spikegifted.net - Archive Q4 2012
Home: We went to visit one of the Ruler_of_spike's cousins in Brittany. While us adults, that included the children of the cousin, were chatting and catching with various people, the boys were roaming the ground floor of the house. There were lots of things that kept the boys fascinated. There was the big open wood fireplace in the living area. Also, there were also the Christmas tree and the Nativity Scene. Out in the hallway, there was the front door with the usual lock and latch mechanism. Then there was kitchen and dining area, which was just full of wonders;: the stove, the sink, the trash can, etc. That was before we looked at the cupboards. Finally, there was the rabbit cage and, yes, there was a rabbit. The boys were going crazy! Wow, a small fluffy, furry animal - there were few things better than that. Master Chill was keen to get his hands on the animal, while Master Cheeky was focus on just looking at it as well as checking its cage, which he quickly worked out how to open. The poor rabbit was being chased all over the place. In between being chased around, the rabbit retuned to its cage and when the boys discovered that, they returned to start running after it all over again. It was with great difficulties that we managed to get the boys away from the kitchen/dining area. However, we were wondering where Master Cheeky was and it turned out that he has followed the rabbit, which was hiding in a secluded spot (under a chair which was itself under the dining table, just next to a cupboard), and he has squatted down next to it to look at it. We were sure that the poor rabbit was traumatized by our visit.
Home: Looking at the weather forecast, it looked rain and cloudy grey sky were to be us for most of our short. Unexpected, we have managed a walk on a beach pretty much every day during our stay. The most spectacular was in fact Christmas day. We woke up blue sky and calm breeze. It was not too cold either. It was just pleasant. One of the Ruler_of_spike's cousin was spending Christmas with us and we enjoyed ourselves with our Christmas walk, lovely food and pleasant company. The boys had a great time also as they tore through their Christmas presents. The unexpectedly good weather made the day just a little bit more special.
Home: The trip to France was uneventful, which was just fine with us. When we got there, we quickly unloaded the car and settled down. It was immediately evident that the boys comfortable with the surroundings. In short, given the extensive amount of time spent there, even at their young age, they knew the house. They knew where things were stored, where to hide and where to run to escape from their parents. That was not limited to the inside of the house, but also our small garden. It was nice to that they were enjoying themselves as soon as we got there and they did not require any time to adjust to the new environment. In short, the boys have not forgotten about Brittany despite being away for three months.
Home: After the chili heat has calmed, it was time to head home. The journey home coincided with the boys' nap time and given the state of London's traffic, they had a good long sleep on the trip. The Ruler_of_spike had been busy while the boys were with me in the office in central London. She has managed to complete the packing for herself and the boys, and prepared the various items we had to keep with us on the ferry. As we were only spending just over a week in France, we forewent the roof box. As a result, the car was jammed to the top. With the exception of the space that we need to sit, every last bit of spaced was used up for our provisions: nappies, milk powder, buggy, clothes, Christmas presents... Somehow we managed to cramp everything into the car. We then set off for our overnight crossing to France.
Home/Work: Somehow I managed to get to lunch time. The Ruler_of_spike has prepared some cheese sandwiches for the boys and they finished them in no time. Those were followed by Petite Filous which, despite not being cooled, were consumed wholeheartedly. Despite the few moments when I had to intervene, the boys have been behaving very well. They were smiling to my colleagues (ie. total strangers) and charming them with their innocence and cheekiness. One of my colleagues organized a team pizza lunch as he managed to get a special discount. When the pizza and the side dishes were delivered it was an impressive spread. Despite already consumed their lunch, the boys helped themselves to slices of pizza. They were thoroughly enjoying themselves and keeping my colleagues amused. Suddenly, Master Chill ran over to me with his mouth open and his tongue stuck out. He did not look happy. One of colleagues came over and explained that he grabbed something off the desk and put in his mouth, which turned out to be one bit chili which has fallen off a piece of pizza. Chili and little boy did not appear to mix well and Master Chill was getting a little agitated. Even Master Cheeky had a look of concern in his face standing next to me and looking at his brother. While it was tempting to give him water to wash the chili away, it would only cause other problem as the water would only carry the burning sensation to other parts of the digestive system. So I just sat there, holding him, calming him down and allowed time to lessen the effect of the chili.
