Trying to keep focused 

On Saturday I was driving the twins to Chessington for the day and as I came up to the roundabout I looked and saw nothing coming so went to turn left.. very nearly hitting a car.
You see, I’d looked but I hadn’t “looked” and there was a car coming around the roundabout, I just didn’t see it. 

We both slammed our breaks on and the woman in the car threw her hand up at me and was clearly (and quite rightly) very cross with me. I could only sit there saying sorry and then we both drove on. 

I’d zoned out for a moment. It was a near miss, thank goodness. But I couldn’t get it out of my head for a good few days. 

I’ve noticed I’ve done this abit lately when driving, completely zoned out. Not badly like the roundabout incident but driven the wrong way going somewhere, not turned when I should have, that kind of thing. 

Sometimes I feel like driving is the only time where I can just sit and think without being disturbed. I put some music on and I think about everything, what’s going on in the world, what’s happening with us, I have conversations with people in my head and think about the people I have seen that day.

And, ofcourse I sometimes think about Toby. 

On this particular Saturday when I nearly hit the lady at the roundabout I had passed the funeral directors we had used when Toby died and I spent the time from that road to the roundabout thinking about Toby’s feet in the coffin. I remembered going to see Toby at the funeral directors for the first time with his mum. We were really worried what he would look like. I kept remembering my grandfather not looking the same after he died. 

I was 14 when he died and we were very close. I walked straight up to my grandfather in his coffin and was shocked at what I saw. It wasn’t him. I cried and went to sit by the window and never went back to look at him again.

So, I was apprehensive to see Toby. But I needn’t have been. We couldn’t believe just how well he looked!! Which sounds ridiculous, seeing as he was dead. But he looked just like Toby. Not an ill Toby but just Toby. His mum was crying and I was laughing and then we were both laughing. I was just so relieved that my last imagine of him would be a good one. 

Toby had had neuropathy in his feet from the chemotherapy and always wore wide trainers as he couldn’t take his feet being in tight shoes. I’d chosen to dress him in what he had worn for the twins’ christening and his wedding shoes. I’d wondered if they’d get them on him and I think his mum had wondered the same, so the first thing we did was check his shoes!! 

I sat with him for a long time on those days leading up to the funeral. I didn’t want the funeral to happen. I didn’t want to bury him. I wanted to bring him home and have him back where he belonged. I’d have happily done that too, kept him in a little room like at the funeral directors as morbid as it sounds.

So it was Toby’s feet I was thinking about when I got to the roundabout. I was picturing the room and his face and the lid of the coffin against the wall and the smell. It reminded me of cheap make up. 

It was the hardest thing to say my last goodbye to you. Between the time you died and the day we buried you I saw you lots. I talked to you and left photos and letters with you. I kissed your head a thousand times and laid my head on your hard body. I said to myself it was ok that you were gone because I had all these kids to look after!! And I’ve told myself that every day since.

And it’s true. It’s ok. I’m doing quite well on a daily basis. I’m moving forward with life. A different life but a good life. I’m happy and excited for the future. I know I block lots out but I think that’s ok. 

I don’t ever forget about you, though. I said to a friend over coffee last week that sometimes I don’t believe I had this life with you. I sit there and think, did it all happen? Because sometimes it all feels like a dream. Like I’m living this life from the outside looking in. And I sit and picture you talking, hear your voice and hear your laugh and laugh at the funny things we shared together. 

You definitely happened. 

Last night we were brushing our teeth and Willow asked where her daddy’s tooth brush was. I pointed it out (it’s still in the holder with ours) and Rocco picked it up and started brushing his teeth with it! I said “Don’t do that babe it’s probably yucky.” Which prompted Willow to ask why! I told her it had sat there for almost 3 years untouched so probably shouldn’t go in Rocco’s mouth. She replied “oh yes, because daddy’s in heaven in the clouds. I don’t know why he went to heaven. Maybe he didn’t like it here with us.” I tried to explain that daddy’s body stopped working and he couldn’t stay here with us anymore and that he had really wanted to. What do you say to a 3 year old when you don’t even know how to explain it to yourself? She seemed happy with my answer and that was that. We read books and they went to bed – still sleeping well and generally through the night, I might add! Hooray!! 

As we hurtle towards the 3 year mark since you left me, I cry less but think of you often, every day in fact. I’m not angry at you anymore for leaving me and I’m generally not too sad. 

Except for days like today. Today I received a lovely letter from one of your friends. It wasn’t the letter that made me sad but the thought that there are so many of us that that were close to you that were left sad and I felt sadness for your friend. Everyone had so much love for you. 

It’s abit of a cliche but fuck me are you missed.

So today I have felt sad and today I have let myself cry and tomorrow I’ll be fine again. 

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To the man who stopped me and my children in the street.

To the man who stopped me and my twins in the street yesterday.

My children were running towards our parked car after being allowed to choose a treat from the shop yesterday. As they stopped at our car only a few steps infront of me, you approached them. 

You panicked them as you started to speak to them and I know you meant no harm.

But their body language alone told me they were a little frightened. 

You said to them “Do you have any brothers?” And I answered no for them, I politely said they had an older sister. Then he continued, “You girls are trouble, I could see that by the way you ran to the car!”

Again, I know you were trying to be friendly but you didn’t look properly, because if you had you would have realised that my twins were a girl and a boy and not two girls.

You looked at my son and you saw his beautiful long curly hair and you looked in his hand and you saw a make up palette. The make up palette he had chosen from the shop as he wanted the same as his sister had been given last month. 

If you had looked closer, you’d have seen that actually his features were quite masculine. You’d have noticed that his clothes were very different to what his sister was wearing and that his shoes were blue and his sister’s were pink. 

These are just a few signs that give away he is a boy, I think he actually looks very much like a boy too. But like ALOT of people you didn’t look properly and called my 3 and a half year old son a girl. He heard this and shouldn’t have had to. 

