Letters To My Two-Year-Olds

Dear Claudia,

I can’t really even begin to explain how much you have changed over the last twelve months. For one thing your hair finally started to grow and by 20 months you had gorgeous curls at the nape of your neck. You have blossomed when it comes to your confidence with new places and people. You are still happiest by my side when we are at playgroups, but you warm up to people so much faster than you used to. You have the best “shy face” we have ever seen (a slightly cheeky-looking sideways smile) which you use when someone is a little too close for comfort.

You love books. Over the last few months you have enjoyed finding out what the ladybird heard, solving a monkey puzzle, spying out nursery rhyme characters (in a book you sadly no longer call something that sounds a lot like “itchy bum”), finding peace at last with Mr Bear and worrying about a ted who fell out of bed. You love to “read” a lot of these books to yourself, having memorised most of the words!

Speaking of memory, yours is incredible. Back in February, shortly after you broke your arm (for the first time) we took you to Surrey Docks Farm. Stepping out the back onto the banks of the Thames, I spotted Canary Wharf and pointed out to you where Popsey works. A month later (shortly after you had broken your arm for the second time) we went back. As soon as we stepped out onto the riverbank you waved and shouted “Hello Popsey!” You are constantly surprising us with the things you can recall.

And yes, you broke your arm twice this year. Actually you broke it twice within a month! You still talk now about Poorly Arm but you know it’s better now. I wonder if you will be able to remember it when you are older. You were so brave, barely crying, and being remarkably chipper about the nights in hospital. You won over all the nurses instantly – of course.

You have always loved to communicate so it came as no surprise when you started talking and rapidly expanded your vocabulary, your understanding of context and syntax and your grasp of social niceties. You have pretty much got please and thank you nailed. At the moment, if I ask you to do something that you don’t want to do, rather than say no and run away like some toddlers would (not mentioning any names!), you simply say, “I’m all right” even when I’ve tried to outwit you by giving you a choice.

“Claudie, would you like to wear the green nappy or the purple nappy?”
“I’m all right.”

“Claudie, would you like me to put you in your car seat or would you like to climb in yourself?”
“I’m all right. I’m all right.”

Unfortunately all your politeness doesn’t prevent the ensuing tantrum when I insist that in fact you do have to wear a nappy or you do have to go in the car seat, but I guess these are the terrible twos and I’m just trying to make them as un-terrible for you as I possibly can.

Despite your apparent shyness or caution in new situations, sometimes you surprise us all with your confidence. Leaving a train recently, you shouted out to the business men trying to get off behind the double buggy I was attempting to manoeuvre “Bye, people! Seeya later!”

You love to say seeya later. Recently, you have started pretend play and will often say to me, “Seeya later. I’m goin a shops.” You will often later say, “I’m back now” and we discuss what you bought (usually ice cream). We have tried to teach you “See you later, alligator” “In a while, crocodile” but so far the best we get is the hilarious “Seeya later, alligator-crocodile.”

You love to cook in your play kitchen. Usually porridge. You like us all to have a taste and like to make us cups of tea too. You used to be very into In the Night Garden and as a result have three Upsy Daisies who mostly live in your bed these days. You used to call Iggle Piggle “Bugger”, which amused us no end! You have started taking care of your dollies and teddies, cuddling them and giving them “milky” or feeding them your snacks. Sometimes you pretend to tandem breastfeed the two foam dress-up-babies that stick on the side of the bath. It’s so cute!

You really love to sing. Often, at Baby Bounce and Rhyme at the library you will cry for “more singing” after the half hour is up. You have quite a few songs in your repertoire now, although you are somewhat flummoxed by repeating lines at the end of songs and see it as an opportunity to just keep singing on a repetitive loop (Incey Wincey spider climbed up the water spout/Down came the rain and washed the spider out/Out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain/Incey Wincey spider climbed up the water spout/Down came the… You get the picture)

You are such a delight to wake up to in the morning, even though I do sometimes wish you would manage just one whole night in your own bed (you slept for a solid 8 hours 25 minutes one night a few weeks ago so I shouldn’t really complain although that feat has yet to be repeated). As much as you can be quite a calm and “sensible” child – the kind who will walk hand in hand through a busy shopping centre and then sit calmly in a coffee shop (as long as provided with a babyccino and – if possible – a slice of cake thankyouverymuch!), you really do have your mad moments. You cavort around and jump and shout and laugh and are just a constant source of entertainment. Your smile could light up the night.

