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spikegifted.net - Archive Q4 2011

December 2011:
Home: Merry Christmas!!!
Home: There were some things that made the trip to south Brittany very worthwhile. Simple things, like spending all my time with my family; like driving ten minutes to the nearest decent beach and soaking up the fresh sea air. Being trapped in an office building in the middle of the city and being cramped into over-crowded train carriages in the daily commute were not the pleasurable of activities. Little things like sharing a joke with the Ruler_of_spike, a trip to the breach, watching the boys going about their 'businesses' were just pure gem.
Home: After returning home with the boys, after enduring some horrific traffic jams, it was time to prepare for our departure for France. Packing the car did not take long thanks to the massive organizing effort by the Ruler_of_spike. Additionally, given that it would be a comparatively short stay, we have decide to travel without the roof box. After giving the boys the solids, we were off. Unfortunately, it started raining while I was getting the boys in the car and the rain was so heavy that I was drenched in seconds. We made good our escape in pouring rain. The traffic out of London was less heavy than we anticipated and we were making good steady progress down to the port. Around a third of the way into the journey, I mentioned to the Ruler_of_spike that it felt like someone was looking over my shoulder. When she turned round to check, she found the boys were out of their rear-facing car seats and we looking at the road! Ouch! Needless to say, that was a very extremely dangerous situation - having an accident at high speed would be fatal if the boys were not strapped in their seats. Moreover, we had not disabled the door handles in the back. We knew the shiny pieces of plastic were very tempting objects of interest and were very aware of the dangers and consequences if the doors were opened while the car was moving. We stopped at the first opportunity so that we could put them back in their seats. To prove that the first time round was no fluke, they left their seats as soon as we were back on the road. It was a nerve-wrecking drive down to Portsmouth. The sea was rough during the crossing and the Ruler_of_spike pretty much did not rest due to the motion of the ferry. We had another anxious drive after leaving the ferry thanks to the boys' new found ability to escape from their car seats.
Work: In banks in London, and I was sure in other companies also, there was a tradition to allow employees to bring their children into work on the last working day before Christmas. Last year, the boys were way too young to even contemplate that. However, I was itching to bring the boys to work. Aside from introducing them to some of colleagues, there was a practical level to this endeavor - we were leaving for France later in the day and it was a way to get the boys out of the house a few hours and to give the Ruler_of_spike a little bit of time to complete the packing. I signed the boys in at security and they were given their own little badge. Then it was a quick trip up to my desk on the trading floor. There was a hint of uncertainty at begin with - being in totally new environment and surrounded by unfamiliar people had that effect on them. However, that did not last long. They were 're-arranging' my desk in no time. In between ripping up the piles of paper, smashing up the keyboard and mouse, and swiveling the screens, they were charming my colleagues. Of course, it would be selfish to keep such destructions to just my desk, so I brought them to see other colleagues of mine. Some of them actually stopped their work and helped me out with the boys. I managed to locate a free meeting room to give them their lunch. By which time, they have tried to unplug photocopiers, fax machines, messed with other peoples' chairs. They had a busy morning in the office. I was certain that there was a collective sigh of relieve when we left after the boys had their lunch. It would not be a massive overstatement to say that I was not productive that day. 

Home: There was a Christmas get-together for the mothers and children of our anti-natal class. It was another opportunity for the boys to socialize. An observation the Ruler_of_spike made was that the boys, being seven weeks premature, were no different in size and development compared with other children present who were all born fully termed. That was another piece of evidence of the daily hard work she put into looking after, entertaining and educating them. The boys, smart and intelligent as they were, could be very hard work as I could attest. To be with them day after day, week after week, was mentally and physically draining. I did not know another harder working mother than her. What she did for the boys was far harder than any paid job I could imagine. I am incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful woman as a wife and the boys are likewise very fortunate to have such a dedicated mother.
