Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Gallery - Emotion

How does this make you feel?

What does it make you think?

Because it could make me feel anything from anger to joy, and all the emotions in between.

Anger:  when she's a year, or two, or three, or probably older than that and she's fighting with her sisters and they are all screaming at each other and you have to shout to be heard over the melee.  And all three of them are tear-stained and you could murder each of them.

Desperation: when she's six weeks old, and she screams, and she screams, and she screams, and you feed her, and she screams, and you hold her and she screams, and her father walks out of the house because he can't take it any more.  He comes back, of course he does, he only went round the block, but the tears take longer to stop.

Joy, well maybe not joy, but certainly gratification.  When she's three and she's done something naughty, and she knows it.   And she isn't allowed a story, and she cries.  And you are glad.

Frustration: when she is two and a bit, and she wakes in the night, and she wants you.  And you know she's ok, and she knows she's ok, and all she really is is bored. And then she starts crying again. For the fourth time.  And you have to get out of bed again.  For the fourth time.  And you could shake her.  If only you didn't have to get out of bed to do it.

Pity:  when she's eight weeks old, and has her first injections, and pain enters her world. Or when she's eighteen months and her Bunny is in the washing machine. Or when she's three and she bites her tongue. Or all those times that she hurts and you can't stop it, however much you kiss it better.

Amusement:  when she's two, and she has a tantrum. Out of nowhere, arms flailing, face contorted, snot dripping.  And you know you should be doing something about it, but all you can do is laugh. And find the camera.

Like she's six weeks old again:  when she's twenty six and her heart has been broken. And you find her, at the top of the stairs, in a crumpled heap, sobbing, not as though her heart would break, because it's too late for that. And you gather her into your arms and you rock her backwards and forwards and you murmur into her hair "my baby, my baby".

Because you are forty six, and she is twenty six; or you are thirty three and she is three; or you are both older or younger and anywhere in between; but she is your baby, and she hurts. And her tears are your tears.


It's the Gallery again, and this time Tara's linked up with Josie at Sleep is for the Week, to get us both taking pictures and writing about emotions. Click on either of the links to see more.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Twins, Triplets and More Week 2010

This week is Twins, Triplets and More Week.  I know that some of you are probably thinking "Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's always something week these days, probably next week it's going to be Bad Hair Week, or Ingrowing Toenail Week or something"  but this really does matter.

Did you know that nearly twice as many mothers of multiples suffer from Post Natal Depression?  That there is no extra funding, maternity leave or government funded support for parents of multiples? That there are still areas of the country where education authorities don't consider multiples to be siblings when it comes to school allocation, so parents are left trying to take two (or three, or more) children to two (or three, or more) schools, all at the same time?  That midwives and post-natal nurses regularly tell mothers of multiples they can't breastfeed, and refuse to give support to those who want to do so?

And those are just the ones who ask for help....  I didn't have PND.  I tried very hard not to have PND.  I refused to have PND.  But there was still a period of about three weeks when I cried, every day.  When the health visitors were visiting me twice a week. When B came home one afternoon to find me in one room and the babies in another.  All screaming.

And later, much later, because they were fully weaned, a day when I sat at the kitchen table, all three girls eating their supper and screamed at him "I just don't want to do this any more"

I thought I was prepared. I have family and friends with twins.  I have love and support wherever I look, but I learned, very quickly, that nothing, however hard you try, prepares you for how hard, and how wonderful having multiples is.

Well, I say nothing, but TAMBA (the Twins and Multiple Births Association) are trying very hard indeed.  Indeed, they are using this week to launch their new initiative, Get Ready for Multiples.

"for expectant and new parents of multiple births at The initiative includes FREE and subsidised pre- and ante-natal courses for families and health professionals throughout the UK; a FREE practical guide for mothers who may have PND; support from local Twins Clubs; and the FREE Twinline (0800 138 0509) which offers information and emotional support for parents and professionals"
Here in the bloggy world we're doing our bit too.  Linda, at You've got your hands full, is hosting guest posters all week on the theme of multiples (today, starring... you guessed it.... ME!) as well as a carnival on Friday and a week of blog touring (there's no escape from Linda this week, she's going to be everywhere!).

So please, read the posts, and pass the word on to anyone you know who's ever met anyone with multiples...

Many thanks.

Oh, and just in case it wasn't clear, this is in no way sponsored... didn't I say there wasn't any money?!

Friday, 25 June 2010

How (does it feel) to be a domestic goddess

It is eleven weeks today since I walked out of my office for what still might prove to be the last time.

It is eight weeks today since I moved here. To a big house, with a big garden. With three lovely children and a lifetime ahead of helping them grow into lovely people.

