Yes, they're twins. Both of them!

Everyday experiences with twins. The ups, downs and downright unexpected.

The party bus moves on July 31, 2010

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This week we have been in Yorkshire with my great friend from school. She has two daughters, helpfully aged 4 and 15 months, which fits in rather nicely with my brood.

She lives in a gorgeous little cottage in a picturesque village outside Harrogate. It is charming and packed with character but with 4 extra bodies to accommodate, we tested its capacity to the limit. 3 adults, 5 children and a cat in a confined space for four days? Let’s just say, it’s a good job we’re very good friends and have known each other a long time.

El’s husband sussed the situation early on and declared himself, “very busy at work”, which left El and I to manage the troops between us.

Day 1 passed without any major incident. We walked to the local park where the toddlers ignored the vast manicured cricket lawn and instead insisted on wobbling their way towards the stinging nettles. Miraculously, only the 6-year-old got stung. I reckon one of the twins must have pushed him but we busied them in our search for dock leaves to avoid any recriminatory attacks.

On Day 2 we braved the National Railway Museum in York. It was a rainy day and the first week of the school holidays so naturally everyone north of Watford had decided to pay a visit. The fact we came home with 5 children, and that they were the same 5 we had started the day with, was something of a miracle.

We saw diesels, expresses, coaches and carriages of every size, shape and colour imaginable. We’d sensibly taken along ‘Grandpa’ who was able to explain the virtues of all the above to my son. Poor Nancy, El’s eldest, was mostly underwhelmed and managed all of 8 minutes before asking if we could go home. A ride on the carousel outside provided the required distraction to get her through the rest of the day without complaint. That, and a rather large chocolate chip shortbread.

The 3 toddlers were utterly unimpressed with any of the exhibits and between them, consumed a few hundred weight in Organix snacks as we battled to keep their howls of boredom to a dull roar. Shortly after lunch we admitted defeat and piled them all back in the car and headed for home where a paddling pool and coloured stones fared much better in the entertainment stakes.

By Day 3 we were feeling confident in our abilities and ventured to a farm for the day. We packed a picnic as neither of us could face another meal in a public café. I fear they will be wiping egg mayonnaise off the Royal Train in York for some weeks to come. We also discovered that fruit jelly and fromage frais mixed together combine to create an edible concrete mix, utterly resilient to wet wipes. And let’s face it. I’ve yet to discover many substances that wet wipes can’t conquer.

We saw goats and sheep, alpacas and wallabies, guinea pigs and cows. My girls shouted “cat” or “bear” at every single creature they saw and delighted in the al fresco lunch. For twin 1, this meant wandering off at every opportunity to study the food on offer at the next picnic table. Satisfied that our neighbours had brought an inferior picnic, she condescended to eat half a ham sandwich and a fistful of raisins. Twin 2 was thoroughly confused by the lack of high chair and clung to the leg of the picnic table for dear life; as if it may up and leave her at any moment. She really needs to relax a little.

The highlight of the afternoon was the giant sandpit. My son spent a full hour constructing a starship of monstrous proportions whilst twin 2 found the mid-afternoon snack she’d been lacking in the form of sand compacted with water from her cup.

And twin 1? Well having been born in the Middle East and spent her life to date in a desert state, did what any native would do faced with vast quantities of sand.

She howled.

It turns out, she doesn’t really like sand much.

Come to think of it. Neither do I.


A Two Woman Parking Mission July 28, 2010

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The other day we took the troops shopping for the day. In any instance, taking 3 small children shopping is ambitious; but this was an even more elaborate mission. We were going to use the Park and Ride!

I was a little nervous, but my mother assured me that the buggy would fit on the bus and that the bus stop was perfectly located near our targeted shops.

We arrived at the car park, parked in a Mother and Child space, and began the usual unloading routine – buggy, baby 1, baby 2, no. 1 son, bags various, cuddly toys, fondue set…

As we loaded up, I became aware of other cars parking up in the parent spaces and then leaping out and heading towards the bus. Not a child in sight.

A single woman in her 50s pulled up in the space next to us and we decided to take action. My mother politely informed her, in case she had somehow missed the flourescent yellow painted sign of a buggy on the ground; that the space she had parked in was reserved for parents of small children.

“Oh” she replied, and started to walk off.

Undeterred, my mother shouted after her. “It’s just, you could get fined”, she said. I think she was hoping to sound like a friendly, fellow park-ee, and not a militant civilian parking monitor about to make a citizen’s arrest.

“Thank you”, said our middle-aged offender.

