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Letters to my Three-Year-Olds

Dear Claudia,

Today, you turn three.  What an amazing year it’s been.  Looking back, I can’t believe how much you have changed.  When you turned two, I was already astounded at your grasp on the English language and how much you could say and understand, but back then you still referred to yourself, in the third person, as “Daudie”  Not only have you mastered the ‘cl’ sound, you quickly mastered the first person too.  Your sentences became more and more complex, the concepts you could understand and talk about became more and more abstract.  Every single day you will come out with something that amazes me either in the way you have expressed something or the complexity of the idea you are expressing.

You still love to sing.  Your repertoire has increased and moved on.  You like to sing in the car, often taking requests or singing a nursery rhyme over the top of my choice of radio station.  You have started putting on shows, which are a real treat.  Whilst I suspect you will never perform except on your own terms, you are now confident enough to stand up in front of a group of family or friends and sing a few songs, which you always approach with massive amounts of enthusiasm.  Even when the audience consists only of me and your sister, you will climb up on a chair and stand there singing your heart out.  You love to dance and will often ask me to put music on for you.  When we visited London Zoo recently, you couldn’t wait to see the penguins and show them your penguin dance, although you assured me that they would already know it, “because they do it, because they are penguins!”

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Your confidence has increased in so many ways.  I remember last summer, not long after your birthday, you becoming upset on the beach at Deal because you couldn’t throw stones far enough for them to hit the water and make a splash.  You fairly calmly but resolutely refused to throw any more stones, asking Mummy to throw them for you instead.  Mummy and I worried that we had done something wrong by you, that we had somehow compared you to your sister or made it seem as though we were only interested in things you could do well.  We needn’t have panicked.  It has taken time and practice (as all things do), but you have slowly learned resilience, determination and persistence.  Not too long ago I watched you trying to climb up a slide at a soft play centre – an activity that your sister mastered quite quickly.  I watched you climb and slip and climb and slip and climb and slip, never giving up until you reached the top with a massive smile on your face.  I couldn’t have been prouder, but, most importantly, I knew that you couldn’t have been prouder of yourself and that was what really mattered.

You are still quite cautious in new situations and can need quite a lot of physical reassurance.  You definitely have a growing group of people whom you trust, however.  You love both your grandmothers with an intensity, often staying superglued to their sides for the duration of a visit.  You surprised us all a few months ago when, after a day with Popsey and Grandad, you asked to stay the night.  We were taken aback but able to oblige, wondering whether we would be summoned back before we even reached the end of the road.  You had a brilliant time and we were able to FaceTime with you the next morning before your grandparents returned you to us by train.

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Your imagination is amazing.  You love to role play.  You often play ‘Red Riding Hood’, roping in your sister or a friend to be Granny.  You like to play shops and you take orders and produce your stock from a range of imaginary drawers in the footstool.  It always makes us laugh though that you never seem to have anything in that Mummy asks you for.  Luckily for me, my orders are always quickly processed!

You love Frozen and Tangled and Hoodwinked and Shrek.  You love Dora the Explorer and totally took me by surprise several months ago when you spontaneously counted to “ocho” (eight).  You have since increased your repertoire of Spanish words and can identify the colours “rojo” (red) and “verde” (green) as well as knowing “ariba” (up), “abajo” (down) and “empujon” (push).  You have an amazing memory – reciting several of your books entirely by heart or correcting us if we miss a word.  You discovered puzzles shortly after Christmas and could instantly see the way in which the pieces needed to fit together in order to match the picture on the box.  Grandma had found a set of Thomas the Tank Engine puzzles in a charity shop and you had enjoyed figuring out where the pieces went, so I bought you a set of Frozen puzzles that ranged from 12-24 pieces.  Within a week you could do the simplest puzzle in less than a minute and the hardest one in only a few minutes.  It is amazing watching you methodically testing the shape of each piece and consulting the picture on the box to check where you think it should go.  You enjoy board games and have a lot of patience and understanding.  You like to follow the rules.

