The fabulous fours

As I sit planning my girls’ fifth birthday party I have been reflecting over the last year and age four. I can’t believe that in just a few short weeks we will have survived five years of being twin parents, and age four certainly was an interesting stage.

If you had asked me six months ago what I thought of age four, I would have had something very different to say. I would have said it’s tough, it’s hectic, it’s exhausting and the f*#^#ing fours are very real…

fabulousfour.jpgBUT, over the last few months life has become so much easier as a parent and so much more fun. I can honestly say that, so far, I think I’m enjoying the fours the most. My girls have really come into their own little personalities, they are so inquisitive about life, they are talkative and intelligent, and have the most amazing imagination and thirst for knowledge. Some of the questions they have about our planet, the universe, God, our bodies and how things work astounds me. Along with this, they are the best of friends and their bond is so special.

There is no doubt that we still have our difficult days, but as they get older they are finally learning to chill out a bit – the tantrums are few and far between and when things do get a bit out of hand, I’m more able, or perhaps now more equipped, to deal with it in a calm, loving manner. I guess it’s not only the girls who have chilled out a bit, but us as parents as well. This probably also has to do with the fact that both girls are finally sleeping through the whole night and our entire household is finally getting a full and decent night’s sleep, so we’re all in a much better mood these days. We’ve also seen how our hard work is starting to pay off when it comes to reinforcing good manners and respect, and I’m proud of their increasingly caring and courteous behavior.

Age four is loud, but it’s also fun and entertaining. Somehow my girls just don’t understand that they can get their point across without having to shout it. My ear is right there and it’s okay to speak, not shout. They’ll have a conversation with each other, but it gets very animated, and they can easily get carried away with their story. That’s one thing that AG is very good at – telling stories. She loves to tell fantastical tales, and even at bed time after I’ve read a book to her, she’ll then take the book and page through it and pretend to be reading the story herself. On the other hand, HJ loves to make us laugh – she’s our little clown and comedian. She loves to pull faces and act silly to get a reaction, and she especially loves to make her sister laugh. They both love putting on shows for us, whether it’s a puppet show or a ballet concert, they love the limelight and it’s very sweet to watch them plan the show and then act it out together.

One of AG and HJ’s favourite things to do is play with their Barbies and baby dolls. It’s been so sweet to watch and hear them play and let their imagination run wild. They’ve got all my old Barbies and, as you can imagine the poor dolls’ clothes were 30 years out of fashion, so recently I bought Barbie some new clothes and this was a huge hit – it was expensive but so worth every cent. They role play with Barbie going shopping, Barbie cooking, Barbie having a picnic and going to the beach, Barbie the doctor, Barbie the mommy, Barbie the teacher, and it’s lots of fun to play along with them – bringing back many fond memories for me of playing with these dolls, I can sit there for ages and act along with them. More recently, their cousin also passed on all her old hatchimal and pet pal collections and this has also been a huge hit, with the two of them sitting for hours on the carpet with these toys with their imagination running wild – I just love to listen to the chatter as they play – it’s too adorable!

The bond that has developed between my girls is the most precious thing to experience. They are always concerned about each other, always chatting to each other and never far apart from each other. They certainly do have their moments of friction, especially when they both want the same toy, but more often than not they’ll negotiate a settlement, or sometimes mommy or daddy will have to intervene, and then they get on with their game.

Every stage of parenting has its challenges, and age four certainly didn’t start out so great, but I can honestly say that the fours, overall, have been fabulous, and I can’t wait to see what the fives have in store for us.

Advertisements

Bye bye day nap, hello sanity

We are finally getting to a point where we can say that yes, it DOES get easier.

Our girls recently started resisting their day naps, and initially I thought it was a complete disaster and I fought back, trying to force them to nap. I was dreading not having that little break in the day – I thought it was going to be the end of my sanity for sure. But honestly, our lives have suddenly turned around as we’ve said good bye to the day nap.

mombie-mom-zombiesOne thing we’ve always been strict on since the twins were born is routine, routine, routine. If it wasn’t for this I think I may have lost my sanity a long time ago. But isn’t it funny how we get so stuck on doing something and it’s terrifying to change it – we’re so scared to rock the boat or mess with a good thing – as they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But this hasn’t been the case with our girls’ sleeping. It has been broken for a long time. Every day and night it’s been a struggle – from getting them down to nap in the afternoons to getting them to bed at night, and then getting them to sleep through the night. The day nap hasn’t been that bad – they’re usually so exhausted when they get back from school that they happily fall asleep, but then they don’t want to wake up. If they hadn’t already woken up by 3pm then I would wake them up, but this alone could take half an hour as AG really doesn’t like to wake up and they would both be so grumpy if woken from a nap. But if I didn’t wake them by 3pm then the evening would be chaos and it would take forever to get them to sleep, which would leave both IP and I extremely grumpy. But lately they were resisting their day nap, and I lost the energy to try fight it, rather leaving them in their room for a bit of quiet time.

