level of invisibility at the bottom of the stairs or on the bathroom floor.  What about an anklet, attractive to look at, that would sound a sharp beep if what you are about to tread on is not pile carpet but the latest offering of your children?  The Alarm Anklet.  Now that would be a good idea.

Another thing I wouldn't mind having is some kind of locating device which would also let you know what your kids are doing.  Imagine the lack of stress if, when you shout out "what are you doing?" and they reply "nothing!", you can simply press a button on your watch and get a fly-on-the-wall, spy-camera view of all of the "nothing" that is going on.  You could then make an informed decision of how quickly you need to intervene in the "nothing", and whether you need to jump up from the loo instantly or if you have time to finish what you are doing first.  

And of course, what ever mother of busy kids would adore: a small, robotic vacuum cleaner that would silently and efficiently move around the house consuming all of the chicken bones/biscuit crumbs/popcorn bits etc. that you have neglected to clean up.  This type of thing used to be the dog's domain (which does explain why a lot of people who have kids also opt for dogs), but I recently saw one on the net that I thought would be a great idea. Sort of like a pool cleaner but for your house.  Might be quite creepy if you came upon it at work in the middle of the night though.  You would definitely need the Alarm Anklet then to avoid tripping over it!

Speaking of technology, the Sweetpea and I thought it would be hysterical if we gave the kids digital cameras and then sat back to see what they would take photos of.  And we weren't wrong! Today's pictures are courtesy of Sam - so interesting to see the perspective kiddies have of things!  Just love how he managed to take a photo of himself too!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Rub a dub dub, three kids in a tub...

There must be a relatively large amount of things a hot bath won't cure, but I can't seem to name any of them offhand.  I remember those far-off days when a good bath was better than anything I can mention  in polite company.  I used to make a ritual of it:  the scented bath salts, gentle foamy water, a good book, candles if I felt like the effort, a face mask on the odd occasion and sometimes even a glass of wine.  I could lie there until the water got cold and my fingers and toes more resembled prunes than anything human.  Upon which I would simply top up the hot water by turning on the tap with my toes, and was good to go for at least another hour.  Then I would wander into my room and flop down into my bed, blissfully relaxed and ready to sleep a full nine-hour night.

Boy, are those days gone!  Our bath is huge, and when the boys were little, we decided it would be better to have a bath all at the same time, and thereby all get clean, but also spend some quality skin-on-skin time with the little ones (as was fervently recommended by our midwife at the time).  The boys grew, and then Little Miss Snoopy joined us, and an already full bath became even more crowded.  And so wild!  The boys and Little Miss Snoopy are really not into the whole "quiet, relaxing bath" thing.  The bathtub always has to have at least a fleet of ships, as well as several assorted cars, most of whose sharp bits I manage to sit on at some stage during the bathing process (I am never totally sure whether it is only the kids who put these into the bath - the Sweetpea seems to derive an inordinate amount of pleasure from their presence in the tub too - hmmm, suspicious that...).  The bath is a hive of frenzied activity, with various vehicles going to the rescue along the edge of the bath, or driving up various human appendages like arms and legs.  Water sloshes over the whole of the bathroom floor, causing more than one person to inquire whether we have let the bath overflow, because there seems to be water flowing into the bedroom.  The bathmats are always soaked, toilet rolls that dangle close to the tiled floor are always in danger, and clothing left on the floor always ends up damp.

But by far the worst is the range of items to be found in the water at times which were really never intended for co-bathing.  The obvious one  (or should I rather say number two?) has luckily only happened once or twice while we were bathing with the kids, for which I am sincerely grateful.  However, there are less obvious ones that can serve to make a bath no less disgusting, and they are somewhat surprising.  I cannot quite describe how dreadful it was to bath in a tub of water that has also been used as a swimming pool for a bread roll.  All the bits of bread broke up, and it was almost as though the miracle of the five loaves had happened right there in the tub - there seemed to be enough bread floating around in there to feed all the five thousand.  I cannot quite describe what it feels like to have a bath in that glutinous, ticklish mass of bread dough.  

Another winner of the Worst Bath Ever prize was when someone decided that it would be a good idea to see what would happen if a toilet roll was thrown into the water.  As an experiment, it was probably a good one - I for one would certainly never have predicted that the paper would break up into so many small, and impossible to remove, pieces of floating debris.  In the toilet it seems to stay in single, easily flushed bits. Not so in the bath - it took simply ages to remove all of it.   