So how is it for me?  How is it, after all those agonies and doubts, that uncertainty about "throwing away" my life, to be a stay at home mum with a sideline in law and a dabbling in millinery?

You know the funny thing? I haven't thought about it.  As a lovely friend wrote to me recently:

I hope that this is because your doubts vanished into the mist when you crossed the border

and to a certain extent she is right, they did.  I certainly haven' t agonised about it all in the way I did when making the decision, when still living the life I have left behind.

I think that part of that is because that is just who I am.  I'm notoriously bad at making decisions, but once they're made I'm quite good at living with them.  Having made this decision, here I am.

Part of it, too, must be because I have changed my whole life. How much harder, surely, to be in the same place, seeing the same people, but with your own life entirely different.  It's like when B's away with work:  it always feels that I miss him more than he does me. I'm not saying I love him more than he does me (and given that he's doing the ironing while I play on the internet, he must love me quite a bit), but that it's easier when you're doing different and interesting things not to worry about the niggles.  Here, in a community where many, if not most, of the women I meet are stay at home mums, where I am away from the drive and dynamism of London, perhaps the definition of "success" is a little different. Perhaps I don't need to push myself, to question myself, in quite the same way I did.  Perhaps I don't feel so pushed and questioned from outside.

My parents were here this week, as were my brother and sister-in-law.  Talking to my brother, it's clear that he has many of the same worries I did about achieving, and reaching a nebulous idea of "success", and it's also clear that this because our parents expect it of us.  But somehow, I feel as thought I have managed to put that behind me and that what my parents think no longer bothers me.

My same friend, who is really very wise, put it like this

Our parents expectations were set when we were academically able tiddlers. But the rules were different then. We participated in a straightforward game; work hard, use your noggin and see how far you can get. We've succeeded in that competition and no doubt we could carry on succeeding if we wanted to. But - genuinely - having proved that we can succeed, what use is further success? Just entering the competition (jeez, I hadn't intended to torture the metaphor quite so thoroughly, but in for a penny...) these days comes at a great cost. Post-babies the challenge is less one of intellect and more one of stamina. Are we fulfilled by rushing around like lunatics trying to please everyone? Is it really a waste of a good education not to persevere in this daily grind?

I'm not yet sure that I am fulfilled, but I am definitely no longer rushing around like a lunatic.  And I have seen, this week, that I am, in a different way, still pleasing my parents.   It might not be as impressive to talk about over the bridge table, but (I think) they get it.  They have certainly accepted it. 

And it helps, too, that I read The Undomestic Goddess  by Sophie Kinsella*.  It's not a new book to me, in fact my mother bought it for me a while back (maybe she was subconsciously trying to tell herself something?!), but the lovely Supersinglemum sent it to me as my Secret Post Club gift, and so I re-read it**.

You see it's about a lawyer, who, through a series of extremely unlikely events, becomes a housekeeper.  It's not going to ruin a not entirely unpredictable book if I tell you that she ends up getting offered her old job back on a plate, and turns it down to "clean loos".  Now clearly, I'm not a housekeeper. Or at least, I'm not paid to be a housekeeper, and Samantha doesn't have three small children to look after (now, if she'd been a nanny....) and I can't honestly say I ever worked as hard at being a lawyer as she does, but nonetheless, it struck a chord.

Because I feel liberated.  Liberated from the tyranny of recording my time in six minute units.  (If you're not a lawyer you won't get that one, but I cannot tell you how much  more I enjoy my consultancy work with no little clock ticking away in the top corner of my screen.)  Liberated from the pressure to prove myself.  Liberated from the weight of others' expectations.

Of course, it's not as simple as that. I'm sure, once the novelty wears off, Samantha will start questioning herself.  She will set herself targets (get higher up the Tots 100, get nominated for the MADs, get a millinery business up and running, get through the day without saying "because I said so"), at which she will probably fail.  She will beat herself up. She will redefine success, and start kicking herself towards that new definition.  Because that's the sort of person that she is.

But for the moment she's allowing herself, with occasional blips, to be content.

*which has reminded me I never blogged about the book I read before that: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon.  I did though, touch on it here, if you're at all interested in what I thought.

** which means I have two copies.  Any takers?  It's not going to win any literary prizes, but it made me smile and I enjoyed it.  Let me know and I'll pop it in the post. Would be a good one for the beach - not least because you're not going to get confused if you have to put it down every five minutes to wipe noses, buy ice creams and remove your toddler from the edge of the swimming pool.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Gallery - Creatures

Once again I am torn.  What to pick for the Gallery?.  This week it's Creatures, and although we don't have any pets (B is allergic, and I'm unconvinced by who would end up doing the work, although I suspect pester power may win out when all three of them can talk...), I've got some pictures of animals I've taken over the years that I love.  So what to choose?  I've dithered, and I've thought, and I've spent far more time pondering this than I should given that I'm supposed not to be blogging this week with all the family here.  

