Get into the photos, mommy!

Looking back at my photos from the last few years, I’ve realized how rare it is to find one with me and both my girls together in one shot, or even any of me in general. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of photos of the girls, either on their own or together, but there are so few of us together, and even less of the girls with both IP and I as a family of four.

mommyandmeWhy are we always hiding, mommies? Is it deliberate that we don’t want to be seen in the picture? Are we shielding ourselves from the lens and we don’t want to be seen? Or, is it that we are so focused on our kids that we forget about ourselves? Are we not a part of their fun? Are we not involved in what they’re doing? Are we a participant or merely an observer in their lives?

Regardless of the reasons, this needs to change. I’ve decided that it’s time I got in front of the camera and stopped hiding behind it. My goal for this year is to get into more of the photos. It’s time to be a part of the fun, be involved and create more memories so the girls can see us together as a family.

Come on mommies, join me in this quest. Let’s show our children that we were right there living life with them, not behind the scenes. Don’t hide behind the camera, show yourself off! Be there, sit and pose right along with them. Dress up and be silly too. Put that bathing costume on and jump in the pool. Run around like a crazy person – laugh, love and live, and take the photos to prove it! Stop being an observer, and start being a participant! Make memories and give them something to look back on and remember you by.

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That special twin bond

While chatting to my twins’ teacher last night at a school event, she told me that my girls are quite inseparable in class. When they’re sitting on the carpet together, they don’t stop talking to each other, often to the exclusion of any of the other kids. The teachers have had to separate them sometimes to get them to keep quiet, but inevitably, they will find their way back to each other by creeping slowly back along the carpet to be together again.

twinbondI just loved hearing this. Their little twin bond is so strong and their relationship is so amazing, and it’s one of my favourite things about being their parent – watching these two little girls and how they love and care for each other. It makes my mommy heart so happy. They are best friends, sisters and soul mates.

Don’t get me wrong, they have plenty of arguments and drive each other crazy sometimes, but then who wouldn’t after spending every waking moment with someone. This is certainly a challenge when it comes to twins and having two children the exact same age, as they go through life together, experiencing the same things at the same time, and inevitably, they are together ALL the time. I’m sure it will change as they grow older and eventually pursue their own interests, but we have really tried to give them some space from each other as they’re growing older. IP and I try to have individual dates with each of them at least once a month or so where we will each take one out to go do something fun, where they can each have our full attention and have proper quality one-on-one time. They really have enjoyed this, and when we get home, it’s always so sweet to see how excited they are to see each other again and share what they did and saw on their outing. When they’re reunited, they’ll go off and chat, chat, chat about what they got up to.

Our girls aren’t identical and they are such polar opposites when it comes to their looks, personality, behavior and likes and dislikes. I imagine this is one of the main reasons that they get along so well as they are not competing with each other and they largely balance each other out. They have the most amazing imagination and love to play in their room together for ages – how lucky they are to basically have their best friend over every single day for a play date.

What a privilege it is to see these two in action. It really is so wonderful and I feel so blessed to be a part of it!

Lizards, Owls and Eagle Encounters

Life has been busy lately so I’ve really struggled to find the time to sit down for a proper catch up on my blog. But we’ve been having lots of mini adventures as a family, so I thought I’d share a recent one with you.

Eagleencounters

One of our favourite outings since we moved to the Helderberg is to visit Eagle Encounters. It’s just down the road from us so super convenient and the girls absolutely love going there, so it’s often an option when we just feel like getting out the house, but don’t feel like going too far.

It’s a pure delight to go there with the twins, and no matter how many times we go, they always run around with squeals of delight at seeing all the weird and wonderful creatures. The chatter and comments that follow are so entertaining, and IP and I walk around there with a permanent grin on our face at watching the two of them in their element.

Located on the grounds of the Spier Wine Farm on Baden Powell Drive outside Stellenbosch, Eagle Encounters is a rehabilitation and conservation centre dealing with injured birds of prey. They also have a number of other animals there, such as big lizards, snakes and some farm animals, so there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

eagleamy.jpgAG is especially entertaining and I’m so fascinated by her adventurous spirit in getting up close to the animals. She’s completely fearless when it comes to handling them and especially delights in the snakes and big lizards – much to mommy’s horror! We were super proud of her when she happily put the leather glove on her hand in the eagle owl enclosure and held up her arm for the owl to perch on. And then the huge smile on her face when he sat there eating his snack, is one I will treasure forever. HJ, on the other hand, is the total opposite – she’s fascinated by the animals, but firmly keeps her distance from most of them. She’ll occasionally touch one when prompted, but she’s happy to just observe most of the time.