Battlefield Bath it may be:  the quiet baths are a thing of the past. And when these little ones have grown up, and are too old to be in the bath with us anymore, I will probably give anything just to have one more bath with them again - even if it is a Bread-roll Bath.  

Hmmm, on second thoughts, maybe not!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

A stitch in time (out).....

I am not so sure that this time-out thing works in the way in which it is intended.  I know that, if you apply it properly, it is supposed to cause a change in behaviour.  But for our family, just whose behaviour is open for question.  I have found that recently, it is more often my behaviour that has changed, immediately following a "time out" for one of our three.  Here is why:

The typical scenario opens when one or the other has done something to his/her siblings.  At present, it is usually as a result of the Zorro swords (I did know that would come to haunt me, but it was a difficult decision - skin cancer due to lack of sunhats, or rough behaviour due to emulation of violence-based superhero - I opted for behaviour I could hopefully change).  One committed an unintentional or slightly intentional application of a bit more force than is necessary for healthy play behaviour.  We tend to take a hard line with violence of any kind, and so the miscreant normally gets to take a breather in the bathroom for a few minutes to cool off and think about what he has done.  They usually accept this and go off quite easily to have a cool-down time. The wrongdoer then gets to come out, apologise to the ones he has wronged, and generally kiss and make up.

This on the whole is very effective.  However, one factor I did not bargain for is the emergence of baby-brain into an otherwise smoothly-functioning system.  I have been so tired or out of it that I have actually been forgetting about the one in time-out.  The other night, I had put Sam into the bathroom, and gave him the instruction to think about his behaviour.  He accepted it as usual, and sat down quietly on the floor of the bathroom on the towel we put out for them.  I got busy, and one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was relaxing in front of the TV with the Sweetpea and a glass of wine.  Halfway into the programme, a plaintive voice sounded from the bathroom.  "I have thought about my behaviour enough now," Sam wailed, "I am ready to say sorry."  He had been there for fifteen minutes already, and had had enough!

The Sweetpea and I were horrified!  "Do you realise this puts us firmly into the category of Bad Parents?" put in the Sweetpea.  "You'd better not write it into the blog," were his next words.  "They'll think we are terrible parents."
The logical conclusion is, of course, that we needed to make it up to him.  We smothered him with attention and love, and basically gave him the impression that perhaps being in a time-out is a desirable state given the over-reaction of his mortified parents afterwards.  

(Just by the way, the photos are not of the kids in a cage - although sometimes that does seem like a good idea. The Sweetpea and I would be able to sit in it and have some peace while the kids run riot on the outside.  But no, the pictures are of a recent "picnic" when the weather was bad and we built them a "tent" out of their old cots and a king-size fitted sheet!)

Friday, 20 January 2012

I'm Having A Senior Moment, I'll Be Back Soon. I Think!

Wow - guess who had to return to work this week? From the lack of blogs over the past few days, it shouldn't be hard to put your finger on the answer!  The truth is that it becomes amazingly difficult to be even slightly creative when you are exhausted from returning to the rat-race that is your every-day life.  Especially when you have just spent a lovely holiday surrounded by your loved ones, having your mom look after your kids on the odd occasion so that you can sleep in until eight in the morning, and having your husband (who you have actually forgotten over the term time to a certain extent) with you for a whole week.  I think I actually went into some sort of post-holiday stress disorder from lack of hubby when he returned to work and was gone from the house for his usual twelve hour period each day.

Added to this was the funeral of a friend of ours that was killed unexpectedly and in an awful and horrifying manner.  Sitting in the congregation, which numbered in the hundreds (what a testament to a life well-lived!), I listened to the heart-felt and moving tributes offered by her children, her family and  those close to her.  I was moved by the way she was presented - not as perfect, but as a woman who truly lived in her own skin, comfortable with who she was, which seemed to make others comfortable with her too.