You didn’t stop there. You then asked them where their dad was. Well he clearly wasn’t with me as it was obvious we were alone. 

You weren’t to know that their dad was dead. I totally get that. But it still annoyed me.

When the children didn’t answer you, you carried on. You told them that “Daddy must need a medal for having a household of girls to contend with, he’s over run isn’t he?”

Well, actually he isn’t over run, he’s 6 feet under. And it isn’t him that needs a medal, it’s me.. for various reasons, like emptying the bins on a daily fucking basis. But you weren’t to know. 

I know you didn’t know this, how could you? But it annoyed me. And then I felt bad for being annoyed at you. 

It annoyed me that you called my son a girl.

 You were being friendly, I know. 

My son chooses to have long hair and he chooses to sometimes paint his nails, he chose, that day, a toy make up palette, because that’s what he wanted and I allow him to make his own choices. 

It doesn’t make him less of a boy.

He also loves to play with his trains, his football and his knights castle and is partial to abit of mud and water play. He likes to race around a softplay and ride dangerously fast down a hill on his scooter and he also like to dry my hair with his sister’s pretend hairdryer and brush my hair and wear his sister’s flashing purple shoes when she lets him. 

It doesn’t make him any less of a boy.

He tells me I’m the best mummy and when he’s sad or anxious he reaches his hand out for me. 

Some would say he needs to toughen up, or it’s because he is the only boy in the house. I don’t think so. 

He lets his sister pretty much walk all over him yet he almost always answers her politely. And that’s because he has inherited his daddy’s gentlemanly ways.

You meant no harm and were just being friendly, I know this. And that’s why I politely carried on the conversation whilst holding the twins and asked them to say goodbye to you as you left us. 

They didn’t question the strange conversation for which I’m glad. But it left me with a lot of thoughts and it’s bugged me all day today. 

Rocco’s friends know he is a boy and actually never has any child mistaken him for a girl. Only adults have done this.

Interesting, isn’t it? How society expects you to look or act a certain way depending on what gender you are.

So, I guess what I’m asking, is next time you talk to a stranger in the street, make sure you look properly! That’s all. As my son doesn’t need to hear over and over again by strange adults that he is a girl. 

It’s beginning to grate on me.

Look properly. He’s a boy, thank you. 😊

Have I jinxed myself?

Ofcourse after posting the last blog, I’ve been up with the twins for the last hour.

Have I jinxed myself? I’m afraid I do believe in all that stuff. I can’t pretend I haven’t noticed that if the twins are going to wake it’s always around 3am.

Whenever I can’t sleep I seem to always wake at 3am. I even googled it once when I wasn’t sleeping! There’s a blog further down the page about it. I’d forgotten I’d written it, it seems so long ago. I feel like when you’re relying on google for the answers  you sort of know you’re a bit fucked really.

I have to put the cat on the balcony when the twins wake or he runs into their room and won’t come out and they hate him in there. Once they are back to bed he starts howling on the balcony and banging (literally banging) the door down. Now they have to have the door open there’s always the fear that Ray (the cat) will jump over the stairgate and go in their room. So I don’t go back to sleep for ages, lying in fear of the cat and twins, and when I do go back to sleep they either wake again instantly or it’s morning.

And it was going so well.

Story of my life.🤣😭

Tomorrow is the pre school graduation for the nursery kids going off to school. Willow has been asking if I’m coming to watch as her teacher had been saying all the parents are watching. But when I spoke to the nursery they said it was just for the parents of the pre schoolers who were leaving. Last time when all the dads came for Father’s Day Rocco got really upset, maybe because he thought I was going to come along? I don’t know. I hope they aren’t anxious about tomorrow.

I think I’ll speak to the nursery tomorrow and see if I can pop in towards the end.

Okay..it’s 4.26am.. the birds have started to sing.. I’ve probably got no hope in hell of sleeping..but we can try… and sleep.

Sleeping update

It’s been a few weeks and I wanted to update on how our sleep has been going. 

After my last blog post we are 14 sleeps in….I think! 12 of those were sleep throughs and twice they woke through the night. They are waking anywhere between 5 and 7am. 

We’ve kept a few things changed, the door is open a tiny crack and I leave the bathroom light on, they double check that I’m going to do this every night. The Pom Pom jars are a hit and they have filled them up twice for sleeping in their beds all night and have been very excited to go to the shop and get a treat! It’s the cutest thing watching them wander around and chat to each other about what to get! We go to Poundland (so there’s no huge expense) but their little faces light up at the prospect of choosing something! It melts my heart. 

I’d talked to a few (maybe ALOT) of parents in my tinytalk classes about the twins not sleeping the last month or so.. it’s been hard work and so many people have given me tips and tricks and listened to me moan about my lack of sleep 🙈😴..I even forgot Tinytalk teddy one week!!!! Eekkkk!

One of the big things that’s helped was their new sleep dolls. My big sister up in Scotland had been working away on some *magic* special sleep dolls for the twins and they arrived just over 2 weeks ago! Funnily enough they arrived on the day I broke down in my mother in law’s front garden completely sleep deprived and exhausted! That night they’d had me up every hour and a half from midnight. I was completely fucked.. and then having to work as well as run the house and look after the kids. It all felt like it was getting on top of me. My house was a mess, dusty, bins over flowing and washing piled up everywhere. I know I have to realise that I can’t do it all and some things have to give – for example.. I may not take the poo out of the cat littler tray straight away every time.. I wait until the bin is overflowing until I empty it.. because I’m the only person to change the bin and I HATE doing it, same with the recycling, the clean washing will sometimes stay in the basket for a week before I fold it and put it away, but you know.. that’s life sometimes. 

Anyway.. back to the dolls..