But I still can't decide between two:

This one? Taken in South Africa, in 2007:

Or, this one, a little closer to home?

Monday, 21 June 2010

Outsourcing my posting

I am inundated with family this week. There are nine of us at the moment with a tenth to come on Thursday... As a result, blogging has rather fallen down the priority list.  Which explains also why I've been rubbish at replying to comments, for which many apologies and I promise to get back to you soon.

So, as with so much else in my life, I've decided to outsource my blogging.  And as a result, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you.... drum roll please.... my first guest post.   

Proudly presenting...

Sarah Kensington, writer on, a UK blog about parenting and saving money.:

Mother Nature is a canny one you know - if you looked at starting a family from a rational and economic point of view you’d never do it.  But when that maternal desire kicks in, there are few things in this world that can stop the ‘cravings.’

So we go through pregnancy, try to forget all the indignity that comes with it, and end up with a little bundle of joy at the other end – a VERY expensive bundle of joy at that.

Time passes; your little progeny is growing at an alarming rate and the too-small clothes mountain is growing in proportion to the amount of money you’re haemorrhaging in Mothercare every other week. 

THEN somehow, it seems like a good idea to add to this financial black hole and have another baby, and for some of us another one after that, and if you’re really after some punishment big family joy, then FOUR babies seems like a plan (Harriet!).

Mother Nature…genius!

I have three children – ‘the teenagers’ and ‘the toddler’.

The teenagers are 15 and 14 and share the same birthday (it seemed like a good idea at the time!) and ‘unfortunately’ one is a boy and one is a girl, so there wasn’t a great deal of clothes swapping going on once we were out of the babygro phase.

The amount of money I’ve spent on vests, babygros, t-shirts, shorts, socks, dresses, trousers and jumpers  is too frightening to contemplate.  The memory of having things in the drawers that the kids grew out of without actually getting to wear is shameful.  (They’re at that awkward growing thing again by the way, J is 5ft 11 now and grew half an inch last month – I do wish he’d stop it!).

As I’m writing I’m trying to remember what I did with all of the clothes the teenagers grew out of.  In the early years most of it was still like new by the time it was too small and back then we didn’t have eBay. Heck most homes didn’t even have computers and if you had a mobile, well you were right up there with the modern moment! 

So what DO we do with all the clothes that are now surplus to requirements?  And as most of us aren’t dripping with cash, or feel very inclined to spend millions on our little darling’s wardrobe a la Tom, Katie and Suri Cruise, how can we get canny when it comes to clothing our kids?

There are lots of options and I have to try and rein in my inner-snob with some of them. I can’t help it, I have a bit of an irrational double-standard when it comes to clothes from charity shops – I am MORE than happy to give them bags of lovely stuff but have a very hard time getting to grips with the reverse transactions; daft, I know.

If you’re a member of any mother and baby groups or your kids go to nursery or crèche, then how about getting all of your clothing mountains together, sorting them out into age groups and swapping your too-small items for those in the next age range up?  Think Blue Peter Bring and Buy sales of yesteryear but without the ‘buying’ bit! 

I’ve recently discovered that teenage girls are already doing this too, judging by the ‘foreign’ clothing items that appeared in the washing basket over the weekend, “Oh, that’s Anna’s, we’ve swapped some stuff for a while…” I’m not sure if I should be irritated with them or impressed by their initiative.

If you want to grab back some of your hard-earned cash then list everything on eBay.  I bought lots of clothes for the toddler from eBay before he was born – I’m not sure how this is any different from buying things from a charity shop, other than the charity doesn’t get my money.

I’ve also listed clothes on eBay and found that things sell better as sets or collections that are presented well.  So washing, ironing, folding and presenting things nicely will be time well spent and reaps its rewards.

If you’re in a more benevolent and generous mood then consider listing your items on your local Freecycle group.  I came across Freecycle when I was pregnant with the toddler; essentially, it’s an online community in your local area where you can OFFER items you have no further use for but which are too good to end up at the rubbish dump – the aim of the game here is to keep things out of landfill whilst helping each other out at the same time.

So, you place your offer ‘on the board,’ people who would like to be the recipient of your items contact you by email and you then have to decide who to give it to, for free.  That’s the hardest part about Freecycle, the amount of times I wish I could give things to everyone who responded.

A friend of mine was an amazing seamstress and she used to make the most AMAZING clothes from stitching together lots of pieces of her favourite outfits that didn’t fit the kids anymore.  She also used to keep her eyes open for lengths of material that were going cheap and make fabulous kiddy clothes from that too….I knew I’d missed a trick not taking that GCSE in textiles and dress making!

