And so it was Xmas

After the autumn we have had, I almost don’t have words to write down here.

Just gratitude that we made it to xmas and get to spend it with our special gang. Let the pictures speak for themselves.

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“Kuta pienempi itse, sita suurempi joulu tulee” – Tove Jansson 

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How to Grandparent from Across the Globe?

We are extremely lucky with both sets of grandparents. All four of them want to be involved in the boys’ lives, they are genuinely interested and incredibly loving towards the chaps.

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We definitely don’t take this for granted, as this is not always the case and frankly I believe it is every grandparent’s right to decide how involved (or not) they want to be. It is not always fun and games, especially with twins.

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The only problem with our grandparents is that they don’t live in the same country as us. My parents live a 3h flight away, and my husbands’ a 24h flight away. Yes, they literally could not be more far away. So in our everyday life we don’t have a so called safety network. If something unexpected happens or the boys get ill, we have to rely 100% on our wonderful au-pair and the ability to work from home.

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It is not easy, sometimes it terrifies me to think that there is no one to help and
also I feel sad for the boys. Sad that they don’t get to see their grandparents that often or their cousins, aunts and uncles.

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This also means that when we are all together, it is very intense “being together”. It’s not about getting together for a Sunday lunch or dropping the kids off to grandma’s house for a sleepover, it’s about living our everyday life with us, being together pretty much 24/7.

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But one of the reasons why I think they want to be involved, is because we let them. We let them come into our house and truly be “at home”. We let them do everything they want to do with the boys and participate in the boys’life in all possible ways, and we let them give advice and voice their opinions.

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Last year when the boys were newborns, our kiwi grandparents came over and stayed with us for three months. They helped us tremendously by participating in everything; feeding, bathing, night feeding, going to the doctor, keeping them entertained and happy. Being a new parent is a very overwhelming time so to have their support and experience was wonderful.

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When they went home they left behind two babies that couldn’t do much and when they returned this year they came to something completely different: two one-year-olds, who are walking and communicating and making a constant mess of everything.

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So what about in the meantime? A year is a very long time not to see each other, especially in the life of babies.

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I think it is the responsibility of us, the parents, to keep the grandparents in the mind of the boys. So how do we do it? We have grandma’s and grandpa’s pictures on the wall in the boys’ room and we look at them and tell the boys who is in the picture. We talk to the boys about grandma and grandpa and Skype regularly.

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And the other way round? Again, our responsibility. We want to keep the grandparents on top of everything that is going on in the boys’ life. What they are learning, what they are doing, who they are meeting.
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And how do we do this? About once a month I put together a Picasa “letter” from the boys with photos and stories about what has been going on. We tell them how much we miss them and love them.
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At the end of the day I try not to worry too much about our situation. This is our life and this is how it is. We are incredibly lucky to have such wonderful grandparents. And on top of the fabulous four we also have great bonus grandparents; my aunt and uncle, my sister-in-law’s parents, my husband’s lovely aunt and uncle. All wonderful people, there to help and form the village that raises our boys.
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Have a safe journey home grandma and grandpa. See you next year. Even if you are far away in distance, you are always close to our heart.

At Home – Part 2

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Well there you are my little warrior, what you doing? Hunting a dragon? Off to a battle?Breathing fire?

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You learn new things at such a pace, that we can’t keep up with you sometimes.

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You saw Dadda shave one morning and the next day you were doing the same. You want to show that you are a big boy.

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And you demand to do everything yourself. You used to find eating such a chore when it was just milk, but now that it’s different flavors and textures you love it. As long as you can do it yourself.

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The great lesson in life for you will be to learn about patience. I know, because you are like your mama bear, we are made of the same stuff.

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When you are angry the whole neighborhood knows. There is no negotiating with you when you are upset, but picking you up, holding you tight and giving you your rag and a soft toy helps.

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But when things are good there is no end to your joy and you charm your way to anybody’s heart. You little flirt.

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And we are so proud to see how you have become more social and accepting of other people. Now you approach other kids at the sand pit and you love your family.