You still love pink, but you are also in a real Disney phase when it comes to your clothing.  You love anything with Minnie Mouse on and you recently picked out a very bright pair of leggings with Cinderella all over them.  You love a stripy navy dress we were given as a hand-me-down and adore getting dressed up for a party.  You are very proud of your hair, having finally grown it enough for it to be considered long.  It is fantastically curly and you like to admire it.  Every evening, after I put your pyjamas on, you look in the mirror and gently pull your hair out of the neck of your pyjama top.  Often, when you put on an outfit, you will ask, “do I look beautiful?” and I tell you that I always think you look beautiful.  We all spend a great deal of time marvelling at how much you look like Mummy and Mummy’s side of the family, when of course there is no genetic link, but when I dug out the photograph we have of your donor at a similar age, we were really astounded at how similar you look to him.  It’s incredible.  I guess it shouldn’t be really because of course you were made with half of his genetics, but because he isn’t a part of our life it is easy to forget that.  It really is amazing to look at his picture and see you looking back at us.

You are a social person and love to spend time with your friends.  You hold their hands and hug them and tell them that you love them.  It has been amazing watching you start to talk to children you don’t know as you have started to learn about social etiquette and how to engage other children in play.  You love to include others in your imaginary world.

You love to help me in the kitchen.  In fact you love to help me, full stop.  You help sort the washing or press the buttons to operate the dishwasher.  You will usually help me tidy your toys away.  You like to make people happy and your mad moments are as entertaining as the small quiet moments when we are snuggled together and chatting about your day.

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I am so excited to see the new and different ways in which you will blossom over the next twelve months.

I love you so much,

Mama x

Claudia Turns 3 from Becoming Mums on Vimeo.

Dear Imogen,

Two has been an amazing age with you.  Your personality has developed and solidified.  Your tenacity, persistence and strength of will have become even more apparent – in ways that delight as well as frustrate us!  You know what you want and you are determined to achieve it.  You are unwavering in your pursuits.  Whilst this can cause us to clash at times, it also shows a fantastic strength of will and an admirable single-mindedness that I want to nurture, rather than diminish.  You can be exasperatingly destructive, but I feel like you are starting to understand the permanence of your actions, even though you can’t always control your impulses.

You are a problem-solver.  You love to figure things out or negotiate a solution.  As your language has developed, your suggestions have become more thoughtful, complex and harder to dismiss!  You also love to share your knowledge and skills.  You like to help people and can often be heard explaining or demonstrating a particular skill or technique to someone.  You are very sensitive to other people’s emotions.  You show concern every time we hear a baby or toddler crying and you want to make sure they are being looked after.

You can be so gentle.  I watch you with your dolls and you cradle them and kiss their faces and talk to them and it takes my breath away because your tenderness is astounding.  You are the same with us, kissing and cuddling, knowing when we need an extra hug or a kiss.  You come and find me when I’m busy cooking or sorting the washing and demand a cuddle on the sofa and I come and snuggle with you for a time.  When you are tired your thumb goes in and what you really want is someone’s arm – not to go around you, but to sit across your body so you can stroke its elbow and press it close to your face.  You need that human contact when you go to sleep.

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In April, I panicked because I realised that you hadn’t breastfed in several days – maybe even a week – and I couldn’t believe your last time had passed without me marking it.  I spent a few days telling people I thought you had weaned and then of course you contradicted me by asking for milky at bedtime a few days later.  Since then you have gone longer and longer without, only latching on for a second or two when you do.  I no longer worry about not knowing the precise date when you will stop (or indeed, whether you already have) because I have accepted that this is how this process works – a gentle, slow cessation that is on your terms, not mine.

When we go to a new place, you are always keen to explore and rarely look back.  We have always thought of you as confident and adventurous.  There are times when you are so keen to investigate a new place or go in a particular direction that I have to actually chase you down, wondering if at any point you would have wondered where I was or if I was still following you.  But we have also discovered this year, that you actually need us more than we think.  You are confident to the extent of parental-fear when you know where we are, but you actually become very distressed if you can’t find us.  You are usually less keen to spend time away from us or away from your sister, although you do have fun with your grandparents.  When a film is scary, you need us to sit with you and with Snow White you needed me to recount the story of the Queen drinking the magic potion over and over again.

You feel all your emotions in a big way.  Your upsets are big and loud and scary but your happiness can be just as huge and your smile couldn’t be bigger or wider if you tried.  However, you are fiercely protective of your own emotions and I have had to teach myself to ignore my instincts when you are upset (all I want to do is sweep you into my arms) and instead allow you the space to express your emotions before you are ready to come to one of us.  You are a complex character, whose feelings aren’t always obvious or easy to name.  You definitely don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, although with a bit of help, you can usually name your emotions and tell us if we’ve upset you.

