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spikegifted.net - Archive Q1 2011

March 2011:  
Home: This trip to France had to one of the easiest since the boys arrived nearly a year ago!! Given their age, long trips in the car had not been their favorite. As every observant parent will be able to confirm: babies like to sleep in moving cars, but tend to wake up when the cars are stationary for extended period. As we traveled outside the 'peak' season, there were comparatively few vehicles to embark the ferry, so the wait at dock side was minimal. To keep the boys entertained, we had them in the front of the car while we waited and they had great fun with the steering wheel. The crossing and the rest of the journey was uneventful. Once we got to our destination, there were lots to do. We had three really busy days after our arrival and the Ruler_of_spike was stressed out by the boys' christening and the party. Our friends from the UK started to arrive on Friday late morning and we were still completing our preparations. In general, things ran smoothly enough that they did not cause any additional stress. Those few days went in a flash.
Home: We normally travel to France on Fridays or over the weekends. As such, I would have mount the roof box to the car the previous weekend and we would have the rest of the week to pack and to ready ourselves for the trip. For this trip, however, we were traveling on a Tuesday, as we had a lot of additional preparation to complete prior to the boys' christening and birthday party. Primarily owed to my lack of planning and general slowness in getting things done, we still had a lot to do came Tuesday morning. So I had to ask to take an additional half day off on the afternoon to finish our packing. It turned out to be a necessary move as, but the time we were ready to go, it was 4:45pm!
Home: I got a phone call from the Ruler_of_spike one early evening and she told me that the boys were not well - they both had temperatures. Luckily, I was close to finishing for the day so I could pack up and leave for home immediately. Fortunately, the public transport was kind to me so I got home in relatively quick time. We double checked, but the boys really had temperatures. They were not burning up or anything, but the temperatures were higher than the normal range. We immediately put them into their car seats and drive the hospital's children accident and emergency. After the initial examinations, the nurse cheerfully informed us that they had been referred to the out-of-hour GP as they were not deemed serious enough to be treated at the A&E unit. We were angry. While we recognized that their conditions were not critical, our previous experiences with out-of-hour GPs had been hugely unsatisfactory. For the amount of taxes and other things we paid for we expected better treatment and services. As we were advised that the boys' conditions were not that bad, we decided to visit our GP in the morning. The boys' condition did not change much during the night, and we managed to obtain an appointment in late morning the next day. After examining them, our GP was his normal reassuring self and informed us that Master Cheeky's temperature was brought on but his cold and it was a viral infection for Master Chill. There was actually very little we could do except keeping them warm and making sure that they were not dehydrated. We just had to leave it up to the boys' own immune systems to fight the illnesses off.
Home: Master Cheeky was not well, again. For the second time in a month, he has picked up a cold, which slowly turned into a cough. He was still not dealing with his cough, especially when he was eating. It was not so hard for the Ruler_of_spike to deal with if it was only coughing. However, during and immediately after meals, it meant potential trouble as soon as Master Cheeky appeared to cough. The Ruler_of_spike was totally stressed out as there was potential trouble with every cough. I lost count of the number of times she had to clean him up and change him.
Work: Our little team has been put on a lot pressure lately. This was brought on by a number factors, each seemed insignificant, which together meant a difficult time. One of the contributing factor was the fact that our group, which our little was part of, was going through a transformation program. This was a highly successful program which had managed to produce improved results by focusing on and challenging our day-to-day work practices to try to identify inefficiencies and bottle necks. Additionally, it aimed to encouraged communication amongst the stakeholders, to make the team more responsive. While it did not actually address any long-term problems that exists in the teams, it was supposed to free up time so that solutions could be found on other problems. The other uses of the transformation program included capacity creation and, process optimization. All that was great. However there was a cost to these improvement - time. On the outset, we were inform that based on past experience, management and those who were involved in the project were devoting 60% off their time to the project in the initial phase. On top of all the meetings which our boss had to attend, he was dragged to these project meetings, so I had barely seen him in over a month. So our team was down to three. To add to that, one of the team members was on vacation for over two weeks, which meant that we were technically down to half strength. Between my colleague and myself, we were attempting to cover all the normal work, all the inquiries and also participate in the transformation project. It was not the best arrangement and our work suffered a bit. Somehow though, we just about managed the workload. It was not an enjoyable time, but we got through it. Hurrah to our resilience!!
