It's my life, but not as I knew it!

Archive for December, 2013

A week without a playpen…

I have briefly touched on how useful I find our amazing playpen in a previous post. Loving referred to as “baby jail” in our house, it allows the twins the freedom to manoeuvre around as much as they’d like without exposing them to potential dangers in our open-plan living room/kitchen.

People have criticised me for using a playpen, but until you have looked after two mobile and highly creative toddlers in a large room that contains the TV, all electrical gadgets (ie play station, wii, sky box, laptop etc) as well as the oven, dishwasher, washing machine not to mention the cat food, litter tray and the cat herself then please don’t judge! Unfortunately, even with one child it would be impossible to be there, following them around, every second of every day.

We attempted to cope at the beginning but as soon as they started to crawl, we knew we would need something to keep them safe. Twins are notorious at crawling off in complete opposite directions, or working together to get to places or to move things they wouldn’t have been able to do alone!

For an incredibly short time we used a traditional ‘pack and play’ from Kiddicare, but it was obvious that Biscuit and Cracker didn’t like the feel of crawling or standing on the slightly springy raised floor and it was quite small for the two of them. It was perfect if I needed to answer the door or, God forbid, go to the toilet but it didn’t help us with the original problem of keeping them safe and us sane.
I then found, to us, the perfect option. It was large, didn’t have a floor and was easy to set up and put away. Amazon had the Baby Vivo Expandable Playpen in stock and we ordered it straight away! Thank goodness we did. The playpen is huge, it takes up most of the floor space in our living room and happily accommodates two toddlers, two adults and plenty of toys for everyone.

This week we have been at my parents’ house. They have a separate living room and with clever use of their furniture we figured that the twins would be okay. How silly we were! We had five days of “no”, “leave the TV alone”, “come back”, “don’t climb on there” and “stop, you’re going to hurt yourself”. It wasn’t nice. I felt that all we were doing was stopping the twins doing anything they wanted to do. Yes, they had more space to roam around in but they were definitely stifled and were getting much more frustrated than I’ve ever seen them before.

We got home last night and this morning they went straight into ‘baby jail’ full of smiles and giggles at all their toys waiting for them there. I was able to put out a load of washing, sort of a pile of magazines and catalogues and prepare their breakfast knowing where they were and that they wouldn’t be coming to harm. They can see me and regularly threw toys at me when I was unloading the washing machine! For the rest of the morning we have all been in there playing, cuddling and dancing to the new CDs they got for Christmas.

Until the twins are old enough to understand why they shouldn’t touch/chew certain things then I shall continue to use our lovely playpen. It works!

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Silent Sunday (29/12/2013)

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More Silent Sunday can be found at Cosmic Girlie.

SatCap: Saturday is Caption Day! (28/12/2013)

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Please post your caption for the above photo in the comments section.

Mammasaurus - Saturday is Caption Day!

Head on over to Mammasaurus’ Blog for more SatCap fun.

Gender Stereotyping in Children’s Toys

There has been much in the media about the gender stereotyping around children’s toys and how stores such as Toys R Us are no longer going to label toys as “boys” or “girls” (Daily Mail Article and Huffington Post Article). Having boy/girl twins like Biscuit and Cracker gives me a special insight into boy/girl toys.

From day one of finding out that I was pregnant with twins we have always been totally fair with everything we have got for them; clothes, toys, etc. If we found something for our little boy, we always looked for something for our little girl, and vice versa. Obviously, when they were first born their toys were very similar. They had teddies and rattles and stacking cups in lots of lovely primary colours. As they are getting older there does seem to be more pink, ‘girlie things’ for Biscuit and blue, ‘boy things’ for Cracker. For girls such as Biscuit the advertisers push dolls, cleaning and cooking equipment and even pink and purple Mega Bloks. The adverts for boys like Cracker are for blocks, cars and trucks.

Of course, in my house, everything that one of them has the other ones shares and uses. This means that Cracker has always had dolls and pink things to play with and Biscuit has had access to cars, trucks and planes. They both use blocks and building sets. We have never stopped them picking whatever they’d like to play with, whatever that may be (within reason, all children seem to have this amazing want for TV remotes, mobile phones and game controllers!). They quite happily play with each and every toy in their reach, whoever it may be aimed at.

They do play very differently though. Cracker is much more “boisterous” in his entire character. He is very physical, enjoys throwing things and knocking things down. Saying this, he is the most cuddly of the twins and will always hug and kiss you. Biscuit has just, in the last three weeks or so, started really falling for teddies and dolls. She will pick them up and cuddle them, she has even done this with baby Jesus and angel Gabriel from our nativity! She is much more thoughtful in how she plays and will pick one toy and focus on that for a while. This type of play, for me, really sums up the whole ‘nature vs nurture’ debate. We do not treat either of them differently, we play with them just the same and they are very lucky in that they spend equal time with both Rob and I.

I will never stop either of my children from doing anything they want. If Biscuit wishes to join a predominantly male industry then good luck to her. If Cracker wants to for his career to be in a traditionally female industry then we shall support him. As long as they are happy and fulfilled then I am a happy Mama.

