To bus or not to bus…..to park or not to park?!

As we live in a city, the bus was something I used quite a bit to get around with the twins, as it was handy for the most part. I’d stroll down the hills with the buggy and be grateful for the lift back up later. For the record, Irish public transport, particularly buses wouldn’t be the most reliable in the world for their time-keeping; with the arrival times on the notice board being more a source of frustration than information. Anyhow, that’s not the only challenge as far a double buggy is concerned. There are two others ahead of it. The first question is, will there be any room on the bus for us; as in general only one double buggy will fit at a time? If you see another one in the queue, but coming in from a different angle (queues can be a bit fluid in Ireland!) you feel the anxiety levels rise as you creep slowly to the finishing line. It’s quite deflating if they nose in just ahead of you and then there’s the wait for the next bus, which will arrive at an unspecified time and the same problem might happen all over again. Added to the question of ‘will we or won’t we’ get on the bus, there is the added worry that feeding time is fast approaching, not to mention the possibility that a dirty nappy or two may present themselves in the interim. This may sound trivial and you may say, why not drive if you have a car, but the fresh air and the exercise is very appealing and sometimes it’s worth going by foot, even if the odds of getting a bus are stacked against you.

While I’m having a rant about the bus, why not keep going and give a mention to ‘parent and child’ parking spaces. It’s actually great that they exist at all and when it comes to twins, the closer you can park to the front door the better plus the extra room on either side is a necessity. However, it would be nice if some people who don’t need them would leave the spaces to those who do. Practically every time I’m in a supermarket car park, I’ve observed individuals parking in those spaces, without a baby or child in tow. It even happens when the car park isn’t particularly busy. The supermarkets are very decent to even provide the dedicated spaces in the first place and the onus shouldn’t be on them to make sure that customers adhere to the rules. Besides, the additional cost of having someone monitor who is parking there and even try to issue fines wouldn’t be practical. Think about the bad publicity if they gave a ticket in error!! Besides, what exactly is the cut-off age of the children for the spaces? It’s not that clear.

No doubt there are some practical people who would advise on going shopping by yourself or even handier; avoid the situation altogether and shop on-line. It is a brilliant service alright but isn’t it good to get out of the house? Babies/toddlers seem to really enjoy the ‘the trip out’ and experts say it’s good for their development. I think we all remember playing shop keepers as children. I don’t think ordering on-line would have the same level of fun…

 

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A little bit about transport

Getting out and about comfortably with twins is extremely important and deserves quite a bit of thought beforehand in relation to how you’ll transport them. Let’s start with car seats. As far as I’m aware – you’re not allowed leave the hospital with a newborn without them. First stage baby seats seemed easy enough to choose and it doesn’t take too long to master clipping them into the car properly. The weight of the baby in the seat is surprisingly heavy on the arms and you can forget about carrying both seats simultaneously very far… unless you’re a body builder!

Once the twins outgrow the first car seats, the variety available for the next stage is a bit quite significant, along with some hefty prices on many of them. Ours was decided in a kind of roundabout way. I had visited all the baby shops to check them out but couldn’t decide. Then by chance I caught a glimpse of a car seat on a vlog I dip in and out of the odd time (those darn ‘influencers’ are at it again!). The unusual thing about that particular seat is  there appeared to be an extra shelf-like cushioned part at the front for the toddler to rest their arms and/or heads. Hmmm I thought – that looks cool. After a bit of research, I discovered the front part was a safety section and fits into the car seat. I was hooked after reading all the great reviews but no shops seemed to stock them and prices were wildly expensive online. Not to be deterred, my husband eventually found them on a German website at a relatively reasonable price and we ordered (with a little help from Google translate!). They arrived very quickly and were solid, heavy and as good as I’d hoped. Also they last for years because they’re adjustable to suit the child’s age, which is a bonus.