Home: The boys were really developing their different characters. Moreover, they were developing dynamics of being brothers and friends to each other. They not only played together, but they really looked out for each other. One observation the Ruler_of_spike (sadly, I have been at home often enough to see that in person, but then again, I have been at work...) made was how protective Master Chill was to his older brother. There was one occasion when the boys were playing with other babies and they took toys from Master Cheeky, Master Chill would go after the 'offenders' to retrieve the toys for his brother. Additionally, the boys hanged out together - there might have been other babies around but the boys stayed together and approached the others as a unit. Needless to say, it was interesting to watch these dynamics at work.
Home: During the last part of the journey back from our family friend's place, the boys were in foul moods, particular Master Cheeky. At the time, we assumed they were just tired and frustrated by the long journey. However, we soon found out the real reasons - the boys were teething again!
Home: Until recently, we have yet to have an overnight visit since the arrival of the boys. Obviously, we have spend time in Brittany, which was different, as we have some kit there already thanks to the Ruler_of_spike's family. Given the logistical requirements of the moving the kit needed to keep them happy and safe, this was not something we took on without much consideration. The only way to find out was to give it a try. we have some friends of family who we have known for a very long time; in fact, they were family. We were invited to spend a weekend with them. In terms of organization, the Ruler_of_spike pretty much care of all of the boys' stuff. I was tasked to load the car and it was a some kit we were taking with us - double buggy, two high chairs, a traveling cot (lucky our friend managed to borrow a second one), bath kit, food, bottles, changes of clothes, toys, sleeping gear... The list just went on and on. In comparison, our stuff were cramped into a bag that was slightly larger than a hold-all. On the other hand, we came to the conclusion that we didn't actually had to take much more with us even if we were staying longer. True, there would be more clothes, more diapers and more food, but the amount of 'hardware' would be the same. The trip itself was very pleasant. The traffic was tolerable as we were hit by any long delays on the motorways. We were fed and watered and the food was just excellent. The boys seemed to have a good time also - they were completely untroubled by the change of environment. They loved exploring their new surroundings together and whole new house was not going to curb their enthusiasm to explore. I could almost feel their excitement while watching them moving from room to room, looking and touching various items that were within their reach. The usual pattern which we observed at home was evident in our friend's place - Master Chill led the way into new territories with Master Cheeky observing his brother and then following him in his wake. There was no sign of panic when they encountered new items along their paths or environments they were not familiar with, just enthusiasm and excitement. Magic!
Home: It was rare for a week to go by without some new in the developments of the boys. They were now eleven months old and they were moving. Master Chill has been moving around at will for a couple of weeks by now, and he has been joined by his older brother. After a brief period of frustration, watching his younger brother moving forward and backward, Master Cheeky finally got his coordination right to move forward on his hands and knees. Master Chill was moving faster, but that was owed to the fact that he has been moving around for longer. Master Cheeky was getting into the swing of things. They explored together and played together. They helped each other and they looked out for each other. It was a total joy to see them playing and getting so well with each other. Being an only child, I used to wish I had a sibling and they might not appreciate each other just yet, but having a twin brother was possibly the best they could have - a friend for life!
Home: We were trying to get the boys their French passports. However, with us not being in France, things were a little more complicated. To cut a long story short, the Ruler_of_spike eventually had to go through the French consulate in London. Then, one of those strange things in life happened - her cousin, who she has not seen for over twenty years, called up. After making a tentative introduction (just in case it was a case of mistaken identity), the two of them hit off. Not only has the Ruler_of_spike rediscovered a long-lose cousin, she worked in London! For us, two people who were far from their families, with no known relatives living in the UK, this was huge. This was also a reflection of the international nature of lives in the 21st century - two people met up after years apart because their lives, through all the permutations, had placed them in the same location outside their native country, without each knowing the existence of the other; then they rediscovered each other. It was time for some serious catching up...