If you’re an early-bird on Sunday mornings then car boot sales are also good ways to release the equity tied up in tiny clothes, and any other baby items you have no further need for, for that matter.

Of course, the only sure fire way to get around this financial inevitability is to not have little yous at all, just watch out for that Mother Nature…she’s a canny one you know.


Many thanks to Sarah for both rescuing me from an empty blog (may find space for the Gallery on Wednesday though...) and coming up with some top tips for clothes that aren't just "passed downs"..... why do you think I'm so delighted to have three girls?!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Confidence Tricks

It's started.

I am officially a consultant.  I've got business cards and everything*.  I'm back on the intranet.

I've just pressed send on my first piece of work.

And I'm terrified.  This wasn't a particularly tricky piece of work. It was for a client I know well (probably better than anyone else in the firm, which is why they want me to do it) and it's the sort of thing I like doing and I know I'm good at.  But what if it's wrong?

Because I've suddenly registered that here, 350 miles from the office, secretary-less, mentor-less, team-less, if something goes wrong, I have only myself to blame.

Now for the moment, this is ok. That work was ok, and I think I've done it, erm, ok.  But I know there's more coming my way.  And there's going to be stuff in there that I won't know how to do.  In an office, that's easy, I'd have popped next door and said something like "I know I should know how to do this but....".  But I can't do that here. Here, there's just me.  And there are only so many stupid questions you can ask someone who's employing you to do something before they start wondering why they're bothering to pay you instead of just doing it themselves.

And the thing is, I know, logically, that I can do this.  I know, realistically, that this is what I'm trained to do. I know I've been doing it well for the last ten years. I know I must be good at it because they keep telling me I am, and honestly, they surely wouldn't be paying me to do it if they didn't think it was worth it.  The problem is, I don't believe them.

I'm not sure I ever trusted that my abilities were as great as others expected them to be, but whether I did or not, I certainly don't now.  It's actually only two months since I was in the office, but it could be twenty years.  I'm rusty, and creaky, and things have changed and are changing and I don't know how, any more, to keep up with them. I don't have time to read the ordinary press, much less the legal version.  I don't know if the stuff I've forgotten is stuff that's changed and therefore I'm right to forget it, or stuff that I still need. And if it has changed, I don't know what's replaced it...

And yet they are paying me to be someone who knows, who reads, who remembers.  And I want to be. I just don't know how to trick myself into believing that I am.

 *Actually, that's a lie, they told me they were going to order some but wanted to check I'd use them, and given I only use the ones I've got already for shopping lists and bookmarks I decided they probably weren't worth the £80.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Gallery - Motherhood

The Gallery just keeps getting bigger, better and more difficult!

This week it's Motherhood and, like, I imagine, many mothers, I've found it hard to find a picture where I am both in front of the lens and looking vaguely presentable.  I even flirted with the idea of showing you all my face, but decided that there were some sensitive viewers out there, and it wouldn't be kind to do that without warning.

So, here's Motherhood,  my way.  Now and then:

I love this picture because it's so representative of where we are now.

A and S are still little enough to want to hold my hands, but they are so close to independence.  You can see the determination in S's clenched fist, and if there was an audio tape of this picture you'd hear me telling A to put her hat back on, and her resolutely using one of her two words: "NO!"* .

L,on the other hand, is already certain that she doesn't need me.  She is way ahead, feet astride, firmly planted.  This is her world.  Laid out for the taking, and she's going to grab it.

And me? Their mother. Well, I look like I'm leading but we all know I'm actually following. In wonder, amazement and awe.

Not least at how we got to now, from then:

This was taken the night before they were born. About fourteen hours before all our lives changed forever (again).  I was already a mother, but I had no idea how much more motherhood life had in store for me.   It's been exhausting and magical, and I wouldn't change any of it for the world. Not even for a stretch-mark free stomach...

*I am delighted to report that the other one is "please"

Oh, and if nothing else, these pictures have really shown me it is finally time to get my haircut....

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Birth order and gender prediction - a totally unscientific survey

When I was pregnant with A and S, my mother said to me, "I think they'll be girls.  If you look at your friends you'll see that the second baby tends to be the same as the first.  After that, anything goes, but the first and the second are normally the same."

Now, to be honest, I thought that was a load of nonsense.  But then I looked around.  I'm a girl, my sister's a girl, then there's my brother.  B's a boy, then there are two more boys.  My mum and her sister are girls.  My dad and his brothers are boys.  I've got L and then A and S.  My brother and sister-in-law have girls.  My colleagues fitted the pattern, my uni friends do, and so do most of the new friends I'm making up here. It goes on and on.