Home/Work: It was getting close to Christmas time and as it was going to be my last day in the office until after the New Year, I brought the boys into the office in the morning before we left for France. It was easier and more difficult this year compared the last. It was easier as the boys now walked very well which meant that there was no need to carry them everywhere. Carrying around twenty eight kilograms of children was not a good idea. However, given their mobility, it was more difficult - I might have casted my eyes away from either one of the boys for the same amount as before, they could now travel further, which meant it took longer to catch up with and bring back into the fold. Of course, the trading floor environment was not child-friendly. To get them away from that environment, all I had to do was walking them out of the secured area of the floor and to the escalators. They were in heaven! While the Ruler_of_spike and I have brought on to escalators before, those all in very public places. Now we were in the relatively controlled environment of an office building, behind a security barrier. This allowed a greater degree of freedom. I led them up and then down so many times that lost count. When they got bored of the escalators, there were the glass elevators which the boys loved even more. The boys were having so much fun with these that it was difficult to convince them to something else. So although I had agreed to bring them to see a couple interested colleagues, we ended spending more time going up and down the building.
Home: We needed a few items from our favorite Swedish flat-pack homeware store (in case you did not know who I was taking about, it was Ikea). Given how precious time was during the weekend, we decided to make an outing for the boys. Unfortunately, in order for that to work, we had to put the boys in their buggy, which made the shopping part of the trip less fun than it would have been. On the other hand, the shopping was limited. There was a restaurant in the shop and its Swedish meatball dish was considered excellent. It was fun for the boys to try something different (which they loved) and in a different environment. While it might not have been the most sophisticated outing for the boys, it was certainly productive for us.
Home: Having spent nearly two full days away from each other, the boys decided to re-acquaint by fighting. May be it was the fact each of the boys had full and undivided attention of us parent, they were then forced to share the Ruler_of_spike between them once Master Cheeky was out of the hospital, they were at each other's throat. Nothing was too small or too unimportant for them to fight over. Of course, the boys would not be fighting without leaving a trail of destruction. While the boys took the frustration out of each other, it was the Ruler_of_spike who suffered the most as she had to put up with the constant stream of noise and clean up the mess. Even when she intervened, it was tiring to constantly be on guard in case the boys did something stupid, either to each other or to things in the house. After a while, and it would not take long, their constant screaming, complaining and running around the house. No-one should have to put up with that. It was impossible to even think logically. It was so unfair. A better way has to be found.
Home: Throughout the night, Master Cheeky recovered sufficiently that the nurses managed to get him onto a four-hourly inhaler routine, which meant he could be discharged. I was informed of that good news around 9am, just after the first round by the doctors and informed the Ruler_of_spike immediately as she was preparing to come to the hospital with Master Chill to visit. All we needed to wait for was the discharge paperwork and his medicine. That sounded simple enough, but we did not leave hospital until 3:45pm! When I enquirer about the delay, the nurses informed me that was something to do with the hospital pharmacy. That's right - there was one pharmacy covering the entire hospital. The entire dispensing operation was been centralized and individual departments were not allow to hold and dispense their own medicine. As a result, the pharmacist became a very powerful figure - surgeries, treatments, discharge and whole load of other things could be held up because of delays at the pharmacy. Discharge was probably the lowest priority of all the events that required medicine, so there was always something more urgent to deal with. Despite all the harassments inflicted upon us by the NHS system in the 48 hours leading up to that point, I was happy! That was because I was leaving the hospital with Master Cheeky, which meant he has recovered sufficiently. There was relief when I parked the car in front of our house. Master Chill clearly missed his brother as he gave Master Cheeky a big hug as soon as we were through the front door. The latest drama was finally over.
