Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Birthday blues

The twins' third birthday is almost upon us and while whenever I ask them what they want they firmly declare that: "Santa is going to bring us lemon cake on our birthday", their older brothers are not so easily fobbed off.

This is the problem when birthdays and Christmas are all bunched up in a clump, as the bigger boys get lots of treats and presents between October and December, but then it is a LONG wait till their next special day. Since the twins were born their birthday in February falls during this lean period and my older sons don't like this at all.

When I asked my eldest what I should get the twins he grumpily declared: "Nothing", before launching into an impassioned plea that I should buy him the Harry Potter Years 5-7 Wii game. I don't think that he has really got the hang of this other people's birthdays lark.

I do feel sorry for him as our family was very poorly planned on the birthday front. The celebrations kick off with Mr FDMTG's birthday on September 11th, followed swiftly by my birthday on 26th, then my middle boy on 14 October and my oldest pumpkin on 31 October. Add to this that their paternal grandpa, aunt, uncle and one cousin also have birthdays in September, October and November and this end of the year is seriously overloaded with big days.

When I was idly thinking about having a third child I imagined it would be nice for him (or her) to be born in the summer time so I could host those lovely relaxed parties in the park, where all the entertainment I needed to provide would be free access to the monkey bars and all the cake crumbs and spilt squash would melt away into the grass.

As with all the best laid plans this went to pot and my twins were born on a freezing cold February day. Snow was still dusting the ground and it was a bleak grey sky that filled the window of my hospital room. February is not the ideal month for a birthday. Most of us are still broke and bloated after Christmas, the weather is invariably awful and it is at least a bleak six weeks till Spring begins to brighten things up a bit.

I had hoped that having a birthday in this month might serve to brighten it up a bit, but it just seems to rub my poor older boys' noses in the fact that it is absolutely ages till their own birthdays. When they were tiny the grandparents would always buy them a little gift to take the sting out of their siblings' birthday. But now that there are four of them this could prove costly and and I also think that by the ages of eight and six they need to begin to understand the concept of things not being all about them.

My attempts to bring them up into civilised human beings is not going well as both are stubbornly failing to enter into the spirit of the twins' birthday and greet all conversation about it with a sulky silence or demands for presents of their own. I am hoping that a party on the day with plenty of cake and sausage rolls will at least go some way to putting their noses back into joint. If not it's only another seven months till they can hog the celebrations all to themselves again.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Growing pains

I was pondering why, when the twins were tiny I couldn't write this blog often enough, but now that they are growing up - who can believe they will be three soon - there just doesn't seem to be as much to share. Or perhaps it is more because blogging was a touch of sanity in the insane world of newborn twins. A chance for me to get a bit of breathing space and perspective on the chaos that was unfolding around me.

Either way when every day was filled with amusing tales of bodily fluids spilled and nights splintered by screaming babies it seemed easy to capture our family life in a mesh of words, but now it seems to escape my grasp. Much as I want to tie down the memories in black and white, I find it increasingly hard to snatch a moment and wrangle it onto the page.

It's not that the children are more boring, but I suppose as they grow and develop their traits are harder to shove into stereotypical boxes and their characters harder to pin down in a few inadequate words. Babies are so simple, you write about the feeding, sleeping and pooing nightmares and it's good for a laugh, toddlers and children are so much more complex.

Also the twins were such a homogeneous unit when they were tiny. Sleeping curled around one another, their needs mirroring one another, each one fighting with the bottle, escaping their nappies and generally getting up to typical baby mischief. Now they are two very different little boys. While their twindom will always define them to some extent, it doesn't seem to be their predominant feature any more.

It was a combat course dealing with twin newborns, but twin toddlers are a piece of cake. I think it is your reward as a twin mummy as growing twins are so much more self sufficient than a single child. They will wander off and play together and I never need to feel that they are being neglected as they have each other. They don't seem to crave the same degree of parental stimulation that their singleton brothers did, and that is a huge relief.

I was thinking just the other day that I am too old for toddlers. I have done my duty standing in freezing playgrounds, endlessly moulding playdough, making friends at playgroups and rescuing tiny people from the most inaccessible reaches of soft play areas. Now I want to sit, drink cappuccino and chat with other grown ups, so perhaps it is lucky that my last children were twins who don't constantly grasp my hand or call my name to gain my attention.