You aren’t afraid to let us know when you need us, which, I hope, is a testament to the fact that you can trust us to respond to your needs. You stop my breath every day and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have this gentle, crazy, chatty, inquisitive, beautiful child in my life.  You are an inherently happy person and your joy infects all those around you.  These few paragraphs just can’t do justice to the remarkable person you are turning out to be.

I love you more than you will ever know.

Mama xxx

Claudia Turns Two from Becoming Mums on Vimeo.

Dear Imogen,

My little Imp. You have blossomed this year. From your first hesitant steps just before your first birthday, you quickly were walking and then running, jumping, galloping and climbing. Oh how you love to climb! You will climb anything that will stay still long enough. Now, whilst you do it, you will often say to yourself “careful!” I imagine that’s because we’ve said it to you so many times. You are pretty much fearless and will attempt any physical activity without any thought as to whether or not you will be able to do it (usually you can, even when we suspect you might not be able to). You have incredible strength and love to dangle and swing from things, supporting your own body weight almost effortlessly with just your arms. You have mastered a forward roll, which is just incredible, and are always trying to find a new and challenging way of coming down the slide!

We have been on two holidays in the last year and I think it’s safe to say that on both occasions the beach was your favourite part. You love the sand and you love the waves. You want to run and jump and splash. This April, when you took your first trip abroad, to Mallorca, I was standing with you at the water’s edge and pointed out a big wave. You raised your hand and waved at the sea.

Your language has come on leaps and bounds over the last few short months, since our holiday when your favourite thing to say was your made up word: “dikki di di!” Around that time you also chose my name. You started calling me “Mama” and it stuck.

We should have known it would have been you who solved the problem of how to differentiate between your parents – both female, both called Laura – as you seem to have a real passion for problem-solving and an incredible interest in how things work. You often spend ages puzzling over a new toy, trying to make sense of it. Sometimes your investigations leave a path of destruction in their wake and I try not to mind too much.

You are Imogen the Destroyer – as we jokingly nicknamed you after one too many incidents of shredded toilet paper, ripped book pages and a very sorry looking HDMI cable – but you are also incredibly gentle. In face when I saw this image on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, I laughed out loud, because this is absolutely you.

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You like to take things apart to get an idea of how they work, but you are also so affectionate. You like to dole out kisses when we are least expecting it, coming up beside one of us and planting a kiss on the back of a knee or an elbow. You kiss so softly, like you know it is a gentle, loving thing to do. When I carry you in the sling, you fall asleep stroking the back of my arm; at bed time you snuggle on our bed with Mummy and an array of cuddly toys, often finally drifting off stroking Mummy’s hand or arm. When you’re upset, I often don’t have to say anything, but just open up my arms to you and you come straight in, tucking your head under my chin and popping your thumb in your mouth. You love to snuggle, always asking to be wrapped up and tucked in a “bankelet” (you know there’s supposed to be an L in there somewhere!)

You love your sister. You want to be wherever she is. You were lost when she broke her arm and you had to spend a few days and nights apart. You are her little shadow at the moment, always wanting to be by her side. It’s been incredible to watch your relationship develop and the two of you genuinely play together and have conversations now, which Mummy and I love to listen to. You have an amazing amount of empathy; you always try to cuddle Claudie when she is crying, even if she’s angry crying and doesn’t want to be touched. You will remark on babies crying when we are out and about and tell me they need a cuddle. You are so compassionate.

You have a great sense of humour and a cheeky grin. You are stubborn and defiant but we love that you know your own mind. You are fiercely independent. You love books too – your favourite at the moment is one Auntie Jodie bought you. We have read it every night for at least the last month. (I may have skipped a page or two recently). Monkey and Me was another firm favourite for a while, so much so that you thought every monkey was MonkeyMe, including your monkey backpack.

Your favourite toy has consistently been the doll’s buggy we bought almost a year ago. You have only in the last few months started putting anything in it to push around, preferring previously to just charge up and down, crashing into anything in your way, causing Mummy and me to refer to it as your “battering pram”. You have always quite liked taking turns with Claudia to sit in it and be pushed around by the other one. You are both getting a bit big for that now and I suspect the buggy is on its last legs. We will, of course, replace it straight away. How could we not? (Thank goodness it’s cheap!)