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So our little Mr Fox Fantastic, be exactly how you are and continue to surprise, amaze and dazzle us like you do everyday; “Grow, far over your Mother”.

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At Home – Part 1

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You practically attached yourself to Ukki (grandpa) during our whole time in Finland. Was it because you share the same name or because you both are twins?

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We were so worried how you were going to manage without him back home in London that we took a couple of Ukki’s passport photos with us to show you if you needed.

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But we forgot how strong you are. Grandma says you are the mysterious one. “The silent fish with secrets” as the children’s song says.

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Just as it didn’t bother you that brother learned to walk before you. You weren’t stressed, you didn’t show that you were jealous. You took your time and started taking steps in your own time. With confidence.

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Now you reach for everything and climb on anything. Nothing can stop you when you put your mind to something.

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And most of all, you are happy. You smile when you see that brother is happy, you smile when you see mum and dad kiss, people who meet you for the first time say that you seem like you don’t have a care in the world.

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And you make us so happy. Our little lion.

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So go on, follow your own path. And we’ll just watch you from the sidelines, beaming with pride.

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Home Bound – In Transit

Travelling with a baby is a kind of an extreme sport in any case. Add to the mix that there are two babies, who have just learned to walk and you have been away for three months and have six big suitcases to carry, and oh did I mention that we were going to meet our au pair for the first time at the airport? Well let’s just say that the stress levels were soaring.

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In order to lower the stress levels we decided to stay the night at an airport hotel to give us all a break after the three hour drive from the summer house and take the first flight in the morning.

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The Hilton hotel at the airport was really great. Big, nice rooms and very friendly staff (not always to be expected in hospitality establishments in Finland). The boys felt instantly “at home” and started moving all furniture around before taking a lovely bath.

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The hotel provided two travel cots at no extra cost and the two rooms that we had booked were next to each other with an adjoining door.

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This meant that when boys went to bed, our au pair stayed in the other room, looked after the boys (and ordered some room service)  and we went downstairs and enjoyed a lovely dinner. What a great way to end your time in Finland, a super yummy Nordic tasting menu along with a glass of ice cold New Zealand white wine.

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The hotel started serving breakfast at six which left us just enough time to get ready, pack our bags, have breakfast and then walk five minutes to the terminal building to catch our flight to London.

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The flight went surprisingly well as the boys slept the most of it, but they were awake long enough to make us cancel our plans to take them to New Zealand next year (to meet that side of the family). A three hour flight is bearable, but two twelve hour flights to Auckland is a different ball game, a game that we dont want to participate in just yet.

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Yes, we were all a little bit tired and weary, but we were home.

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Around the Table At Easter

Happy Easter Folks!

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Finally a few days off from work for S. and an easier couple of days with the boys for the “caring team”, i.e. me and mum as also grandpa flew in from Finland and hence the number of people taking care of the dynamic duo went from two to four, hurrah!

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And as an extra bonus, my brother and his fiancee have recently relocated to London from Munich and also they came over, double hurrah! On Good Friday we set the table for a little lunch.

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The boys were loving all the attention and the “Shaun the Sheep” headpiece that Uncle M. brought around. Very appropriate for Easter, especially as we were having lamb.

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Our Finnish-New-Zealandish-German-family explored a very British tradition: the Egg Hunt. The boys were napping and didn’t take part, but the rest of rest had some fun. Never take yourself too seriously.

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Then the day turned into an evening and we sat down around the table again and had dinner shared some family stories and memories.

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And later on that night an Easter miracle happened. A. slept through the night for the first time ever. Was it the new pillow? Was it the cooler air in the bedroom? Was it the teething gel? Was it the happiness and attention that he got during the day?
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The next morning we had breakfast in good spirits, “Think how our lives will change now!”, “No more tiredness, he is finally sleeping well”, “Let’s celebrate with some chocolate eggs for breakfast!”. Of course the following night A was back to “normal”, waking up about 10 times a night.

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So Easter didn’t bring a solution to A’s sleeping problem, but they were a great help in the kitchen.