So I find myself wondering whether it's true.  So I've done what every committed social science and scientific researcher does, and I've googled it.  And I haven't, after an intensive five minutes, found any proper research.  So I thought I'd do some improper research instead.

How about you?  Does your family (parents, siblings, your own children) follow this theory?  Or is it, as I first thought, yet another one of those wonderful myths about gender prediction (gold rings, round bumps, speedy heartbeats) that we really should have stopped repeating in the fifteenth century.  Write a comment and let me know, and I'll do a whizzy spreadsheet.... oh, and please do pass it on, the more info I have the more "reliable" the survey will be!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me

I wasn't going to write this post. Or not yet, anyway, but with the bloody World Cup coming up, I can't avoid it any longer.

Why don't the Scots like the English?  Why does Clinically fed up write this, and Dear Scotland write this?  Why is it acceptable to write off an entire nation, just because they're, well, English.

This isn't about football, or not really.  I appreciate that anyone has a right to support whomever they like, and actually I don't give a monkeys about the football.  In fact, there's a part of me that agrees with pretty much everything Mrs W and Billy Williamson say so well.  To be honest I don't really want England to win either. Can you imagine how unbearable it'd be to have to live with the knowledge of Sir Ashley Cole and Sir Wayne Rooney for the next thirty years?.

Now, I clearly have no way of knowing what Mrs W and Billy Williamson think about the English, other than the eleven members of the football team. For all I know, they are absolute Anglophiles in all aspects of their lives other than their sporting allegiance and their loathing (which I share) of the tabloid press.  But my biggest worry when we made the choice to move North of the Border was that I might find that I was disliked, and in some cases hated, because of the geographical accident of my birth, and it concerns me that this attitude may in some cases be the acceptable face of an anti-English feeling that goes deeper than just football.

Because you don't choose who to support.  You feel it.  And a significant number of Scots feel that they can't and won't support England.  Anyone but England. 

But why? And does that say something about how they feel about England and the English in general? 

Because people don't do this with other countries do they?  If I said I hated all the Germans, I'd be told to get over myself and reminded that the war ended nearly seventy years ago. If I said I hated all the Ethiopians I'd be told I was racist.  But not the Scots and the English.

It seems particularly silly when you think how few of us are probably actually fully Scottish, or English or Welsh, or whatever. One of the great things about this collection of islands is, surely, how we're all just a bunch of mongrels, a mish-mash of different nationalities, races and tribes.  Take me:  My four grandparents were a mixture of German, French, Scottish and English. Oh, and two of them were Jewish, if you want to muddy the waters further.

So what does that make me?  Well, British.  But if pressed, I say I'm English, despite the fact that I'm no more English than I am German, by blood anyway. But my parents were born in England, I was born in England and I've lived in England for most of my life.  So I'm English.  For want, surely, only of any other obvious definition.  What about those Scots who hate the English?  How many of them can honestly say they haven't got a secret English Granny hiding skeletally in their closet? 

And what about living somewhere? I lived in Russia for a while.  I haven't been back since and I only have one Russian friend with whom I'm still in touch. But I feel a fondness for the country and the people, so if Russia were playing, say, Japan.  I'd support Russia.  In the same match, B, who briefly studied Japanese and had a good holiday there about seven years ago, would probably support Japan.  So why then, don't Scottish people living in England, or who have lived in England, support England?

Every now and then I get told "my best friend/granny/sister-in-law's auntie is English, and I like her, so it's not all the English, I just hate the rest of them"  and it's true to say I have not once since we moved here felt anything but welcome, and in all the years I've been with B, I've only once had someone throw my Englishness in my face.  But then all the more reason that that argument won't wash. If you hold one person up as an exemplar of things that are good about the English and you're capable of being pleasant to the English people you meet, then surely that should lead you to give the rest of the country the benefit of the doubt too. After all, if all the English people you know are nice, then surely we must all be nice?  I've only ever known one Norwegian. He was lovely.  I sort of expect all other Norwegians to be the same.  Tall, not-as blonde as you might think, speaking perfect English, and nice.  It's nonsense.  I know it's nonsense, but that's how the human mind works.  Except for the English.

To the untrained eye this could look like chippiness by the Scots, or jealousy.  Or a small and oppressed country sticking one up to its cruel neighbour.  But while that might have been necessary five hundred years ago, it just isn't now.   Scotland's not oppressed and it doesn't need to be jealous.  I'm not talking about funding, because yes, it is true that England funds Scotland, but only to the extent that Greater London funds the whole of the rest of the UK.  You might as well whinge because Kensington and Chelsea funds Devon.  It does, but no-one complains about it.  This isn't about money. This is about power and influence.  And the Scots have those in spades.  Scottish people are very proud of the fact that the Scots invented everything from the telephone to tarmac, but it's more than that. It's more than historical. The Scots are great now.  Scots make up less than 10% of the population of the UK, but they are everywhere in power: in government, in industry, in the arts. The Scots are amazing.  They don't need to be chippy. 

