Thursday, 18 April 2019

THIS MAMMA RATES... Body Shop beauties

My skincare regime is basically non-existent and my face is definitely suffering for it. The excuse I give everything is that I don't have time, but it's getting to the point where my skin looks sad, dehydrated and unhealthy so action is needed. In an attempt to knock that on the head, I treated myself to a few goodies from The Body Shop and as soon as I opened the box I was pleasantly surprised.

I'm a sucker for beautifully designed and practical packaging and on opening the brown cardboard box that was handed to me by the postman, it instantly revealed a beautiful pattern printed on the inside and the products sat there waiting, tucked neatly in a paper bed like a big colourful surprise.

So far all I can say is that they smell divine and I will be writing a blog post to let you know how I get on with them – for now my face can't wait to have a long-overdue treat. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

THIS MAMMA CREATES... a quick and easy tea

Eating together as a family is one of our main goals, but to be honest it rarely happens. Even though the boys are over a year old, the 'witching-hour' that haunted us in times gone by still rears it's head on most days around 4pm and to concoct something we can all eat together in time for dinner, whilst simultaneously calming the beasts is near impossible. I'm not ashamed to say that pouches and tray-meals have saved my skin on numerous occasions and I break out in a cold sweat if we don't have any in the house for the 'hairier' of evenings.

Today though I managed to pull something off – Sausage & Veggie Pasta. Proper decent sausages, chucked in the oven, and linguine boiling in a saucepan – easy peasy. Asda do frozen 'scratch cook' veggies, which you simply stir fry from frozen. I love having stocks in the freezer because you're not then reliant on using things up by the sell-by date so they don't end up wasted and chucked in the bin. If you have a few 'tray-meal' kind of evenings, it doesn't matter if the delicious meal you had planned in for Monday gets delayed til Friday, because it's tucked away in the freezer.

To these I added some fresh sliced mushrooms (I know, I know, but they're a huge time/life saver), plus frozen mushrooms in my opinion never quite cut the mustard; then a can of mashed up plum tomatoes (which have a richer, thicker sauce than the chopped version). Once the sausages are cooked, chop them up and add to the veggies, then stir through the pasta. Hey-presto!

I minced it down a bit for the boys, who're still uncertain about whole chunks of sausage and I'm still working on getting them to feed themselves pasta; but all four of us thoroughly enjoyed it. It took basically no time to make, was full of goodness, and even more excitingly meant we ate the same thing at the same time, together at the table. Winner winner, Sausage & Veggie Pasta for dinner.  

Friday, 29 March 2019

THIS MAMMA WRITES... the trials of a first shoe fitting

Today we packed ourselves up and went to the City to meet the boys’ Grandma to go to have a shoe fitting at Clarks. To me this felt like an absolute rite of passage, an institution where I myself got my shoes as a kid. I was looking forward to it and it felt like an occasion. I have to say I was so underwhelmed it almost made me feel a bit upset.

As the 20% in store discount weekend with Tamba and with Charlie walking since 11 months and Harry a few days before his first birthday; now seemed like the perfect time to get some proper shoes measured. The boys’ Uncle brought them some amazingly cute trainers for their birthday so I knew I wanted something more like a shoe than the Velcro-type pumps that Clarks offer. Something like a lace up boot, a little less casual. I know I have a million pairs of shoes myself, but the boys are only little and will grow out of them so quickly anyway, it seemed daft buying a second pair of similar shoes – their trainers from Uncle Jimmy are so special I wanted them to keep wearing those too.

We arrived in store only to find the kids section was upstairs and the double pushchair plus myself didn’t fit into the tiny lift. The boys were napping and one of them could have continued to while his brother was being fitted but they had to both be woken and carried upstairs while the buggy was parked in the downstairs storeroom. Luckily my Mum was with me or it could have been even trickier. Being upstairs meant I had to keep a super, super close eye on the boys as they both walked about and not let them stray more than an arms length from me. Given we were there to try on shoes, some walking was obviously required and it seemed a little daft to encourage little ones to march about so close to a huge open downward flight of stairs. The boys just wanted to stay on the floor and explore, so couldn’t understand when they’d been encouraged to move about road-testing the shoes, why they were suddenly being forced to be stationary in our arms. It made the experience so much more stressful than it needed to be.