The staff at Eagle Encounters are friendly and knowledgeable and very hands on with the animals, so if the girls are keen to see the snakes or lizards, inevitably one will be brought out its enclosure and we’re able to see it up close. The one time, the handler brought out the black eagle for us to see, and it was a real treat. He was huge and majestic, and it was amazing to get so close, especially when he stretched out his wings in front of us – which resulted in another grin of pure delight from AG. They also have demonstrations with different birds throughout the day, so it’s fun to catch one of these. There’s a little tip box at the exit, so if one of the staff has been especially helpful, please don’t forget to tip them!

We can highly recommend Eagle Encounters for a family outing, and it’s a great cause to support. You can also donate to their cause via their website and find them on Facebook.

Welcome to the threenage years!

So it’s been ages since I wrote a blog post. I guess life has been rather busy with two three-year olds in the house.

I think busy is not the only word I’d use to describe it – chaotic, hectic, exhausting, crazy also come to mind. But on the other hand, I can also say that it’s been fun, entertaining and a joy.

HJ and AG have really come into their own personalities and it’s been such a pleasure to watch them grow up, change and become the amazing little girls that they are. I can honestly say that I am a very proud mamma.

Here are a few things I’ve learnt so far about having a threenager in the house:

messYour house will never be tidy – ever!

Your wash basket with never be empty – no matter how many loads of washing you do, it’s just a never-ending cycle of stinkyness.

Your bathroom will always be stinky, sticky and just plain gross.

You’ll constantly find random crayon and pen marks on your walls, furniture and cupboards and really wonder how on earth they got there without your noticing.

You may find yourself exasperated more often than not and completely overwhelmed by the task of raising this little being, knowing that from now on they will have memories of life with you.  Whatever you do or say may be remembered and leave a permanent mark on how they think and feel about themselves and the world around them. It’s a huge responsibility!

There will be bits of sand and stones carted through your house on a regular basis and no matter how much you sweep or vacuum it will keep appearing.

Every single toy will be taken – or thrown – out of the toy box on an almost daily basis.

Random bits of play-doh will appear on, under and in your couch, bed, carpet, clothes, cupboards and even your hair – yup – everywhere!

You’ll find weird and wonderful pictures on your phone of tiny feet and the ceiling and the tops of little heads and be amazed that not only do your kids know how to access the camera on your phone, even though it’s locked, they’ve now figured out how to take photos.

You’ll find yourself constantly negotiating with a one-foot dictator over just about everything that needs to be done, from getting dressed, to eating to brushing teeth and getting in the bath. Sometimes you’ll win the argument, and other times you’ll retreat in exhaustion and defeat, realizing some arguments are just not worth the energy.

There’s going to be a lot of noise, and quite a bit of shouting. Most of it theirs, but often your own too. You’ll feel terrible after and vow to try keep your cool from now on, but there will be almost daily situations that will test the limits of your temper. It will be exhausting.

You’ll end up answering the same questions over and over again, and marvel at how many why’s one kid can think of. You’ll certainly get creative in your answers, and as tiring as it can be at the time, you’ll enjoy the back and forth banter.

You’ll be told the most fantastical stories of what happened at play school every day and be amazed at your little one’s imagination and ability to retain information.

It will always take you longer than you expected to get the bags and car packed and everyone strapped in to go anywhere, and by the time you’re in the car, you’ll be so exhausted and grumpy that you don’t feel like going anymore.

You’ll find yourself reading the same story book every single night on repeat until you want to burn it. But then your little one will hold the book and start telling the story to you, turning the pages as if they’re reading. It will completely melt your heart, and you’ll look at your spouse with the goofiest smile and a little twinkle of a tear in your eye, and share a moment of such pride that you no longer mind hearing about the lion and the jackal for the thousandth time.

There is no doubt about it – raising a threenager is a tough gig. But through all the craziness, there will also be lots of special moments to savour.

There will be loads of cuddles, giggles, hugs and big loves.

There will be lots of moments of joy and fun. Opportunities to unleash your inner child and hidden creativity.

You’ll look at your child and be overwhelmed by their beauty and innocence and humbled by the fact that God chose you especially for them, and them for you.

There will be plenty of special memories made, interesting conversations and moments of laughter and tears, and sharing of special family memories.

These are the moments to treasure – the moments that will get you through it all.

Disciplining twins and the battle of wills – a father’s perspective

A guest post by IP.