The thing is that neither of us is a great country any more.  Today, we're two little countries in a backwater of western Europe, struggling to make our voices heard on a large stage.  Isn't it time for a little bit of unity, three centuries after the Act that made us one? Aren't we better, more powerful, more influential, more civilised, artistic and fun when we're together?  And isn't supporting each other in our endeavours, and yes, that includes football, a good place to start?


15th June.  I have edited this post to make it clear that I am in no way suggesting that either of the authors of the posts I mention holds any of these attitudes. I'm sure they're both perfectly lovely. They just made me think...

Festival Time!

Please tell me you haven't missed the Great British Blog Festival???

Organised by the fabulous Erica at Little Mummy, and hosted by several of her friends and relations, it's happening all this week, in celebration of the phenomenon that is blogging.

And today, over at Cafe Bebe, the Festival brings you the amazing, the wonderful....

Drum roll.....


Click here to read what I say about my rapidly disappearing anonymity, and the advantages and disadvantages of being who you say you are.

And the best thing? No wellies required.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Three under two. A survivor's story.

I mentioned yesterday that I'm now a published writer!  Admittedly it's only the South West London Twins' Club magazine, but still, everyone's got to start somewhere...

Unaccountably, the SWLTC (ooh, an acronym!  Get me!) magazine does not yet have an online publication, so for your (horrified) delectation, here is the nappy-filled story of the last nearly 18 months of my life:


