Must must must

It’s autumn holiday in Belgium. Finally, I must add.

Even though school only started the 1st of September here, eight weeks is a long time to keep going. And not just for the children, I can also really feel it. Eight weeks of rushing every morning. Eight weeks of trying not to be late. Of  getting up on time. Of getting dressed quickly. Of eating a hastened breakfast. Eight weeks of ‘we must do this and that’ and ‘we can’t be late’. The boys were really tired and weary last week. They were emotional about everything, got upset over nothing and hardly could get out of bed. I even kept them home a day and they slept and slept and slept. 
Honestly, I could feel it too. My patience was completely gone and all I wanted to do was sleep. I’d even set an alarm in the afternoon to be sure I would not fall asleep and be too late to pick the boys up again…

The holiday is well on its way and we have taken it really easy. We sleep in. Pyjamas stay on half of the day. They boys play, have fun, laugh, run, make an incredible mess, and I play with them or let them play while I read. There is nothing that we have to do. I’ts recovery time and it’s lovely. It also made me think. Why do we do this to our children? Why do they have to do so much? Why are there so many rules? Why does school start so early in the morning? Why are schools so ridiculously strict about being late, even when you have a good excuse? I never had a boss that was as strict as the schools here are. Can you imagine your boss getting upset about you being late because of a traffic jam? Or because of a unexpected sick child? As grown-ups we understand things happen.  Life is hard enough and yes, we know we are in trouble if we can’t pay our bills, but for being late at work or an appointment sometime? That is just bad luck. But I see my children grow up with a fear of being late and with a disliking for rules. They are not even four yet and it’s incredible how many things they already must do.

A solution to this is not easily found. Yes, I could keep them home till they are 6 and going to school is compulsory. Then they don’t have to do anything for the next years, except obey some very important safety rules (traffic etc.). They’d also miss out on a lot of great activities and on making friends.They would have no idea about the school rhythm and this whole discussion will start again when they are six.

What I can do is keep them home from school sometimes, just to recover. So far this often results in a ‘bad day’ together as the boys seem so happy to not have to do anything that they forget about all the rules we have at home. 

So honestly, I think things should be a bit more relaxed in our children’s lives. School could be a little less about rules and more about play. When my boys play ‘pretend school’ together at home it’s all about telling the other one what he must do or can’t do. ‘Stand on the dot.’ ‘Stand in a line.’ ‘Don’t run.’ ‘Don’t touch that.’  ‘Eat your fruit now.’ ‘Go to the toilet.’ ‘Sit down.’ ‘You can only play with that, not with this…’ 

Rules are important, especially for important things concerning safety in the house (careful on the stairs, don’t throw or play with cutlery, etc.) or on the street (never run into the street, always cross with a grown up etc.). But I also think too many rules are simply too much too handle and they will start to do the opposite. And that’s where things can easily go wrong.

Halloween-costumes everywhere

Friday was the last school day before the autumn holiday started and all children were allowed to come to school wearing a costume. The boys were quite excited and really enjoyed going to school looking like a big bird/ vampire/ flying monster with a cape. They drew a lot of attention at 8:15 in the morning cycling to school looking like this:

They were not the only class doing this though, when we walked to school it seemed all kids for all schools were dressed up. We met knights and princesses, pumpkins and dinosaurs, superman and batman, spiders and ghosts. It was great to see so many happy children. It really put a smile on my face (and on many other peoples’ faces).

Finding the right stroller for twins

Somebody recently asked me how I had chosen and bought our twin stroller and it made me rethink all the things that have lead to our decision. Twin strollers come in 3 different types: with seats next to each other, with seats behind each other or with seats ‘on top’ of each other. You can choose them in many price categories, the cheaper ones starts around 100 euro, the most expensive one probably is the bugaboo donkey twin (around 1700 euro).