Home: We could not stop hugging the boys! They were sweet little toddlers and we loved them to bits. However, they seldom had time for us. They were always doing something or searching for something to do. While Master Cheeky did not object to an occasional hug, Master Chill definitely had too much on his mind as he was constantly on the look out for things to do and to play with. One evening, just before the boys' bed time, out of speculation, we told the boys to give other a hug. They were smiling and they had a short hug. It was a magical moment and the Ruler_of_spike and I were nearly in tears.
Home: So the boys were approaching their second Christmas. Their first one was fun for us parents as we were parents at Christmas for the first time. This year, the boys being nearly twenty one months old, was going to be different. They did not know that all the fuss was just yet, but the Ruler_of_spike tried to introduce things slowly to them. It was pointless to bring them to the 'Santa grotto' as they tended to be a rip off and a colossal waste of time because of all the queuing. Honestly, whatever festive feeling you might have would have completely evaporated by the time you and your children get to see that miserable man dressed up as 'Santa'. Luckily, the children center organized something as a gentle introduction. So the children and their mothers (or child minders) were waiting in their usual play area. Then this strange guy dressed in this thing must have looked a red dressing gown, with a fake white beard, a red sleeping hat, a thick black belt and a pair of black Wellingtons came matching into the room, making this strange 'ho ho ho' sound! Of the twenty kids in the room, eighteen went screaming and crying to their mothers! Some of them were hysterical. Santa was clearly not welcomed there... Next year, the center planned to have a 'Mother Christmas' instead...
Home: It was only a matter of time, given how active and mobile the boys were getting, but when it happened, it was still a surprise. One morning, the Ruler_of_spike went to pick up the boys from their bedroom, she found Master Cheeky out of his cot! That's right! The sides of the cots were comparatively high, yet he has somehow managed to get his little legs over the side of the cot and somehow let himself down the side of the cot without falling or hurting himself. When the Ruler_of_spike found him, he was roaming around the room entertaining his brother. The other surprise was that we always thought Master Chill was more likely out of the two to attempt and manage to escape from their cots. That just showed how they managed to spring surprises on us. We were just wondering how it would take Master Chill to do the same. At around the same time, the boys found our DVD collection. Prior to their arrival, I bought some shelving units to move our DVDs out of some cupboards to create more space. These units were installed in the coat cupboard and were behind the coats and other things. The boys have been showing some interest in that cupboard already as that was where we stored our umbrellas, various bags and brief cases and other things. It was only a matter of time before they moved in further and discovered those slim boxes with shiny discs inside. That must have been quite an event for the boys! It was like a new adventure. What made it even more appealing was that the Ruler_of_spike was putting the DVD boxes back into the shelves, so the boys could repeat the fun all over again! Bring it on!!! 
Home: We typically would try out some new recipes at the weekends, but there were often times we just revert to the tried and tested. Occasionally, we were just too lazy and order a take-away or delivery. At one weekend, we decided to have an Indian take-away, something which we have not done for a long time. There must have been some kind promotion that I was not aware of as they gave me a portion of potatoes which I did not ordered. There was already a lot in the meal we ordered, so we pretty much let the potatoes alone. We decided to let the boys try them. We cooked some salmon in olive oil in a pan and heated up the curry potatoes. Then we mixed the two together for the boys' lunch. To my surprise, they loved it and polished up the meal in no time. This was no exaggeration, but the boys seemed to like food that was spicy and flavorful.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike was spending a day in town, so I got to spend some quality time with the boys. Being a couple of twenty-month toddlers must have been a very exciting time for the boys. The entire surroundings were just full of possibilities and opportunities. Our house was not big and we tried to utilize the space available as best as we could. For example, we kept the living room, where the main bulk of their toys was located, as much under control as possible. However, while they were awake, it was a losing battle. They just spilled their toys across the room and generally spread them all over the place and under the furniture. I took the boys out to our local children play area and they had a good run around before lunch. When it came to the afternoon nap, although they appeared calm and about to sleep, it was soon apparent they rest was not on their minds. Master Chill managed to rock his cot to where their clothes was kept and reached out to throw all their clothes out of the shelving unit. He even managed to tip the unit over and spill whatever that was not already been thrown across the room. Master Cheeky has replied in kind by rocking his cot towards his brother's and their cots were almost touching by the time I found them. He has thrown back the clothes that has reached him back towards his brother and generally making a even bigger mess. In the space of a few hours, they have managed to trash the house. I could not wait to put them to bed that evening.