Moving on next to a double buggy! I remember a friend who was gob smacked about the price of double buggies, declaring they cost more than her first car. This is true in a lot of cases for decent quality ones and they’re likely to be the most expensive single item bought at the start. Trying to decide on which one to get is a bit mind-boggling really but once you consider it similar to test driving a car, it becomes easier to whittle it down to a few of the best ones. If you don’t drive, then perhaps use the analogy of buying luggage for a flight on a low fares airline. Consider the fact that it’s going to need to be strong to protect your valuables/precious cargo, it needs to be lightweight (don’t underestimate the weight of twins, especially when pushing them up a steep hill!) and smooth to push, with wheels which are easy to manoeuvre. They would be one of the primary concerns, along with the fact that it can get through your front door. Come to think of it, that should be up there as the number one priority. I’d a friend who had to park their double buggy in the shed for that exact reason. A hassle I just couldn’t be putting up with. Of course space to store your stuff underneath or behind it, is desirable too, as you’ll have loads to bring for some trips. Oh yes it needs to fit in the car boot or forget about it!

Lights, camera, capture.

In the film world, they say never work with children or animals; with good reason. While both are very cute, they’re equally unpredictable and if you’ve a certain task you need to get done with them, it can become very challenging. In certain circumstances, it’s a challenge worth taking, especially when it comes to getting a decent photo of the twins at the baby stage. Along with a hefty dose of patience and stamina, it will require the following.

First off get them something special to wear, which may be an outfit which is impractical for day-to-day wear but this is an exception. Might be better to get two exactly the same so there’s no excuse in the future for one of them to say that they’d have preferred what their sibling wore. Make sure to have plenty of muslin cloths to hand, for the inevitable dribbles and drools. Aim for a time of day that’s in between the busy stuff like feeding, burping, changing and of course sleeping. Try and create a nice background or blanket. It doesn’t have to be fancy, actually the simpler the better. Have as good lighting as possible in order to avoid creating shadows. Use a decent camera. You’ll have so much effort setting up the shot, that you may as well try to get the image to be as high quality as possible. Switch off the flash (for obvious reasons), which ties in with why you need good lighting.

Ideally, have the twins facing the same direction and preferably looking at the camera because it’s a little more special. Take lots and lots of photos. Use their favourite jangly toys to make them smile and wave them about. It’s highly likely the process will take it all out of you, but that tiredness will soon dissipate once you see the fruits of your labour. Even if it’s just one solitary photo which captures the essence, purity and beauty of the twins, then you’ve won. Of course there is the option of getting the photos taken in a studio by a professional who has experience in getting results. It’s a bit like making a homemade cake or else buying it in a bakery. Both are equally nice in their own way but there’s a little bit more satisfaction in going to the trouble to make your own and it can taste just as good!

Sleeping (male perspective) – part 2

Here are my husband’s musings below, primarily about sleep; a few weeks after the arrival of our identical twins;

“I have recently encountered two characters who would make excellent material for evil nemesis in a blockbuster.

Their plan is to conquer the world using only the weapon of sleep deprivation. Yes, it is a powerful weapon. But the flaw in their plan is serious. Those they’ve chosen as test targets are also the same people they rely upon for food, waste removal and general upkeep. Should their plan meet with success it would be to the detriment of all, including themselves!

I attempted to explain this to them on several occasions, only to be met with blank stares or pouty lip. I admire their conviction. And their cuteness.

Earlier today I introduced them to the chess board in an effort to teach them about cause and effect – that one action can lead to reactions down the road which they may not have foreseen.

With a swing of an arm pawns, bishops and kings were scattered to the floor. Such determination and ambition is to be admired. I can understand and applaud it. But what of the future? A roar of annoyance rings out.

Okay. That’s enough chess for today. Tomorrow – Socrates perhaps. If they can’t be convinced through strategy, perhaps philosophy will do the trick…”

 

Sleeping when you can – part 1

Have you ever felt so utterly exhausted that, as you’re falling into a blissful slumber, you start thinking about the next time you’ll be able to enjoy sleeping, after this current one? Kind of like, you’re about to tuck into lunch and along with the anticipation of what you’re about to eat, thoughts of how tasty dinner is going to be also bring advance excitement. I thought others did this but after talking with friends and family members they haven’t.