I have been wondering about what these littlies of mine will remember about growing up in a few years time.  They always surprise me with just how much they remember, by the way.  I have a disastrous memory.  The Sweetpea will ask me if I remember something, and then, on seeing that I look blank, will proceed to fill me in on every detail, insignificant or otherwise, until I slowly admit to remembering whatever it is that he is talking about (I almost never actually remember the incident).  The kids are luckily like him in that way.  This has its pros and cons.  It means that they are brilliant at reminding me to do things.  It also means that I can never get away with promising something - like a trip to the park or the beach - and get away with not following it through.  They remember the names of all my friends, and the names of the husbands or partners of the friends.  They remember the names of the dogs and cats and other assorted animals at their friends houses.  They seem to remember a time when I was pregnant with Little Miss Snoopy (they often tell me that they would rather not have another brother or sister, thanks very much).  And they remember all of the stories that I tell them, even those from when they were very little, and demand that I retell them exactly, even though I can never remember what I said or how I said it (this invariably results in the story ending up with them saying "that's not how it goes!" and then finishing it off themselves). 

All of which leaves me hoping that I am creating memories for them that will be really great - something to look back on with a smile.  It also makes me want to promise (though I am not sure it is an easy one to keep), that I will try at every turn to give them good memories filled with sunshine, long lazy days on the beach or by flowing rivers, times of my attention, and not my busyness.  With that said, we're off to do something fun!

Bear with me - I'll be back!  But when the kids are sleeping!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

A Bum Wrap...

Okay, so I thought we had pretty much covered the whole where to pee/where not to pee topic with the boys, but it appears I was wrong.  Once again on a hike, they were motivated to stop at every bush.  Now, I am all for communing with nature in this most basic way, but I would really prefer it if there was not an audience of fellow hikers, all looking on with varying expressions of amusement or horror as my two wee all over the hiking trail.  It was time for drastic action.  My conversation with them went as follows:

Me:  Boys, we have talked about willies before, haven't we?
Boys (in chorus): Yes, Mama!
Me:  What did we say about willies?
Paddy (unsure):  Um - they have germs?
Me:  No, that was another conversation. 
Sam (confidently):  We mustn't wee wee on each other's legs?
Me:  Yes!  But no! Not that one.  Remember?  Willies are...
Boys:  Private!
Me:  Yes!  Willies are private.  Do we take them out in public?
Boys (more confident now - they know the answer to this one): No, Mama! 
Me: So if we don't take them out in public, can we take them out to wee in public?
Boys (subdued, knowing they are not going to like the result of this one): No, Mama.
Sam (after a period of intense thought):  But if there are no toilets around, what should we do?
Me (Hmm, he has a point.  Think, dammit, think!):  Well...we look around very carefully to see if anyone is watching, and then we go behind a very large bush or a rock and do a wee quickly there, making sure nobody can see us.
Boys (relieved - they can still wee outdoors):  Yes, Mama!
Me (confident - the problem has been solved - I am a great parent - yay!):  Good boys!

On returning from the hike, we are standing in the parking lot. There are lots of people loading their kids into cars, off-loading picnics, standing around and talking.  Sam starts to wander off, and gets to the far side of the parking lot.
Me (shouting to make myself heard over the noise of the people):  Sam, what are you doing?

A supreme hush falls on all those assembled in the parking lot.  They all look in my direction.
Me (under my breath): Damn!

Ha!  Foiled again!  

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Beach Boys!

I am not sure when kids develop a love of the ocean, but I can confidently say, after today, that mine have not reached that place yet. 

The weather dawned beautiful for the first time in the whole time we have been on holiday here, and it seemed a perfect day for the beach.  But from the first second, when we set foot on the sand, it seemed as though there were a lot of challenges for our little ones to overcome.  Sam immediately acquired a heretofore undiscovered phobia for the beach sand, and went into hysterics when his feet touched so much as a grain of the stuff.  This, coming from a child who happily digs in the sandpit at playcentre for hours, with sand smeared up to his eyebrows and beyond, was a bit much.  After much encouragement, we managed to coax him away from the carpark enough to actually be able to see the ocean.  We set up camp in the shade of the dunes, and peace reigned for a few moments.

