Thursday, 20 August 2015

Birthday Fun

Apologies for the little break from publishing a new post. To (hopefully) make up for it, this is another bumper edition, with birthday photos galore!

Eliza and William woke up to a fabulous pile of presents...


Unfortunately this distracted them quite a bit from their breakfast - lesson learned for future: keep presents out of sight until it's opening time! In addition to the walker carts you can see in the photo (we decided to not try to wrap them) they got some books, some wooden slot games, and a couple of cuddly toys. We were really touched with how generous our friends have been - we didn't expect so many presents (with more to come, apparently!) Thank you to everyone who gave them something.

William and Bill Bear (thank you Granny Viv & Grandpa John!)
Wooden slot puzzles (thank you Anna & Nick!)
New books (thank you Emily & Steve!)
Our carefully crafted plan for the day was thrown a little bit out of whack - E&W slept longer than we expected, then fussed, fought and dawdled over their food, while the rain relentlessly fell outside. Just before three, we decided to risk it and headed off to Millets Farm Centre, as planned. First stop was the cafe to give E&W their afternoon milk (and for Kate and I to have what felt like a very well deserved hot chocolate and shortbread biscuit...or two) - we found ourselves in the middle of a coach-load of senior citizens. William immediately went into full-on Charm Mode, grinning and giggling and hooting at anyone who looked at him. When it came to milk time, he latched on to the bottle and chugged it down very smoothly, with no playing up at all. We think he was trying to show what a lovely little boy he is. I'm thinking we should always have a Nice Little Old Lady on hand to encourage him to be on his best behaviour. Perhaps we could set up a network of them, dotted around the country, on call when needed (like the assets in the Bourne movies). We could set up a company. We could go on Dragons' Den. We could make millions...ahem...

Millets Farm Centre is a really nice place to spend an afternoon (thankfully the rain had stopped by the time we got there, and it stayed dry for the rest of the day): comfortable cafe, well-stocked farm shop, lots of green open spaces, lots of cute animals to look at, and swings!






Then it was home for cake - Kate made a fab ladybird cake (I helped with the stirring and the licking of the icing spoon) which was a big hit with everyone.




We rounded off the day with a bath (them, not Kate and me) and a story - they were asleep in minutes!

Kate pointed out that we can now say "This time last year..." and be able to talk about Eliza and William, which is quite something.

Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, leave feedback, or make suggestions for what you'd like to see me write about (I'll happily do requests!) below - and please share this blog with anyone you think might be interested in it. Thank you!

Friday, 14 August 2015

365 Days

So, one year ago today, this happened...

Eliza - striking poses right from Moment One
"I was all warm and cosy!!"
I'll always remember getting on the train at Reading, to head home from work, looking at my phone and seeing the text from Kate - she was on her way to hospital. Being a cool, calm, collected pragmatist (cough), I thought it would be a false alarm, a phantom labour. How wrong I was. Not long after I arrived at the hospital, we were told "They're coming tonight." Yikes. Nine weeks early. While we knew that they would more than likely come early (twins just do), this was early. Even the sight of my hairy stick legs poking out of the bottom of a surgical gown couldn't raise our spirits particularly high.

Less than five hours after I arrived, and with Kate showing courage the like of which I doubt I'll ever see again, our family had doubled in size. I mean headcount, not bulk, as our new Little People were a wee bit on the small side. A girl and boy, what I'd secretly been hoping for - instant family. The neo-natal doctor examined she-who-would-become-Eliza and said "She's a 10". Having watched too many episodes of House, MD, I feared this was some sort of sinister medical code. "What does that mean?" I asked. "It means she's perfect," the doctor replied. And she was. And so was William, although he had a little bit of a shakier start - we think Eliza decided she'd had enough and wanted to see the world, while William would quite happily have dozed for a few more weeks (to this day, if he gets woken up before he's ready then he's a right moany little beggar). 

Four weeks later, after simply superb care from everyone at the John Radcliffe Hospital - seriously, the concern, care, support and professionalism we experienced there, from the midwives, Intensive Care, High and Low Dependency Unit nurses, doctors, even the cleaners, cafeteria and shop staff, was proof of how lucky we are to have the NHS - home we all came...