Do not forget those amazing toys available such as books, art equipment and Aquadoodle when buying for your, and other peoples, children. Our two have also had lots of ELC’s HappyLand toys for Christmas this year. I feel that this sort of toy helps foster a good imagination without resorting to gender stereotypes to interest the parents and the children. Some of the HappyLand sets are actually very empowering. The ‘Heroes’ set has a nurse, a fireman, a policeman with a police dog and a female doctor! There is also a train set which is played with by both Biscuit and Cracker in equal measure.

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Driving Home for Christmas- preparation

For Christmas this year all five of us are going to Granny and Gramps’ house in Essex. My brother, his fiancée and their puppy are also going to be with us; it’ll be a full and cosy Christmas this year!

In order to get two adults, two toddlers and a pussy cat there, not even mentioning the whole host of gifts, toys, clothes and other accoutrements that we’ll need when we’re there, we rented a car (living in Central London means we have no need/space to keep a car).

How much stuff is too much stuff, or too little for that matter, for a week? For the little ones I have currently narrowed it down to pretty much their entire wardrobe (help may be required to reduce that down to a medium suitcase full). I am notoriously bad at packing as I do want to take everything. I panic that I may need something that I have left behind. Rob, on the other hand, has decided on a capsule wardrobe that even Gok Wan would be proud of. Maybe I should get Rob to pack for everyone?! We are definitely going to be leaving some presents here to open before we go or when we get back as we don’t have room to drive them all there and back, we have made sure that everyone will still have enough to open on Christmas Day though!

I reserved the car a while ago being organised and taking advantage of knowing I was definitely off work this year. As the days have been crossed off the calendar and our car rental has got closer I am getting nervous about it. May sound silly, stupid even, for someone who has held a licence for over 10 years, but since moving to London I have driven less and less and I have only driven with Biscuit and Cracker a mere handful of times. Add that to the fact that I will be driving on London roads on Christmas Eve and I am more than a little scared!

I think the age-old adage of going nice and carefully combined with my Dad’s advice of keeping an eye out for potential idiots on the road will see me through the drive. Strange isn’t it, I wouldn’t normally be worried about driving but having the twins in the car with me makes it much more nerve-wracking? Plus that is just having them in the car behaving nicely and sleeping soundly, how much more are my nerves going to be frayed if they are screaming or attempting to escape from their car seats….?

If you are on the roads between London and Billericay tomorrow and see a fully loaded Ford Focus “or similar” (whatever that may mean) with a vaguely harassed lady driving it then please be kind and don’t honk at me!

Silent Sunday (22/12/2013)

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Buon Natale/Merry Christmas

When I met, married and had children with a gorgeous Italian man, I knew we would want to keep the culture, traditions and language of both sides of their families. Rob speaks to Biscuit and Cracker purely in Italian, we have children’s TV, films and books in Italian as well as English and we’ve already taken them over to Italy to meet the family. We want them to be proud of their dual heritage.

I have already blogged about the traditions we are starting in our house and this has led me to research Italian Christmas traditions to see how to incorporate them into Casa S’s Christmas.

The tradition Rob has told me about many times before is La Befana. La Befana is a kind witch who visits children on the night of 5th January (Epiphany). There are many different myths and stories about why La Befana brings treats to children. These range from the story of how the Three Wise Men asked her to accompany them to find Jesus and she refused as she was too busy, but then regretted not going with them so went out to find them and the Baby Jesus to the slightly more disturbing myth of La Bafana being a bereaved mother who believed that the Baby Jesus was her son and so went out to find him. In all stories told, because she was late leaving, La Bafana never found Jesus so instead goes to visit each child to reward the good ones with sweets and treats and to give the naughty ones coal. We will definitely put the stocking out on the 5th January so they can wake up to some treats.

A tradition that Rob did not know about, but that I think would be a nice alternative to a Christmas Tree would be the Il Ceppo or The Tree of Light. This is a large wooden triangle shape with tiers of shelves within the frame. You use this frame to not only display the Nativity Scene, but also to put decorations, small gifts and treats and lights on. As with a usual Christmas Tree, a star or small fairy is put on top. We already have two nativities in our living room, one a small wooden one from my childhood and a much more child-friendly Fisher Price Nativity Set, which the twins love playing with. Having somewhere specific and special to display them in our living room would be wonderful. I will have to go about finding out how Il Ceppo is made and if I will be able to get one here for next Christmas.

Of course, as with a lot of Italian traditions, there is a lot of food involved in the Italian Christmas. I, personally, am not sure I could manage a first course of pasta or Lasagna before the roast dinner part of Christmas lunch as they do but I am (of course) willing to try! Typical Italian sweet breads such as panettone and panforte are already becoming much more mainstream in the UK as many of the supermarkets stock them alongside the mince pies and Christmas puddings. I think, for us, it will be about incorporating our favourite parts of our childhood meals into our family Christmas dinner and enjoying that all together.

Above all we are going to spend Christmas as a family doing (and eating) things that we enjoy and trying to make it as special as we can for Biscuit and Cracker.

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