Willow’s is a dolly that she has named Sienna and Rocco’s is a cat that he has named Mummy (😂). They have day clothes and pyjamas and one side they are awake and the other side they are asleep! They come with their own teddies and pillows and inside their hearts are made from their daddy’s clothes..well, the twins LOVED them! They were so excited about going to bed with them! It was lovely to watch!I really hoped they’d help with their sleep.. and that night was the first night of 7 consecutive sleep throughs! Amazing! I can tell they are going to love and treasure them forever.

My big sister is kind and thoughtful and has such a huge heart and I’m so grateful for her to take the time out of her hectic life to make these for the twins. She’s just amazing and I’m lucky to have her. Big sisters are the best! We might not see eye to eye all the time and we are very much like chalk and cheese a lot of the time but I love her and if I could I’d move closer to her in an instant. Her love and support means everything to me.

I’m looking forward to having a break from work over the summer and Sienna is off to her dads for a few weeks for the holidays. I’m looking forward to having that break. The kids have all had ups and downs the last few months. There’s been some days where I’ve not been sure if I could make it to the next day. 

I did, ofcourse. 

I feel like I’ve come out the other side. Yet I also feel cheated that,again, I get put through some kind of ordeal. Haven’t I gone through enough? Can’t life just be simple for abit? Those that believe in God often say that He has a plan for us and that’s it, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger? I’m just not sure I believe that.

 Some days I can feel completely broken and ready to give up. Other days I’m fine. What’s sad is that whenever something is going well, or life in general is going smoothly, I start to feel that anxiety that something bad will happen. Because how can I be allowed to be happy? Surely something will happen to make me sad again, abit like a vicious circle! That makes me sad but I also feel abit resigned that this is how it is. 

Anyway.. we are all getting sleep. This is the main thing. The kids are doing well. I’m doing well. My anger with Toby has died down, I’d felt guilty for that. 

We’re coming up to 3 years soon. 27th July marks 3 years ago the twins were christened. And that date there starts the countdown to the 3rd anniversary of Toby’s death. 

We started his trial drug after the twins were christened and 6 weeks after that, he died. 8 weeks after the christening we were back in the same church for his funeral. 

But for now..I must sleep. X 

Sleep training central – just when you think you’re about to crack..

I’m grouping the last lot of days together because they were pretty much the same! Crap!  I’ve been hit with a mother of all colds which I think is just because I am feeling so run down! 

Rocco and that bastard door!!! I spent 45 minutes putting him back to bed Saturday night until I completely lost my temper and told them off. And ofcourse then they stayed in bed and went straight to sleep and I felt terrible! 

For 45 minutes every time I shut that door he appeared before I even had chance to turn around! Then to top things off I fell and slipped on the rug bruising my whole stomach! It’s quite painful. 

Anyway.. Sunday night was better.. we had two open doors and then they went to bed but they have been waking every night around 2am crying for the door to be opened. To have some peace I’ve relented and let them. It says not to do this in my 3 day nanny book but the minute the door is open they go back to sleep. I wouldn’t care so much about the door being open if I didn’t live in a flat. The doors are all off the main living room and I just think it’s so noisy when I first put them to bed… I sleep on a sofa bed in the living room so it’s not like I can go into my room and shut the door. 

Anyway, Wednesday night Willow had a huge melt down about me not shutting the door so in the end I have left it ajar. I have really lost the will to live with all these wake ups and I’m sick of bedtimes being me just shouting! 

I’ve tried reading them the Rabbit Who Want To Fall Asleep Book but whilst Willow took to it, Rocco didn’t! I’m still doing the Pom Pom jar and I give them a Pom Pom every morning as they have slept in their bed all night (albeit not all THROUGH the night!)!

It’s definitely gotten better. I know that much. This time last week I was sleeping on their floor at night! They are going to bed  better.. so I’m guessing it’s a working progress. 

I wish they were still in cots as sleep training them in the cots was easy as pie compared to this!

So.. there’s a few things I have taken from the 3 day nanny book that I want to share. She says it’s never just sleep. There’s always more to it than that and to think about what you do during the day and how they behave etc.

The twins have always been clingy.. worse when Toby died. I see now what I didn’t see then. That Toby’s death really has affected them.. even though they were so young and it’s hasn’t been quite so obvious.  It’s not something I should have brushed under the carpet but at the time I was just putting one foot in front of the other and I didn’t realise the impact it  really has had on them, especially as they have gotten older. Ofcourse they missed his presence and of course that made them more inclined to cling to me. 

So, one of the tips in the book is to set up play stations in the living room as expecting them to just play on their own without encouragement  isn’t often feasible. So at the weekend I set up a book corner, put their castles on the rug, they had a peppa pig corner, some games on the other rug and some pens and writing books on the table. I then told them that I was going to have a shower and get ready and that I would like them to play on their own.

Well they were over the moon, Willow told me that the play stations were wonderful!! Rocco loved them too. They played for ages together, staying in each section for long periods of time and played really lovely together. 


I did notice that they didn’t come and find me or sit and whinge or follow me about like they would have done if I’d gone to get some jobs done. They were really happy and this gave me time to have a shower and do some jobs. I found the whole day easier and actually they went to bed easier that night too.


Rocco is definitely having some kind of separation anxiety when he isn’t with me so I’m trying to just reassure him all the time and I’ve spoken to the nursery and they’ve suggested making a little book of photos for him to have at nursery.

I am also thinking of looking into some kind of bereavement therapy for them as the nursery are worried that they never talk about their dad. Willow talks a lot with me but Rocco never wants me to talk about it and I’m at a loss as to what exactly is the right thing to do or say. I don’t feel like I have the right tools to help the twins with this so I may look into that.

We are just simply all really tired. I’m ready to crack I think. I feel ill and there’s just no let up. Today I was so mad at Toby for leaving me to deal with all this shit on my own I threw something at a frame of pictures of us before leaving for work and then when I got home I found the frame had fallen and broken onto the floor. 