I have a huge bugbear about boys vs girls clothing. I’m not a gender stereotype by any means – my boys have pink things. However I find the ratio between girls and boys items in shops absurd. More often than not there are so many lovely girly clothes, shoes and outfits compared to a handful of lovely boys things, which in my opinion are usually quite boring. This is why I do most of my clothes shopping online. Clarks was no different from the norm, and when I was asked so select some shoes to try there wasn’t any that immediately sung out at me. They had plenty of the basics but as I said earlier I was looking for something a little different. We selected some lace up boots but the colours available were teal, mustard and a bright coral red. Fairly feminine and not exactly the most adaptable when it came to coordinating with outfits. I did love the shoes though, but apparently the navy and burgundy versions I saw online were last season and not available in Charlie and Harry’s size (which was miraculously exactly the same, down to their width and one foot being half a size bigger).

So we left disappointed and went to ease the pain with a jacket potato. But this Mamma doesn’t quit. Once we got home I searched online and found the colours I liked in their sizes; and because they didn’t come from Clarks directly, the prices were lower and I actually ended up saving almost as much as I would have with the Tamba discount. Result!

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

THIS MAMMA WRITES... dreaming of sleep

Yesterday we entered a brave new world, I got the kids out to the car without the pushchair, drove us out to Dereham and met their Nanny, then we all went to a Beebops class. They loved the space and freedom (I think they mostly enjoyed running around the room before the class began), and although they didn’t really engage with the songs – mostly running riot trying to steal people’s snacks/shoes/personal space – they definitely enjoyed themselves. 

I wanted to hold off writing this post until today as I hoped I’d be able to say that after such an exciting, exhilarating and stimulating day the boys slept through the night and we all skipped downstairs this morning smiling and high-fiving each other, fresh as daisies. 

No. Friggin. Chance. 

Combined they were both up six times, at times synchronised, at times individually. No skipping, smiling or high-fiving this morning for me, just necking cups of coffee like I’m representing an entire team in a game of boat race. 

We’ve had an incredibly testing relationship with sleep these past (almost) 13 months that the boys have been rulers of our World – in that we haven’t really had any. Genuinely I don’t remember a single night where they have both slept through in all that time. We’ve had a handful of nights off, which are of course a lifesaver, but when they’re somewhere else you don’t have the same kind of settled sleep, not knowing how they are or what they’re doing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – children are a privilege which is so random that not everyone, despite who they are or what they do, are fortunate enough to have. I’m not bashing my parental lifestyle, it’s just that lack of sleep is such a shocker. 
The boys share a room and constantly disturb each other. Their patterns and needs are so different and individual that it makes it very hard to keep them synchronised. I’ve read a lot of tips about how important it is for twin life survival to get the two in sync, but with mine it just hasn’t happened. When we found out we were having twins it was very important to me that they have a chance of individuality and independence – we never dress them they same (apart from special occasions), they even eat different things because of Charlie’s dairy intolerance. Whether nature or nurture, their personalities are very individual too, and in consequence they sleep differently. From an early age, probably around 3 months, we gave them separate cots as they constantly disturbed each other, and we are now on the verge of giving them separate rooms. It’s almost laughable that we haven’t done this sooner – it’s been purely the logistics of finding the time to clear out our box room (which has been a general dumping ground since we moved in 3 years ago) when time is something we never have any excess of. It never occurred to us to create two nurseries when we put together the one in preparation for their birth. 