November 2011:
Work: It has been coming... The Eurozone sovereign crisis has had a profound impact on the global financial markets and global economy. As a result, there has been marked effect on investment banking activities. Naturally, in a market where costs were a natural part of the business consideration, it was not long before we would hear about noises about cost cutting, 'right sizing' and redundancy. Our team, having grown from a meager four people to ten, was prime for such backs. At the same time, we have taken on additional duties. So while our head count was reduced, the work had not. It was simply not discussed - that was also how business was like. I would have to confess that I did not know what some of our folks were doing. However, when the cut started to affect my work. I was dismayed. Still, we had to soldier on as there were people who relied on us. It was a case of being professional and getting the job done. However, we had a feeling that we had not seen the end of the cuts...
Home: I was hit by more problems with my site. The host has suffered a series of denial of service attack last month. And I order to avoid the same attack, the host put in place some defenses, including automatic blocking of IP addresses if it detect simultaneous, or quick succession of, requests were made. That was a good idea as long as there were not idiots like me. As I forgot my the passwords, I tried to both the e-mail account as the ftp site in quick succession, and my IP address was blocked. I could not view or administer this site. I thought that was a continuation of my host's problems. However, by chance, while I was sitting at my computer, I discovered that I could see my website via 3G, but not via Wi-Fi through my ISP. Originally, without knowing the true reason, it thought my ISP blocked my host. However, having been told that blocking was not a standard practice of my ISP, I dug a little deeper. The true problem became evident when I carried out a trace route and found that the trace went dead after it has left the ISP's servers. So it was a strong chance that my host was blocking my IP address. Luckily, my hosting provider was fast and responsive and I could access my site without further problems. A big thumbs up for QuicklyWeb.
Home: Master Chill's hair was getting long and a little out of control. It was in a real need for a haircut. The problem was that there were so few hairdressers catered specifically for little kids. Take the boys for example, it would be hard press to keep them in the same sitting position for more than five minutes without them starting to fidget. Then, the Ruler_of_spike was informed that there was a little hairdresser in a town nearby which only cut kids' hair. The opportunity was too good to pass up. She took the boys there on the first available slot in her (and their) busy schedule. These guys were really good. The kids did not get their haircuts straight away when they get there. The staff chatted to the kids and their parents to put the little ones at ease. Then they spent time checking out the hairs and the shapes. By the time they sat down, the whole cut was planned and the hairdressers knew exactly that needed to be done. There were little LCD screens playing some cartoon immediately in front of the seats, there are are all kinds of toys in front of them to keep their attention. The hair cut happened in no time. The hairdressers were tidying up five minutes into the cuts. Master Cheeky was the first to his haircut - he was awake. While his hair was not out-of-control, a little trim definitely helped. Then it was Master Chill's turn and what an amazing transformation! He looked so grown up with his hair all neat and trimmed. We had two handsome little boys in our house!
Home: Dumb question of the day: Was there anything that boys would not try to climb and reach? The short answer was: no. The long version was essentially the same but with some qualifiers. The important hurdle was the height of which a given was located, bearing in mind that the boys were perfectly capable moving various 'stepping' objects to help them reaching their objectives - foot rest, kitchen steps, dining room chairs, armchairs, each other... The list went on and on. For them, the house was giant puzzle game - think Tomb Raider, kids' version. Since they became mobile, we have gradually raising the heights of which we keep our stuff. When they were just crawling, the coffee table was fine. Once they stood up, but before they were fully walking, we used to put things on the opposite side of the coffee table to where they were standing. Then the coffee table was too accessible, so we put things in the mantle piece, shelves of similar height and the dining table. Once they started climbing, these were no longer safe, but the ease and frequency of they climbing adventures increased and improved, we had to move things even higher up to keep them out of the boys' reaches. There would be a point which we could not practically put things or we would run out of shelf space to put all the things that we wanted to keep out of their hands. Thankfully, we were not at that stage just yet, so we continued this cat 'n mouse game...