Home: After waiting for several hours for an ambulance, we eventually got onto one at 9:30 in the evening. Unfortunately, we did not even start the journey as the crew realized that the child seat was too small for Master Cheeky. I knew it would not workable to strap him onto the stretcher for the journey as he would be stressed. The only alternative was for me to hold him for the trip, which the crew deemed too dangerous. Taking into account of how we were originally transferred less than 24 hours before, the crew's comment was just absurd. We waited for another couple of hours and we were eventually driven back to the original hospital by a cab, exactly as I have expected and sought. After nearly two days of non-stop activities, Master Cheeky was tired. For the first time he was really given the opportunity to be still, he fell asleep. I carried him to the ward which we shared with another three kids and their parents. After ensuring he was settled, I drove back to our house to see the Ruler_of_spike and gave her updates on his developments. After having some real food in over twenty four hours and picking some kit so that I could prepare milk for Master Cheeky at breakfast time, I drove back to the hospital and spent the second night with him.
Home: We spent the morning exploring the limited space we had access to. I kept in touch the Ruler_of_spike as she stayed at home looking after Master Chill. Owing the regular dose of nebulizer Master Cheeky required, we could not venture far. Eventually, he was moved off the nebulizer and back to the inhaler. Unfortunately, he was wheezing again, so it was back on the nebulizer. I was getting incredibly frustrated. In the past, Master Cheeky wheezed as a result of a cough or some kind of infection. This time round, there was no cough, just wheezing. I asked the staff for a medical explanation, but the answer was at best 'woolly': Master Cheeky's condition was called viral induced wheezing. Basically, because they believe it is an viral infection, it could not be treated using antibiotics, so they just leave the child alone to heal himself. I knew for certain that in other countries, they actively intervene using 'alternative therapies'. Also, they did not explain how or why he was wheezing without the cough. Anyway, they later informed me that there was sufficient staffing in my local hospital again and we were going to be transferred back there as soon as an ambulance was available.
Home: At 1:30am, we boarded the ambulance which took us to the second hospital. It was way passed his bedtime, but Master Cheeky was awake for the duration of the trip. I thought that he was kept awake owing to all the activities around him and being on-board an ambulance, but, as I later found out, it was owed to the side effect of the nebulizer, three rounds of which would make any child hyper. After we settled down in our ward, Master Cheeky was strong - there was no sign of sleepiness. He was still on the nebulizer as the ordinary inhaler was not providing the sufficient level of relief for him. It was going to be once every two hours, then, if his condition improved, once every three hours, then four hours. Only then would they revert back to the inhaler. The last time I checked, we were both awake at 4:30am, but I was really on my last leg as I was struggling to keep my eyes open. Thankfully, Master Cheeky was the only patient in his ward so he was not particularly disturbing anyone. We must have fallen asleep soon after as the next thing I realize was Master Cheeky standing in front of me. It was around nine in the morning. Astonishingly, no-one came round to alert us of breakfast being served.
Home: Master Cheeky was doing very well. He has not suffered from any wheezing since the beginning of July. Both the Ruler_of_spike and I were convinced that the good dry weather which the boys enjoyed in France during the summer was a major contributor to his improved health. Although we had been back from France for nearly two months and Master Cheeky has had a couple of bouts of coughs, he has avoided those developing into wheezing. Unfortunately, he then suffered from it badly, without catching a cough. He was wheezing so bad that the inhaler was providing any relieve so I brought him back to the children A&E. He was seen to very quickly and was given the usual nebulizer treatment. However, his wheezing was so severe that he had to have three rounds of nebulizer treatment to stop the wheezing. It was deemed necessary to keep him in hospital for continual monitoring. Up until that moment, I was reasonably relaxed about the situation. Although having to keep Master Cheeky in the hospital was unexpected, it was not the reason I felt stressed. It was because they wanted to transfer us to another hospital. We were told that owing to the fact that one of staff at the paediatric ward was off sick, there was insufficient number of medics to accept additional patients. This meant that we were transferred to a hospital in Surrey.
