Friday, 25 September 2015

Like Trying To Herd Kittens

E&W are now very mobile on all fours. William has a very deliberate, solid, bulldog crawl, a little like Spike from Tom & Jerry. Eliza is more graceful, nimble, and much faster, and has just started bear-crawling, which is both impressive (I remember how tough bear-crawl drills were from my American football days) and quite amusing, especially when seen from the back. Keeping up with them is helping to keep me active. Detailed statistical analysis, using the Reeves Model, shows that 79.6% of the time E&W head off in opposite directions, and a whopping 91.3% of the time they head towards somewhere/something they shouldn't. I seem to have developed the knack of swooping in at the last second to spoil their fun rescue them - I like to think I'm valiantly chasing them down, like Don Beebe catching Leon Lett just as he's about to score (two American football references in one post! Woop!), but I fear I'm more like a winged monkey from The Wizard of Oz; I imagine them saying "Rats! Foiled again!" as they get swept up into the air.

Their favourite targets are the cat flap (still!)...
...the photo-pockets on the back of the utility room door (they particularly like the photo of Grandpa John on the day he set off on his Land's End to John O'Groats charity walk), the freezer, the sideboard...
...and the bookcase in the corner of the dining room. Being a bibliophile, and more than a little precious about some of my books, the sight of E&W pulling books off the shelves is more than a little alarming. We've offered them last year's Where's Wally? annual as a sacrifice, and it has quickly been battered and torn (to much excited hilarity...from E&W) but this doesn't always distract them. Still, more opportunities to work on my reaction time and short-distance sprinting.
I wonder how hard it will be to keep up with them once they've mastered the art of toddling (which won't be far off - both are working on their free-standing).

We ventured out into the garden on Sunday afternoon, making the most of some late summer sun. E&W loved crawling about on the grass, and exploring the pots and plants dotted around our somewhat bare garden. I think it would be really nice if the garden became a place where they were comfortable, where they could have fun, where they'd find things to interest and excite them. I think we'll work on that for next spring/summer.
And they had their first tries on the little bikes their friends Ellie and Freddie passed on to them (thank you!). Eliza looked a little more comfortable than William, and actually managed to move herself along a little way (before being bike-jacked by William). Practice makes perfect!
And last but not least, Eliza has a new favourite place to sit and contemplate life...
As always, please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, give 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!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

It's Not Always Sunshine And Giggles

This post is a bit of a departure from the usual "This is what we've been up to lately" posts. Those of you that know me know that I like the sight of my own words (as opposed to the sound of my own voice), so this is a little bit more of a 'muse-y' post (translation: I waffle on a bit). Fear not, there are new photos of E&W in here - feel free to skip the words if you like). 

"You know what I don't like about your blog?" said one of our friends, a mother of twins, at the weekend. A whole list of potential dislikes flitted through my brain - I decided to take solace in the fact it seemed to be just one thing she didn't like. "You make the whole looking-after-twins-thing seem so easy!"

She'd read my mind. Just a few days before, I'd looked back at my posts to date, and realised that I've painted a rather rosy picture: days full of amusing little incidents and cute photo opportunities, thanks to two gorgeous little people who are model children, never causing any fuss or bother.

This is all part of a propaganda campaign to convince you that I'm some sort of Super-Dad, like one of those contestants on Loyd Grossman-era Masterchef (showing my age!) who somehow managed to be a father of seven who runs his own stained-glass window company and in his spare time enjoys reading classic philosophy in the original Greek, skydiving, judo, and working on his epic fantasy saga (fifth volume nearing completion). (I couldn't find a clip of Masterchef to illustrate this point, so instead here is one of my all-time favourite comedy sketches...the fact it is so, so sinister is half the fun).
I am of course a long way from being a Super-Dad. I think Kate and I are very lucky with E&W - they are, for the most part, very cheerful, well-tempered little people. It's difficult to feel down when W grins at you, or E turns to you for a quick "Just checking you're still there" hug. The good times are glorious...but the bad times can be very rough. I've yet to experience a day of E&W screaming non-stop, like Kate had to go through when they were younger - I can't imagine how hard that must have been, and how strong she is to have been able to cope with it. But some days are just messes, and a rough hour can often make an otherwise good day feel bad. 

There are days when the 6am alarm seems to beep just moments after I've shut my eyes. 

Days when my things-to-do list looks formidable first thing, and seems to have grown rather than shrunk by the time bedtime rolls around. 

Afternoons when E&W get angry because they're not asleep, and in getting angry make it impossible to nod off, so they resort to inconsolable wailing and sobbing. 

Trudging, heavy-legged walks in the pouring rain. 

Evenings when, just as we've settled on the sofa with mugs of hot chocolate, a little sob squeaks through the baby monitor, and before we can get upset the little sob has turned into a full-on paddy that takes long enough to calm that the hot chocolate isn't hot any more.