Where did you get that hat?
Same place I got this one.
And then the real fun began. I can't imagine how people cope when they come home after just a day or two in hospital following a birth - we'd had four weeks of practice and coaching, and perhaps most importantly of getting us (and E&W) into a routine, and I was still pretty terrified. What if this happened, what if that happened? But like a lot of things, when you have to do something you find you can do it. Day by day, our confidence in our parenting skills grew, as did Eliza and William. We could measure their progress by how much space they took up on a cushion...

Sleeping Beauties
...or the size of their hands compared to ours...

Daddy (l) and Eliza (r)
...or by comparing their new clothes to their first, miniscule sleepsuits. I look back at those early photos now and can't believe that they were ever that small and frail looking, especially when they now have great fun barging about the place and wrasslin' with me on the floor.

And look where we are now...

"Mmmm, saaaaannnndddd...."
"Boom!! Check out the gun!! Just like The Rock!!"
I can't really get my head round it. Like I said in my last post, I quite like that. And I'm sure they'll do something tomorrow that will blow me away all over again. And the day after that. And every day after that too.

Best year of my life? Do you really need me to answer that?

We've got a fun birthday planned (cross your fingers for good weather for us), and we'll be taking lots of photos, but I doubt I'll get chance to write a new post until sometime over the weekend - so I'm afraid you'll have to hold on a little bit for those First Birthday Photos.

Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, leave feedback, or make suggestions for what you'd like to see me write about (I'll happily do requests!) below - and please share this blog with anyone you think might be interested in it. Thank you!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Week One Done, Catching Zzzzs, Growing Little People, Shrinking Little People, Playgrounds

Week one of my new life as a stay-at-home-dad is over, and I think it's gone really rather spiffingly. No disasters, no panics, no forgetting of anything important. To be honest - and fair - I think E&W have been very gentle with me, and I'm really just following the routines, schedules and 'systems' that Kate's nailed down over her maternity leave, so that's taken a lot of the effort out of it. But I am surprised at how whacked I am at the end of every day - I really feel I've earned my sleep!

Talking of sleep, we think E&W might be in the middle of growth spurt at the moment, as they're sleeping like it's going out of fashion.

Eliza and Fudge (her favourite cuddly bunny)
William lost in the land of Nod
We've decided that we should let them sleep as long as they like - cue sharp intakes of breath from those that believe you should wake babies when the routine says it's time (blows raspberries). They clearly need the sleep right now. This means bigger blocks of 'free' time for us adults, but the knock-on effect is that the daily routine has been knocked a little out of kilter - nothing that we can't adapt to though.

Eliza was having an Interesting Hair Day yesterday - I won't say Bad Hair Day because no matter what her hair looks like, it always looks pretty perfect to me (#soppydad). I think we should call this look the 'Half Wolverinette':
"Daddy, it's time for lunch, don't make me *SNIKT*"
Every now and again, I look at E&W and realise how big (both physically and developmentally) they're getting. Whether it's William sitting quietly 'reading' a book...

"It's not upside down. You're upside down."
...or Eliza giving you a very grown-up look...

"Raspberries?! I've not eaten any raspberries!"
...there are lots of moments when I sit and think "These are proper little people now". That's both fabulous and a bit sad at the same time - I do miss the days when they were small and could just about manage a wriggle and would settle down on your chest for a nap. At the same time though it's incredible to see them learning and growing and developing and becoming their own little characters. Kate asked over the weekend "Has it sunk in yet that we've got children?" It hasn't, and I don't think it ever will, fully. I like that, though - that constant "LOOK AT THEM! LOOK AT WHAT WE'VE GOT!" voice in the back of your head.

But they are getting bigger (did you know that babies do that?) Playing it safe, we've lowered the bases of their cots so there's no risk of them overbalancing and heading floorwards when they stand and lean over the edges. This dully practical and sensible step turned out to be an unexpected cause of laughs when we realised that they suddenly looked small again, deep down in their cots, peering up at us - we wonder whether E&W think they've shrunk.

E&W went to a playground for the first time on Sunday - our friends Emily and Steve (who also have twins!) recommended the playground in Cumnor (just off Oxford Road, behind The Vine pub), as it has a good range of things for little people to play on. There are little roundabouts, rocking animals, an old-fashioned four-seat rocking horse...and I think it's safe to say that they both loved the swings...
"WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!"
"I'm too cool to go WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!...but I'm thinking it"
I'm looking forward to finding out what week two holds in store for us all...