That’ll teach me.

But just when you think it can’t get any worse, that you are really on the verge of a breakdown because you are so extremely tired and broken from so many broken nights sleep.. the unthinkable happens.

Last night we dropped Sienna to guides, got the twins into bed, read them two stories and I compromised and said I’d leave the door open a teeny tiny crack. Rocco shuffled down into bed and Willow looked sleepy and I thought to myself “these two aren’t getting up”. I said good night and happy and content they fell asleep! I couldn’t quite believe they weren’t coming out of the room and that we had the first bedtime is weeks without me losing the plot!

I was worried that the door being open a bit would keep them awake so I turned all the lights off and didn’t put the tv on and instead got the laptop out and did a few bits of work. I fell asleep around 11 and woke just before 6am.. BEFORE the twins!

The twins woke at 6.06am.. happy (and abit snotty) having slept through the night! A full nights sleep has done us the world of good and we are all in a good mood this morning! 

The first full nights sleep I’ve had in months! I can’t tell you have fucking refreshed I feel, even if I woke before 6am!

Maybe I just needed to compromise with them a bit, maybe keeping the door open has made them feel safer…maybe they were just so fucking tired that they slept. Maybe it’s a fluke and they’ll be awful tonight!

Maybe it’s a bit of everything. 

Who knows. 

I really hope it continues tonight…

X

Sleep training central – day 3

So.. after a fairly good night last night and a good drop off at nursery (Rocco cried a little bit) I was fairly confident that Day 3 would be better.

Whilst picking the twins up from nursery I had a chance to speak to the girls that work with the twins and they mentioned that Rocco cried whenever people come into nursery , mainly the sport and yoga people that do the extra curricular programmes at nursery. I thought this was a little strange but he has always been a clingy child. The nursery thinks maybe he doesn’t like strange men. I suppose this could be true given the circumstances. 

I also found out that 2 other children in the class have lost a parent, that’s really surprised me as it’s unusual (I would have thought) to have 4 children in one class that have gone through a bereavement of a parent. 

I did a little research into the childhood bereavement network and found out that it was estimated that in 2015, 23,600 parents died in the UK, leaving dependent children and that by the age of 16 around 1 in 20 young people will have experienced the death of one or both of their parents. In 2004, the last time a national survey was done, around 3.5% of 5-16 year olds had been bereaved of a parent or sibling. That’s around 1 in 29 (or roughly one per classroom). 

That’s crazy. And quite clearly a lot more common that we realise. 

Willow and Rocco’s key worker said that they never talk about their dad whilst the others talk a lot about their deceased parent and that maybe they needed to. They suggested I make a little book at home with pictures in that they can share at school and that they can look at sometimes. I think it’s a good idea and I hope that that isn’t linked with their sudden bad sleeping, given Father’s Day was a while back. They really enjoyed going to visit Toby and watering the plants but maybe it plays on their minds afterwards.

Anyway back to the bedtime routine. So we read or stories and did everything as per usual and then I shut the door and said good night. Then Rocco decided to keep opening the door. It really tested my patience .. I did scream and shout after the 30th time, I took his Pom poms away out of his jar and showed him so he could see, it took for his jar to be empty before he finally settled.

Willow was good and stayed in bed. Although she did get upset abit with Rocco’s crying.

I felt shattered last night and went to bed as soon as sienna came home from guides. And then like the neurotic mother I am, woke every hour or so wondering if they were going to wake up!!! 

Ofcourse they didn’t wake up all night and then I was awake from before 6am wondering if they were actually ok and should I check on them! I couldn’t quite believe they’d slept through! They woke at 7 standing at the gate looking happy and refreshed after the first sleep through in a while!

I can’t quite believe it happened! So I will be interested to see what happens with day 4…

Keep everything crossed for me, won’t you! X

Sleep training central – Day 2

Day 2.

So after the 3am of the night before, the twins slept til 6am. They woke happy and smiley and were shouting “morning mummy” from the newly positioned gate at their bedroom door.

They weren’t upset, they weren’t cross with me or sad that I had stuck to my guns and made them sleep all night in their beds. I’ve been reading into a fair bit of this the last few days and the point that the 3 day nanny makes is that they don’t remember all the crying and screaming and upset that happened 12 hours ago. They still love you. And you aren’t doing this to be mean, you’re doing it because you need to restore the routine that once was there. And this is exactly how the twins were in the morning. Happy, feeling loved and not at all worried about the night before.

So we got out the Pom Pom jars and I told them they could choose one for staying in their beds for the night. Now I know that they didn’t actually sleep all night, they were up for 2 hours in between. But.. they stayed in their room and they eventually understood that their only option was their bed that night.

They happily chose their Pom poms and were talking excitedly about filling the jar up and getting a treat! They listened well and got ready for nursery, and here’s the funny thing that happened next.

Normally every nursery drop off results in tears and them being taken off me. As soon as I leave they are fine all day and when I pick them up they don’t want to leave!  Today at the nursery door I said, “This is what’s going to happen. I’m going to drop you upstairs. We are going to have a high 5, kiss and cuddle and then say goodbye. We won’t cry because you have your doggies (comforters) to remind you of home. And if we do this really well then we can put a Pom Pom in your jar tonight.”

We started upstairs and the twins saw a man that works at the other nursery branch that they don’t know and that really freaked them out and they started to cry. I cuddled them and told them it was ok and they stopped crying. Then Rocco gave me a high 5 and a cuddle and I said goodbye, Willow had a few tears but I told them how brilliantly they were doing and to remember their jars and Willow stopped crying and said goodbye. It was the best drop off we had had in ages!

When I picked them up in the evening they were really happy and couldn’t wait to get home to their jars, we put a Pom Pom in and then started the bedtime routine, same as the night before. Bath, bed, story, song and close the door. 

