A few of our favourite things
When the simple pleasures of playing in a box have worn off, our 18 month old twin girls Amber and Betty are lucky to have a multitude of toys to choose from. They potter around ‘their’ end of the playroom and freely choose what they fancy; here are a few of their current favourites.
We were handed down a set of stacking boxes a couple of months ago but they have remained a firm favourite, particularly for Amber (who currently displays a slightly longer attention span!). A simple toy - stack the boxes up on top of each other (for knocking straight back down of course!) or stack them inside each other. They are made of tough cardboard with printed numbers, letters and pictures, which get pointed out as they are stacked. There are plenty of options out there including lots of ethically produced versions.
We also love the small Ikea stacking cups version of this toy – super cheap and the perfect size for the change bag. We still use the set we bought several years ago when our boys were little.
A couple of big brothers come in handy to help with co-ordination skills of little hands attempting chunky wooden puzzles. They like this one because the fruit shaped pieces split in two but join magnetically. Magic!
The BIG Christmas present of 2014 has provided hours of fun. Although younger than the intended target age, the girls can still happily play with putting items in and out of the cupboard, mixing up things in the washing up bowl and putting pans on the hob. We went for a wooden one when shopping around and as usual I was drawn to something in my favourite red and white combo:
We already had quite a hoard of kitchen items the boys had with their play-kitchen (we had handed the kitchen on sadly) but Father Christmas added to the girls’ collection with sets of wooden pots and pans, red toaster and kettle and plenty of play food. ELC and the supermarket toy ranges are great for these bits.
A first birthday gift back in August but Betty still relishes a zip round the house on the ladybird. She is definitely showing early signs of being the daredevil sister!
A piece of scrap paper and a handful of chunky crayons will happily occupy both Amber and Betty, but they do also have some drawing based toys; they are both avid users of the magnetic wipe clean ‘scribbler’.
and the good old (mess-free!) aquadoodle has been a big hit.
The girls have a couple of wooden shape sorters; a Noah’s Ark one handed down from big brother Joel (they love lining the animals up on a cupboard and ‘chatting’ about them) and a new one shaped like a cow!
Who doesn’t love Playmobil? We picked up a zoo/farm set on a half price offer. Setting up the pens and popping the animals in keeps Amber and Betty happy at the moment, and I hope this set will be a well-used toy for a good few years as their imagination grows and style of play develops.
ANY ball is picked up, rolled, thrown, hidden for a twist on hide and seek, or kicked (a football loving big brother may have played a part here). The girls particularly love the White Stuff charity mini football we picked up last summer but they also enjoy using sensory balls for all their frenzied ball games!
There isn’t a bedtime that goes by without one of the following books being thrust at us for reading: The Gruffalo’s Child, Never Shake a Rattlesnake, or some wonderful rhythmic words in Dig, Dig, Digging. Both Amber and Betty love the Dorling Kindersley picture books and the Busy Windows range for learning to pick out and say the names of things they recognise. They also help themselves to books in the playroom and get comfy in their ‘den’ of cushions and blankets. Sometimes one of the boys will squeeze in with them and read to them, a sight I truly cherish.
[not a disclaimer as such – BUT – please note some of the toys are labelled as suitable for 3 and over. We just apply our common sense! Oh, and if you were wondering.. these are all toys we own and none have been sent to us for review!]
September - a month of highs, lows and milestones!
September proved to be a somewhat busy month for us, starting with the school summer holidays drawing to a close and the new school year for the boys getting underway. They settled in pretty quickly and we all found our routines again.