Your favourite song is “pull clap clap clap”, otherwise known as ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’. You do a beautiful rendition of Twinkle Twinkle, very tunefully and you love singing at the library or at Twins’ Club. You have both gone off the Sleeping Bunnies song a bit recently, but we had lots of fun singing it at home when you first figured out the actions. You like to play Twinkle Twinkle on the piano and sing along with it very loudly.

You make me smile every day. My heart skips every time you lean over and unexpectedly press your lips to my shoulder or the spot behind my ear. Sometimes you are a whirlwind; sometimes a soft breeze. I love that you are as unpredictable as the weather. But I also love that I know which book you will want to read before bed, which side you want your milky from and which stuffed toys need to be lined up in our bed so you can snuggle off to sleep (often after a round of extremely energetic gymnastics off the headboard). I love how much you love to watch a butterfly, a ladybird, a bumblebee, a snail. I love your fascination with the world and the new ways you make me see things.

I love you so much, my little Imp. I love the way you curl up in my arms like you were made a perfect fit. I guess you were.

I can’t wait to see what amazing things this next year with you will bring.

I love you,

Mama xxx

Imogen Turns Two from Becoming Mums on Vimeo.

Going a Bit Potty

In the interests of squeezing in one more post before my babies turn two (TWO! TWO!?!) in less than a month, this entry is likely to be a bit rushed and all over the place, but bear with me.

Life is as busy as ever chez Becoming Mums but we are now on the countdown to the summer holidays and cannot wait! A lot of the girls’ friends are having birthdays at the moment so they are starting to get to grips with the idea of what birthdays are. They are excited about cake!

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We have had a bit of a lifestyle change in that we are attempting to go Paleo (if I have time I will go back and insert a handy hyperlink here before I hit publish; if not, I’m sure Google will tell you all you need to know). This has involved several major changes to what we eat to the exclusion of sugar, grains and gluten and a reduction in the amount of dairy we consume. At first I was starving, but we seem to have figured it out now – cutting out the majority of complex carbohydrates does mean you need to do something to replace all those calories! Our biggest struggle is that, living on one salary, we can’t really afford the high quality grass-fed meat that should be a major part of the Paleo lifestyle, not to mention organic veg, but with some compromises we are more or less making it work. L has become evangelical about it. In fact the other day she even said – bearing in mind she has always hated organised religion – that she has finally found her religion!

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We bought the girls potties a couple of months ago. I am in no rush to potty train as with reusable nappies we aren’t having to pay out for new nappies each week and I’m also a firm believer that they will stop using nappies when they are ready, but we had noticed that they usually do a wee when they get in the bath, so we thought we’d introduce the idea of their own little toilet and see if they would pee in it before bath time. At first this appeared to be an abject failure and we thought they were a million miles away from them ever being ready to use the potty. But since then – particularly as they often insist on staying “nakey” after a nappy change – we have had a few successes. Still no more than I can count on one – or at a push two – hands, but progress nonetheless. Sometimes, of course, they still wee standing right next to the potty, so I know we’re a long way from nailing it. At the moment we’re just enjoying the freedom the good weather is giving them to run naked around the garden.

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Yesterday Claudia said, “Mummy sit on the grass next to Claudie.” (If you were there, you possibly would have heard “mummy sit on a gahs nex a Daudie” and may or may not have been able to translate the toddler-speak yourself – it kind of amazes me that other people can’t understand everything they say, but of course I am immersed in it day by day!) they have both been speaking in real full sentences for a good couple of weeks, but the complexity of that sentence just blew me away. They are really talking and really able – most of the time – to make themselves understood. I can’t believe that this time last year they were still crawling and cruising around the furniture and could only say a handful of standalone words. Two months ago I started making a note of all the words I heard them say independently and in context (excluding proper nouns) as I had read that the average child should be able to use about 50 words by their 2nd birthday. I was just curious exactly how big their vocabularies are as I felt like they knew tons of words, but had no idea how many. By the time the count reached 200 I gave up! And okay, I know I’m totally bragging now, so feel free to tell me I need to shut up about how brilliant my kids are but sorrynotsorry my kids are brilliant!

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Hospitals, Holidays and Happy Families (And Everything in Between!)