While my older boys would always pick mummy as the one they loved the most, my twins have an internal debate over who to choose - their twin or their parent. It is 50/50 who wins out, and that is a blessed relief as it means the heat is off mummy for at least half of the time.

That said I am sad that my boys are growing up. I always used to think that I would throw a party when they finally went to school, but now I am not so sure. While it will be fantastic to have the headaches of balancing work and childcare behind me, the house will be very empty without their cries echoing around it. Luckily I have another couple of years before I have to face this prospect, but I am beginning to think that it won't be such a joyous day after all.

I am well aware that this time in my life is precious and perhaps that is why I am perturbed by my inability to record it. The most important years are those spent raising small children who both want and need you. Before long my sons will be mortified when I fling my arms around them and declare my undying love for them, they will brush me off long before we reach the school gate and will want all their kisses and cuddles to come from nubile teenage girls, not their wizened old mum.

Then they will be off forging their own way in life and I will be left with the memories of these scant few years to keep me warm in between their visits and phone calls. I wish I wasn't so aware of the fleeting nature of their childhood, but on the other hand it does stop me in my tracks sometimes when I find myself wishing away the hard bits and longing to have the house back to myself.

While I will be glad when I never have to change another nappy, fetch another cup of juice or hear the plot of another show on Cartoon Network, I am not sure I ever want any of them to entirely escape from under my wing. It makes me understand why mother's in law can sometimes be such harridans, it is just so hard to let go of your precious son.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

A good telling off

Forgive me for thinking that it was the parent's job to tell the children off. I am sure that is the way round it is meant to be, but someone forgot to mention that to my boys. I am forever in the dog house with my sons for transgressions which range from the trivial to more serious misdemeanours.

My eldest is always putting me right on everything from when I get a word wrong in a book I am reading to him, to my weakness for exaggerations like "I have told you a million times to brush your teeth", which he never fails to point out is patently incorrect. He also feels that I am slack in my role as his PA and often upbraids me for failing to remind him to do things like attend his music lessons, bring his school jumper downstairs or hand in his homework. If any of these things is forgotten it is obviously all my fault.

Clearly this is where his little brothers have picked it up from. They are both forever saying to me "Mummy you are a very naughty boy, you must got and sit on the naughty step", particularly when I am asking them to do something they don't want to do, such as stop watching television or put their shoes on.

It's not just me who is roundly reprimanded by the twins though. The other morning Mr FDMTG, our resident breakfast chef, was a little slow in providing a bowl of cereal for demanding little twin one, who responded by saying: "For goodness sake, you're annoying me".

Though my  husband did point out that he must be getting this attitude from somewhere, at which point we both looked a little shamefaced. Perhaps we really do deserve a good telling off for teaching our boys that the only way to get what you want is to bossily demand it.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Little pieces of me

Whenever a baby is born relatives and friends immediately start hypothesising on who he or she looks most like. It is a knee jerk reaction to any newborn to exclaim "Doesn't he look like you/his dad", the moment any visitor claps eyes on the scrunched baby bundle swaddled in your arms.

I am not sold on this theory, although apparently there is an evolutionary reason why babies are supposedly born looking like dad. It is meant to reassure him that the offspring you are holding really is his, while you as the mum who just pushed the infant out can be in no doubt of his parentage.

But while all my children, barring one, were bald, just like daddy that is really where the resemblance ended. However, as my children have grown up the similarities between them and their parents have grown more and more obvious, if not always welcome.

Mr FDMTG swears blind that our youngest twin is the spit of me when it comes to personality and I am not sure this is a compliment to either of us. He is referring to the fact that twin two has a will of iron that will not be thwarted, no matter how obvious it might be that he is in the wrong. The moment his mind is made up he gets that look in his eye that tells you he WILL NOT be moved. I see nothing of myself in this stubbornness, but my husband assures me I am mistaken.

Twin one on the other hand is a replica of his daddy from his chubby features to his knife edge personality that switches in an instant from wreathed in smiles to wailing, tear stained despair. Though just like daddy he can usually be appeased with a chocolate biscuit and the promise of some telly.

Son number two is an unholy alliance of our worst features twinned with some of our best. He has my husband's unhealthy obsession with not moving a muscle unless it is absolutely necessary alongside my inability to stop eating until long after it was good for me. But he also has infinite kindness which he definitely inherited from his daddy, along with a deep affinity for others - he is always ready with a cuddle or a kiss to make it all better another trait from my better half. He is also observant and imaginative, which I like to think are qualities gifted from my side of the gene pool.