Home: Soon we were all back on board for the return trip back to the starting station. Excitement for this journey was provided by the arrival of Santa and his elves. New we knew why Santa went on Slimfast: had he kept his fighting weight, there was no way he could have squeezed through the cramped old trains of the UK. More importantly, every child was given a present! That journey was made very short. Before the boys even had a chance to trash their new toys, we were back at the starting station. Now that we were not under any time pressure, we took the opportunity to roam around the station and took some photos. Invitingly, there was a locomotive sitting in the station and the boys were impressed. It let of steam and whistled just as we were preparing to have a picture taken by it, which thoroughly spooked the boys. The subsequent sudden slippage and movement of the driving wheel just cause the boys to jump. They were terrified. Thankfully, after a short trip to the mini fairground, all was forgotten and we went home happy.
Home: At the far end of the train track, we came to another station where the passengers alighted to have a walk around and spend some money. There was a mini fun fair, rail model shop and refreshment. We could, of course, had we chose to, get up close and personal with the locomotive. On the other hand, given that we were on the 'Santa Special', it would only make sense if we had visited Santa's grotto. As it was early in December, festive spirit was not in full swing just yet, there was barely a line waiting to enter the grotto. When we entered, it would appear that 'Santa' has been on a Slimfast diet as he looked well below his fighting weight. The boys, of course, were a little scared of this stranger dressed in this red suit with his ridiculous white beard. But this did not stop us from getting a picture with 'Santa'. So the boys were sitting tensely on our laps with a nervous-looking Santa sandwiched between the parents. This has to be one of the least festive photo anyone could imagine, but we had a photo proving our visit to Santa's grotto.
Home: I must have to say, there is certain attraction in the appearance of steam train - they have presence which was a lot more than what could be said about our modern commuter trains which the boys have been on a few times before. Looking from outside, the locomotives were just impressive. These big machines with steam coming out everywhere. The boys were impressed. However, once we got inside, there appeared to be very little difference to the current generation of British intercity trains. They were certainly more interested in squeezing as many passengers on-board than pretending they were providing any kind of comfort. There may have been something to do with the fact that we were in 'third class'. We peered into the first class carriages and they certainly looked the part with plates, glasses and cutlery laid out, but that would not have been a good idea given the inquisitive nature of the boys. And there was not second class. So the train started moving and made its way down the track. May be we were distracted by the boys, but we found the ride to be smooth and I did not even notice the train was moving until I looked out of the steamed-up window and noticed that the scenery was rushing pass. The journey was shorten even more by the arrival of mince pies which the boys did their best to munch down as many as possible. However, the boys were not patient enough to sit through a steam train trip, no matter how short it was. Fortunately, our friends took with them some toys which provided welcome distraction for the boys and they were sufficiently engaged to not cause any difficulties for us.
Home: I could say with a reasonably high level of confidence that Santa did not exist for the boys. For them, Santa was some guys who were about the same height as their dad (in their view, nearly every adult was about my height) who, for some strange reasons, dressed in this red suit and wore a big, long fake white beard. He was, at best, a little scary. He was one of those people who was best seen in company with their parents and certain not someone who any little kid should spend too much time dwelling on. At least that was my interpretation of their reaction in general to seeing Father Christmas. Nevertheless, we booked a trip on a historical steam train in early December, which was marketed as 'Santa Special'. After months of wet weather, we were greeted by a clear but cold morning, with plenty of winter sun. We drove out to the countryside and met up with one of the god-parents of the boys. Typical of our time management when driving was involved and the boys were around, we got to the departing train station just in time. It was obvious that the whole set up was geared towards kids and their parents as we found probably one of the most child-friendly facilities we have come across to date. While the boys have traveled on trains before, they have not had the experience of a steam train ride. To be honest, I have not been on a steam train either, nor has the Ruler_of_spike, so there was a lot of excitement amongst the adults while the boys were their usual enthusiastic selves.