So much has happened in the last few months I’ve barely had time to draw breath, let alone blog about it.

After Claudia had the cast off her Poorly Arm, she only lasted 10 days before she broke it again. I was devastated for her, not least because we were only three weeks away from our first holiday abroad as a family – the four of us were headed to Mallorca in the Balearics – and we were so excited about it, but of course we now were travelling with a 20 month old who had her arm in a cast.

She broke it in an absolutely tiny tumble off her Scuttle Bug (a small scooter/trike contraption we bought them for Christmas). It broke in the exact same place as last time so although the hospital insisted on testing for vitamin deficiencies and brittle bones it was clear the first cast had just come off much too soon. Getting it set was an absolute fiasco this time because there wasn’t a qualified (enough) anaesthetist on duty so we were transferred to another hospital and her arm was eventually set three days after she broke it. Immie found the separation quite hard but enjoyed going to visit her sister and exploring the playrooms on the children’s wards.

Thankfully, one of the mums at the Twins’ Club we go to had a rubber cover for an arm cast as her daughter had fractured her wrist a few months before. It was an absolute godsend as it meant that she could still have a bath every day (their favourite time of day) as well as getting just as up close and personal with the Mediterranean as Imogen did when we were away.

Our holiday was brilliant. The girls loved the beach and the children’s splash pool at our hotel was fab. They paddled and splashed and dug in the sand and went down the slides and we even got a moment or two to sit on a sun lounger. (But it literally was only a moment or two – thankfully we went with the expectations of not sitting down for a moment, so anything more than that felt like a real bonus.)

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It was an amazing ten days and we were sad to come home, but these things must always come to an end.

While we were away we discovered that Claudia could sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and in fact they both now sing a number of different songs and are even confident enough to often do it on demand for various friends and family. They love holding the phone to their ear – especially if we are actually trying to have a conversation with the person at the other end – but rarely say hello. Mostly they just sing Twinkle Twinkle! Although the other day Claudia was shouting “Happy birthday!” down the phone to L’s cousin.

Their language is just incredible these days. I get so excited each time I hear them expressing a new concept or stringing a new sentence together. Their favourite things to say at the moment are pretty much: “Immie do it”; “Daudie hold it”.

Yep, we’re in that fiercely independent stage, which means a lot of frustration as they try to do things their motor skills can’t quite manage.

They even made up a game together the other morning, where they both lay down in Claudie’s cot, pulled the covers over themselves and then one of them would shout, “Wakey up!” And they both jumped up. So cute.

We are definitely finding it so much easier these days, although of course every age brings its own challenges, but it’s great now they can communicate a little more easily and can, for example, tell us if something hurts.

They are really starting to build on their sentence structures now and are saying things like: “Immie’s turn next”; “A bit more”; “Singing now?” (Are these prepositions? As a teacher I am sure I should know the grammatical names but I’m really not sure in this instance.)

Claudia has also occasionally started using ‘me’ instead of ‘Daudie’, which seems like an incredible leap forward. She will say things like, “Me climb in [to the buggy]“, which they love to do now. We have finally taken the bars off the front of the buggy (which Immie liked to rest her feet on when they were smaller) and now they can both climb up and sit down. They also love to walk though and we are able to use the buggy less and less. The main problem is that they do still need to nap in the day so we often do need to take the buggy to facilitate that, but wherever and whenever possible we let them walk.

Just before we went away, Immie started saying “Mama” (l and I have always both referred to ourselves as Mummy and so have both girls). She would stand there repeating it over and over like a question until I would say, “Yes, Immie.” And then she’d just give me a really cheeky grin. As she kept this up, Claudie soon cottoned on and started using Mama to refer to me too. We always said the girls would figure out what to call us and it seems they already have. It’s totally stuck now and I like being Mama.

Since my brother’s birthday in late April, they like to walk round the house saying, “Happy birthday, Colin!” Of course, we couldn’t get them to actually say that to him on his birthday. They are really enjoying exploring the sensation of different words in their mouths. Some of their favourite words to say include guacamole and ukulele! Every time we open the front door they say, “That’s our car!” As if the fact that it’s sat there on the drive is a total shocker. The cutest thing is that they also say goodbye to it when we go out and hello when we come back, but they haven’t quite understood the entire sentence, so they say: “Bye bye that’s our car!”