Son number one is the one that puzzles me most as he is pretty much perfect, well apart from his pre-teen strops which he could get from either side really and the fact that he is a terrible loser (hands up husband dearest). He is good at everything from dance (no idea) to music (daddy), maths (daddy) to reading (me at last) and when he puts his mind to it he can charm the birds off the trees (must have skipped a generation).

I wonder what other facets of our personalities will be shone back on us so we can bask or baulk at them as our children continue to grow and develop?

Friday, 6 January 2012

The London Marathon

I am not sure who is more scared by my decision to enter the London Marathon, me or my husband. I have to not only run 26.2 miles in just under four months time, but also have to raise a mammoth £2,000 in sponsorship for my chosen charity, The North London Hospice. But he has to take on the role of running widower until I pass the finish line on 22 April. 

I not sure who has the most bum deal of those two prospects, but I have a sneaking suspicion it might just be him. For while I am daunted by the fundraising as I hate begging for cash, I have been longing to run a marathon ever since I started taking my running more seriously and I am very excited that my goal is now in sight.  

The trouble is that serious training and motherhood are deeply incompatible. A half hour jog around the park is hard enough to fit in around activities, feeding times and generally keeping the children entertained, but try getting out for 3 hour runs every weekend - I see some early rising on the horizon as soon as it is light enough. 

So whenever anyone is impressed by my running exploits, I know that they should really be in awe of my husband's generosity of spirit in shouldering the burden of the childcare while I run off leaving him holding the boys. I am forever grateful to him and I hope he knows how much I appreciate his support. I hope I will make him proud enough on the day to forget all the times I am sure I will drop him in it with grumpy, mucky and unruly children over the next few months. 

So Mr FDMTG thank you in advance and if I do make it past the finish line I shall hand my medal right over to you as you will deserve it far more than I do. 

If you feel like sponsoring me in this foolhardy endeavour then click on the London Marathon logo above or visit It's for a great cause and unlike bigger charities you can be sure that your money will really go towards helping the hospice. It is entirely funded by donations so if you can spare anything it really will help. 

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Au revoir Xmas

There are times when I rue the day I had four children. Times like when we look up the cost of six plane tickets, try to take an unplanned trip to a restaurant at lunchtime or attempt to buy a car that couldn't easily double as a minibus. But today I was very glad to have many hands to help me, for today was the day that Christmas came to an end chez FDMTG.

I know it's not strictly 12th night, but the recycling lorry comes tomorrow and I am sick of the increasingly bedraggled tree forlornly moulting pine needles all over the floor. After several weeks of sterling service it was time to put the poor evergreen out of its misery.

Usually dismantling the Christmas decorations is a job for the grown ups, traditionally completed with much bad will and the last swigs of festive booze. The worst part of Christmas is the joyless task of hoovering up tree debris and attempting to fit the boxes of baubles back into the loft amongst all the random flotsam and jetsam that somehow washes up there. Ramming plastic crates of tinsel, lights and wrapping paper up against long disused baby car seats, my ancient prom dress and a cardboard box full of the eldest's infant daubs that I can't bear to part with.

It always makes me feel rather sad to see our once resplendent tree stripped of its finery and rammed unceremoniously into the green bin, its spiky branches outraged at being demoted from centre of attention to compost in the making. Little bits of glitter cling onto its needles nostalgically hinting at its splendid past, but the fickle sparkling star and glinting baubles have escaped from its branches to await its successor next December. What an ignominious end for such a integral part of the festivities, but such is the fate of the Christmas tree.

As usual I digress, because what made this year different is that it's the first when my boys actually helped me take down the decorations, rather than being banished to bed on the basis that they would be more of a hindrance than a help. The eldest was fantastic, unwinding the fairy lights, bundling up tinsel and boxing up baubles with enthusiasm engendered by the promise of eating the chocolate decorations.

Middle son was equally helpful rushing up and down stairs to fetch me tissue paper, scissors and carefully taking down all the home made decorations I can't resist hanging every year, even if it does make the place look like a playschool. Though his real moment of triumph was in helping his potty training little brother to do a poo in the potty. This is no mean feat as excreting is usually something he usually prefers to do in his pants (see I promised you tales of poo).