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Thursday, 6 August 2015

Raspberries, Punctures, Breakages, More Standing

See, I told you I wouldn't post every day! Ironically, quite a lot happened yesterday (Wednesday), so I had plenty of raw material for a post, but time just got away from me. So this will be a bumper post as today (Thursday) has also been quite eventful.

Since Eliza's without-warning standing up of Monday morning, she'd not done it again - I was beginning to wonder if it was an early morning hallucination. But yesterday, William suddenly popped up onto his feet (again with help from the cot bars), and Eliza joined him in standing. 
Anything you can do...
...I can do too!
Perhaps she was waiting for him to do it so that she wouldn't look like she was showing off. Who knows. What I have noticed is that with pretty much any new significant skill (rolling over, crawling, drinking water from a sippy cup), they seem to struggle for a while and then suddenly be able to do it. And when we get all excited and tell them how clever they are, they look back at us with an "Oh, I've been able to do that for ages, didn't you know?!" look. Now they can stand, they keep themselves amused by perching their chins on the bars of their cots and burbling away to each other, like two old fishwives gossipping over the garden fence. It's stupidly cute.

We discovered yesterday that Eliza loves raspberries. Usually with finger food she's a bit of a player - in it goes, only to come out again after a few moments of exploratory chewing. But raspberries go in, stay in, and disappear very quickly. She easily put away four, and could have done more!
Who needs to be able to talk to communicate - it's lunch time, Daddy!
Setting out for our regular afternoon walk on Wednesday, we got halfway to Decathlon (Kate and I are getting bikes - more on this in a future post) only for a tyre on the pushchair to go flat. We soldiered on, and the nice bike mechanic chap there pumped the tyre up...only to diagnose that we had a puncture, and they don't stock the right sort of inner tube. Getting home was a good workout, as I had to hoist one side of the (double, remember!) pushchair up to stop the flat tyre from rubbing on the rim. Even with Kate carrying Eliza, and William sitting on the 'good' side of the pushchair, it was still hard going...especially the unavoidable uphill bit which marks the end of pretty much every walk we go on. I half expected to wake up this morning with a left arm like Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson...unfortunately this wasn't the case (or perhaps that should be fortunately, as I'd look ridiculous with one buff arm and one skinny arm). This morning, for the first time in my life I set to changing an inner tube - and got a disproportionate amount of "Me man, me fix" satisfaction from doing so. I didn't grunt or thump my chest...honest.

We had our first child-related breakage today, when William took advantage of Eliza distracting me by being a right wrigglebutt as I tried to put her in her high chair, and pulled over a standard lamp. SMASH! Thankfully all the glass went away from him, and he escaped unscathed (if a little startled). I was quite impressed at how cool, calm and collected I was about it - it was as if the steps of how to sort it out just popped into my head. Get William away from the glass. Put shoes on. Get dustpan. Sweep up most of it. Feed children. Take them upstairs to play. Wait for them to settle down for their afternoon nap then come down and give the floor a thorough sweeping and vacuuming. I felt a little like Jeeves - all level headed and in control. I quite surprised myself.

So, four days in now and things are still going pretty well. It's hard work (I've slept like a log the last few nights), but hugely enjoyable and rewarding.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Shower Surprise, KISS, Catflaps, Masterchef

I was washing my hair in the shower this morning and felt something squishy between my fingers (stop sniggering at the back). Looking at my hand, there were little black bits of gunk on it. The macabre side of me wondered if it was the remains of one of the eight spiders that you supposedly swallow in your sleep each year (okay, so this was perhaps a spider that had escaped getting chomped, only to be drowned/poisoned by shampoo/squashed by my dainty little hands). I looked again. It wasn't black, it was blue. What could be blue and in my...ah, so that's why Eliza was giving me one of her cute reaching out hugs after having blueberries yesterday afternoon. And I thought she was just being affectionate. Daddy role #373: giant napkin.