Home: Having had the new carpet in the upstairs hallway has created a new problem... The door to the spare room have been in place before the old carpet was removed. Given that the old carpet was removed not as soon as we took the keys of the house, we always had the impression that there was sufficient clearance on the bottom of the door for the carpet. Well, the very fact that I was writing about this must have given a good hint of what happened. Clearly, the door was installed when the old carpet was already well worn (of the carpet was of poor quality). Also, while we remembered that there was carpet laid did not necessarily meant that the clearance was in any way sufficient. Anyway, there was insufficient clearance for the new carpet. I 'eye-balled' the amount the door needed to be raised for the clearance and asked a friend to lend me his electric plane. The amount I was looking to remove was bother-line 'planeable'. However, given this was a hollow door and there was only a strip of wood holding the bottom of the door together, a plane provided better control than an old fashion saw. After the boys have fallen asleep in the afternoon, I removed the door from it hinge and took it out to the back garden. I marked the amount I was aiming to take off, with the knowledge that it may not be possible to achieve as much owing to the strip of wood at the bottom which held the door together. The electric plane made a loud, high pitch noise which you would normally associate with using a jigsaw. The strip of wood which was sandwiched between the facades of the door was clearly visible and I gingerly took of small amounts from the bottom in fear of destroying the door, at the same time eyeing on the target amount I needed to take off to achieve the clearance to the carpet. At the same time, I was mindful that the boys could have been woken up by the awful noise. Thankful they slept through the whole unpleasant episode. I was tapping the piece of wood to ensure it did not become loose. When I eventually detected that there was a hint of movement, I stopped as I have stripped away as much as I dared as I believed that to have done enough to clear the carpet. After dusting down the door, I re-attached it to the hinges and tested my work. I breathed a sigh of relieve that it appeared to have done so that the door was not catching the new carpet.
Home: Looking after twins was not easy. In fact, I could attest that it was hard work. We did not have any help from our extended family, so the Ruler_of_spike had her handful looking after the boys day after day. As anyone who has looked after a child would attest that children could drive anyone to distraction and looking after them required the patience of a saint. Well, imagine how it was like for the Ruler_of_spike dealing with the boys, who together were even harder work than each on the own separately. Sometimes, they just pushed their mother a little too far and the Ruler_of_spike was over her limit of endurance. In heart warming moment, Master Chill would go and check out his mother and would give her a hug. Although that would be no consolation for all the naughty childish things he and his brother would have done to make the Ruler_of_spike mad, it was a genuine gesture from a little child who showed he cared. I just wished he would learn to show such consideration before he did something rather than push things to the limit before showing his kind-heartiness.
Home: Lately, it has appeared that there was no spare time available during an average week to update spikegifted.net. As it should be perfectly evident, I have a day job and my family life is busy enough to keep me fully occupy with any time outside work. I have been generally keeping things up to date by keeping a live message in my Blackberry so that I can add my thoughts whenever I feel the need to. However, I still need to send the messages to my desktop e-mail, reread and edit them before adding them to the site via my html editor and ftp client. It is an lengthy process compared with the ease of pushing a sentence or two on Facebook or Twitter. But then again, spikegifted.net is neither, which for me means it is better. Although it required more work from my side, the control I have over every aspect of my site means that I shall never compromise my content to anyone else. There will never be any ambiguity over who 'owns' the content of my site, as I am the owner of the domain, editor of the site and creator of the content. I, and no-one else, am responsible for the spikegifted.net. And it is because of that fact, I am continually motivated to add to the site.
Home: Master Cheeky was getting it! He was saying more and more words. Moreover, he was occasionally putting words together to form phrases and even simple sentences. The first proper word other than 'mummy', 'mammon' and whole bunch of 'baby words' was 'book'. That was quickly followed up by 'look'. He also started saying 'l'eau' for water. Not long after, he made his three-word phrase: 'look book there'. That was quickly followed by his first grammatically correct English sentence: 'Doudou is not there.' (That was a major crisis, not finding doudou!) However, Master Chill was hot on his brother's tail, but at the same time, he was too pragmatic and would only use enough proper words to make himself understood and no more. He was still using a lot of sounds and gestures to express himself, without bothering to learn or use the proper words. Of course, there was their 'twin talk' which they could made themselves perfectly clear to each other.