Even the twins trundled about packing away candles, though they were rather puzzled when I started to unhook baubles, scolding me 'Mummy you are not allowed to touch the decorations', just as I had roared at them countless times since the tree went up. Well at least it proves they do occasionally listen to what I say.

I am just as exhausted as I would have been had the job been left to me and Mr. FDMTG, but I feel buoyed by the prospect of a future when my boys can be drafted in to help with household chores, rather than simply creating and infinite amount of them for me to complete. I am just biding my time before I can hand over the laundry and the cooking.

Funny voices

True to my word I am taking a few minutes I can ill afford to update FDMTG before slipping into school run chaos. I think I have a few moments in hand as my sons are getting dressed, a process that is sure to take at least half an hour and that's with shouted encouragement from my husband, I dread to think how long it would take if they were left to their own devices.

The reason for this impromptu post is that I have noticed a strange phenomenon in my littlest twin. Although he was born in the salubrious surroundings of the Portland Hospital in Central London and since then has only moved a few scant miles to our current home in North London, he has, for no apparent reason, developed a strong West Country tang in his accent.

Not sure where this stems from - perhaps CBeebies - but when asked how his meal tasted he will more often than not reply "It was noice" and when he spotted a herd of bison on a TV wildlife documentary he declared them to be "Noice boyson". It is unbearably cute, but very mysterious.

Now I can hear the decibel level rising and the shower beckoning, so I must away before my husband's ire makes its way up to my eerie in the loft.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I have never been a big believer in New Year's Resolutions. January seems like such a miserable time to be pledging to give up all that is fun in life, so rather than make up some boring rules for me to spend the beginning of 2012 breaking I thought I would come up with some potentially more attainable goals to aim for. 

1. I will try to limit shouting at the children to less than five times a day (or 10 at the weekends when school doesn't keep them out of my hair for the best part of the day). 

2. I will endeavour to remember to video the twins at this most gorgeous of ages. I want to preserve forever the fabulous nicknames they have come up with for themselves. Zakka Pakka Pookalakka de Blue and Jonah Bachina de Green should not be lost in the mists of time and my dicky memory. I want film of their smooth two-year-old dance moves that look a little as if they are going into spasm, I want to keep a pictorial record of them curled around one another like puppies in bed, I want to remember how whenever you ask Jonah how he is he responds "I'm gorgeous", while his twin pipes up "I'm gorgeous too". I never want to forget how they scold me roundly telling me I am 'A naughty boy and have to go on the naughty step'. I neeeeeed (as Jo would put it) a recording of Zach singing "You look like a monkey and you smell like one too". 

3. I will stop and enjoy time with my boys rather than wasting their childhoods in a round of cooking chunks of breaded chicken and washing their school shirts. This one may be tricky to achieve as the moment I stop either of these activities the 'I'm hungry' whines reach fever pitch and the house slowly sinks beneath a tidal wave of grubby laundry, but I can dream. 

4. I will eat an entire family meal without once having to wipe something up. OK this one is about as outlandish the idea that you will actually use that gym membership for the next 12 months, but it is a secret hope that 2012 is the year that my boys will acquire table manners. Of course I try to drum them into my sons, but they appear to go in one ear and then out of their mouth as they spray me with a fine mist of their meal whilst simultaneously eating and shouting at one another. 

5. I will enforce bedtime once again. Gone are those halcyon days when by 7pm the house was a serene, child-free zone in which one could indulge in such adult pursuits as speaking without being interrupted and sitting down for a stretch of several minutes without being asked to replenish a child's food or drink. 

Now my eight-year-old keeps a schedule that would put a world leader to shame. If he is asleep before midnight it's a good night, yet he is up with the lark (at least on the weekend he is) and raring to go. I am sure this can't be good for him, and I know it's not good for me - a diet of TV and conversation suitable for the under-10s does not a good night in make. 

6. I will blog more. I have neglected FDMTG as the children grew up and didn't provide me with as many amusing anecdotes to record as when they regularly threw up over me, but I don't want my record of their childhood to stop here. Surely the best bit, when they are potty trained and can eat without assistance is yet to come?

Happy New Year and good luck with your resolutions. Please make one to come back and read more FDMTG and I promise to reward you with intellectual stimulation and stories about poo.