Home: The boys have been enjoying a succession of sleeping bags as soon as they were old enough to be put in them. Basically, while blankets were cute and stuff, they were useless when we tried to keep them warm when they started to move in their sleep. Sleeping bags were the solution. So for over a year, they were kept warm by them in their sleep. Prior to returning from our last trip to France, we invested in new ones which would have kept them warm until they reached two years of age. That was the theory had they stayed in them. The design of the bays was simplicity itself. They had a couple snap buttons, one on each shoulder, and a zip that ran the full length of a side. We typically had the bags fully opened and flat. After laying one of the boys on one side, we would fold the bag, engaged the snap buttons and close the zipper. Except for the kicking legs and moving arms, the whole procedure could be finished in five seconds. As they discovered their increasing mobility, they dedicated it the escaping from them. It was one thing to do so after they woke up, it was quite different to sleep unprotected through the night. We took the preventive measure of sewing up the snap buttons in an effort to stop them from escaping, but somehow they still managed. However, the weather turned cold and they promptly stopped escaping out of them. Magic!
Home: While I have driven the route to our local hospital in many occasions, I have never driven so slow before, except when it was snowing or there was ice on the road. This time, it was fog. With my head lights on, my view through the wind screen was a sheet of white. I was amazed by the speeds which some of the other drivers were driving along. The real danger was the fact that the fog was light in general, but with really thick patches along the way. Although I would admit that I was being extra cautious and really took care on this journey, some of these guys were really traveling at speed range which I would consider unsafe. It made me wondered what was on these people's mind.
Home: Thanks to the Ruler_of_spike's hard work, the boys were taken to many different activities on a regular basis during the week. That was hard work. There were some parents who were, at best inconsiderate, at worst, selfish. Children regularly caught illnesses of each other when they gathered. I would have thought that the right thing to do if one of the boys was unwell, I would not have brought him to places where other kids could be infected. Yet, there were parents who thought it was ok to let their children infect others. We were convinced that it was at one of these activities which the boys were brought to where Master Cheeky caught another cold. After developing a cold and a runny noise, we started using the inhaler to help him keeping his bronchia from being infected. It was a losing battle and he was admitted to the local children A&E once again. Thankfully, he responded to the nebulizer and the steroid treatment and he was discharged. Even more importantly, he continued to be able to rest without being interrupted by coughing or restricted airways. All in all, a good result despite the poor conditions.
Home: One thing about being mobile was that the owner of mobility would want to exercise such ability as frequently as possible. To that ability, add a large dose of fearlessness, you would have Master Chill. That's right, he was very mobile and completely fearless! It did not take him long to figure out how to employ these two attributes. One morning, he picked up the bulky cuboids-shaped foot rest and carried it from the living room to the porch. Then he maneuvered it to just under the front door lock and attempted to reach for the latch! He was trying to escape! Well, he might not have been, but it sure looked a lot like it. With no luck with the door latch, he tried his hands on the light switches. On the other hand, Master Cheeky had other plans. For weeks, he has been examining the lower key hole in the front door. Then one day, he managed to obtain the Ruler_of_spike's set of keys and he promptly marched towards the front door and tried to put the key into the key hole. Amazingly, and although there were only two keys, he was using the correct key. While it must be very tiresome for the Ruler_of_spike to be on constant watch over them, it must be very exciting for the boys to try all these new things.