Rocco opened the door twice and I told him that I would have to take a Pom Pom out of the jar if he didn’t listen and that I was saying goodnight, shutting the door and I would see them in the morning. And that was that, they went to bed! 

They woke up at 12.30am and I told them to go back to bed, they asked for the door to be left open and I did then, as it was now dark in the flat so I knew nothing would disturb them. And we all went back to sleep in minutes.

At 4.50am Rocco woke needing a wee. I lifted him over the gate, took him to the loo and said go back to bed now it’s not morning yet and he did and they slept til 7am!

That’s been the best nights sleep I’ve had in forever. 

What’s also nice is that I bumped into my downstairs neighbour who  I started to apologise to about the noise. He is a retired paediatrician and I always worry he must think I’m a shitty mum who shouts a lot!!!! You know what he said? “You’re doing the right thing. They need their sleep, they need boundaries and they are seeing how far and IF they can break you! You can do this, two more night and you’ve got it in the bag! So many parents would come to me and say we have tried everything, and they would have, but what they didn’t understand was that they hadn’t tried one thing for long enough. So don’t back down and don’t give in. You are doing the right thing.”

You are doing the right thing.

 I’ll take that all day long! 

I’ve read so many bad comments online about controlled crying, that it’s like bullying, like child abuse or an army like behaviour.

 That’s not true. I like to think that I respect every single parent’s parenting style. What suits one family may not suit another. That’s all there is to it. And we all have to do what’s best for us. And this, right now, is best for us. I don’t see another way. I need an evening. I work hard, I run a business, a house, I pay all the bills and take sole responsibility for my 3 children. I shouldn’t be judged for this and I know that the people who know me won’t. 

Since writing about Day 1 of our sleep training many parents in my TinyTalk classes have told me that they’ve done the same thing and have been so supportive. 

We should all stick together as parents and respect each other’s parenting decisions and support each other. And I love that that’s what happens in our TinyTalk classes. It’s lovely to watch friendships grow during the social time and it’s lovely to be part of. 

So day 2 much better that day 1.

Wonder what day 3 will bring … 

Sleep training central!

Day 1.

So it’s half past two in the morning and I’ve been up for the last hour with the twins. 

I’m not sure what’s happened to them lately but my brilliant sleepers have turned into the worst sleepers on the planet. I need sleep.. this is certain. 

Those of you that don’t know, when the twins were babies they didn’t really sleep well and when Toby died they became awful. Being in a 2 bed flat,  I shared the big room with the twins and it was bad! I think back then I was getting 2-3 hours of broken sleep a night. I was completely wrecked but I think in a way with everything going on maybe I needed distraction. I probably wouldn’t have been sleeping anyway. 

So I carried on like that for months and when they turned one there were two ways I could go.. get these kids sleeping or have some kind of breakdown.

 So I decided to sleep train.

Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know. I did lots of research online. I read up on supernanny again (having done similar with Sienna), I read up on other twin mum’s stories on leaving their babies to cry it out and I embarked on a journey that probably saved my sanity.

So, I started with a nap time, giving them a kiss, singing them a song and putting them in their cots and shutting the door. Wow. The outrage, especially from Willow! I had read about leaving it so many minutes before I went in and I decided that I would give them 3 minutes and then go in to comfort them and then add 2 minutes onto the time each time I went in. So I set my alarm on my phone for 3 minutes, went back in, then 5 minutes, went back in then 7 minutes etc and went up as far as 15 minutes. I never left them for more than 15 minutes and after 45 minutes of screaming the place down , they settled themselves to sleep and had a 30 minute nap!

Progress!

The nights were the worst as they woke constantly through the night and I had to carry on with the process but each day got better and we all got to sleep! Now it didn’t take 3 days or a week, like some experts suggest.. it took more like 6 weeks from the end of November to January .. but it worked. The twins went from being rocked asleep with 20 wake ups a night to sleeping 13 hours a night and having 2 hour naps in the day!

Fast forward 2 and a half years and my dreams have been shattered by them not wanting to go to bed and waking up through the night. So today I sat and watched old reruns of the 3 day nanny. I read some of her interviews and tips online and also picked her book up on amazon. I  know everyone has their own methods of parenting and leaving a child to “cry it out” isn’t a popular choice,  but for me, as an only parent, I know I have to be strong. I have to draw boundaries and stick to them, I have to have a good routine and stick with that routine otherwise it all goes to pot. I don’t have anyone here to help me, to take over of an evening or sit with me and say “yes they’re crying but they actually are fine.. keep going.” So this time around with them being almost 4, it’s tough. They can say things to me, like “mummy I need you”, “mummy please let me stay in your bed” and the age old… “I neeedddd juice”!! But one thing the 3 day nanny went back to was that lack of sleep really affects the routine and that if the parent is running on empty, it throws everything else out of sinc.

And I’m now definitely running on empty!

So.. this afternoon I picked up a stair gate from my sister in law. When the twins came home from their grandparents’, I showed them the gate and told them that tonight the gate would be closed and they would sleep in their own beds all night. I’d also bought them little jars and some Pom poms to go in (an idea a friend gave me). Before bed we decorated the jars with stickers so they’d know which one was theirs and I explained that with good behaviour they would get a Pom Pom to put in the jar and that when the jar was full they could choose a treat from the shop! They loved this idea. They listened  really well, they helped tidy up and did all their bedtime bits and were rewarded with a Pom Pom. Then we sat in bed to read some stories. Willow was a little put out that we wouldn’t read in the living room, but another thing I’d taken from the 3 day nanny was to shut down the living room, visually showing them that that room was no longer open for the evening. We read stories and I told them what was going to happen “I’ll sing you a song and then I’m shutting the door and I’ll see you at breakfast.”

Well then it all went to pot abit! They screamed at the gate for a while wanting juice, I ignored them and told Sienna to stay in her room so not to distract. Now, whilst I think the 3 day nanny gives good advice I do think it’s much harder than what you see on the tv. Generally because you’re sat doing it alone feeling like the shittest parent ever whilst your kids escapes from prison -aka the stair gate! 