February 2011: 
Home: We were informed that babies and toddlers have a lot of colds and little illnesses. While it is not a 'good thing' but it was a necessity - to build up their immune systems. We have been very lucky to date as the boys have not had too many illnesses. However, we noticed Master Cheeky had a runny nose in the morning of our 'bonding' day. Our boys were real boy - they did not like being cleaned. So the act of wiping his nose clean was not tolerated, unless it was done so quick that it was over before he had a chance to complain. That evening, we started a series of four nights which most of us had very little sleep. Having a block nose is not generally considered as a good condition for sleeping. The boys were still not adapted sufficiently to breath through their mouths in their sleep. The first two nights, it was Master Cheeky who was making a fuzz. Master Chill also picked up the cold a day later and for the next two nights it was his turn. As the boys share a single room, we generally tried to get the crying baby out of the room as soon as we could get to him as there was a risk of the other one being woken up also. Then we would have two crying babies. However, picking the baby was only the first part of the story. If he was still crying or was awake, it was best to get him out of the room - in case he continued to make noise and wake the other up. The only place in the house that could go with a baby and had something close to being comfortable to sit on is the living room. The problem was that, at that kind of times at night, as soon as I sat down on the sofa after getting both the baby and I to a comfortable position, I would fall asleep. As such, I ended sleeping on the sofa for four nights in a roll. Had the Ruler_of_spike not come to wake me up I would have slept through to the morning and probably waking up with a bad back, a sore neck or something. You can imagine our relief on the first night that the boys managed sleep through without kicking a fuzz. Thank god for Vicks.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike had to spend a day during a weekend up in London, so the boys and I were to spend a day together, on our own. This was the first time the Ruler_of_spike had spent more than two hours away from the boys since they returned home from the hospital ten months ago. And it was to the first time that I got to look after them completed on my own. It was both exciting and intimidating at the same time. At the most basic level, things were relatively straight forward. I knew all the basics - feeding, changing, playing, entertaining, putting them to bed, cleaning up, washing up, etc. However, stringing all of them together was a little harder than simply doing the individual parts. It was not the case that the tasks were any more difficult when done in series. They were still the basic tasks. The difficult was in timing or, to be more precise, the lack of time to complete all the things that were needed to be done. The amount of work was just relentless. To kick off was breakfast. Well, actually, the nappies needed to be changed first after their long night. Breakfast was in three parts - porridge, followed by finger food and finally milk. There was a little bit of a mess after the porridge, but the real mess was made when they had their finger food. While they ate well in general, quite a bit of the food ended in the high chairs and the floor. The milk had to be given one baby at a time as they had not yet mastered the skill of holding the bottles and tilting back. After a bit of play, during which Master Chill kept crawling off to the porch and the kitchen, the boys showed signs of tiredness. However, as I was a really nice day, I put the boys into some warm clothes, unfolded the buggy (hurrah to the new buggy) and went for a walk with the boys. The Ruler_of_spike has previously reminded me of the swings which the boys loved, but on arrival I discovered that they were wet. As I did not have anything I could use to dry them, we moved on instead of having them sitting in wet swings. On our return, it was not long to go until their lunches. So we had a bit of play time. They did their usual things (at least they appeared to be 'usual' based on what I have heard from the Ruler_of_spike) and I tried my best to keep them entertained. I broke up little fights for the toys, brought back Master Chill after his escaping acts, encouraged Master Cheeky on his hands and knees. Then it was lunch time. Lunch consisted of meals made by the Ruler_of_spike, compote with yogurt and finished up with a big bottle of milk. After some post meal play, the boys were put to their beds. I used the free time to unload the dishwasher, visit the bathroom and managed to do the washing up from the previous evening. There just enough time to boil some water to make a Pot Noodle (a hangover from my boarding school days) before the boys woke up from the naps. Master Cheeky woke up first and I tried to consume the Pot Noodle while holding on to him with one arm, which nearly turned into a disaster - an accidental food-floor mat interface which resulted from a sudden movement from him. I just had to put him on the sofa, have a bite of the food before picking him up again. Just a was about to finish the 'meal', Master Chill woke up also. After picking him up from his cot, where he was standing up to greet me, I remember there was a 6 Nation rugby match on TV. So I decided to switch on the TV and tried the afternoon into a real male-bonding session - the boys watching rugby! Well, I figured that I managed to watch no more than 10 minutes of the match as Master Chill was constantly roaming to the porch to try to eat one of the shoes that were left there. Then I discovered that I had no bottles for dinner, so I had to wash them. By the time I was done, I played with the boys again. It was great fun. They were really cool babies and they did not need much to start giggling. Their smiles were glorious. The trouble was that they were both over 9kg and were quite heavy to carry around. Games like 'aeroplane' and 'rocket launch' took their toll on my arms. The real star treat was the soap bubbles. They recognized the purple bottle as soon as I had it in my hand and they were getting so excited in anticipation of the bubbles. After having a few of them bursting around them (now that was genuine excitement), it was time for dinner.. I settled the boys for dinner (another 3-course affair) and the Ruler_of_spike returned mid way through. I could not describe my relief when I saw her walking through the door. It was a long day, yet she had days like that everyday! If anyone dare to say that looking after a child or two is not hard work, that person clearly has not done it first hand.