You love to be thrown around and you’re never happier than when you are climbing or jumping.  Soft play is your Promised Land and you climb to great heights without looking back.  You love the woods.  Now, the mud is dry, but in the wetter months you got as muddy as could be, flooding your wellies with water and silt.  Now it is dryer, you enjoy paddling in the streams and lakes, filling buckets with pebbles and catching tadpoles.  You love the beach.  Frustratingly, we’ve not been as many times as we would have liked so far, but we have plans for the summer to take you a lot more often.  You run into the waves without a glimmer of fear.  You splash and dig and build sandcastles and laugh in the face of British weather that might mean it’s not quite warm enough to enjoy the cold sea.  You love theme parks.  We have visited two now and you never stop talking about them. The first time we went, you mentioned it every day until we visited again a month or so later.  You are a thrill-seeker and we have yet to find a ride you haven’t enjoyed.

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You get frustrated quite easily.  You don’t have a lot of patience with slower activities that require attention to detail, but your favourite game is to care for your dolls.  You will tell me things about your baby and what you’ve been doing together.  Baby comes everywhere with us, more or less.  She’s been to our forest school and helped you catch tadpoles, she’s been to Mummy’s work and played in the playgrounds.

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You are happy playing alone, although you reconnect with your sister from time to time.  You get overwhelmed by crowds of people and take yourself away from the action.  You like us to all be together, the four of us, and miss your sister terribly if you are away from her.  You have a big heart and fire in your soul.  I can’t wait to see what adventures the next year will bring!

Love always,

Mama x

Imogen Turns 3 from Becoming Mums on Vimeo.

Her Day

I could wax lyrical for paragraph after paragraph about how wonderful it is to be spending my first Mothers’ Day as a mummy.

But I don’t want to do that.

Instead, I want to take a moment to appreciate the best mummy I know: my wonderful wife.

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She (half) jokingly tells me all the time how lucky I am to have her and she doesn’t mean just as a wife, although obviously I am incredibly lucky to be married to her, but instead she means as half of our parenting team. And she’s right. I don’t know if it is because she is a woman or if it is just by virtue of being, wonderfully, her, but I know how fortunate I am when I hear my other friends with small babies talk about their own husbands and boyfriends.IMG_2505

I guess there is an element of the fact that we have two babies to look after instead of one, but she has never considered not getting up in the night and leaving it all to me. Whereas other “dads” have resumed their weekend golf days and nights out, my wonderful wife would never dream of missing out on time spent with the babies unless it was a break we were both being given together. My friends talk about how their partners can’t settle their babies and just seem to make them scream louder, whereas L seems to often have a more calming effect than I do – although of course the one area I do still trump her is that I have the “magic boobs”.

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She hates having to spend so much time away from us all. She calls herself the Strange Lady, saying how she only appears in the mornings and the evenings; she says the girls wonder who this strange lady is who only shows up twice a day. She jokes, but she worries that they don’t know her. She is reassured when a grandparent hands her back a squalling baby and she manages to settle them. Because of course they know her – they love her, it’s obvious.

I love the way the girls’ faces light up when she walks through the door. Whether she’s been out at work all day or is just coming back from the toilet, their little faces break out into wide grins and their eyes go straight to her.

I send her pictures and updates throughout the day. I tell her what we’re up to and send her messages from Claudia or Imogen explaining how the day is going and I know she checks her phone constantly – even sometimes when she shouldn’t – because she’s so eager to find out what we are doing or see another beautiful photo of her daughters.IMG_2559

She likes to remind me that I didn’t change a nappy for the first two weeks of the girls’ life. This is an outrageous lie! It was about four days and it was because after the birth I couldn’t get out of bed without it taking about five minutes or without help.

The birth was traumatic – probably more for her than for me – but she was amazing. As the midwife told the doctor she couldn’t stop the bleed, as I went pale and started throwing up, as the doctor called out for code red and the room flooded with people, as she thought she might lose the person in her life she loved the most (besides the two brand new babies who lay in a cot across the room), she just gripped my hand and told me to stay awake.