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Mother’s Day

This year I got to celebrate my first Mother’s Day. So what did I get?

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J is my firstborn. People say he looks more like my family, big cheeks, big blue eyes and a round face. He is the kindest, happiest little chap in the world. He has got his father’s temperament and kind nature. He loves eating and sleeps through the night. He is very social and loves his family, including his brother. He is always happy and eager to do new things and go to new places. He is chilled and can fall asleep anywhere. He loves kisses and cuddles and loves his mum.

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A is one minute younger than his big brother. Some say he looks exactly like his dad, some say he looks like me when I was little but he definitively has my temperament and character. He is quick and sharp but gets bored easily. He is interested in everything and flies across the room but he doesn’t care for sleeping. He adores his father and tolerates his brother. It makes me smile when he gets a rage attack and becomes hysterical because I can see myself in him 100%.

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In the restaurant the boys behaved typically to their individual characters.

J was calm, interested, played with his toys, and enjoyed some bread and kisses from grandma.

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A stayed in his high chair for about 5 minutes, then demanded to be picked up, threw all his toys on the floor and wanted to be glued to his dad.

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As somebody said, I got everything.

Little Boys Room

Apologies for radio silence! It’s been a bit manic lately, visitors from Finland almost every weekend, boys have been teething and started moving around so the nights have been restless and this mama is pretty tired. What gives me energy is working on little projects around the house. This time it was switching the boys’s room and the guest room so that my almost toddlers could get a bit more space for playing (and hopefully start playing in their own room instead of the living room). I know, wishful thinking!

Welcome to A’s & J’s room!

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I didn’t want to put a big wardrobe in the room because I wanted to maximize the space for playing. I thought it could be cute to hang a couple of shelves on the wall and keep the boys’s clothes there. I always try to keep the number of their clothes to kind of a minimum as they grow out of them so quickly and this way I can always see what we have and never forget to use something. Notice the little praying porcelain angel on the top shelf. It was used as a minister when me and my sister were playing Barbie weddings and now it is protecting over the boys. 

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At the moment only one of the lads has “graduated” into sleeping in their own room as he sleeps through pretty much every night. Twin B on the other hand still wakes up once an hour and in an effort to stay somehow sane we keep his cot in our bedroom where it is easier to get up in the night in search of the lost dummy.

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All the toys are organised in this old Ikea bookshelf. The boys love standing against the shelf and pull down all the toys. Mr Miffy is dimly lit during the night time and protects the little sleeper (and helps mum and dad to find dummies).

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And books are portrayed on the wall on picture ledges from Ikea. I got this idea from Amber’s lovely blog. Btw, she is one of my style gurus and makes me dream about living the Californian lifestyle.

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So they grow, mommy’s little wonders, experiencing new things, some good and some bad, like a little “pipi” on the finger (Finnish expression for a little bruise) and getting your very first plaster on the finger…

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Baby Essentials Part 1: Newborns

When I was around 6 months pregnant it hit me that we were having babies (the fact that I was the size of a whale was my first clue) and that we should probably start preparing for it somehow (as long I could still leave the house). What do you need to get for a baby? I was reading the John Lewis Baby Catalogue, all 68 pages full of products that you must have. “Can this really be true?” I asked the husband in horror. First time parents are a huge market as you can sell pretty much anything to well meaning parents-to-be, I mean who wouldn’t want the best for their child?

As we had to get two of everything I decided that we should (try to) see through all the nonsense and get just the essentials to get started. We could get more stuff later. So what is it that a newborn baby needs?

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1. John Lewis changing mat   2. John Lewis baby bath  3. Miffy lamp 4. John Lewis Baby hair brush 5. John Lewis blanket  6. Sophie La Girafe 7. Ikea Cot   8. Gap pants

Actually at the beginning it is pretty simple. The baby needs somewhere to sleep, something to eat, to be warm and clean. Oh and he has to be transported home from the hospital.