Home: My hosting service was not going well. First, my host's server suffered a denial of service attack which resulted my host having to change servers. While moving server brought an end to the attack, my host also put on additional protections to his servers. One of the new protection measure that was put in place was, if I understood it correctly, that if similar commands coming from the same IP address, the server screen would automatically block further access. I must tried to log in via ftp to upload new contents and at the same time tried to log in the client area to manage things. I was denied access to my own site from home. Although I now knew of the cause of the problem, I was ignorant to it in the beginning. I thought my ISP was blocking access. I posted questions on the support forum, but got no answer, but I eventually managed to speak to a member of the support staff. It was pointed out that through the trace that there was no problem with the ISP, but in fact further down the line. Once I figured that out I went back to my host to ask for my IP to be unblocked. Due to my ignorance, it took nearly three weeks from the DOS attack to when my IP was unblocked. While I have always been competent on the PC hardware side of thing, networks and internet had always been my weak points, and this occasion had further confirmed that.
Home: Being Chinese, I really appreciated dim sum. As a branch of the cuisine, there was nothing which was I would chose over. Having not had any exposure to East Asian food in general prior to meeting me, the Ruler_of_spike got to like many types of these amazing foods and dim sum was amongst her favorite. For the past year and half, we have had precious few opportunities to carry on this ritual as we put the needs of the boys before ours. Finally, the boys have grown sufficiently to handle certain solids and would sit down long enough to accompany us for a meal. Moreover, it was an excellent opportunity to introduce something to their diet. We have been adding a little rice to the meals, as an alternative to potatoes or pasta, but that was merely the staple of the cuisine, there was so much more to introduce to them. So it was a totally different environment for the boys. And for us, too. For the past decade or so, we have been going to a Chinese restaurant in Putney for our dim sum. However, while we really like that restaurant, it was a minimum 45-minute drive from our house. On the other hand, there was a Chinese supermarket which was only ten minutes or so away from our house. Within the complex, there was a Chinese restaurant which served dim sum. As it happened, we needed a few things from the supermarket, so we merged the two trips into one. Although the restaurant provided high chairs for little kids, there was no guarantee that they would be available, it all depended on the number of kids in the place at the time. So we packed our high chairs for the trip. We were not giving the really adventurous stuff to the boys. The rice pastry on cheung fan was very well received. There was some initial hesitation with the barbecue pork buns, but they eventually loved them. They even tried a little special fried rice, which we thought was a little dry for them. All in all, the boys behaved impeccably and they were not shy. They tried all the food that we put in front of them and we even had time to have meal ourselves. That was definitely an experience we wanted to repeat again before too long.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike and the boys were invited over to someone they met in the children play group. As it happened, they only lived just down the road from us. The short distance involved meant that it did not make sense to put the boys in the buggy, so they walked over. This was the first time the boys walked anywhere. Of course they had been walking a lot. They were taken to the play area nearby on a regular basis and they ran and walked all over within the area, that was not the same. Master Chill actually was expecting to get into the car and went to wait by the door. He was thoroughly confused when the Ruler_of_spike took his hand and walked pass the car. It was late afternoon in late autumn in the UK, which meant that it was getting dark. The boys were led by along the pavement and they spent their time looking around. It must have been a very different experience to being pushed around in the buggy. Once he got used to idea of walking on the street, Master Chill could not stop looking around. Master Cheeky, however, was a little less confident - he spent the entire trip looking at the Ruler_of_spike intermittently. The return trip was much the same, although it was dark, so the journey took longer than before. However, that was their first little walk, and we thought they enjoyed that little experience.
Home: The boys were nineteen months old and getting bolder by the day. They ran around the house; they climbed chairs, tables, stools and pretty much anything which could be climbed; they learned to open all the cupboards in the house; and they switched on all the appliances in the house. The job of looking after was getting harder by the day. Yet, the Ruler_of_spike soldiered on. Although it was never a dull day with the boys, there was no mistake that the Ruler_of_spike was totally drained at the end of each day. I longed to have a job which I could allow me to finish earlier and had a shorter commute, which would mean getting home before the boys went to bed. However, I knew such jobs would not provide the challenge I craved. It was a fine balance and for now it still felt right. I knew that there would a point in the future when we had to re-examine that and it would not feel right. To add to the mix was the difficult economic climate which meant that I was glad that I was in employment rather than out of work with a family to feed. The thought of such eventuality was enough to drive anyone to despair!