And then after, when I couldn’t get out of bed or walk across the room to pick up my crying babies, she was so attentive. Day and night she was there to hand me my daughters so that I could feed them. She changed their nappies and dressed them and swayed back and forth with them. All the things I couldn’t do. All I could do in those early days was feed them and everything else fell to her. Even once we were home, I was still on crutches and she still made sure I had everything I needed. She would hold a glass of water under my nose, with a straw sticking out, so I could have a drink whilst I fed the babies. She made sure I had enough to eat and prepared bottles and fed them when I was too exhausted.IMG_2600

So whilst I might argue that it certainly wasn’t two whole weeks that she changed every nappy for, I can’t fault the wonderful care she took of me and our daughters in those early days. And it’s never really stopped.

She misses us all so much when she’s at work and we miss her. When we worked out our finances and realised it made no sense for me to return to work permanently, she didn’t get annoyed that she has to work whilst I get to stay at home. Instead, she was pleased, happy that the girls would have a parent at home with them, instead of a childcare provider.

In the morning, she gets Immie up and changes her nappy. These days Immie often sleeps on her tummy and when her mummy goes in to see her, she lifts herself up on her arms and flaps her little legs inside her sleeping bag like a baby seal, giving her mummy a big beaming grin that says good morning. Some mornings at the weekend, I will go in to Immie instead, and L will snatch a couple of precious minutes with Claudia, who is sleeping in our bed pretty much full time at the moment. As she wakes she does the biggest stretches.IMG_1640

In the evening, L gives Claudie her bath. Now they are bigger we bath them together, but we still always bath the same baby. She splashes and shrieks with delight. She doesn’t mind getting water in her face, she just splashes away, soaking her mummies and her twin too.

If Immie wakes in the night, L goes in to her. IMG_3024 She gives her a bottle and they have a cuddle. Sometimes she sleeps right through and the next day L tells her that it’s okay to wake up, that she likes seeing her in the night for cuddles. She likes having Claudia in our bed too. She likes being able to look over at the two of us curled up together. She likes to kiss her bald head, which is rapidly becoming less and less bald.

She sings to the girls. Silly songs about poos and wees but they love it. She shakes her hair at them and they giggle and reach out and grab it.

She is so good to all three of us. We all light up when she walks in through the door in the evenings. I don’t know if my wife knows how truly amazing she really is and how much I really truly love her and what a totally brilliant mummy she is.

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I hope she knows now.

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A very merry Christmas

From the four of us!

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We are SO looking forward to Christmas Day (we are hosting both sets of parents and my brothers) and hope that all of you have a wonderful time with your families and friends over the Christmas period.

This blog is two years old today and who would have believed, as I typed out that first entry, that we’d be here today with two of the most gorgeous babies on the planet! Dreams really do come true…

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Xxx

Don’t forget to remember

There are days – like today – when no matter how much they have screamed, or pooped, or thrown up on me, the realisation hits me again of just how lucky we are.

I know that we’re lucky. I know it a little bit every day. The girls are beautiful. Their smiles could light up an entire building. Their laughs sound sweeter than the softest lullaby. The way they develop and learn new things day by day never fails to delight me.

But it’s easy to get swept along in the everydayness of it all. To focus on routines and chores and – at the moment anyway – Christmas shopping. It’s easy to forget to take a step back, take a deep breath and just be overwhelmed with how grateful I am for my beautiful, amazing, wonderful family.

We haven’t done much today. We had a fairly lazy morning (the girls let us sleep in until 8 – I can’t even tell you how brilliant that felt). We wandered into town and mooched around the shops. We just enjoyed both being at home with the girls together.

And now the babies are in bed and I miss their little faces, even though they mostly screamed for the last couple of hours before bedtime. And I think about how amazing they are and it makes me smile and want to cry at the same time and my heart swells up like a sponge and wants to burst out of my chest. And I listen to the noises of my wife in the kitchen, cooking our dinner and there aren’t enough words to explain how lucky – how truly blessed – I am to have created this family with her.

Help wanted

I was contacted by Lauren, a student at the University of Southampton who is writing a dissertation about the location of LGBT families. If you feel you fall into this category it would really help her out if you could fill in this short questionnaire and email it to her at lab2g10@soton.ac.uk.

Thanks all.

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