And kept right on walking.

We debated how disgusted we were, then set upon everyone else that parked in our aisle. By the time we’d finished, we’d had a full on debate of the slightly warm variety with one man; accosted an elderly couple in a disabled bay; and pulled faces at a very sprightly woman who popped her VW Polo into a disabled space and then approached the bus with the nippy disposition of an Olympic hopeful. She was so fast, we couldn’t even catch her to give her the benefit of our by-now, well-practised speech.

We got on the bus and tried to ignore the glares of all the people we’d reprimanded.

I was happy to discover that my double buggy was just that bit too large and unwieldy for the bus, so that all our visually impaired parking numpties had to squeeze themselves around the twins at some inconvenience. I did nothing to help them.

I’m thinking of suggesting a new parking symbol to the council. The word “LAZY” painted in flourescent paint with flashing lights and a sound effect. Just so all the charming men and women I met in Cheltenham at the Park and Ride last week, know exactly where they should leave their vehicles.


It’s A-maze-ing July 25, 2010

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As part of our cultural tour of England, today’s excitement was a trip to a Maize Maze. There is a farm not far from my sister’s home which every summer, creates a maze from their maize crop. It’s quite famous in the area and as it’s only open for a few weeks a year, is also very popular.

It all looked promising until we reached the entrance where we were charged £24 for the privilege of getting lost. Put me in the car park at the Dubai Mall and I can easily get myself lost for free with the added benefit that I’m in the comfort of my own vehicle, so this seemed a little steep to me. However, we did get a map and the loan of a long stick with a flag on the end.

“What’s it for?”, asked my son.

The helpful student-type who’d relieved us of our £24 explained that ‘if’ we got lost, we could simply raise the flag and shout loudly and someone would come to rescue us.

At this point, I was still blissfully unaware that the maze was actually quite complicated and the chances of us getting lost were incredibly high.

As we entered the maze, my son instructed us that there was to be a girl’s team and a boy’s team. He would be negotiating the maze with the help of my sister’s boyfriend, whilst my sister and I had the benefit of the twin’s navigational skills.

We set off in different directions and soon realised that the maize was in fact, quite tall. We could only see the heads of people who were at least 6 ft tall and there seemed to be an awful lot of flag waving going on.

The initial paths were well-worn and nicely flat. The girls’ buggy trundled easily along the soil and the twins themselves seemed jolly.

20 minutes later we were deep in the middle of the maze, the well-worn paths a distant memory, and spots of rain dropped on us from ominously grey clouds. By now we’d realised that flip-flops aren’t appropriate footwear; that it would have been a good idea to pack the buggy’s rain cover; and that maybe, just maybe, if we’d looked at the map at the start, we may actually have an idea of where we now were.

Sense of humours still intact… just,  my sister and I took turns to drag the buggy over the increasingly bumpy terrain. At one point, with me pushing, and her pulling, we dissolved into fits of giggles as no amount of brute force would force the thing to move. We considered abandoning the buggy and carrying the girls out, but as we had no idea of which way to go, conceded that it wasn’t the greatest plan as we’d probably just end up abandoning the girls once they got too heavy and wriggly to carry.

By now, we’d been in the maze for over 45 minutes and it’s fair to say, it had lost its element of fun.

The girls were getting tired and grumpy and not even date and apple bars could take their minds off the whiplash.

The fact that we kept passing the same people didn’t fill me with hope that we’d ever find our way out.

And then we realised we’d lost our flag!

So come on then… own up.. who’s bright idea was it?


Day Trip No. 2 July 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — twinsmummy @ 1:42 pm
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Following the resounding success of Day Trip No. 1, we geared ourselves up for the sequel. This trip was to be more challenging as it essentially involved little more than half a day in the car. Or so I thought.

Grandma (my husband’s mother) has recently been in hospital having some fairly major spinal surgery. She is now back at home but understandably a little delicate and not really up to having 3 children descend and run riot. However, she is of course, desperate to see her grandchildren.  To try to please everyone, I arranged to drive the troops up to London for the day, to spend a few hours with Grandma, before heading up north to my sister’s home in Altrincham.

The day started well. We even managed to leave home ahead of schedule. With the car packed to the roof line with provisions for the next 10 days, we headed off to the M4 in good spirits. Even the weather was good.

We made such good time that I was actually wondering whether we should stop en route so as not to arrive too early. I should have known it was all going too well.

We reached the M25 and within 20 miles, came to a grinding halt. “What’s going on”, asked no.1 son. I reassured him that the M25 is always like this. Stop, start, stop, start. “We”ll be off again in a minute or two”.