October 2011:  
Home: In a normal evening, we put the boys to bed and they would sleep through the night. They have done that for over a year now. Occasionally, one of them would wake up crying from having a bad dream (we guessed). Of course, having the two of them in the same room meant that if the crying continued the other would be woken up. So when Master Chill woke up crying around midnight one night, I was at hand to pick him up after failing to calm him down in his cot. The trouble was that he was wide awake and ready to party! I brought him to the living room, dimmed the light and hoped he would fall asleep again. However, he was in no mood to rest. Leaving him in the room with Master Cheeky was not an option and the Ruler_of_spike really needed her rest after dealing with them on her own during the week. So I kept him with me in the living room while I tried to get him to sleep. Some time during the night, we both must have drifted into sleep, but I kept being woken up by him complaining about something. The next time he woke up and complained and when I realized it was nearly dawn, I took him back to his cot and left him there. Thankfully he slept. However, he was back in business again the next night. Again, I took him out of his bedroom and headed down to the living. He was crying and complaining nonstop. While I was dreading another night of interrupted sleep, the Ruler_of_spike intervened. She did not raise her voice, but with a stern tone, she told Master Chill it was time for him to go to bed and picked him back up to his cot. She left him sitting in the cot and closed the door. Amazingly, he was quiet and eventually fell asleep. I thought the conclusion was quite obvious: papa was a softie and you didn't mess with mummy! A big thumbs up for the Ruler_of_spike.
Home: After the timing trouble we experienced after our return from France, when the boys spent a good few days living in the wrong time zone (relative to the UK), we were very aware of the potential disruptions a mere change of an hour. So we were wondering what effects the end of British Summer Time had on the boys. As it turned out, they had no problems. However, they just woke up an hour earlier than before. So the time change has not been disruptive for the boys, but it has been for the Ruler_of_spike. While the boys had the habit of sleeping until 7:30am, the end of BST meant that they were suddenly awake at 6:30am. The boys wanted attention when they woke up and were quite happy to create their own entertainments. If only one of them was awake, they had the habit of talking and making noises to other to wake him up. The old trick of throwing all their toys out of their cots has been practiced to near perfection, they could get some serious distance in their throws now. Master Chill even managed to rock his cot to pretty much any location in the room he chose. The Ruler_of_spike could not even drink her coffee in peace in the morning. And then it was non-stop until at least after lunch time. The boys were too young to understand what they were doing, but it was no cake walk for their mother.
Home: The boys have had their front teeth for a while - Master Cheeky had eight (four up and four down) and Master Chill had seven (only three up). It has been like that since early summer. In the past few weeks, there had been signs that the next batch were coming through. Both were dribbling a lot, particularly Master Cheeky. We also noticed that the boys were sucking their fingers a lot. In case of Master Cheeky, he was practically trying to force the whole hand into his mouth. Finally, they were complaining without any apparent reason to complain. All in all, it must have been really irritating for them. While we were feeding them or changing their dippers, we noticed that there were teeth at various stages of forcing their ways through their gums. Given the fact that these were premolars and molars, it was understandable that the boys experienced discomfort. Thankfully, we discovered a homeopathic treatment which, in combination with paracetamol suspension, soon eased whatever that was bothering him. I guess there are good reasons why people do not remember their early childhood - with pains like these, it can be that much fun.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike made an observation, we tended to have visits by one of my family members around October every year. In the past couple years, we entertained to different aunts and uncles. It was always great to folks around and we were always grateful of the efforts they made to come all the way to the UK to visit us. This year, it was one of my many cousins. Seven years ago, she came to our wedding in France and since a lot has happened. Despite the interconnectedness of our digital age, there was no substitution to face-to-face meetings. There was so much to catch up and so much to talk about. The couple of days that she spent with us was just too short and barely scratched the surface in terms of exchanging news from her family, our family and our wider extended family. I managed to cook something for her, we went to a lovely little park with the boys and we generally chatted a lot. Additionally, being a mother herself, she and the Ruler_of_spike exchanged a lot of different ideas and practices relating to feeding and bringing up kids. As the Ruler_of_spike and I have mentioned many times privately amongst ourselves, we wished my cousin lived closer to us...