The long weekend has just come to an end, and I must admit I am looking forward to going back to work. At work I am in charge, I call the shots, I control what is going on, and I enjoy empowering my staff to be their best. When at home, well that level of authority and influence seems to have little or no meaning. My twins don’t seem to understand that daddy is the boss, and the level of influence used at work has little or no effect on 2.5-year-old twins. I have come to understand that your children will not obey and respect you just because by default you are their parent. This is something that I am wrestling with.  Growing up for me was completely different. We respected and almost feared figures of authority. I remember having an overwhelming respect and fear for the police. We were taught that the police took care of bad people, and somehow that involved bad children too.

My memory takes me back to when I threw a tantrum just after moving into my parent’s new home. I was about three. I didn’t want to go to sleep and stamped my fists hard against the wall. I then proceeded to throw myself on the floor and did that well known kicking regime we as parents dread. I also remember my dad coming into the room and swiftly giving me a good hiding. Neither I nor my parents have any recollection of any tantrums thereafter. So why does this not work in my home? I ask.

IMG_2198When it comes to our twins’ personality, one is more pliable and obedient, willing to engage in reason and negotiation, and the other kicks against any form of authority. She is very strong willed, determined to complete what her mind has set out to do and nothing will stop her. This is quite a challenge for any parent when emotion and lack of reason dominates the mind of a 2.5-year-old.

Just this weekend the scene of the battle of wills played out in many ways, which left me feeling rather defeated and threadbare.

For instance, a simple outing to the shops can become a complex web of emotions devoid of any logic. While loading the pair into the car, the stronger willed twin goes ballistic because she is not in the correct seat. I was unaware that there was a seating arrangement in my car! In such cases I am largely detached from my emotions, and I silently whisper my disgruntlement under my breath. Take 2, I calmly, while very irritated, unclip each twin and proceed to put them in their correct seat. The strong-willed twin scuffs her pants on my car rim in the process, soiling her pants. This is proving to be too much, and she does that thing I love to hate by throwing herself on my dirty and dusty garage floor. By now I am really worked up. Back in the house I run, baby wipes in hand to clean dirty clothes and mentally trying to keep cool. The twins are finally buckled up and I am ready to go. The other twin decides she wants her stuffed toy lying behind the driver’s seat from the day before. The other twin is now screaming because that has now suddenly become her stuffed toy and she wants it back. You can picture steam starting to emerge from my ears. I run back inside and get what I believe will be a toy that will calm her down. It works, but now I don’t want to go to the shops anymore. I am beyond angry, and I hate everyone.

On the way to the shop, willful twin decides to climb out of her car seat straps. I bellow for her to put her straps back on. She listens, but three minutes later, the game starts all over again. We finally arrive at the pet shop. We look at the rabbits, we look at the snakes, we look at the birds and we look at the fish. Then, both twins decide to run in different directions and I am left running around a large shop looking for two very fast twin girls. I see one, I run, but this is now a game, and she runs faster. I catch up managing to grab her by the arm and hurl her up to my shoulder line and tell her not to do that again. I now proceed to run with willful twin on my shoulders who is doing her utmost best to do another escape while I am running around frantically looking for twin B. This naturally creates quite a commotion as daddy is running around with a twin that has moved from shoulder to daddy’s ankles while trying to look for her sister. Most patrons stop and stare. Most people say, “Ag shame man, you seem to have your hands full.” Other patrons look at me in disgust looking on very judgingly while I try contain the situation. I finally find twin B. She was hiding under the skinny guinea pig display. Why did I not look there first? I thought.

We proceed to buy cat food, but unfortunately, we had to walk past the dog and cat toys. Willful twin insists I need to buy her a ball. I explain that this is not a ball for children, but for dogs. I can’t explain the amount of whining that proceeded. Now twin B sees a gap and makes another break. Damn it man, and some other words are mumbled as I make another dart to bring order to the situation.

I am now truly convinced it cannot get any worse, when willful twin decides to take her clothes off in the middle of the pet shop with nappy in hand, shouting at the top of her voice, “I need to poo daddy!” What the hell man, I run with a willful naked twin under my arm, willing twin B to follow suite. Cat and bird food dumped as is as I make a run for it. We get to the disabled loo as it seemed most appropriate at the time, while I position willful twin on the toilet. She executes what she told everyone she wanted to do minutes earlier. High fives abound. Twin B sees this as a competition and does not want to be left out. I position her on the toilet. High fives abound. I pick up willful twin to wash her hands. Twin B washes her hands, but willful twin is now super upset because there is no towel to dry her hands. This causes much commotion as she throws herself on the dirty toilet floor. The germaphobe in me is disgusted. Wash hands and repeat….