To ensure they don’t disturb each other while getting off to sleep, I get Harry to sleep in the nursery while Tom gets Charlie off in our bedroom. Once Harry’s asleep, a sleeping Charlie can come in, so I always do what’s easiest and quickest to get Harry off (holding him, soothing him) so Charlie gets the chance to settle in his cot as quickly as possible too. They used to just fall asleep on us with their post bath bottle so now this has stopped happening Harry doesn’t know how go off to sleep without me and ends up waking every night, needing help to settle. We have to pull him out quickly when he does this so he doesn’t wake his brother (who is notoriously terrible at going back to sleep once he’s woken) so Harry ends up sleeping with us. What a pickle, eh! We know this isn’t exactly the way it should be, but you do what you do to get through with two. Who other than parents of multiples would have the problem of two babies waking each other in the same room, and parents of multiples understand that life is bloody hard at times and you literally simply do what works in the moment to survive. 

Last night I worked really hard to get Harry to sleep in his cot rather than being held by me, and when he did it eventually I was proud of us both for our persistence – but he still woke unsettled, and in turn so did his brother (perhaps because he was made to wait so long sleeping on our bed before the coast was clear for him to get into his own bed)?! Teething is a huge contributing factor too – Harry in particular suffers terribly. He started teething for tooth 7 a long time ago, much before Charlie, who’s teeth number 7 and 8 have already cut before Harry’s 7th has even popped through – it’s there lurking under the surface but taking a lifetime to make it out.

The second nursery will be ready soon and we can work at letting them take themselves off to sleep, making as much fuss and noise and taking as much time as they need, without the complications of keeping their twin awake during the process. In turn hopefully life will become easier and more restful!

Friday, 11 January 2019

THIS MAMMA WRITES... the happy place

I like to try everyday in some capacity to get over to my happy place – Horstead Mill and the river which weaves in from Coltishall to join it. The soft noise of the moving water is like a white noise machine for my boys and the clean, fresh, calm air is good for all three of us. I park myself on one of the benches by the bubbling surface – even if it’s rained and I get a wet bum – drinking luke warm coffee from a maroon Harry Potter travel mug – the epitome of cool, made even cooler by the fact that Tom and I both bought each other one for Christmas. I breathe in the quiet and the solitary feel of the place, recharging my batteries that are already beginning to drain from being awake since 4am. No one is moaning at me because they’ve done a poo, then moaning at me because I’m trying to give them a clean nappy. I don’t have to find the energy to play or entertain – for a peaceful hour they sleep and I ‘meditate’.

I’m possibly as far away from an animal lover as you could get which is strange as during childhood I had a menagerie of soft toys on which I performed emergency operations in homage to Captain Grandpa Gunning, Veterinary Surgeon of the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps. This happy place however provides a lot of nature which I definitely enjoy – wild animals seem to have more appeal to me than domesticated ones and I enjoy happily collecting them in a list in my head. There’s a kingfisher who I often see which makes me very happy – the usually rarely seen jewel colours of turquoise on orange darting along the water’s surface like a beautiful bullet; then there are pheasants, herons and even once a stoat (or perhaps a weasel – I’m not Chris Packham).

Once my bum on the bench gets too cold, we go for a little walk down the path to the river, where said magnificent kingfisher occasionally makes its appearance. On some days the air is so still that the water is like glass – a mirror so vivid it even reflects back to you the textures in the clouds. I marvel at the skeletal trees, blank inky lines sketched on the surface of the sky.

Then today, from an side inlet of the river, sidles the white neck of a swan. She has a cygnet with her and she’s pretty protective. The pushchair is big and she’s territorial. I make my way further along the path but she follows, slicing shards through the surface in her wake. I stop. She stops. It’s face off with a swan and we know who’s going to win. I’ve been put off swans for life – there were loads roaming around where I went to Uni in Lincoln, getting in the way and crapping all over the pavement – the confidence to march past them gained only by the treble vodka you’d just necked in The Glasshouse next door. I turn hot on my heels to take the boys and my cold bum home – turns out this happy place is someone else’s too.

This incredible place is beautiful in all seasons, so heres a look at just why I find it so special...