  1. Sleeping

A baby needs a cot to sleep in. The baby market suggests an additional sleeping solution for the first couple of weeks: a moses basket or a crib, but basically it is just a smaller version of the cot. Do you really need anything else apart from the cot? That is up to each parent to decide, but we decided that we didn’t. The boys started sleeping in their cot from the very beginning, first sharing one and then moving on to their own cots. Swaddling is a great way to calm the baby and make him feel safe and warm.

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You also need to get a mattress, a mattress protector, a couple of fitted sheets and a cot bumper if you like. Cot bumpers are a funny business. Some sources claim that they are extremely dangerous and should never be used as the baby could potentially suffocate and the babies could overheat as the air can’t circle through the bed. Others say that it protects the baby from hitting its head or arms at the sides of of cot. My question is; if they really are so dangerous, why does every single retailer sell them? Anyhoo, we got all the cot related items from Ikea, a lot cheaper than other retailers and boys have been happy.

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2. Eating

If you are breastfeeding you don’t need much gear, but a breast pump (I used this and was happy with it although with pumping you can’t help but feeling a bit like a farm animal) and a couple of bottles is good to have. And if and when you move on to formula, there is one miracle device that I really recommend. On our first visit to Baby Gap we bumped into a couple with twins and they told us to get this. We call it the “Milkpresso machine”. It basically makes preparing a bottle super quick and accurate. When your baby starts screaming for food, you know that in 30 seconds you will have a bottle ready that is just the right temperature (no microwaving or cooling down needed) and just the right consistency (right amount of milk and powder).

3. Keeping warm 

Newborn babies really don’t need a lot of clothes or let’s say different types of clothing. Our boys were born in the middle of summer and spent the first couple of months wearing a little bodysuit with short sleeves, that was it. If your baby is born in winter they can wear a bodysuit with long sleeves and leggings or thighs. If you have a baby girl, try to resist buying dresses until they are about 6 months old.

For sleeping they will wear a sleepsuit and a sleeping bag is great for calming the baby down and making sure that the baby doesn’t move or turn around when sleeping.

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4. Cleaning

A changing table is great at the beginning as the baby doesn’t move around yet and if like me you have a sore back, with a changing table you don’t have to bend down which is great. And for bathing you need a little baby bath. Apart from getting your your baby clean and relaxed, an evening bathing routine helps with setting up with the routine in general and making the baby understand the difference between daytime and nighttime. Nighttime starts with bath, the changing into jammies, then evening bottle and then to bed. And nights are for sleeping, days are for playing.

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5. Getting home 

The hospital folks will not let you leave if you don’t have a car seat (fair enough!). We chose the Maxi-Cosi Pebbles and the bases. The base is really great, it is attached to the seat of the car and you simply put the car seat with the baby in it on top of the base and it automatically slides in place and makes a little sound to let you know that the car seat is correctly installed and your baby is safe to travel. This saves you a lot of time and hassle as you don’t have to attach a seat belt around the car seat. The base is compatible with both the infant car seat (Pebble) as well as with the toddler car seat.

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And last of all you need…

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Winter Travel Edition

We spent 4 weeks in Finland over Christmas and this put our Donkey through the ultimate test. In Helsinki it was still going good, there was a little bit of snow on the ground and a couple of minus degrees, no problem.

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Then we traveled to my hometown about 3 hours north of Helsinki and suddenly the weather got a lot colder.

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When it got to -15 degrees our trusted Donkey came to a halt. Its front wheels froze and we had to look at alternative methods of getting around. When you have two babies to transport you can’t use a baby carrier unless you are two people and to be honest with my already sore back I try to avoid carrying my almost 10kg babies as much as I can. So what to do?

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Well we took our Maxi-Cosi car seats and put them on sleighs. The boys were strapped into the car seats and tucked under blankets to keep warm. Little chaps proved that 50% of their blood is Finnish as they seemed to love this winter adventure.

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This solved our transportation issue, we were able to continue our daily walks and the boys were happy. They didn’t mind all the attention that they attracted, actually they seemed to revel in it 😉

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