Some things I find particularly difficult:
  • Days seem to blur into each other - I don't really feel a contrast between weekdays and weekends. My birthday this summer crept up on me almost unnoticed.
  • Days when I feel like I've been on the go non-stop, yet there doesn't seem to be anything to show for it.
  • Days when I feel that I've had no Me Time at all, no time to do something I would like to do, rather than things I need to do.
  • Days when the only time Kate and I spend together seems to be catching up on housework or flaked out in front of the TV. 
  • Feeling out of touch with the world, with friends, with life outside the front door.
I sound like I'm complaining, but I'm not, because I wouldn't give up the life I'm living at the moment. I love being a Stay-At-Home-Dad. And that's why, until now, I've not written about the downs of it - the ups more than make up for them. 
Perhaps I should be more honest, share some of the not-so-great-things - just in case a fellow SAHD (or, of course SAHM) stumbles across this blog. I'd like them to think they're not alone in finding some things difficult with their vocation. Just looking at that bullet-point list above, several ideas quickly spring to mind about how I can change things around to hopefully make me feel better about them. So I'll explore those ideas and report back - someone might find that useful.
So, being an SAHD isn't always sunshine and giggles. Some days it is hard - maybe not the hardest job in the world, but nowhere near the easiest.
All in all, though, I can't imagine many that would be more rewarding.

So, what do you think of this attempt at a different style of post? "More please"? Or "Just stick with the cute photos in future"? Let me know by posting a comment below or Tweeting me at @andymarsh58. And of course feel free to share this post with people you think might be interested. Thank you.

Friday, 4 September 2015

A Weekend Away

First of all, a big thank you to everyone who has sent me encouraging messages about this blog - I'm glad that there are people out there who find it a good read. For those of you that ask how I manage to find time to write, given everything else that goes on in an average day, then the simple answer is I don't always find the time, hence the sometimes lengthy gaps between posts - some days are simply more packed with real-life stuff than others. But I do love writing these posts, so fear not, I will keep doing so - just don't expect regular posts. I'll post up links to all new posts on Facebook and Twitter (@andymarsh58) so you shouldn't miss out, and of course if you subscribe by email you'll get them sent straight to you. And I have some ideas for some other types of post...keep an eye out for a test-run in the not so distant future.

Anyway, enough about me, onto what you're really here for - E&W news and photos!

For the first time since E&W were about seven months old, and we took the (at the time) daunting step of moving them out of our bedroom and into their own room, we've spent a few nights sleeping in the same room as them. We spent the bank holiday weekend with my mum (aka Nana Ruth), and we had to squeeze two single beds and two travel cots into one bedroom, my old room. Top tip (courtesy of Kate): to work out if you have enough space to fit the travel cot(s), lay out the mattress(es) first, before putting the cot(s) up. There wasn't much room to spare! Our (Kate and me) bedroom routine became one of getting changed in the bathroom, gathering in the living room, then sneaking into the bedroom under cover of darkness (well, nightlightness) and getting into bed as quickly and quietly as possible. Thankfully we managed it each night without waking any little people.

What was really surprising is how much noise William makes in the night. He wriggles around, fighting with his grobag and mattress sheet; snuffles and snorts; chunters away; lets out occasional hoots and growls; all apparently while fast asleep! I can only assume Eliza has got used to it, as it doesn't seem to disturb her angelically peaceful slumbers. I like to think she's aware of it, and finds it a comfort - "Ah, William is just there, all is right with the world." Eliza is one of those who gets settled for the night, and doesn't move until morning, snoring quietly all the while. Just one of the many glorious little ways that they're completely different people.

Eliza loves cats. Whenever she sees Miles, our preposterous apricot-and-white fluffball, she squeaks with delight, points, grins like a loon and, if she's on the floor, makes a beeline for him. Miles typically minces his way out of the room as quickly as possible. 
E and Miles (old photo - note the lack of E hair!)
At Nana Ruth's, she set her sights on Muffin, who is a little older than Miles, a little less experienced with small people, a little more dignified. So she didn't run as quickly...for the first day or so. She soon learned. Getting a feline cold-shoulder didn't seem to dampen Eliza's affections much though. We'll make sure we teach both E&W the proper way to behave around cats - be gentle, no tail or whisker pulling, and be ready for an unexpected flap of a paw. Hopefully they'll grow up to love cats as much as Kate and I do.
Spot the little cat
E&W are getting more and more mobile at a quite frightening pace. It seems such a short time ago that they took their first tentative attempts at standing. Now, they pop up from the floor (with a little assistance from the wall, chair, stairgate, Daddy's head) ridiculously quickly, and William has started working on his cruising (moving around the room while holding onto things, like an ungainly ice skater at the edge of a rink). What were once safe places to leave things no longer are, as William quite merrily reaches up onto sideboards and tables to explore what's there. Keeps us on our toes.
Time for some pull-ups
Other than that, life toddles (well, not quite, yet) along quite nicely. I'm now a month in to the stay-at-home-dad life, and I think I'm really getting into the swing of things now, thanks to very carefully maintained to-do lists and lots of alarms on my phone. What's most important is that E&W seem to be blooming, so I think I'm doing at least a half-decent job.

Please feel free to leave comments, ask questions, give 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!