My initial gameplan (you can take the coach out of football, but you can never fully take the football out of the coach) for this whole StayAtHomeDad thing is to keep things as simple as I can, get myself in the routine of the feeding and washing and nappy changing and round-the-house jobs that need doing each day. Keeping every room spick-and-span, keeping the garden Alan Titchmarsh perfect, and having a three-course gourmet meal waiting for Kate when she gets home can wait until next week. So today's lunch was about as simple as I could make it - we all had the leftovers from last night's butternut squash risotto, which went down very well with (and into) E&W. And to save on washing up (greenness +2), I did the decent thing and ate mine straight from the pot. No, that's not being slobby. Honest!
Bet you can't guess which was mine
E&W have been having lots of fun exploring the house, and one of their favourite places at the moment is the cat flap. We think they're too big to actually get out through it, but you never know. I'm waiting for the day when they're on the outside peering out and Miles (our quite preposterous apricot-and-white furball of a cat) is on the outside peering in - I wonder who'll get the bigger shock.
"A little door especially for us? How lovely!"
I dipped my toe into the waters of baby cuisine this afternoon, and prepared a batch of food for them for the first time - butternut squash, apple, carrot and prune mash. It was really just a case of weighing, chopping, steaming and mashing, but I felt quite chuffed with myself when it was ready. 
Just imagine what Gregg Wallace would say
So another good day, although this evening has been a bit fraught with E&W waking up and throwing a bit of a paddy - we think the next batch of teeth are on their way (currently Eliza 2, William 4). Calpol, warm milk and another chapter of The Wind in the Willows seems to have done the trick (touch wood). We're currently creeping about the house in the hope we don't disturb them too much. When you're as oafish as me, creeping about is quite a challenge!

PS please don't expect a post every day - life will get in the way every now and again (as it almost did today), and there will be days too when I just don't have anything interesting to say (as if you could believe such a thing). I will aim to post something new at least two or three times a week though, so keep checking for new posts (or subscribe by email by filling in the little box at the top right).

And if you know of anyone who might like to read these ramblings, please let them have the website address. Thank you!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Day One, Standing Up, Lessons Learned

So, Day One of Operation: StayAtHomeDad is done and dusted (touch wood we don't have any late evening wake-ups!)...and it's gone very smoothly indeed. I suspect they may have been gentle with me on my first day, but my list of Lessons Learned has already got several entries, as you'll see below.

Things got off to a very cool start when Eliza greeted us this morning standing up in her cot (with the assistance of the bars) - the first time she's got beyond kneeling/her version of a Downward Dog. Unfortunately I didn't have my phone with me, so couldn't take a photo (Lesson Learned #1 - always have a camera to hand).

My oafishness then spoiled the good mood when I accidentally caught Eliza's hair in her bib fastener. This did not go down well, and as a result her breakfast hardly went down at all. (Lesson Learned #2 - make sure the hair is well out of the way next time). Things perked up though once they were dressed and remembered that Daddy is very good to climb over - and it's apparently incredibly funny when Daddy squeaks in pain when you pull the hairs on his knees (Lesson Learned #3 - try and take the pain in silence; anything else just encourages them to do it again).

Waking up from their post-breakfast snooze brought the reality of the day into sharp focus for everyone...

"Wot no Mummy?" 
"Daddy's in charge? Oh dear."
Eliza and William have both been as good as I think I could have asked for on my first day in charge. They've played nicely with each other (no eye gouging, hair pulling, or toy-stealing-and-immediately-hitting-in-head-with-newly-filched-toy). We've have some wood block tower destroying (I build it, they knock it down)...

Not shown: mightily impressive tower which existed a second before - you'll have to trust me that it was a thing of real beauty.
...some Romeo and Juliet/King Kong tributes...

"What light through yonder window breaks..."
"Williams, shush, I'm playing with the spinny disk!"
...and their current intense fascination with the TV cabinet shows no sign of passing any time soon.

Training for Ninja Warrior
We've had nice naps throughout the day. I say 'We', and of course mean 'They'. I feel like I've been on the go all day, which I haven't (there have been a fair few aimless/pottering/staring into space/quick reads of book moments). I'm looking forward to a sit on the sofa, some rubbish TV, and some chocolate (Kate suggested we both deserved a small reward to mark this momentous day. I didn't disagree).

No caption needed - I mean, just look at her!!
Other Lessons Learned include:
  • try not to time it so that the reusable nappy (greenness +1!) wash doesn't finish just when they're due to wake up;
  • try to coordinate trips to the loo with them being asleep/strapped into their high chairs;
  • if Eliza sets her sights on the cat's food bowl, MOVE!!!
All in all, a pretty good day, and going on this the most important people think so too...

No buzzers - I'm through to the next round!
I wonder what tomorrow will have in store...