Oh no we won’t.

2 minutes became 10 minutes. 10 minutes became 20 minutes. Soon a whole hour had passed.

Actually, that’s completely incorrect. There was nothing “soon” about it.

The twins’ lunchtime came and went.

We ate every snack in the car that were supposed to have lasted us the week.

We turned the engine off, baked without the air con, and inhaled the delightful fumes of the South East’s busiest motorway.

We played I-Spy, we sang songs, I pulled lots of faces. Mostly at the cars driving in the opposite direction who were actually moving.

After 2 hours, we finally moved.

We enjoyed a restorative late lunch and play in the garden at Grandma’s before re-loading the car to head up north. With 3 children installed in the back and the sat nav primed, I turned the key in the ignition. The car made a sort of whimpering phut phut noise and then died. I tried again. Nothing.


I rang the AA who helpfully confirmed that I wasn’t covered, despite having previously told my father that I was. I understand he spent most of the rest of the day ranting at them and vowing to jump ship to the RAC after 35 years of loyal membership.

In the only twist of good luck of the day, a passing mechanic took pity on me and after a few minor pokes and prods under the bonnet, got the party bus running again.

We were off. Though not for long.

We reached the M1 to the ominous flashing of “Delays. Accident J17-18”.

By now we’d resorted to The Bumper Fun Album and we spent the rest of the day ‘enjoying’ the Laughing Policeman, the Flumps Keep Fit song and Rolf Harris on speed singing about chickens that don’t lay eggs.

Teatime came and went. Bedtime came and went. More snacks were deployed. I daren’t stop and turn the engine off in case the unthinkable happened and we were marooned in the West Midlands.

And then it started to rain. And I mean chuck it down. Windscreen wipers on warp drive. Lights on full beam. Aqua planing across the M6.

I was beginning to think it was some sort of endurance test.

At last the sun came out 15 miles from Altrincham. We collectively counted down every one of the last miles until finally we pulled up outside my sister’s house.

And then the heavens opened.

My sister, her boyfriend and I spent 10 minutes shuttling between the car and the house with bags, cots, high chairs and multiple Miffy’s. Not to mention soggy, grizzly children.

We were soaked to the skin.

We had spent a total of 8 hours and 10 minutes in the car.

I think we’ll put Day Trip No. 3 on hold for now.


Day Trip No. 1 July 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — twinsmummy @ 11:45 pm
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Today I braved the first of what will no doubt be many day trips with the troops.  Our destination of choice? The Cotswold Wildlife Park. I don’t think I have ever visited it before, but this observation was poo pooed by my mother who insists I’ve been a couple of times.

And when did these visits take place? When I was at primary school. Given that I left said school in 1985, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have wiped these visits from my memory.

The plan was to meet my best friend (and twins’ godmother) there and spend the day introducing the children to proper British animals. Sheep, donkeys, chickens and so on. “Will there be camels?”, asked my son. I despair.

On the drive to Burford, we received a message from the Fairy Godmother to say she was stuck on the M25. Moment of panic. Is she still coming? She’s not going to leave me alone for the day with 3 children is she? She wouldn’t. Would she?

We parked up and I took a deep breath before leaping into action to erect the double buggy and load it with our worldly belongings.

Several four letter words later, I opened the rear doors so I could unload the troops. My son was too busy reading the Mr Men’s Sports Day to pay much attention to the fact that we had arrived and twin 2 was picking her nose. Twin 1 looked a little peaky and was covered in vomit. I considered shutting the door and walking off but I think I’d been spotted by the woman in the car next to me so was forced to deal with the situation.

It’s amazing what you can do with a packet of wet wipes.

We started with the emus. My son was quite taken with them and even posed for a photograph. Twin 1 was obviously feeling a little better and enthusiastically waved at the emu. She didn’t get much in the way of a response. Twin 2 was clearly very excited though kept calling the emu, “cat”.

We moved on to parrots, otters and penguins and then were joined by the Fairy Godmother who had whizzed up the M40 to rescue me. After a visit to the vultures and the meerkats, we hot-footed it to the restaurant for lunch.

It’s hard to say which was more off-putting – the mega decibel howling of twin 1 when faced with a jacked potato or the screaming of twin 2 when she realised the potato was for sharing.

I morphed into one of those women I have tutted at way too many times in the past, and chose to ignore the shouts that could shatter glasses and continue with my own plate of food. A jacket potato. How ironic.