22 months from Becoming Mums on Vimeo.

In other news, a lovely journalist interviewed me a while back for a feature in Mother & Baby magazine.  We were in the May issue as part of their ‘Modern Families’ spread, representing the LGBT family.

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Blue Moon

It’s been a while.  Far too long.  In January I started a post explaining how I planned to write at least one post a month in 2014.

Yeah.  That didn’t happen.  I mean, it’s already the end of February March!

And now it’s been so long that there is almost too much to say.  But I have to grab this moment because I am just overflowing with the amazing changes that the girls are going through and I can’t bear not to document it somewhere.

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Christmas was amazing.  It was so much fun with two 17 month olds.  But it’s since then that the girls have really blossomed.

Since Christmas their language has just exploded.  It started with them beginning to use words in other ways than just to name things. They learned opposites like hot and cold, up and down, light and dark.  They learned that by calling someone’s name they could summon them or get their attention and Claudia in particular learned that she could denote possession with somebody’s name – pointing at an object and saying, “Immie’s” or “Mummy’s”.

From that she started putting two words together.  No longer just “Immie’s”, it became “Immie’s cup”, “Mummy’s tea”, “Claudie’s shoes”.  And she understood how to say hello and goodbye to specific people by using their names.  She started saying things like “Thank you”, “Excuse me” and “Bless you” in their correct contexts.  She started using subjects and verbs and now she can be heard to say pretty much full sentences like the one she uttered this morning in the garden: “Claudie and Immie are swinging.”

Immie isn’t quite putting words together in this way, but her confidence is increasing.  Interestingly, when they were learning to walk, Imogen threw herself into it wholeheartedly whilst Claudia hung back and waited until she was really confident she could do it before letting go of the furniture.  Conversely with language, Claudia is steaming ahead, acting like a human echo machine and repeating everything she hears, constantly trying to communicate, whilst Imogen has fewer words and uses them more sparingly, but actually has clearer diction.  Their vocabulary is massive.  I have no idea how big it actually is, but they amaze me every day with the words and concepts they understand.

They recognise and name their toys and know the names of favourite books, even starting to “read”.  It is the cutest thing ever to watch them leaf through a book and give some indication of the understanding they have of what happens on each page.  Their capacity for memory astounds me.

Claudia likes to narrate everything she sees and does and every word or phrase ends with an exclamation mark. She can sort of count to ten if I say one first. She tends to skip five and seven but loves saying, “Eight, nine, TEN!” Immie can recognise pretty much every colour and enjoys pointing out the colours of everything she sees.

It’s weird being a parent, because on the one hand you know that the steps your child is making are something every single human since the dawn of time has been through, but it is still so fascinating to watch their language and understanding develop and grow.  The concepts they can now grasp are incredible and their memories continue to astound me.

Chatterboxes from Becoming Mums on Vimeo.

Of course this video just doesn’t do justice to the array of things they can say and do now, or how incredible it has been to witness each new skill, but it’s still pretty cute.

As you can see for the video (and may have seen on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook), Claudia broke her arm.  She fell off the sofa (Imogen may or may not have been involved) and we had a very long day at A&E, but she was so brave and barely cried at all.  Immie was almost more traumatised from being left at home with first a friend, then L, then Grandad, then Grandma as people rallied together to help us out.  She definitely missed her twin.  The cast should be coming off tomorrow and hopefully that will be our last trip to A&E for a very long time!

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This is Not a Blog Post

Basically this is me not writing a blog post to tell you that I don’t have time to write a blog post. (Time – or some other lame excuse; it just isn’t happening at the moment.)

There is so much I want to write about – things the girls have done, the way they are constantly changing, how much more in love with them I am every day, parenting decisions we are making as we roll along, feminism, politics, that debate between Peaches Geldof and Katie Hopkins, how mothers relate to one another – particularly when they disagree on a parenting style…

All of the words, I have them in my head. But yeah, these days there is not much chance of them finding their way onto a page. The girls don’t nap much and I do have chores to keep on top of when they give me a chance, which is really boring but true.

So apologies. I hope to find the time really soon. If you want to keep up with what the girls are doing, the best way is to follow my Instagram feed (@starrynite81) or check out When Sally Met Sally (whom I owe a post to before the month is out).

Thanks for sticking around despite my severe lack of input.

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