We leave the pet shop. I proceed to hold both girls’ hands as we cross the car park. Willful twin refuses to hold my hand. I now have one twin holding my hand, another being dragged across the car park as I insist this is for her safety and a balancing act ensues whilst trying to keep my cat and bird food from dislodging from my armpits.

Off to Builders Warehouse. I am now asking what I did not learn from the pet shop experience?! This will be much easier. They have trolleys I say to myself. I can put both in the trolley and push them at pace through the shop’s aisles which will entertain them and minimize damage to all parties. After all, it worked before right!? Out the car, and off to the trolleys we go. Both twins safely loaded into one trolley. Twin B decides that she wants to sit in the trolley seat. Willful twin is now throwing a tantrum in the trolley because she too wants to sit in the seat. She is insisting she has her own trolley. Picture it, two trollies being pushed by one weary dad through Builders Warehouse…I was going to have none of it.

Back home and bed time finally approaches. Mommy and daddy are sensing the anticipation of sitting down with a glass of wine, but not before a struggle through supper trying to keep dirty feet off the chairs and constantly reassuring that one’s bum is meant to be on the chair and not dirty little feet. Twin A tells willful twin that her bum is full of poo. My wife and I laugh. This happens all amid a very important disciplinary lesson, but we cannot contain ourselves any longer and we laugh. The situation is now ruined and a riot starts as one twin starts to chase the other with a piece of meat in hand. This unfortunately leads to a lot of running and chewing at the same time and twin B starts coughing which leads to three strikes of projectile vomit all over the floor, and all over my wife and the clean washing she just brought in from the washing line. Wash and repeat…

The house is in a mess, and smells like vomit. I proceed to clean up while my wife baths the twins. I hear shrieks of laughter while naked bodies dance around the house. Story time and an easy bed time brings on a quiet sense of relief as we strap ourselves into our beds feeling rather weary from a very challenging and comical long weekend.

So where does this leave us? Well, I shamefully admit that my strict disciplinary approach works only 50 percent of the time. It has left me rather confused.

Secondly, two children, same disciplinary approach, two different results. This leads me to a crucial point. Human beings are super complex. One size does not fit all.

Parenting takes work and lots of it. I find myself becoming lazy as I am just so tired of repeating myself. I mean, how many “say thank you” and how many “say please” and “take your feet off the chair” must a parent utter in his children’s lifetime?!

Thirdly, I think one must be constant, and unchanging no matter how gatvol you are. We must follow through.

Lastly, I am encouraged to read an informative book I read some time back called, “The Five Love Languages for Children” by Gary Chapman. The book explains how each person has a different love language and to get the most out of a child, or adult for that matter, one needs to communicate in that person’s love language. I think discipline cannot be a blanket approach. Much understanding and thought needs to go into it.

As parents, we unfortunately do not receive a manual when our children arrive. We are like a deer in the headlights. We lean on our own experiences and upbringing as a point of reference and when that does not work then we become disillusioned. Raising children is complex and our approach to raising well-mannered, well rounded responsible children takes commitment, effort and lots of blood, sweat and tears. I don’t profess to know it all. I write this knowing full well that I have a lot to learn.

Tenaciously I will attempt to do a better job tomorrow, as I venture into the unknown and do it all again.

Don’t judge a parent until you become a parent

It’s funny how we have all these ideas in our head about how we’re going to parent before we actually become a parent. We look at other parents and how they raise their children and how they act once they become a parent and totally judge them, vowing to not do many of the things we see them doing…only to actually end up doing the exact things when we become a parent ourselves.

judgepicIt’s so easy to look at someone else’s life and judge their actions and words, without really understanding what they’re going through at the time, without truly knowing what they are feeling in that moment, what challenges they are facing or what they may have experienced to get to that particular point. I know I’m guilty of being judgemental quite often, and IP is quick to call me up on it. But we have also been subjected to these judgements along the way.

We recently went to a braai with some old friends and it was so wonderful to catch up with them. It was our old church small group and it was so funny to see how the group dynamics had changed over the past three years from young childless couples and singles to so many children all running around. One of the guys, who had recently become a father, commented to IP and I that him and his wife always used to wonder why we stopped coming to small group and church when the kids were born. He said they just couldn’t understand it, but then they had their own little baby, and finally they understood…and on top of that, after having one baby, they couldn’t imagine how we survived it all with TWO babies at the same time.