So after they broke out of the stair gate I gave in and said ” I’ll give you juice, take it to your bed and leave it there and then lie down and go to sleep.” 

And they did just that. Win!

At 1.15am they woke up, opened the door and cried for me. I did ignore them, for aslong as I could, but I’m petrified of my neighbours complaining (we live in a block of flats), so I went and tried to hush them from the other side of the gate. I got them back in their beds and shut the door to them coming out again. It was sad to hear them so upset. Rocco kept telling Willow he had a good idea!! Then they escaped again, it wasn’t great! 

But after 45 minutes they got back into bed. I wasn’t quite as strict as I wanted to be. I’ve left the door open and sung to them. They are currently in bed but Rocco has twice come to the gate waking Willow up, the latest one being  just now, 3am.. a good half hour since the last time.

I didn’t want to negotiate but also I couldn’t take the screaming and this way, atleast for now it’s quiet. 

I hope they sleep soon.

Father’s Day

I’ve just read the blog that I wrote last year. It’s interesting to read. I feel similar in some ways and so different in other ways. 

I think I feel absolutely nothing. It’s not that I don’t care, I don’t mean that but I think I more just feel abit dead inside to it all. Last year I was upset reading all the Father’s Day posts on Facebook, this year I don’t feel anything. I feel sad that I don’t have Toby to share this day with, goes without saying. But other than that I feel not much emotion. 

I just feel really tired. 

It’s hot, the twins have turned into rubbish sleepers and I’m just exhausted, I feel like all my nerve endings have been numbed. I feel nothing. No sadness, no anger and no pain. I tried to remember a Father’s Day with Toby and I couldn’t. I remember what we bought him for his last one, Sienna got him a wrestling tshirt and  the twins a book for him to read to them. And I think I put their hand print in a card. Other than that I have no idea. 

I took the twins up to visit Toby’s grave. Rocco slightly confused asked if I was actually taking him to see his daddy or were we just going to where the flowers were. I think he was relieved when I said we were just going to water the flowers. He has become a very clingy child, he wont go anywhere without me or stray far from my side. I took them to their friend’s party today and it was nice to see them dash off to play as they don’t do that much at the moment. 

I’m planning on sleep training then again and to be honest this, more than Father’s Day, has been more of a worry on my mind.

Distraction is good, I guess, although I’d rather have twins that slept through the night.. 🤔x

My Fempire Moment

In February I got the opportunity to share my story with Lifetime TV for part of their Fempire Moments campaign. A team came to film one of my Tinytalk classes and interviewed me afterwards. 

I loved having the class filmed, the Thursday class is a big class with a lovely feel to it. Everyone is really friendly and I feel lots of love in the room. The babies were just brilliant too!! The end result shots of the class are just beautiful!

After the class was filmed and all my families went home we set up to interview. They’d sent me a list of questions which I had made notes on as I didn’t really want to feel unprepared. And the questions they had asked I didn’t feel like I could answer on the spot. 

My interview went on for over an hour. It was quite emotional at points. There were tissue breaks for me and the people in the room filming. It felt nice just to talk it all out to people I didn’t know, I felt like I could be quite honest and I also realised that I didn’t really need all my notes! But I’m glad I wrote it all down! 

The Fempire Moment is now on their tv channel and quite a few times I’ve seen myself on the tv! That’s weird. It had a great reach on Facebook too and I’m ever so grateful to have had the chance to share a piece of my story and how I’ve ended up doing what I’m doing. 

But the Fempire Moment is literally that..a Moment! And a lot of what they used was just me talking at the end when I didn’t realise they still had the cameras rolling. Which is quite nice in a way. 

So below is the full interview, so to speak,  all my notes on the questions they asked me. I’m hoping I will find it a useful piece to look back on and I think it will be nice for the kids to read when they are older too. 

What inspired you to start Tinytalk.

I met Toby in 2008 and embarked on a whirlwind romance. Soon after we first met he had to start chemotherapy for the cancer that he had, something that he had been dealing with years before I came along. So after just one date we talked online almost every day for 6 months and once he finished his chemotherapy we started dating. Fast forward to April 2014, we had been married just over 4 years and I’d given birth to our twins which we had conceived through ivf.
I found out about Tinytalk classes in my area and joined. The classes were fantastic, we learnt simple BSL signs with different themes each week and I taught the signs I learnt each week at home with the twins. It was amazing how well they responded to me and how well they picked the signs up. I had to put in the work at home but it really paid off and made life quite a lot easier. In August 2014 Toby started a new trial drug for his cancer, he had to come off his regular medication for his non working lung, caught pneumonia and after two weeks in hospital, he passed away. 

To describe what I went through is difficult, even when I think back to it now, I don’t know how I put one foot infront of the other. 

A week after he died, I went to my regular Tinytalk class, I didn’t think twice about not going. It was part of our routine and that’s what I really needed, to be able to have some control in what was our upside world. The kindness and love I felt from these ladies, who had all kept in touch with me whilst I stayed with Toby in the hospital those last two weeks of his life, was just amazing. I walked in and they hugged me and carried on like normal. They talked to me, about normal things and didnt make me feel like I was different, if that makes sense. I hadn’t known these ladies for very long, 5 months, yet I felt close to many of them and felt like I could say anything to them, things that I couldn’t say to my family, even. As time went on, that class became the one thing I stuck to. Those mums became the women that I spent a lot of time with and it all stemmed from this lovely, brilliant lady setting up these classes and us mums going along with similar ideas about how we wanted to communicate with our little ones.

I could walk into a class and sit there and not really be there in my head and know that I was surrounded by lovely people who had my back, they didn’t bat an eyelid if I admitted I had slept in the tshirt I was wearing and they hugged me when I was crying and didn’t ask questions and also had the ability to make me laugh even when I thought my life wasn’t worth living. 