I was so terrified to drop the day nap. I’d been dreading it for months, when that moment came that I didn’t have that little break in the day – my lunch break where I could just sit and have some quiet time or catch up on what I needed to do around the house. So when they started giving me hassles to sleep in the day, I started getting very grumpy.

BUT….

I can safely say that all my fears were for nothing – I’ve decided to embrace it, and just go with the flow – something that for those who know me, especially IP, is a huge challenge.

The girls are now in bed and fast asleep by 7pm and are finally starting to sleep through the whole night. IP and I are finally getting to have some quality time together in the evenings and a full nights sleep. There is enough time in the night to sit down and catch up on our lives, have a quiet meal together, watch a movie or read a book, and just be. We no longer fall into bed in a bad mood and fast asleep the minute the girls are finally asleep, which was often only happening at 9pm. We’ve even been able to get a baby sitter and enjoy a couple of date nights, which has been wonderful!

I’ve been forced to make a more concerted effort to do activities with the girls during the day to fill that gap when they were usually sleeping, and thankfully it’s been a bit cooler so we can get out to the park and meet up with friends, and then there is always the twins’ most favourite thing to do, and that’s go swim at granny and grampa’s house. Otherwise, we read books, do puzzles and art and they love cooking me dinner in their pretend kitchen or shopping with all their toy groceries – they also love real grocery shopping with me sometimes, so if we feel like getting out, we’ll often head to the shops for a little outing. They even play so nicely together without me – happily getting along in their room, which has allowed me to still enjoy that quiet cup of tea.

I’ve really been enjoying our quality time together, and despite all my fears for the moment we’d drop the day nap, I can honestly say it’s been the biggest blessing ever. It’s essential that they still at least have some rest in the day when they get back from school, so I usually make them some tea and they’ll chill on the couch with their tea for a little bit, or relax on their bed or play quietly in their room – that unwinding time after a busy morning at play school is so important, and then gives them that boost they need to get through the rest of the afternoon.

All I can say to other parents in a similar situation is don’t be afraid to make changes, to alter the routine, to do something new, step out of that comfort zone – you may just be really surprised at the amazing results!

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.

Being an introverted mom: I love my kids, but I also need my space

Introvert-QuotesI’m an introvert. Something I’m not embarrassed to admit. This can sometimes be misinterpreted as being unfriendly or aloof, or as someone alluded to the other day, that apparently I am not a people-person. No, that’s not true, as that would imply that I don’t like people. Of course I like people, but that doesn’t mean I want them around me ALL the time. I’m happy in my own company, I prefer more one-on-one interactions with people, I don’t really like crowds and I particularly like my own space.

Space…this is something that us mommies get to have very little of, because having little children means that someone is in your space almost constantly. So having children can certainly add a whole other dynamic to life as an introvert.

My twins are now two and a half and are at a particularly clingy phase of their life, where separation anxiety has reached a little peak. HJ is particularly attached to me and follows me around the house all day. AG is a bit more independent at home and is happy to sit and do her own thing for a while without worrying about where mommy is constantly, but HJ is my little shadow, asking “What you doing, mommy?” at least every 20 minutes.

But it’s not only the following me around and the 20 questions, it’s the constant touching me, grimy little fingers messing my clothes, climbing on me, pulling my hair band out, trying to remove my glasses from my face, and wanting to be picked up all the time that go along with it too.

If you’re someone who generally likes their space, you’ll understand that this can be draining. Especially if you are not getting any chance in the day to just take a break, even to go pee in peace. Over the past couple of weeks the girls have been resisting their day naps as well, and it’s been a desperate struggle for me to get them to have that little sleep in the day. I’m desperate for that time so that I too can have a little bit of down time, some time with my own thoughts, some time for a cup of tea in peace – if they don’t sleep, then I don’t have a break all day, essentially being on the go from 6am when we all wake up to when I collapse on the couch or bed, when the girls are finally snoring in their beds and the house is clean, at about 9pm.