It really got me thinking about my own judgements of other people. I too used to think such things of my parent friends and judge them for doing, or not doing, things. But that all changed when I became a parent myself. I don’t think one can ever really be prepared for the life altering adventure of becoming a parent. From your social life to your sex life, your sleep and your sanity – it will never be the same again.

I never really comprehended what becoming a parent was all about. I was so focused on just getting pregnant and having a baby that I didn’t even think about what it meant once the baby was born. I had no idea that being a parent was such hard work. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom now, and the rewards of seeing these two little humans grow and develop, have them call me mommy and have them throw their arms around me, far outweigh all the challenges. But, it has been a hectic two years, for which nothing could have prepared us.

But we would not have it any other way. I’m glad we went through all these struggles, I’m grateful we survived all the challenges. We are stronger people for it, our marriage is stronger for it, and our lives are more enriched for it.

If there is one thing I am slowly realising, and trying desperately not to do, it’s to judge another until I have at least a small understanding of what they are going through.

It’s so important to open the channels of communication with our parent friends (and all friends in general), speak to them, ask them how they are doing.  How they are really doing. When we greet someone we always ask how they are, but it’s normally so superficial – let’s try getting to the deeper stuff, especially with our fellow parent friends; let’s not be afraid to be real with each other. Let’s share our thoughts and feelings together on this parenting journey. We will soon realise that there is so much more beyond the surface and everyone is facing their own battles, if we take the time to care, take the time to step out of our own trenches and walk a mile in someone else’s.

We’re moving to the mountains and vineyards

I know I’ve been griping a lot lately about how tough things have been with the girls and this toddler phase. But it’s also been a lot of fun, and we have so much to look forward to in the next few weeks as we embark on a new adventure to a new town.

The anticipation is really building in our house as IP and I have started planning the move and we often fantasise about how life will be in our new house.

stellenboschWe have been so happy in Cape Town and in our current house, but since we’ve had the twins we have started to realise how cramped we are getting here, especially as we don’t really have a garden – and this is something the girls desperately need. So we started thinking about all our options and decided that it was time for a radical change – “Let’s move to Somerset West” I said to IP one Sunday morning. It didn’t take much more prompting than that – the next thing I know we’re house-hunting, and a week later we’ve put in an offer on a beautiful house in an estate just outside Somerset West, and a few days later we’ve sold our house in Cape Town.

Phew….everything happened so fast, it was quite overwhelming. Those who know me, know that I’m not a very impulsive person when it comes to making important decisions – quite the opposite to IP – once he makes up his mind there is no turning back. So I had a few moments of panic once I fully realised what was happening. We were moving away from everything we knew, out of our comfort zone, to the unknown! Eeeek!

But now that most of the legalities are out the way (I don’t want to see or speak to another estate agent or attorney for a long time!!!!) we are starting to get super excited for the big move day. We will be closer to my folks who live in Stellenbosch, which is great as I’ll have some more support when IP travels, and it will also be much easier for IP to get to work from there, as he won’t have all the city traffic to contend with. So it’s a win-win.

But with the move come some big changes for the girls. Our nanny won’t be moving with us so they will be starting play school in January. This is a HUGE deal for me and something I’m struggling to let go of. Even though I know they will be really happy there as I can see that they need something more – more stimulation and more interaction with other kids – it will be a big adjustment for them as they have been at home with either me or nanny for the last two years. So they will totally be moving out of their comfort zone as well, which I’m sure will take a while to adjust to.

My work situation will also improve, though, and I’ll actually get to spend more time with the girls, because instead of working three full days a week I’ll be working five half days – so I’ll be there to pick them up from school and have every afternoon with them, which I’m really looking forward to. It will be so great because now we will also be closer to granny and grampa and we can pop in for tea more often, and my mom and I can go shopping and out for coffee like the old days.

Somerset West is also a very young-ish town with lots of young families and there is so much to do with kids there. From our  interactions with the people there through some of the Facebook groups so far we can see that people also seem really friendly and welcoming – quite a change from the notoriously unfriendly Cape Town southern suburbs where we currently live. We’ll also be slap-bang in the middle of the winelands – surrounded by beautiful vineyards and mountains – and have all the wine farms just a short drive away. The beach is also not far. So there will be lots of exploring in our future – lots of fun family adventures to have as we embrace our new surroundings.

It’s going to be a whole new world for us as a family and the start of a new life. I’m always terrified of change, it’s just part of my nature – I hate the unknown! But I know that this move is for the best, and I’m starting to embrace the change.

I can’t wait! Just a few weeks to go and then the adventure can begin!

But first, the packing…oh boy…wish me luck!