Then the Sweetpea persuaded the boys that they might like a swim, and also that they could take their body-surf boards into the water and learn how to catch some waves.  The water was really calm, with lovely little waves meandering slowly towards the beach - a perfect set-up for learning how to surf.  The Sweetpea strode confidently into the sea with two little ones hanging onto his hands for dear life.  At each wave, one or the other would moan: "I don't like it, I don't like it!"  Eventually we had coaxed them far enough into the sea so that their shins were under the water.  It was time to try out the boards.  With great patience, the Sweetpea lined them up in front of the perfect waves on their boards, and then we let them have a gentle ride to the beach on their boards.  They did it almost perfectly each time, and I could almost see the start of enjoyment dawning on their faces.  If they would only relax a bit, they would really start to have fun.  The disaster struck.  We lined Paddy up, but failed to take into account the fact that there were two larger waves following the one we had sent him out on.  His sedate little ride towards the beach began to pick up speed, and eventually he was speeding along at a rate towards the sand.  He controlled his board like an expert, but that didn't stop the fright he thought he had got.  He hit the sand at a run and hared up the beach, his board trailing forlornly in the sand after him all the way. 

Trying to get either twin back into the water after that was an impossibility.  Every time we were knee-deep in the water, one or the other would break away and flee up the beach back to the shelter on the dunes.  It became quite ludicrous as we took turns to race out of the sea to fetch them, because we wanted them to develop a confidence in the water again.  No such thing!  Attempts to try to get them to believe that it was fun by jumping up and down in the sea like imbeciles and splashing were surveyed with deep suspicion and ignored outright.  We even tried to catch a few waves on their boards, but these attempts backfired a bit when the board the Sweetpea was riding shot out from under him, dowsing us both with water from head to toe.  Oh well, there is always next year, I suppose...

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Communing with Nature

What is it about men and marking their territory?  I have been astounded to see that even my little ones are intent on pursing this pastime at any opportunity.  I am not sure if it is a right of passage, handed down from father to son (I secretly believe the Sweetpea would pee on me if he could get away with it, just to mark me as his territory too), or if it is something hard-wired into the genetic make-up of a man, but they need to pee on certain spots in the open air on a regular basis.
We went for a walk today through the most amazing forest, the path running next to a huge waterfall that fell splashing to the forest floor about a hundred meters below.  The spray has caused a verdant array of lush tropical foliage to spring up, ferns and trees festooned with creepers and flowering vines.  We walked along in awe of the beautiful surroundings, listening to the calls of the birds and the splashing of the falls, which at times became a deafening roar as hundreds of litres of water rushed over the rocks.  The boys were wild with excitement, running ahead along the path, and then returning to us, rather like dogs making sure that their masters were following. It has been quite some time since we took them on a longish hike, and we were interested to see how easily they coped with it now they are a little older.  The first walk we took them on, Peter ended up carrying them both, one on each arm (and with Little Miss Snoopy in the front-pack, if I remember correctly) back to the car on the way home.  We got a few laughs that day from our fellow hikers!  I think (although he would never admit it) that he was secretly relieved they were able to make it the whole way under their own steam this time.  It was quite a steep path after all.

Yet, in the most uncanny manner, around almost every bend in the trail, the boys declared a need to go to the loo.  Not only this, but when we said they could go behind a large bush to do their wee's, they appeared genuinely excited, far more excitement that would usually be engendered by a toilet break.  The only reason I can come up with for it is that, being on a new trail, so to speak, they were marking their territory for all those who came behind. 

It was a scene that will remain etched in my mind for many years to come - the massive, powerful waterfall, streaming away in the distance, and, oblivious to the irony, two small naked bottoms, and two much smaller waterfalls, spouting away in desperately futile competition.  Ah, men!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Crash-test Dummies

Bad weather during summer while on holiday at a known beach town should be against the law.  As soon as we arrived we checked the weather report for the next ten days - from "squally, with a chance of rain", to "storms and high winds", to "you would be mad to venture out in this - mwa ha ha!".  It didn't look hopeful.

Luckily, however, we discovered that there was a model train display in town for a few days, and, being in a hall, it would at least be a sheltered option.  There was also always the likelihood that Thomas (the tank-engine) would crop up somewhere in the proceedings, so it was a relatively safe bet for entertainment purposes.  We loaded everyone up and set off. 

I love children's honesty, but it really puts you in a terrible predicament at times.  My lot are going through a "that is the best/biggest/most exciting thing I have ever seen" phase.  Wonderful for me when they declare passionately "Mama, you are the most beautiful lady I have ever met!"  Not so good when, on the way into the hall, they exclaim in loud tones "Look at that fat man! In fact (another thing they seem to say a lot recently), that is the fattest man I've ever seen!"  Not really much you can do to put it right after that.

