And so it begins, the howls of tired twins ring around the house as they scream themselves snotty in dinner-bedraggled highchairs. The boys twirl amidst the debris of tea and a day spent playing indoors, trying to fit all four of their legs into an oversized pair of underpants sent to my as part of some long forgotten PR campaign. "Right, upstairs", screams whatever harassed parent has been delegated to handle the dreaded bedtime.
Upstairs trail the boys, taking no notice of the destruction they leave in their wake. Back downstairs they are sent to tidy up at least a modicum of the mess they have made throughout the day. I once made a threat that I would throw away any toys that were left to moulder at the bottom of the stairs waiting for their owner to drag them back upstairs to their rightful abode. But I soon relented when I realised that in a matter of days almost all their toys, including their precious cuddlies, would end up making the bin man's day.
The babies are carted upstairs, held at arms length to avoid being coated in whatever delicacies they had for tea. They are at that age when more of their food ends up smeared across their faces and down their clothes than ever reaches their mouths.
The bath bubbles warm and inviting, but soon cools as the boys run riot, ostensibly tidying, but more realistically moving mess around in a random pattern. The babies wriggle like eels as we wrestle with the million poppers that hold their clothes in place. Twin one has made attempting suicidal leaps off the change table his speciality. I would change him on the floor but I stand even less chance of holding him place when we are on a level playing field.
Once the babies are finally wrested from their clothes, the boys have dragged their own jeans and T-shirts off into a heap on the bathroom floor, all four are slickly embraced by the chilly bathwater.
It's a joy to behold all four of my boys, shiny wet with bubble beards, splashing and playing together in our tiny bath. The oldest holds twin two, while the four-year-old laughs with delight as he tips water over twin one's head. Giggles and squeals ensue, water slops onto the floor, toys are fought over, bodies are washed (after a fashion). Groans ensue as we insist that it's time to come out of the bath before they are all wrinkled before their time.
Warm bodies are wrapped in fluffy towels, boys rush dripping water from their soggy feet, leaving wet prints on the carpet. Babies sport dribbly white beards of toothpaste as we attempt to brush their meagre clutch of teeth. The boys rush around their rooms, naked as the day they were born, the bath having all the calming effect of a double shot of espresso.
The battle of the poppers recommences in the babies bedroom. The boys finally pull on pyjamas and dump their sodden towels to join their discarded clothes on the bathroom floor. Eventually everyone is ready for bed, hair damp and fragrant with baby shampoo, breath minty and skin silky soft and deliciously scented with the powder fresh perfume of newly bathed boy.
Shall we have a story? Or shall we retreat to the sofa with a bottle of wine? Oh alright, just a short one then. We are transported to worlds of pirates and friendly monsters, aliens and spacecraft, magic and witches, polar bears and talking dogs for the last 10 minutes of the day.
Kisses, cuddles, a marble and a hug (don't ask), demands for water, CDs, lip salve and one more final kiss and cuddle are met. Finally, the babies are chattering quietly in their cots, the four-year-old is loudly humming the tune to Star Wars and the eldest is thudding around his room doing goodness knows what.
Peace at last, and finally time for that bottle of wine.