I was straight into ‘organising’ mode (aka ‘headless chicken’) as we had an important family event - a special ceremony for Amber and Betty in our local church, followed by a big party in the park. The service we had chosen was ‘Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child’, which we describe as somewhere between a naming and a Christening – you give thanks to God for the safe arrival of the child and pray for their future, but you do not commit the child themselves to the church as a Christening would. The service also formally named the girls, and appointed ‘mentors’ to them; friends and family members who will particularly look out for them, guide and advise them now and any time they are needed in the future. The girls’ two older brothers both had similar services conducted around the time they each turned one, and we were chuffed the same vicar was happy to take the service for the girls, even though this meant a 300 mile round trip for him, as he has moved away in the intervening years. We had an informal picnic in the park party for around 80 family and friends after the service, which was wonderful (and the weather even stayed dry for us!)
As you may have seen in some of our Facebook posts, another family celebration took place in September, with my granny Betty’s 90th birthday – again another excuse for a get together! Betty is great gran to my four children, one of them being her namesake of course.
The latter part of September was not such fun unfortunately as all six of us were struck with a bug (no details required here) one week, and then both girls got chicken pox. Amber started if off and had lots of spots but wasn’t poorly. Betty waited 16 days to ‘incubate’, started off with a very mild looking case for a couple of days, but then it kicked in badly and she was covered in such angry looking spots, her eyes were red raw, her temperature raged and she felt rotten. Hard to explain to a 14 month old while they feel so rough! We were also busy with life at the other end of the age spectrum as we navigated our way through the administrative and financial intracacies of care homes for my mother-in-law.
In between all that there was much excitement when both Amber and Betty took their first proper steps. Walking is such a lovely milestone for any little one, and it is fascinating to watch their faces as they figure it all out and gain in confidence. In fact Amber was almost held back by the fact she was so excited each time she started taking some steps she would fall over!
School's out for summer
Having signed off last time with ‘I expect it will only be another blink and we will be blowing out the number ‘1’ birthday cake candles’, that has certainly turned out to be the case – Amber and Betty turn one next week and the time is literally flying by. The boys recently broke up for school holidays and it brought back memories of this time last year; attending their end of term assembly in blistering heat with the rather sizeable ‘bump’. Fellow parents happily commented that by the time term restarted the new arrivals would be here. And of course they were - pushed proudly to school that first morning by their beaming big brothers. We have done pretty well; been on time all year (well, just – we usually scrape in at the last moment) and I have attended every fortnightly ‘sharing assembly’ with the girls in tow. It’s hard to believe that in just a couple of years Amber and Betty will be also donning the uniform and making their way to the nursery classroom.
Many mementobox milestones have been captured for them in the last few months, with first crawl being one of the major ones. Amber pipped Betty to it, but Betty soon became the speediest thing on all fours. It’s fascinating to watch them learn new things – Amber has discovered a love of rolling and throwing balls, and Betty giggles like mad when she hides by their chest of drawers and peeks out.
Whilst it’s somewhat busy, I am enjoying having all four kids around each day during the school holidays, the ever-growing bond between the boys and their little sisters is very special. We are having some fun days out, and the six of us will be venturing to France in a few weeks.. wish us luck for the 12 hour drive!
Six months as a six!
In what seems like the blink of an eye, we find ourselves six months in to life as a family of six. Having been a foursome for nearly six years, it may sound a little odd but I can genuinely say it feels almost like the girls have always been here! They have fitted right in and are happy, smiley girls most of the time – luck of the draw I am sure, but hopefully it also shows we have done something right..
The boys are now six and eight, and so far have been fantastic with their new little sisters. Considering how reticent they were about their forthcoming siblings back when I was pregnant, they just love spending time with them, especially when they get them giggling. We are careful to try and plan some time with just the boys, and have never uttered the words ‘we can’t do that because of the babies’. It can be a major juggling act at times – just yesterday I metaphorically looked down at myself from above, and saw manic me trying out a new recipe for the family dinner, helping one of the boys with their homework and the other with a ‘show and tell’, whilst staving off imminent tears getting the milk feeds ready. But, that’s family life and it’s - generally – great fun!
We are now embarking on the girls’ next stage of development, with weaning underway. Yoghurt is the number one favourite so far, plus they have had some fun sucking on broccoli spears. The dog has suddenly increased his interest in what the girls are up to; I think he has recalled how much food ends up on the floor.