With that many trains in one small place, there has to be something of interest for a boy, and mine were no different.  I was amazed by the sheer ingenuity of the designers of the small country-sides through which the trains travel, intricate down to the last scale detail, like small birds, mountaineers on the hillsides and farm animals inthe farm.  All of the guys displaying their trains have the same fanatical gleam in their eyes, eyes which show the child that has never grown up.  Insignificant pieces of thread are strung up to keep the kids back, but unfortunately are not equal to the task, especially when the train on offer is an entire Thomas set, complete down to the fat controller. I am always amazed how a seemingly inarticulate child (not mine, obviously) will show signs of knowing every single one of the trains in a Thomas set - it's like they absorb it from the other kids around them by osmosis (I know for a fact that mine have not spent ages watching Thomas, yet as soon as we got there, they were able to point out everything by name.  Even the tractor - I didn't even know there was a tractor in Thomas).

There was even a display where they boys were able to drive the trains themselves.  I was a bit nervous, especially when the man operating it said "Slow down on the corners" and they both made it their mission to go as fast as possible at  these times and slow down immediately afterwards.  As a reward for acquitting themselves on the tracks they were given a choice of three certificates with pictures of different trains on them.  "Which train would you like, my boy?" asked the man indulgently, pointing at the pictures.  Ah, obviously a novice at dealing with children.  Wording is everything.  My boy reached across the all of the certificates and lifted the real model train off the tracks.  "I'll have this one," he said with glee.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

What are the odds of getting even?

We are definitely entering a new phase of parenting at present.  I like (or do not like, as the case may be) to call it Selective Hearing.  I am sure that many out there are familiar with the term.  Our two have a remarkable ability to appear as though whatever they are doing is of such great import that nothing on earth can be heard through the buzz that they are experiencing.  

People often ask me if my twins are very different in personality and nature, and my reply is that they are absolutely identical, but at different times.  And in no other case is it more apparent than in this one, where the one will employ the gift of Selective Hearing, thus allowing the other to shout out self-righteously "I was listening, Mama!" and give the other dirty looks for being such a bad child.  Within two minutes, they will have swapped roles, and it will be the other one's turn to be the good child glaring disapprovingly at his disobedient brother.

It is also probably in the nature of twins that when one tries something and is soundly reprimanded for it, the other will look on with great interest and agree with every word I say.  Then not even a minute later, he will go and try it out for himself, almost as if he wants to know what all the fuss was about in the first place.  I spent the whole morning tidying out the pantry, putting all of the irritating bits and pieces into their own labelled jars and feeling very self-satisfied and smug at my inordinately amazing house-wifely skills (the Sweetpea got home from work and checked out the result with a resoundingly dismal "Oh!" which I felt called upon to address in strong terms.  I do get his point though - he had been out saving lives for the morning - kind of puts a clean cupboard into perspective a bit).  Anyway, having resolved our differences, we both got stuck into the fish-tank, which was by now so green we could hardly see the fish, leaving the boys and Little Miss Snoopy to their own devices.  Their own devices consisted of getting totally naked, tying a piece of string around their waists ("It's a utility belt, Mama!"), and investigating places in which there might or might not be a dangerous monster hiding.  One such place was the newly tidied pantry. I could hear something was up, because there was a large silence hanging oppressively over the house.  
"What are you doing?" I shrieked, my arms full of water plants and with a fish net clenched between my teeth.  No reply was forthcoming.  I became alarmed.  I raced down, dripping wet and smelling very fishy, to discover Twin One in the pantry, standing on the up-turned recycling bin, with the other looking on in horror at his audacity.  All over the floor, shelves and any other available space, hundreds of discarded small silver balls (like the ones for cake decorating) rolled forlornly, dropping with small pings and rolling into cracks.  The twin in question was utilising his Selective Hearing to full effect as he grabbed for any available ball and shoved it into his mouth, ignoring my expressions of displeasure for all he was worth. When I finally got his attention, I gave him a stern talking to and a small time by himself to think about his actions.  

As I was giving a final lecture, behind me I heard the unmistakable sound of small silver balls yet again bouncing around, dropping with small pings, and rolling into cracks.  

With delight, Twin One exclaimed: "It wasn't me Mama!"