How to choose the stroller that suits your needs the best? These are the things that we took into account:

  • Size. Will it fit through your door? (some are too wide so measure the smallest door in your house that it needs to go through) Will it fit in the building elevator? (strollers can be too wide and too long!) Will it fit in the boot of your car when folded?
  • Where do you use it? Do you take public transport a lot? Then make sure you pick a model that fits in the tram/bus/metro. You can easily check this with other twin mums in your city to see what they use (social media is a great source for this). Do you travel a lot by car with the kids (on your own)? Then make sure you look at how easily the stroller is folded and if you can actually lift it yourself.
  • Where will you use it most? Now think about where you intend to walk to with your twins. Brussels has a lot of of cobblestones and walking on those with thin swivel wheels is horrible. The same is true for forest walks. The more expensive strollers have strong air tires, which takes away a lot of the ups and downs of bumpy roads.
  • Then of course there is the budget question. Spending more than a 1000 euros on a stroller is not a light decision to make for most people. The only thing I want to add to this is that if you take good care of your stroller you can resell it for quite a bit of money after 3 years. There will always be new twin parents looking for a bargain. This is also something to consider, you can buy yours second hand as well and save money that way.
  • The last thing to think about is what model you actually like. Do you want your children to sit next to each other or not?

I recommend you answer all the questions mentioned above before you visit a shop and then try out different models. Walk with them and especially turn some corners. Or ask other twin moms if you may try their stroller. My opinion changed completely after trying several strollers.

We ended up buying an Easywalker Duo. More than 3 years later I am still very happy with our choice.

The first sunny day of the year

Yesterday it was the first sunny day of the year in Brussels. Blue skies, freezing cold but loads of sunshine. We took the boys to a park and WOW, they could not be happier. While we sat in the sun they ran around, putting their hands in the sand to make piles and throw them over again. They found little stones and flowers to show us. They found sticks and leafs to play with, ran up and down on little hills, felt the trees and plants and looked at ducks. Time flew and we did not feel the cold at all. We go outside everyday but they usually don’t last that long. It’s incredible how much a little sunshine can do. It was like a whole new world outside had opened up to them.

Shoe presents

Sinterklaas has come and gone. The boys were quite impressed, especially with the recurrence of getting presents. They also were lucky enough to meet Sinterklaas in person this year. That was not something they liked too much. Especially meeting Zwarte Piet made them frightened. The reason for this was that Piet repeatedly threw candy on the floor. This caused them a lot of stress, especially when other children started running around to collect the sweets. I explained about Piet being naughty and nice at the same time and how he liked to have fun.
But when they got sweets themselves they started warming up to the idea. One of them even dared shaking Piets’ hand 🙂
But the best surprises for them were the ones they got in their shoes in the morning. Waking up and finding presents to unwrap, a chocolate and some pepernoten to eat before breakfast… that was what made it all worth it for them!

Sinterklaas

The boys are now old enough to really understand and enjoy my favourite Dutch holiday: Sinterklaas. For those who don’t know this, Sinterklaas is very similar to Santa Clause, but his day is celebrated on the 5th of December. On this day (or a more convenient day around that day) Sinterklaas will bring presents to families. He arrives on a steamboat a few weeks prior and from that day on it is possible to put your shoe in front of the fireplace (or radiator haha) and hope that you’ve behaved well enough for Sinterklaas to bring you a gift.

I love this holiday so of course we told our kids about Sinterklaas and about the possibility to receive presents. This was very much to their liking. They love presents! So we starting by teaching them a few Sinterklaas-songs, which they can now sing by heart.They sang the songs several times… as loud as possible and then they wanted to eat the carrot that we had put in their shoe… yes, the raw and unwashed carrot meant for Sinterklaas’ horse.

The thing I had underestimated about this whole event was the shoe part. The boys took forever to decide which shoe they would use. All their old and current shoes and slippers had to come out of the cupboard. Even their wellingtons. They kept changing the shoe that they wanted to use. When I told them that Sinterklaas would not take their shoe but rather use to shoe to put a present in, their attitude changed. Once more they had a good look at their pile of shoes. One of them decided on the biggest shoe (a boot), the other one rather showed Sinterklaas his nicest shoe. Even for two-year old boys fashion can be a thing…

 

Back from holiday – elbow pains…

I apologise for the silence here. There was a school holiday in Belgium and we took the boys to a holiday park last week. We had a great time, although with every holiday we somehow don’t end up very rested. Haha, as if!

It was the first time we did not use our buggy at all, we walked everywhere with the boys and they did really well. I did discover something interesting though. You can have muscle ache in your elbows!

It took me a while to figure out how this came about. But in the end the answer was simple. It was the walking of course, one boy on each side holding my hand. You’re not just dragging them because they walk slower… when they get in a mood and don’t want to walk (faster) they will work against you and pull. So this week no pain in my shoulders due to pushing a heavy buggy, no, this week my elbows had their turn…