Home: The boys were really moving! Master Chill had, by now, figured out how to move forward on his hands and knees. Once that was done, there was no stopping him. The stripped floor boards of our ground floor rooms resonated with his large hands slapping down on them as he moved forward and backward in the rooms. He was a strong little boy - he enjoyed pulling himself up chairs, the sofa, nappy bin, our legs either to explore or to get to some toys. He stood up in his cot when he woke up and stood up in the play pan. He was cruising! Master Cheeky was playing catch up. We could see that he was getting frustrated watching his brother zooming around on his hands and knees. We could also tell that he really wanted to be part of the action. However, when he was on his hands, he was doing what his brother was doing a few weeks previously - moving backwards. On the other hand, he loved standing up and did a good job holding on to things and remaining upright. However, we could tell that he was not ready as he was on his tip toe. That, though, did not mean he was not having fun. While he lacked his brother's mobility, he was an incredible 'collector'. If we gave the boys a toy each and returned back to them in a couple of minutes, there was a good chance that Master Cheeky would have both of them with Master Chill being distracted by something else.
Home: Did you know that you can take babies to yoga? I don't mean taking babies to adult yoga sessions. There are actually yoga specifically for babies! That's right. The Ruler_of_spike discovered it and the boys we're doing 'yoga' once a week. It was not yoga in the strictest of sense, but it was a series of little stretching activities that the mothers and babies did together. There was a lot of singing and moving.. Based on what the Ruler_of_spike was saying, it was a lot of fun for everyone and the boys loved it. The fact that the Ruler_of_spike showing with two babies was no problems - the teacher just demonstrated with one of them while she played with the other. It all seemed great fun for the boys and mama!
Home: Around this time last year, we invested in a double buggy in anticipation of the two Masters. Unlike the parents of singletons, there are few choices in the double buggy market. All that made sense: statistically there are a lot more singletons and comparatively, there are very twins and multiples. The buggy we chose last year was incredibly flexible: the seats could be replaced by carrying cots (very useful when the boys were very small) and seats could be arranged to be either face the front or the back. When we stopped using the carrying cots, we had the boys facing us as we have been informed that babies benefited from seeing their parents when they were out and about. Of course, as they grew older, they did not require the constant reassurance of seeing their parents so we could arrange the seats facing forward. Such flexibility came at price, not only from a monetary perspective, it was not the easiest of buggies to set up or to fold away and it was comparative heavy. Also, as soon as the boys were comfortable with forward facing, the flexibility of the old buggy became an inconvenience. So when we were looking for the new buggy, we were keen to find one which was as easy to operate as possible. I went about doing some research for the new buggy and soon found one particular one which appeared to be ideal. It looked comfortable for the boys; it appeared to be highly maneuverable; and most importantly, it had a piece of technology which made setting up and folding up extremely easily. As soon as I saw that piece of technology in action in a demonstration video on the website, I was certain that we had found the buggy that we wanted. The Ruler_of_spike was not convinced when I first told her what I found. However, as soon as I showed her the demonstration video, she was sold on the new buggy. When the buggy was delivered, it was in a box that was no more than seven centimeter thick. It just demonstrated how clever the design was. We took it out for a 'test drive' during the weekend and the boys seemed to like it as much as we did.
Home: Happy Chinese New Year!!
Home: The boys were now 10 months old and they were getting more and more active! Since mid-January, Master Chill has been showing signs that sitting or lying down was no longer enough for him. Increasingly, he has been trying to escape from his rocker. What we tended to do was to allow the boys as much time out of the rockers as possible. Master Chill has mastered the art of rolling from his back to his front and back again. On the other hand, Master Cheeky was quite content to lie on his back, as his world still very existed in his immediate surrounding. Master Chill, however, was not waiting around - he wanted to move on. Once he got himself on to his hands and knees, he was trying to move. He made his first tentative moves with his arms reaching forward. But then, and I am still trying to figure this out bio-mechanically, he somehow managed to move backwards, reversing himself into some rather tight corners. Every baby did that at their early stages of learning to move, so we were not worried. We tried to encourage him by waving at him and making sounds to attract his attention. That was strictly not necessary as he knew he wasn't doing what he has intended to do. Meanwhile, Master Cheeky was on his back looking at Master Chill and us and wondering what all the fuss was about.