It’s especially hard when IP is overseas for work and I have no back up. It is super hectic being one mommy versus two monkeys. He at least gets to have a break from it all. Yes, yes, I know he is there for work, and he is working hard, but he is getting a time out from the struggles of toddler-dom. And I have to admit, I do envy him sometimes, especially in those weeks where he has been in a romantic city like Barcelona or Madrid, sipping on sangria and eating paella, and I have had to deal with a sick child, copious amounts of vomit, washing, juggling work and kids and NO sleep.

When he is home, IP is getting better at giving me a bit more alone time, but it has been a battle sometimes to get it right. Even if I try to escape unnoticed to the next room for 20 minutes while he is playing with them, inevitably, I’ll hear the pitter patter of little feet coming into the room within a few minutes, and a little voice saying, “What you doing, mommy?”. Admittedly, it is rather cute that they care so much about me and what I’m doing, I feel honoured! But, oh my word, this mommy still needs some time out too.

In the very early days my introvert nature took particular strain with the challenge of being out in public with the girls. As most twin moms know, pushing around a double pram gets plenty of attention and people know no boundaries when it comes to personal space and asking a million personal questions. Going to a shop for a quick bag of groceries became a serious lesson in patience, and I became a master of not making eye contact with anyone for fear they would approach me or try strike up a conversation. I would always try be polite when people approached me, but there were times when my sarcasm reached a peak and I no longer tried to hide my annoyance at the interruption to my time and energy. I mean, seriously, navigating that pram around store corners is hard enough as it is without being stopped every few minutes by people who don’t know how to mind their own business.

But being an introverted mom is not only about wanting space and not wanting to be around people. On the flip side, motherhood as an introvert can be an extremely lonely journey, especially if you’re a stay-at-home or, in my case, a work-from-home mom. There are days when you crave the company of others, and are desperate for some adult conversation that doesn’t involve talking about children. But at the end of the day, you’re just too exhausted to make any real effort to connect with people, and it’s just too hectic going out with the kids, so you stay at home, living the same cycle over and over.

Many moms join mothers’ groups for the chance to meet other moms in the same boat and these are a wonderful means of making new friends and getting out the house when you feel like the walls are going to cave in on you. But for an introvert, these groups  can be terrifying. And for an introverted mom with twins, well, this presents a whole other pile of difficulties. An introvert is not naturally going to strike up random conversations with random strangers at these gatherings, and then when you’re trying to run after two toddlers at the same time it’s virtually impossible to actually do any socialising at a mom’s group. So by the time you leave you’re absolutely exhausted, and you realise you didn’t even talk to another mom and never even had a chance to have a cup of tea, so you end up not going back the next week because you wonder what the point was in the first place.

But I also realise that this phase too shall pass. I know there will come a time when my children will no longer want to sit on my lap, won’t come running for cuddles, will no longer ask me what I’m doing fifty times a day. Soon they probably won’t want to know me, will be embarrassed by me, won’t care what I’m doing. And then I’ll probably be writing a new blog post lamenting how my kids don’t want to spend time with me anymore, and I’ll be longing for the old days when they were my little shadows.

I know they will eventually become self-sufficient enough that I’m not constantly running after them, making sure they’re not about to tumble down the steep stairs or fall off the jungle gym because they want to climb the monkey bars. I know eventually there will come a time when I can sit with a cup of tea and relax, have a normal conversation and finally get some “me time”.

So as hard as this current phase is, I know I need to enjoy these small moments while I’m still the most important person in their lives. I’m their hero, I’m their everything, I am their mommy, and I love these munchkins to bits. Although I need space and my own time sometimes, and it’s a constant struggle for me to keep my cool when all I want to do it sit for five minutes uninterrupted, or have an adult conversation, I know it’s more important to give my time to these children.

One day, they won’t look back at all the things I gave them, and thank me. No, one day they will look back and remember the TIME I gave them, the memories I made with them, the experiences I shared with them, and they will know that I was there for them, always.

When your toddler…

We’ve all seen that live interview gone wrong when the toddler walked in on daddy’s big moment. I absolutely love that video and have watched it over and over. Shame, the poor guy must have been so embarrassed – and the way the mom came crashing in to get the kids out of there is just hilarious. I really think they handled it so well, and not many of us could have done any better in such an awkward situation.

It’s just one of those things that I think all parents can relate to in some way or another – that moment when your kid does something funny or totally embarrassing. You really can only laugh about it later, and it’s got me thinking of some of the funny and silly things that my own toddlers have done recently. I’ve been meaning to write some of them down in a little book, so that we don’t forget, as it’s always fun to look back and have a chuckle at some of these months and years down the line.