Either way, this is what I’ve found the experience of sleeping to be like for the first few months with new born baby twins. It probably goes on for longer than that actually but it’s a bit of a blur to be honest. It’s remarkable though to think how humans can still function on snippets of sleep scattered here and there. Now I’m not saying that it would be advisable to operate heavy machinery in this state or even attempt to thread a needle – however the fact that being the person responsible for two little siblings, only new to the world, goes to show how you can do it. On top of the challenge of making do with short bursts of sleep, there’s no guarantee how long each nap will last but there are one or two benefits believe it or not. Usually the first couple of sleep stages are sped up and it’s straight into REM (Rapid Eye Movement) which they say is the deepest level along with when experts say, we dream. As a result, that 30 min or 2 hours (if you’re lucky!) kip is quality stuff.

Years ago in a job interview, I had to do a series of psychometric tests where they asked random questions in a few different ways. In general, it’s apparently to find out your personality type. One question that stood out for me was about holidays. The interviewer asked me if I’d prefer lots of short holidays or a couple of long holidays to which I replied the former. What I enjoyed most (see how I use the past tense) were several short city or country breaks spread out over the year. The same can be applied to sleep with newborn twin babies. If I were by some miracle, to manage 8 hours sleep in one go, I don’t think it would have been enough to keep me going energy wise (at the time). The short snappy sleep pattern worked better where I’m concerned. As I’m writing this, I can’t believe that I’d count 3 hours sleep in one go as bliss. Perhaps I’m trying to convince myself into believing sleeping that way was better. It’s debatable, but on the plus side it seemed to work. Oh yeah I did mention that there were a couple of benefits to the lack of sleep situation but I can’t actually think of a second one. Oh well – I may as well sleep on it!!

Some practicalities

As a parent of identical twin girls, a common question people tend to ask is, how do with tell the girls apart. This can be easily rectified when they’re newborns by putting nail varnish on the finger nail of one baby, however make sure you note which one has it, as otherwise it’s a bit pointless! While this might be a trick to make sure you have the correct name on the correct baby, parents very quickly just know who’s who. It’s probably designed that way by nature. Twins are bound to be slightly different, whether it’s something physical such as a birthmark or the shape of their head, or one may have a habit, such as which thumb they like to suck. Note that if they suck their thumb, avoid the nail varnish on that one! No doubt every parent has some reference that works for them. A handy trick too is to put one particular twin always on the left – whether it’s in their moses basket, cot, buggy etc. and also have everything you’ll use for them on the left. It actually somehow makes things a little easier for whatever reason.

When (and if) to buy two of everything and/or two of the same thing, is likely to be a conversation parents of twins will have on an ongoing basis. There are so many factors to consider before making a decision; a checklist might be a handy thing to consult beforehand. Cost, size, convenience, space, cost (again!) are just some of the things to review. But what’s perhaps one of the “little” things that you’ll get most of, are toys – cuddly ones in particular. To make life easy, get two of the same thing in order to avoid confusion about who owns which one and then with other items get two variations of the same thing so that there’s no doubt about who owns which one. Can you see how it can get confusing? Either way, parents work out when it’s logical to buy just one of certain toys or games. What has fascinated me is how the twins remember who received which toy, for example like the time they unwrapped presents of little ponies, which were different colours to each other and from then on they would know who got which one. Or even if there’s only a slight difference between toys, they always both know received which one and stick to that. Sometimes even I can’t remember.