I expect it will only be another blink and we will be blowing out the number ‘1’ birthday cake candles (two cakes?), so I will certainly be trying to savour the best moments in between the merry go round of milk, nappies, bathtimes and laundry.
Goodbye 2013, hello 2014
Heading into a new year tends to lead to a degree of reminiscing about the year we have recently left behind. 2013 was certainly a year to remember for our family, with the arrival of our twin girls in August.
Naturally we have been busy using our mementobox app to build a journal and memory box for the girls - to capture all their milestones as well we create a virtual time capsule of what was happening on the day and the year they were born.
For me, one of the most interesting parts of the ‘my world’ section we are creating is the biggest news stories in the year they born. We have captured You Tube footage and newspaper front pages about some events which will be so fascinating to look back on in years to come: the death of Nelson Mandela and the birth of Prince George were key moments in history. 2013 also saw Andy Murray lifting the Wimbledon trophy, the death of Margaret Thatcher and the papal resignation and election. Sometimes the news felt dominated by tragedy such as the Philippines typhoon and the Boston bombing, but there are always uplifting human stories out there, such as the rescue of the kidnapped Ohio women in May. 2013 had its fair share of more vacuous ‘news’ - selfies and twerking both entered our vernacular!
What is also interesting is how the media for storing information about the world around each of our new arrivals has evolved – it was the physical box our first son had and the mix of papers and memory stick for son number two which actually inspired the idea for the app which our girls will now have for their memory box. However it has been captured, we look forward to looking at it all in years to come!
Six go to Cornwall...
So here we are, just back from our first holiday (well, short break) as a sixsome.. and we survived! In fact, we had a great time. We decided a couple of weeks ago that we would like a few days away at half term and once we had dismissed chasing some sunshine abroad and settled on the UK, we thought we would try the hotel route rather than self-catering. Friends recommended Sands Hotel near Watergate Bay and Newquay in Cornwall as it is particularly family friendly. And family friendly was certainly what we needed! This was our first trip away with the girls – now 12 weeks old – and the boys who are 6 and 7. Poor pooch missed the holiday this time, but enjoyed his own mini break at the grandparents! We splashed out on an apartment suite, so that we had a twin room for the boys, a lounge with cots for the girls, and yet another bedroom for us. Not the cheapest option, but we decided maximum comfort was the order of the day, rather than being all squashed in one room.
Paying the extra to have the apartment style set up at the hotel was a wise move for all the extra space, but the downside was it meant we restricted the break to three nights, and the seven hour return journey home (thanks, M5) felt a very long way for such a short break.
Anyway, back to the break itself... we had a great, if busy, time and ticked off tons of activities – sandcastles and games on Porth and Watergate beaches, lunch at Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurant, fun family time in the hotel grounds both outdoors (tennis, football, golf, playgrounds, maze..) and indoors (air hockey, ping pong and pool tables), a lovely clifftop walk on the coast path, a Hallowe’en party and also the girls’ first ever swim. We also squeezed in coffee at one of my favourite spots, the Beach Hut café overlooking Watergate Bay. Add to all this the excitement for the boys of watching a clifftop helicopter rescue unfolding right outside our hotel window, and you have guaranteed plenty of material for any ‘what we did at half term’ work back at school! Talking of which, there are uniforms, book bags and homework to be found….
Hotel: www.sandsresort.co.uk - Great location, good food, friendly staff, plenty of free activities for the kids. Plus restaurant and play areas never felt crowded despite the hotel being full for half term
Lunch spot: www.fifteencornwall.co.uk - overlooking the beautiful Watergate Bay
Coffee or lunch: http://www.watergatebay.co.uk/food-and-drink/the-beach-hut/ - same great sea view as fifteen but more chilled
My baby tip: www.jojomamanbebe.co.uk/sp+baby-swim-float-in-baby-sun-and-swimwear+a5540 - a hit for the pool