After 20 or so minutes of non-stop wailing, we picked up the dripping messes, stuck them back in the pushchair and weaved our way back out of the canteen.

My best friend is getting married next March.

I doubt she’ll be having children anytime soon.


Dawn chorus July 18, 2010

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Yesterday my husband flew back to Dubai. Fresh from his UK break, we dropped him at Birmingham airport and he then enjoyed a three-hour delay courtesy of KLM. Fortunately, he had a 4 hour stopover in Amsterdam so instead of having to spend hundreds of pounds on tulips and pickled herring to while away the time, he had a brief stop in the Miffy shop and was then whisked into the comfort of the upper deck of a 747 and a very much deserved glass of bubbly or three.

So, that leaves the troops and I in the UK for 4 weeks until he returns to claim us. We go through this routine every year and it generally means I drive across the country calling in favours from friends and family, eating our way through their fridges and turning their homes into a Chinese laundry. I’m surprised we’re invited back year after year.

With my other half safely back in the sandpit, I started to think about the things that I actually do miss about Dubai. It’s very easy to dismiss it as hell on earth during the summer due to the punishing heat, dust and smog, but there are a couple of things I miss.

1) People to fill your car for you. We pulled into a petrol station yesterday, and my son looked out of his window before commenting that it must be closed as there were no men around to pump the petrol. “No sweetie, in England you have to fill your car yourself”. He looked disgusted. What sort of place is this?

2) Knowing what to wear. In Dubai it’s easy. It’s going to be blisteringly hot, all day, every day. You wear as little as possible and wash everything, everyday. In England it’s confusing. You wake up to sunshine and a blue sky but that is no guarantee of temperature. I invariably change from short sleeves to long at least twice a day, adding jumpers or cardis into the mix where required. No matter what I pack, I always end up having to buy something new on account of the weather.

On the other hand, there is nothing like waking up to the sound of birds chirping in the trees outside. In both Centre Parcs and my parents house, we are surrounded by trees and the wildlife that congregate in them provide a real dawn chorus. No matter what pitch they sing at, it is infinitely more tuneful than the dawn chorus that greets us from our local mosque in Dubai.


It’s strict in the forest July 15, 2010

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This week we have been to Centre Parcs in Longleat. It is our little family holiday before my husband heads back to the giant sandpit, leaving the troops and I in the UK for another month before he comes to collect us.

I’ve only been to Centre Parcs once before, and that was when I organised a corporate event at the Sherwood Forest one. I’m not sure which was more challenging – taking 3 children under the age of 6 or 50 salesmen. It’s hard to decide.

We have had a brilliant week, despite the appallingly dreary weather. We are staying in a two bedroom lodge which is surprisingly comfortable. It has everything we need to cater for small people, plus just enough space to make sure that we don’t fall out with each other. Well, most of the time anyway.

My son has learned to ride a bike without stabilizers. The girls have swum in the ‘sub-tropical paradise’, which whilst lovely, couldn’t really claim to bear any resemblance to paradise, but maybe that’s just me being picky.

We have cycled and bowled and this afternoon my son will learn to fence. He had asked for light saber lessons, but fencing was the closest I could achieve. I do hope he isn’t too disappointed.

Now since we’ve been staying here, I have come up with the most fabulous plan to deal with all the problems facing the Great British prison service. I think it’s a genius solution to overcrowding, drug problems and violence and I’m going to suggest it to Mr Cameron next time I bump into him in Waitrose.

We should close down all the prisons, and move all inmates to Centre Parcs.

It’s absolutely ideal.

The rules here are extensive. You need permission to accept visitors, who on arrival, are held at security until their identities can be verified. The food is distinctly average. And you are obliged to fill your days with activities. Surely that is what prison is all about?

It is almost impossible to gain entry or to exit unless it has been pre-booked, allocated, ticketed, computerised and approved at Guest Services.

And it costs a fortune.

The only thing that I can find to do for free is printing. I chanced upon this as our solicitor requested more documents from us in relation to the house sale. Expecting disappointment, I pitched up with my laptop and discovered that printing is surprisingly easy and, free!  I’ve been regretting the fact that my blockbuster novel isn’t ready for proofing yet, as I’m dying to go back and print more. My husband is perhaps understandably, beginning to fear for my sanity.

So I’m sorry to all the Centre Parcs devotees who go every year. Once Dave hears my plan, it’s surely just a few logistical decisions away from becoming reality.

And for all the families who’ve previously enjoyed Longleat, Sherwood and Elveden Forests?

Next year, you’re off to Broadmoor!