Home: In front of our house stood some magnificent foliage. A magnolia tree took center place, while a tall palm provided more shade closer to the house. Finally, a shorter palm of a different variety stood at the very front, bordering the sidewalk. Since moving to the house five years ago, these trees have been allowed to grow pretty much unchecked. Although we have had some attempts to reduce their massively extended reaches, those have had limited success in actually controlling the trees. Finally we invited a tree surgeon to help us bringing these trees under control ahead of the winter. The guy was extremely knowledgeable on all things related to trees and foliage. He was also very polite. The quote he provided was very reasonable and we had an additional discount as our neighbor also hired him to do some work to one of their trees. According to the Ruler_of_spike, he arrived early for the job and they did a very job not only in the work requested, but also cleaning up afterwards. Moreover, he took away our garden waste which we cheekily asked him to dispose of. However, the boys were the most impressed. With the long ladders, chainsaws, wood chipping machine and big truck, the boys were excited beyond believe. They were standing on the coffee table in the living room and were watching the tree surgeon's every move. They were particularly impressed by the falling branches. To be completely honest, I would have been impressed also had I been there!
Home: There was a children play area near where we live and we took full advantage of it. The Ruler_of_spike took them there whenever she had a chance. Sometimes, at weekends, I took the opportunity to give her a little time to herself and I took the boys there on my own. For some unknown reasons, children from our area barely used it, or we went there at time when they were doing something else. So when I went with the boys for a bit of run around, we had the whole place to ourselves. They ran around, picking up little sticks to poke into trees and into the ground. They loved the various toys on offer. Months ago, when they were smaller, the only real toy they could use was the swings, but now they were bigger and stronger, they ran from one to another - magic round about, see-saw, rocking horses and of course the swings. However, their favorite appeared to be a climbing platform. It was a raised platform with inclines and fixed and roped ladders to climb up, various slides to come back down and a platform connecting all the parts together. They loved running around the raised platform and looking out of the decorative holes on the sides. The other activity which they tried over and over again was walking or climbing up the slides. It was as if sliding down the slides was merely a momentary rush, which they enjoyed, but the real pleasure was in the more challenging task of climbing up a slippery surface. Of me, I was pleased to observe how well the boys played together. They were clearly looking out for each other. They were picking up little sticks to offer them to each other. And if one of the was distracted by something the other would wait a little or go and join him. It was as much fun for me as it was for them.
Home: While Master Chill has recovered from his cough and cold after a week, it took Master Cheeky a lot longer to do so. The cold itself was almost gone although there was the occasional runny nose. However, the cough was just lingering. The good thing was that the cough was not the result of the infection of the lungs or the bronchi, just irritation of the throat. As such it did not really bother him nor put him off food. On the other hand, it allowed him to develop the habit of not finishing his milk in the evening. He would drink most of his milk and would stop after a little cough. While the amount left behind each evening was not substantial, it all added up over a week, or more. We then decided that if he continued to fail to finish his milk, we would have to finish his milk at a later time. Obviously, we did not want to wake him up for the milk as it would take an age to get him back to sleep again. So feeding involved getting him out of his cot, along with his security blanket and taking him downstairs to the living room so that his brother would not be woken up should he kicked a fuzz. The actual feeding was comparatively easy as babies instinctively suckle. The difficult part was getting mouth open and him locking on and engage the teat. My trick was to drop a little milk on his lips and he would open up immediately. I used that opportunity to put the teat into his mouth and it was all good from there onwards. He even used his hands to hold the bottle! As Master Cheeky was sound asleep, there was no distractions to divert attention and I could hear his steady sucking rhythm, emptying what little milk remained in the bottle. I guessed it was a habit to take on larger volume of milk than what was left in the bottle, so he would keep sucking even though it was empty. After pulling the bottle from him, not easy, it was time to carry him back upstairs and put him back down in the most comfortable position I could find, with the security blanket within easy reach. While it was a joy to watch him drink in his sleep, it was not how things were suppose to be. The Ruler_of_spike continued to encourage him to finish his milk at meal time, with varying degree of success.