So here are a few of our recent “when your toddler…” moments that have made us smile (or cringe):

When you’re taking your toddler out of the car at school and she says loudly “Mommy poeped!” as another parent is taking their kid out of the car right next to yours. (Mommy did not poep, by the way!).

When you go to the garage to fetch something and turn around to find the door to the house locked and your toddler on the other side unable (or unwilling) to turn the key back again. (Fortunately mommy was able to pull a MacGyver maneuver to get back inside the house…).

When you’re at the grocery store check-out and your toddler asks the lady behind the counter “What you doing MAN?”

When your husband is overseas and you phone him to have a chat on FaceTime and your toddler walks in and tells you to switch daddy off.

When your toddler catches you sneaking a chocolate behind the pantry cupboard door. “What u eating mommy? U eating chockit! I also want chockit!” Mommy was so busted!

When looking through your phone’s pics and you realise one of your toddlers has figured out how to take photos…and hundreds of them, mostly of random family member’s toes.

I’ll add a few more along the way, and I’d love to hear some of your silly toddler moments, so please do share!

Today I will count my blessings

It’s been an emotional couple of weeks with the girls starting play school and our move and the new house, and often I’ve felt completely out of control, overwhelmed and just plain exhausted. Change is hard, and it often comes with a price. But it also comes with so many rewards, and in the moments of crazy I’ve been trying to see the good.

But sometimes staying calm during the storms of life is easier said than done.

Alongside all the challenges of the move, have been the general challenges of being parents. Although things are starting to settle, it’s been pretty hard on all of us, especially the girls.

Being a parent is possibly the most challenging thing a person can do. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual – oh man, how I wish it did! countingblessingsI will admit something that I’m sure many other parents may relate to. I’ve had moments where I have begrudged my children – annoyed for the lack of sleep, my lack of a social life, my messy home. Don’t get me wrong, I love them with all my heart, but there are moments when it’s tough, tough, tough being a parent. I wouldn’t change being a parent for a moment, I’m so grateful for these little humans, but sometimes I really need to be reminded that they are truly a blessing.

Last night as I was reading a novel, which is largely centred on a paediatric oncology unit in a hospital, I had a little wake up call. I started thinking of our girls’ first few weeks of life. They were born prematurely at 32 weeks and spent the first three and a half weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. It was a very difficult time for us, seeing these tiny little beings fight for their life. I was reminded last night of a little baby, Belle, in particular, who was in the incubator next to us, and who sadly passed away on our second night of being there. It was devastating and traumatic and I can’t imagine what her parents must have been going through. The tragedy of losing a child must be the worst pain imaginable. And reading my book, I remembered Belle and her parents, and how I imagine they would love to have a messy house and be constantly exhausted from lack of sleep, because that would mean that their precious little Belle was still alive. That would mean they would have their little girl to look upon, to love, to laugh with. And in that moment, I realised how truly fortunate I am to have my two little girls. How truly blessed I am that God chose me to be their mommy.

It’s so easy to take our children for granted; these precious little miracles. It’s so easy to get irritated and often we feel like we’re losing the battle in all areas of being parents. It is honestly the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.  It is a 24/7, unpaid job; there is no break from it, and often no thanks.

If I’m honest, I can look back now and admit that I don’t think I took naturally to motherhood; it took me a long time to bond with my babies, a long time to adjust to the massive changes that being a parent brought to my life. But I think a large part of this was the fact that they were born a full eight weeks before we expected them, and of course there were two of them at the same time, so those first few weeks and months was a whirlwind of feeding, nappy changes, getting babies to sleep and then expressing in between. It was a whirlwind of emotions and craziness. There was no time to truly bond with them – I often look at photos of my friends with their little newborns and they share these precious moments of just holding their babies or having them fall asleep in their arms at a party, showing them off to friends and family. I never had the opportunity to really do this – I missed many precious moments that other moms had to enjoy.

But now, as I look at my little two and a half year olds, I can truly say I have the most fantastic bond with them and, despite the hectic start, all the trials and tribulations have been worth it as I look at these precious gifts that God has given us.

At the end of a tough week, I’ve often felt like I’ve failed in many respects as a mom. But I need to remind myself that it’s all okay, I’m human, I make mistakes and at the end of the day, my kids are happy and healthy, they’re alive! When they put their little arms around me, I know they love me, and I know they forgive me.

Today I will count my blessings, not begrudge them!

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.