Wherever I go, as I walk down the road there is a chorus of shocked gasps.  Every so often someone plucks up the courage to stop me.  They invariably start off “You’ve got your hands full”. 
Let me explain. There are five of us: me, B and the three girls.  L is just three and A and S are identical girls now aged nearly 18 months.  There are just over 19 months between them so for four and a bit months I had three under two, and I had three under three for a year beyond that.
Answer to the next question: No, this wasn’t part of the plan. But I don’t regret it for a second. We got pregnant very quickly second time round and then it was (they are) twins.  How could you regret that? It’s two wonderful things in one sentence.
Which is not to say that I don’t have my hands full, and that it hasn’t been hard.  So here are some highlights (and lowlights) from the last year and a bit, along with some tips for how I (and my marriage) have survived thus far.  I’m not sure how much of it differs from the advice I would give someone having twins who didn’t have an older child, but it worked for me...
“Never refuse an offer of help”
My wonderful sister-in-law also has twins and an older child and she said this to me. In fact, I think she threatened to tattoo it on the back of my eyeballs.  She was right. For anyone in my position I will say and say and say again you will need help.  At the very least for the first few weeks and if possible for longer.  You have to decide what option is right for you, but we ran away to stay with my mother-in-law in Scotland for the first four weeks.  When we got back (and for the first three days between being out of hospital and going to Edinburgh) we had an utterly, utterly, can’t praise her highly enough, wonderful doula.  Angela looked after children, changed nappies, cooked, cleaned, ironed, made me cups of tea, supported me through breastfeeding, talked to me, advised me and generally made life so much easier than it could ever have been without her.  Other people go down the maternity nursery route, but, as with so much else in this parenting lark, it’s what works for you.  The only thing I can say is that having help will work for you.
Make time for the toddler
A and S are now nearly one and a half.  The impression I have is that most children that age are down to one nap a day.  They aren’t.  I’m hanging on desperately to their morning nap because that is my time with L. 
This is even more true when the babies are tiny.  Tiny babies need feeding, changing and putting to bed.  Toddlers need your attention and time.  However tiny and vulnerable your babies are, don’t forget that they won’t notice who changes their nappies.  Your toddler, on the other hand, will definitely notice who reads her bedtime story.   She will also be feeling confused and probably a little displaced by the arrival in her life of two usurpers.  She will need love and attention.   In the early weeks, when I was post c-s and therefore pretty useless at picking her up, we found that it worked quite well for B to devote himself to her while I concentrated on the babies.    Either way, she needs reassurance and, certainly for us, that had to come from Mummy and Daddy.
Make time for the babies
For the first 12 weeks of their lives, I had all three children full time.  Fair enough really, they’re my children.  But then I realised that the only times I picked A and S up were when they needed changing or feeding.    Otherwise they were left to kick on the babygym, or in a bouncy chair, while I rushed around after an incredibly demanding (although probably no more than most!) toddler. 
After much beating myself up about not being a good enough mother, B talked some sense into me and we put L into nursery two days a week.  Clearly there’s a financial aspect to this (it’s where my maternity pay went), but if you can do it, I would say it’s definitely worth it.  Failing that, a regular play date, some time with the grandparents, even a Saturday trip to a cafe with Daddy....  However you manage it, I think it was really good for the babies to have time with just me, and for me to have time with just them; to remember that I was a mother of tiny babies, and that tiny babies do, occasionally, need their Mummy.
One of the things that I think L had in immeasurable amounts more of than S and A was time just being cuddled.  Cuddling a tiny baby is natural. Except when you have twins.  When you have twins you find you’re too busy juggling and you feel guilty if you cuddle one, because then you’re not cuddling the other.  My time with just them was spent rectifying this: cuddling them, letting them fall asleep on me, or just cooing at them in a silly, besotted mum way.  None of which can be done with a toddler around. Believe me.
Make time for yourself (and your marriage)
Every now and then it all gets too much and I lose it in a dramatic (but fortunately not usually public) manner.
When that happens, B has now learned to phone a friend.  He shoves me out of the door to have a cup of coffee, or go shopping for clothes that aren’t the size they used to be, or get my hair cut, or something.  And it makes a huge difference.  It’s only maybe once every couple of months, but I would have gone mad without it.
And on even rarer occasions, we go out together.  We get someone to babysit and we go and walk by the river, or we drive aimlessly in the car (sorry environment), and we talk about stuff that matters, and not just our children.  It helps.  We’re still talking to each other, so it must do!
Believe in yourself
You will find, and I’m sure this goes for twins “on their own” as well as those with an older sibling, that people have all sorts of ideas of what you can and can’t, or will and won’t, do.
You will know, because you’ve done it before, the things that you think you can do, and those that you can’t.  Or those that you want to do.  Or even those that you’d like to have a go at.
I found that confidence made a huge difference to me when dealing with all sorts of things.  From having the courage to ignore the midwives who said that twins couldn’t be exclusively breast-fed to politely disagreeing with the people in John Lewis who said I couldn’t get three children into my pushchair...
Plan, plan and plan again.  Then change the plans.
I have found, though, that confidence needs to go with military-style planning.  I thought that my days of spontaneity were behind me when I had one child.  Now I realise that those were heady days of last minute plans and carefree changes of mind.
At Christmas 2007 B’s brother got engaged to one of my best friends from university.  They planned a Christmas 2008 wedding.  When we decided to try for another baby in early 2008, the one thing we had in mind was that we couldn’t be so pregnant that we couldn’t go to their wedding.
Of course then I got pregnant straight away.  “But that’s ok, because I’ll be 36 weeks pregnant but I can still go to the wedding.  It’ll only be a problem if it’s twins”...
Clearly, we could have said “sorry, we can’t come.  We’re having two babies on the 11th and you’re getting married on the 20th. In Edinburgh.  It just can’t be done.”  But we wanted to go, and they wanted us to be there.  So we planned, and we planned and we planned.  We had contingency plans and alternative plans and more plans.  And we knew, at any point, that if we decided to give up and stay at home, we could.
But we went, and I think, having planned it and thought about it and said in my head “We are going to do this” we could. 
That said, we do also have a deliberate “Abandon Ship!”  policy. If the plans go up in smoke, we are not afraid to run away... (taking the children with us, generally).
Know your limits
Plan.  But don’t overreach yourselves.  When L turned two, lots of my NCT friends started potty training.  We didn’t.  We knew our limits, and with four-month-old, exclusively breast-fed twins, potty training was beyond them.
She’s now 3 and a bit and she’s been totally potty trained and dry at night for over six months.  We started later but we’ve caught up, and I don’t think she’s been permanently damaged by having a few more months in nappies than some of her friends.  In fact, it may even have made her more enthusiastic about the whole process.   Even if we’re not looking forward to it next time round.
One last tip:
Measure your car. Lots of them don’t fit three toddler-sized car seats across the back.  Yours will need to...  We nearly learned that one the hard way.
And the good news
Don’t read this if your twins are your first babies...
When we went to the SWLTC new members evening the room was full of lots of very pregnant women, their scared looking husbands and partners, and two couples looking less pregnant but more tired.  We were one of those couples, A&S having been born about eight weeks earlier.  Oddly enough, the other couple (hello if you’re reading this!) also had an older child, of about the same age as our eldest.    We got chatting and were united in our conviction that we were enormously relieved we hadn’t had twins first.
Parenting a tiny baby, even two tiny babies, is, I am absolutely convinced, much easier second (I can’t comment on third or fourth!) time round.    This time round you won’t, I promise
  • Poke the babies in the middle of the night to check they are still breathing and then wake them up and spend the next four hours trying to get them back to sleep. You’ll know better.
  • Worry about whether you can/can’t/will/won’t breastfeed/allow controlled crying/wean at four months/give vitamin k/whatever else the media is hyping at the time. You will know, from experience, that the best thing for your babies is the thing that works for you and them and you’ll have worked out that worrying about what the Health Visitor, NCT or Daily Mail says is counter-productive at best.
  • Refuse to see anyone because they might give your babies a cold, and as a result spend the first six weeks of their lives housebound, miserable and lonely.
  • Find yourself stranded miles from home with a baby covered in poo and no nappies and wipes.  You will, like me, have learned from experience...