Toby didn’t have life insurance and I had a mortgage and bills to pay so I knew that I would have to go back to work at some point, but also, more importantly, I needed to go back to work. I needed to fill this massive void in my life. The last few years had been filled with looking after Toby, being with him through everything and I’d put a lot of me into his care, along with looking after sienna, having IVF and conceiving the twins and then looking after him. It was a non stop rollercoaster between 2010 and the point where he died. I needed something that was mine that I could put all of me into now that he wasn’t there.

It didn’t take me long to realise what I wanted to do. I wanted a job that I could put my all in but which would work around the children. More importantly it had to be something I believed in and loved. There was no other choice for me but TinyTalk. Not only had I had first hand experience of the magic that is baby signing, it was the half hour social time that I loved. It was needed just as much for the mums as for the babies. It was time where we could have a cup of tea, chat and make life long friends. I felt that I could make a difference and if I could make one mum feel what I had felt when I returned to that class after Toby died, then it would be worth it. And that’s the joy of TinyTalk and I guess really wanted/needed to be part of it. 

Tiny Talk has been a huge success. Describe to us how you feel teaching and the relationship you have with the parents and children.

I may not be earning thousands but actually I do see Tinytalk Epsom as a success, in the sense of what I do each week in bringing these families together. I feel like the parents bond with each other as much as the babies bond with their parents. The relationship I have with the parents is like nothing I’ve felt before in a “job”. We have fun, we laugh, we chat, we talk about what might be troubling us, I give my help where I can in all things baby related but mainly I am just there to listen as well as teach.. and provide hot drinks and biscuits. You don’t know people’s backgrounds and how they may be feeling as first time mums. You don’t know if they’ve had a bad night, a bad day, what they could be battling, just like I was, and having that friendly face that you see each week and that routine is a lifeline for some. 

The babies are just brilliant! The minute I start singing and signing they are just memorised! They are friendly and comfortable with me and I think they are so familiar with me because of how comfortable and happy in what I am doing. And when a baby signs something for the first time AND in class it’s like that mum (and me) has won the lottery! The happiness you feel around the room is spellbinding. At our Christmas themed class last year we started by singing our hello song and then one little baby lifted his hand up and waved at us the whole way through the class for the first time. His mum (who took the day off work to be at the xmas class with her baby and husband) was in tears and everyone was clapping and cheering. Seeing your baby first wave at you and in context as we sang and waved to the hello song was just such a special moment..and why I love what I do. 

How I feel teaching is something that’s hard to explain. It’s almost like therapy. I really did start these classes for me more than anything. Something I could throw myself into, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out but I wasn’t not going to try. To leave my thoughts at the door and put on my TinyTalk hat is probably the best kind of therapy I could ask for. I’m happy, I love what I’m doing and I think in turn that becomes infectious around the group. It’s nice to forget things and be in front of these babies or toddlers and sing and play and teach.


You set up Tiny talk not long after you lost your husband, can you talk us through how you got the motivation and drive. Especially whilst coping with such a loss?

I don’t know where I got the motivation from. I just knew that I had to do something, something that was for me and me only. Something good had to come out of this terrible thing that had happened. Tragedy either makes you or breaks you and I couldn’t be broken because I had my children to provide and care for. People kept saying they didn’t know how I got up in the morning, how I was getting on with things, but how could I not? Im not sure if everyone was totally on board with what I had decided to do, but the one good thing about being a newly widowed young mum of 3, is that no one will tell you “no that’s a bad idea”! And I was lucky that people supported me whatever they thought. I think what helped with the motivation was that I had control over this. TinyTalk was mine and I controlled everything about it, whether it was a success or not. Where I didn’t have control over Toby’s cancer or his death, here I did and I believed in the concept of baby signing and the way the social time was so beneficial to parents, that was enough drive for me. 

I also wanted to do something that made me me again and something that I hoped Toby would be proud of. I also wanted to be a good role model for all my children but mainly at that time, for my eldest, I wanted her to see what you can achieve even after the worst possible circumstances.


Would you say that this was a time when you had to dig deep for strength to get through…?

Definitely. But If I’m honest it’s all abit of a blur. I had a 9 year old and 8 month old twins to look after and provide for. I was now their only parent. It never occurred to me to not get up every morning, or put my make up on, or do my hair. It never occurred to me to not send my daughter to school, not feed or play with the twins, to not carry on with our routine, all those things. I don’t know where the strength came from but what’s the alternative? You have to make a choice, wallow in self pity because his horrible thing has happened to you or just get on with it. I was definitely going to get on with it, no matter what, But I was going to make sure that what I was “getting on with” was something that I could put all my love and energy into and really be able to make a difference, in my life and those who I came into contact with. 


How did you balance starting a business with being a single parent of 3?

Not very well! I threw myself into Tinytalk the minute the twins were in bed every night and I think I neglected my eldest abit. There’s so much that goes into the prep of the classes for each term, especially in the first few years, plus you have to spend a lot of hours advertising absolutely everywhere you can, getting your name out there, learning the songs, thinking about how the lesson plan will flow and how you are going to interact with those babies, and that’s before any admin is done. My daughter hit a wall last April and whilst I think it was always something that was going to happen with such a loss, I don’t think me burying myself in work helped. She became angry, she was hostile and at times violent towards me, which was so far away from the kind and loving person she is. She also began to self harm. So I took a step back and re evaluated my work and family life. I try to remember that the kids have to come first always and that work can wait, I think it goes back to that control thing and that burying myself in Tinytalk is something I can have control in, I just have to know when to stop working. I don’t always get it right, I’m still grieving myself, I can easily get exhausted especially running over 10 classes a week and many of them being really busy. I can get tired and irritable and shout at my kids and snap before I should. And when it gets to that point I take a step back and look at what I can change. TinyTalk has to work around me and my family and not the other way around. We get takeaways once a week, so I have one night where I don’t cook, I leave all work until the kids are in bed and although this means working a good few very late nights, I’d rather do that. What doesn’t get done today gets done tomorrow. Again, it’s abit like therapy because I’ve got something that I love that I can put my energy into but I make sure I don’t work every night. It’s a difficult balance and I’m always running from one end of the scale to the other, but I try and make it work as best I can. 
  