Home: The Rugby World Cup in New Zealand has been in full swing for over a month now and Wales have successfully negotiated their way past the pool stage. After the narrow loss to the Springboks in the opening match, they have put together a series of wins against some tricky opponents. The quarter-final win against the Irish was a triumph in defensive organization and ruthless execution when the opportunities arose. They were well-deserved winners in a hotly contested match. Then came the semi-final against another northern hemisphere team - France. The sending-off decision against the captain was hash, yet the team rallied and narrowly lost to an uninspired opponent. All the neutrals said Wales were exceedingly unlucky. Even the Ruler_of_spike felt her home team did not deserve to reach the final. However, unfair as it appeared, there was nothing that could be done. Additional, putting aside national pride for a minute, Wales missed eleven points owed to missed conversion and penalties. Had those kicks been successful, none of the arguments would have taken place. The bottom line was: there were opportunities and the team did not take them. Despite everything that has happened that was out of the team's control, they did not execute on things that they were in control of. Not winning the semi-final could not be solely blamed on the sending off. Now there was one more match to play. While it was not the final, it was important to finish the World Cup on a high by winning the third-place play-off.
Home: Being eighteen months must be an exciting time. You have recently gained the skill of walking unaided on two legs, your brain has been developing rapidly, your hand-eye coordination has made massive progress and you know what your likes and dislikes. While our house in London was not particularly big, for an eighteen month old child, it was big enough to explore and have fun with your twin brother. We have recently noticed that the boys have been paying some attention to the door handles around the house. These magical devices have been stopping the boys from having some serious fun as we tried (but failing) to keep them out of the kitchen. We tended to keep the kitchen door closed so to save the accessible cupboards from being raided (more like emptied), washing machine from being switched on and cooking recipes from being spilled across the floor and being torn up. The bottom line was that for the boys the kitchen door formed a barrier from having some really great times. Being fearless, inventive and generally curious, the boys engaged in another moment of 'unexpected usage of everyday object'. This time it was Master Chill's favorite - the vacuum cleaner. To reach and to pull the door handle, the vacuum cleaner has to be maneuvered so that he could stand on top of it. With the help of his brother, that was easily achieved - they just pushed the vacuum right up to the door. Having managed to reach the door handle, managed to pull it down sufficiently to release the catch, they were stuck as the door opened back towards them. That was less than optimal. So the boys spent a while adjusting the distance of the vacuum cleaner to the door, getting off the machine, pushing it back a bit, jumping back on to pull the handle or finding out not able to reach it because the vacuum was too far from the door. After a series of maneuvers Master Chill finally managed to pull the door back sufficiently so that Master Cheeky could squeeze pass and enter the kitchen. Then, it was play time! As soon as Master Chill noticed his brother has managed to get into the kitchen, he got down from the vacuum and ran in after him and the Ruler_of_spike would have to spend some time to clean up the results of them having fun...
Home: The boys were eighteen months old!! And what amazing little boys they were. They were not babies anymore, but two little boys with their own unique personalities and their own likes and dislikes. They were growing taller, walking better and becoming more communicative every day. The Ruler_of_spike and I were very aware of our responsibilities as parents and we tried our best to 'do the right thing'. It all came down to our 'values' and the levels of tolerance. This was not someone else's children, so we did not have the luxury of saying: 'Had they been our kids, we would have...' This was up close and personal. They were with us all day, every day. It was not like a job where you to Friday afternoon and you knew the weekend was there to provide a welcomed respite. They required our 100% commitment and more. From the moment they were born, they have been the focus of our lives. We lived our lives around theirs and we tried to be flexible with our needs so that they could have as predictable schedule as humanly possible. This was how we understood about parenting. This was the unspoken commitment we made when we decided to have children.