And you will:
  • Know how to change a nappy, get a baby (even two babies) bathed and dressed, make up a bottle, assemble a breast pump, get out of the house in under an hour and a half...
  • Be a team.  B and I muddled around each other for quite a while when we first had L before we worked out who was good at what.  Second time round we just knew.
  • Know what is important to you as a parent, and what things you can (and must) do to stay sane. 

I’m sure we would have coped if A&S had been our first but I’m equally sure it would have been a lot harder doing that terrifying new parent learning curve with two babies, and not a mere one...

And the one thing I haven’t talked about
Sibling love.
I haven’t written anything about this, because the honest answer to any question on the relationship between my girls is “I just don’t know”.   Mostly they seem to get on, and mostly L has been fine with them throughout.  But she has had her moments, and there are still, at least once a day, incidents of hitting, or snatching, or pushing them over.  But there are now also moments of real kindness and love that make me melt with pride.   How have we got to this point?   And how do we encourage the good and reduce the bad?  I’m afraid I just don’t know.    My guess is that by reassuring L that she is not being displaced and by reinforcing her good behaviour, in this as in everything else with a toddler, she’ll get there in the end.  If there’s a magic answer though, I’d love to know.
Once again, I suspect that we’ll be making it up as we go along...

Saturday, 5 June 2010

I am not here

I am at Playpennies, who not only made me their blogger of the week (Playpennies loves me!) a couple of weeks ago, but also very kindly asked me to write my second* ever commissioned piece. I am very excited!

Click here to read what I have to say about the stuff you really can justify buying for your baby.

 *My first ever commissioned piece is in the current issue of the South West London Twins Club magazine, but more on that later...

More than a girl....

L's new friend J, to his daddy.  After an afternoon of naked paddling:

"Daddy, L's not a girl.  She's a woman."

I knew they'd grow up fast.  I just didn't think it'd be that fast.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Bog roll on the blog roll

"You what?"  I hear you cry. "What is she on about now?

Well, let me explain.  Are you sitting comfortably?

Last Wednesday, in the Gallery, Nickie from Typecast posted this.  And as you'll see from the comments here, it met with rapturous acclaim...

So here, in the Gallery's week off (well-deserved holiday) is my contribution to The B(l)og Roll*.

Now bear with me here. We've just moved house.  It used to be a B&B. It therefore has bathrooms everywhere. I suspect that they went round the house taking out perfectly useful cupboards, or sweeping out dusty corners of bedrooms and sticking loos in them, just 'cos they could.

So anyway, we have six, yes, six, loos.....  and here are their rolls (please note I take no responsibility for decor (or panelling)):

Notice anything? Well yes, there are only five, but the other one you have to go through A&S's room to get to and they're poxy and asleep and I'm just not that committed to the cause.

Anything else?

Well, they clearly got a job lot of those loo roll holders didn't they?  But I'm not thinking that....

Yup, that's it. In the great loo roll etiquette debate, I am most definitely an up and over kind of gal.

*Kindly hosted by Karen at Brighton Mum.  Click here for more of her stuff.  Oh, and join in on the Bog Roll.  You know you want to...

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

When the cat's away...

...the mice will spend all night blogging and have a fishfinger sandwich for supper.

B's in Brussels.  I am in bliss.

My 21-year-old self is cringing in horror.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Gallery - Still Life with Hat

Tara set us "Still Life" as the subject for The Gallery this week, and it's probably the hardest thing she's set.  I wanted to take fruit, or flowers, or a skull, or a flayed ox.  But I lack the props, the camera and the talent.

So I thought I'd give you one of my hats.  This one, to be precise.  Surrounded by the detritus of a millinery workshop. 

It's still. It's my new life.  It fits...

But it still felt wrong.  So I resorted to Google.  And found this:

And if Van Gogh can put a hat in a picture, so can I.  So, ladies and gentlemen. I give you:

Still Life with Hat and Horrid Worktop (2010)

Oh, and the hat? I  made that one too.

Still Life with Yellow Hat (1885) by Vincent Van Gogh.  Picture from  Thank you.