While I’m on the topic of making purchases, it’s no harm to ask for a discount when buying items for the twins (especially when it comes to shoes). I always got something off the price and anyone will tell you it’s very satisfying and gets easier the more you do it. In general, I’d ask the assistant in advance of actually confirming the purchase, whatever it was. On the odd occasion when they said they couldn’t give anything off, I’d ask them if I could have a have a word with the manager and they would oblige instead. OK you’re not saving a fortune but costs mount up where twins are concerned so why not be mindful of that.

Appeal

Why are people so fascinated and drawn to twins – identical twins in particular? Of course they are unique individuals but so alike that they garner plenty of attention. Many many studies, articles, exhibitions, research, analysis etc. are about twins. I wonder if it’s that we view them similar to an optical illusion? Kind of like those ‘spot the difference’ puzzles? Perhaps it’s because they’re kind of rare and we’re attracted in general to things or people that are uncommon. One thing for sure is that they pique people’s interest in lots of ways and considering the amount to be found in the entertainment industry, they appear to be quite popular. Unusually enough, there’s even an indie pop band from New York with two lead female singers who look like they’re twins but only because they have the exact same high maintenance hair-cut and colourful clothes. They aren’t even related but apparently they do it because they say it gives them a giggle.

When I started writing this, someone mentioned to me that there’s a craze whereby people try to find their doppelganger online, with websites even set up to help with the search. Now that just goes to show how much people want to have someone else that looks like them. I honestly can’t see the appeal of finding a stranger who may look like me. I actually find it quite bizarre but then again, lots of things in our modern times take me by surprise.

Some of the comments that people tend to ask twins go like this. Do you think of each other as a ‘friend for life’? Can you tell sometimes what they may be thinking or are you aware of any significant event happening to her when you’re apart? Do you think it’s an advantage in ways to be a twin and if so, what are they? Do you want to play tricks on others by pretending to be each other or do you feel that people expect that of you? Do you feel under pressure to pursue similar goals in life? Is it annoying or advantageous that people can’t tell you apart at times?

Getting asked what’s it’s like being a twin must be kind of strange if that’s what you’ve grown up with and is the norm. It’s the outside world projecting it’s pre-conceptions onto what they imagine them to be like. I wonder if it’s similar in any way to be asked “what’s it like being Irish” – something I’ve read articles about. Personally I’d find it challenging to answer that one. I suppose you’d get a more rounded answer by asking someone who isn’t Irish but hangs out with Irish people, what they’re like in relation to people from other countries.

Time

I regularly heard the following from people when they met me with the twins as babies. “You won’t know what you did with your time”, to which my inside voice responds, “I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I DID WITH MY TIME THANK YOU”! but naturally I smile politely. Unless a person is sitting around twiddling their thumbs and looking at their watch; isn’t everyone really kept occupied with something or other? In hindsight, I think the intention of the phrase is, “You don’t have ANY time to do anything YOU want to do, now do you?” but that would come across as rude, so why not sugar coat it. What became most apparent to me really is that having less time to do your own things, means whatever time you do manage to grab, is very precious indeed. On the plus side, it results in quicker (and hopefully wiser) decision-making and even that uninterrupted cappuccino, hot shower or quick skim through the Sunday paper becomes utter bliss.

Not only does having twins alter the relationship you have with time; it also affects lots of other relationships. The dynamic with your partner changes due to the equal mix of elation and weariness. The appreciation for your own parents ramps up big time when you realise all they did for their own children (i.e. you). If you’ve siblings who have children, suddenly you’re enlightened as to why they did certain things and made particular decisions. And lastly the relationship with other parents of twins opens its doors. With just eye-contact or a few simple words, twin parents understand almost implicitly what the other is going through. They say it about Toyota Prius drivers, in that they salute each other when they’re out and about. Perhaps they too feel part of some special club.

I don’t know if patience is related to time but either way, huge doses of it are required when doing most activities with the twins, especially when attempting to get out the door. The comedian Michael McIntrye put it best with his description of trying to leave the house with his children. I don’t think I’ll ever zip up my jacket again without thinking about his routine. You can check it out here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1cFt2tWsI4&t=26s