January 2011: 
Work: Ask anyone who does a job, he/she will tell you about a process or a series of processes which is there to act as a guide to successfully complete the job. However, that is only half of the story. There are some tasks that are 'process-driven' and there are those that are not. In my mind, and I hope this is true for others also, there are jobs that are entirely process-driven while there are others where the processes are less evident. Of course, any job can be process-driven and it is up to the individual to determine how best to work with the processes. In my humble opinion, the more I have to rely on a process to complete a task, the less room there is for 'creativity', and the more mechanistic the job is. So the question was: As our little area had interface with a lot of different areas, each having their own processes, while we acted as solution providers when there were any choke points, how process-driven was our roles? Moreover, what happens if other areas' processes became choke points? How did we deal with it? These were the questions which we were faced with. The progress (or the lack of) of other teams could easily be interpreted as under performance of our team. In such a case how did our area deal with this kind of misconception? These were difficult questions to deal with when our roles required our full attention. The range of issues we encountered was diverse and we, as a team, worked hard to resolve them on a day to day basis. However, that appeared to be insufficient as we were the most visible team to all areas and inefficiencies in other areas were perceived to be ours. The burning question was: What can we do to communicate the work we do to an audience that was so diverse? That would be something that we have to focus on, over and above the daily work that we had to deal with.
Home: As the boys got more and more accustomed to handling solid food, we were conscious that we needed to give them even more varieties to stimulate them. Additionally, it was important to teach them to feed themselves. The Ruler_of_spike's first attempt to let them play with their spoons was rather exciting... The spoons did not stay in the boys' hands for long and not much food was consumed. Not deterred, she continued to explored new ways to train the boys handling food and coordination between hands, eyes and mouths. Finger food was a great leap forward! The carrot flavored mini rice cakes was a hit right from the start. For the first time in their lives, the boys had something in their hands that they could freely put in their mouths without us even trying to stop them - we even encouraged them - unlike remote controls, phones and other household items, rice cakes were consumable items. It was a joy to watch their little faces when they ate - a mixture of excitement, bewilderment, nervousness, puzzlement and finally happiness. Obviously, they made a right mess and more of the rice cakes ended on the floor, the high chairs or anywhere else that was other than their little mouths. However, it was all a learning process and it was yet another little step for them, but we tried to make it fun for them.
Home: A few days into the New Year, Master Cheeky was having trouble keeping his milk. It was a mystery what was going on. He would take the solid food. Then after a short rest, continue with his milk, just like how we have been feeding them since the boys started on solids. Master Cheeky would consume all of the food, both solids and milk, but then would vomit within half hour of finishing the milk. It first happened the day before we were due to travel back to London. Initially, we assume it was simply a case of reflux and we have previously been told that it was not uncommon for babies to have reflux when they were teething. In the morning just before we left Brittany, it happened again, but there was nothing we could do. We avoided feeding him any milk during the trip and he appeared fine. However, he was clearly frustrated, as he could see his brother, Master Chill, was enjoying his milk after the solids. After we got home, we decided to feed the boys and put them to bed before unloading the car. However, we did not get to the point of unloading the car until much later - Master Cheeky vomited again after the milk. We called our friend who has had paediatric training about his condition and were advise to give him small amounts sweet drinks regularly over an hour or two to keeping him hydrated and to see how he handled liquids in general. By that time, it was close to midnight and I made a quick visit to the only 24-hour shop nearby. We followed her instruction and over the next 90 minutes, Master Cheeky took on over 100ml of this sweet drink. He was holding it fine. By now, he was getting very tired and we were struggling to keep him awake to feed him more liquid, so we let him in his bed. Less than five minutes after lying down, we had a mess in his bed. There was no alternative, I had to take him to the children A&E while the Ruler_of_spike stay at home with Master Chill. Fortunate, there were very few 'customers' and we were seen relatively quickly. The paediatric diagnosed that Master Cheeky has contracted viral gastroenteritis, commonly known as 'stomach flu'. While the vomiting was disturbing, there were two positives: Master Cheeky looked remarkably well and there was no sign of him being dehydrated; and the bug has not been passed on to Master Chill. There was nothing much we could do but to continue giving him small amount of liquid to keep him hydrated and to wait for the illness to pass. Thankfully, he had no further problems with taking on fluids, so after eight hours and for the rest of the week, he gradually worked on to take on more and more milk. Eventually, on Sunday night, he took on the full amount of milk at dinner time. We were thankful that he recovered so quickly.
Home: Happy New Year!!