Tell us about a time when you’ve doubted yourself and perhaps your abilities. How did you overcome it?

I can’t think of a specific time. There are many times where I regularly doubt myself. It can often come when there is a specific date coming up, for instance Christmas time was hard to get through and whilst you’re feeling low you start to doubt whether people are enjoying the classes, did I do enough that week, could people tell I was out of sorts, will this not make them want to come back. The negative thoughts can be endless and there’s no specific way to overcome it, other than ride it out. Doubt can come in waves and I think deep down I know my ability and I know that I’m doing something that I absolutely love and believe in and that underneath all the doubt, I believe in myself, somewhere along the line. So I cry if I need to, be angry or feel annoyed if I need to and keep reminding myself that the way I’m feeling is just the moment and that it will pass. I’ve also started writing a blog which is just a year old. It helps to get my thoughts out in the open and without having to actually speak out loud and it gives people who know me a window into my mind as I’m not one to talk about things. At the end of the day, I’ve come through when things have been worse. I make it sound easy, and it isn’t but that all you can do, ride through the storm and know that it won’t last forever. 

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?

Last year at our Tinytalk conference there’s a part of the day where awards are giving out to teachers for various achievements. I was voted best new teacher and runner up for best teacher across all the franchisees. This was voted for by the other teachers and some of the things the other teachers said about me that were read out were just amazing. I felt so empowered after that weekend, I felt like I had really achieved something brilliant with my classes and it gave me the boost I needed to get through the months that followed. 


What do you consider your greatest achievement in your personal life?

I don’t know, I find it hard to look at my personal life and say yes I’ve achieved that and I’m proud of it. There’s always self doubt and there’s always sadness, there’s always the thought that I’m not good enough. The fact that I’m still here and carrying on after Toby’s death is a pretty good achievement. The fact that I have stood strong for the children and carried them through the last few years is, I suppose, another achievement. 


Who do you think has been the biggest influencer in your career?

Definitely the children. The twins were the whole reason I fell in love with Tinytalk. To be able to communicate with them was amazing. For them to be able to tell me when they were hungry or what they were looking at and what they wanted to show me was the best thing ever. The twins have grown up to be incredible young children, now just turned 3, their speech is second to none, they still sign and I take them to Tinytalk toddler classes run by my neighbouring teacher. They have never been frustrated nor had tantrums where I haven’t known what to do, they have always been calm, expressive children and I think the signing when they were young was key. I draw on my experiences with them a lot in class when I’m teaching the signs to the parents.

My eldest is just as influential. To see how proud she is to say that mummy works, that she runs her own business is lovely. I hope that I am a good role model to her in the sense that if we fall we get up and keep going be strive for what we believe in. I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for the 3 of them. 


What is your greatest love in life
aside from the children?
 

I don’t know. I love being a mother, I loved being a wife and things have been upside down for a long time so it’s hard to answer. I’d like to find me again so that I can say this is what I love in life, about life, but for now I’m not sure I have the answer. 


Your biggest fear in life is …

Not being enough for my children. 


Your proudest moment is …

I don’t have one, but there are so many moments where I have felt like I have winning at life! Seeing sienna happy again and finishing counselling and feeling in control of our family life again. Sleep training the twins after Toby died and finally getting them sleeping through the night, being able to live and work after what’s happened, setting up the classes and watching them grow. I went from 2 classes in September 2015 to 10 classes a year later. Winning the awards at the TinyTalk conference last year. I don’t sit there and think wow I am so proud of myself, but I think yep.. that was a good day and I keep my fingers crossed that the next day will be a good day too. 


If you could write a note to my 16 year old self, it would say…

Live life. Don’t be afraid of knowing what you want. Buy the shoes, eat the cake, worry about the calories later. Embrace love when you find it and go with it, Infact love every moment of it, run with it. And if you get knocked down, don’t be afraid to get up and try again. 


Give us a definition of a strong British woman today.

Someone who is like me. And that’s not to sound arrogant. I know that I’m a strong person. I know that I will find a way round almost anything and will not be defeated by life. I will always smile and find something to smile about. I will always see the good in everything and lean towards the positive and not the negative. Sometimes I’m confident and sometimes I’m embarrassed and shy. Sometimes I will make great decisions and sometime I won’t and sometimes I feel like I can’t cope but other times I will feel like I am winning at life. A strong person to me is someone that will ride the rollercoaster that is life, cry at the sad bits laugh at the funny bits and do the best that she can.


Have you ever met one of your heroes? If not who would you like to meet?

I don’t really think I have any heroes. I read Patrick Swayze’s autobiography after toby died and then I read his wife, Lisa Niemi’s book that she wrote after he died. It was like looking in a mirror at times reading that book, I would have liked to have met him and I would like to meet her. They were so in love and a beautiful couple and reminded me of toby and I. She’s come through the other side and found happiness and love again. 

Also Barrack Obama simply because he seems like the kindness man you’ll ever meet. 

What would you like your legacy to be?

I would like to be remembered as someone who was kind and loving, someone who could smile, someone who lived life and found happiness even after the unthinkable. Someone who was successful in what she wanted to achieve and who could help others along the way. 

And that’s it. Hope I haven’t bored you to tears. I’ve heard this week that they have cut another Fempire moment from the filming, I’m looking forward to seeing the final cut and so pleased and appreciative that I’ve had this opportunity to share my story.

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