Home: It was approaching Guy Fawkes night and the fireworks in our neighborhood was getting into full swing. Having lived in our neighborhood for a number of years, we were approaching the point when we were close to not registering the noises and just got on with our lives. However, that was the case for the boys as the light and noise was too much for them to ignore. Master Chill loved it. The noise was a bit of an inconvenience to start with, but the light shows were rewarding enough for him. Master Cheeky was less tolerant. The loud bangs were too much to bare and they caused him to panic, which meant he missed the highlights. It was annoying that the private fireworks prolonged into nearly two weeks of noise, it was doubly so as people tended to light their fireworks around the time the boys went to bed. So Master Cheeky was too scared to be in the dark and Master Chill was too excited to sleep. Thankfully, this occurred once this year that they were disturbed. However, once was one time too many.
Home: Master Cheeky was walking with his feet pointing slightly inward. It was not a big deal, but, depending on what he was doing, the inward pointing at times appeared more pronounced than other. We mentioned our observation to the paediatrician and she referred Master Cheeky to a paediatric physiotherapist. After months of waiting - missed appointment (owing to not being in the country) and waiting for the new appointed date - we finally got to see the physiotherapist. Master Cheeky was subjected a series of thorough examinations. The conclusion was quite interesting. It turned out that he has hyper-flexible joints (commonly known as 'double-jointed'), a slight imbalance on one of his legs and a very mild case of the hip pointing inward. He was well within the norm for each of these 'symptoms', and together they made him looked like his feet were pointing inward. The physiotherapist reassured us that many children have combinations of these features and it was normal for them to correct themselves as they mature. It was a small degree of comfort to know that and I guess we just have to keep tabs on whether his walking and running was affected by these.
Home: The boys' play pan, or 'the cage' as I would like to call it, was not doing what it was designed to do - panning the boys in, away from trouble. As the boys got more mobile, they found ways to out of the play pan. First was by lifting the whole thing and they got out from underneath. You should have seen the team work that developed between them. We fixed that adding loops on the matt and used a long piece of string to prevent the matt from detaching from the frame. However, as the boys got taller, they climbed out by lifting their legs over the frame and vaulted themselves out. From then on, the play pan has lost it original purpose - it was not keeping them in. In fact, it was an enjoyable challenge for them to try to climb out. We left the gate open to allow them freely in and out of the play pan and they used it more like a chill out zone. Owing the small size of the house, depending on where you sit, the top of play pan was actually partially blocking the television. It was approaching a point when we had to find an alternative. Just so it happened, we found some children bean bags being sold by an online retailer. They were kept away from the boys though, they were not to shown to them until we have a chance to take down the play pan, as we did not want the boys simply dragging the bean bags into the play pan. One Sunday afternoon, the Ruler_of_spike took the opportunity offered when I took the boys out to the park and dismantled the play pan. When we returned, the boys were thoroughly confused by the sudden change in their surrounding. That did not last long as I sat and demonstrated to the boys how to use the bean bags - by sitting on one. Being clever boys, they saw what I was doing and they immediately wanted to try for themselves. Master Chill was slightly faster off the mark and he sat on the other free one available. Master Cheeky saw that he would not able to move his brother off the bean bag came up with an even better solution - sitting on my lap. He raised his arms wanting to be lifted and I told him to turn around and lifted him on to my lap. As I was balancing Master Cheeky on my lap, Master Chill got up and wanted to be lifted as well. Before long I had the boys bouncing on my lap.
Home: The reason for all the work in such a rush was that we were having house guests in November. The first one to arrive was the daughter of one of Ruler_of_spike's distant cousin. She arrived in the Friday evening and we went into central London on the Saturday to show her some tourist sights in town. Unfortunately, the Ruler_of_spike had a stomach bug which resulting in her being sick several times during the trip. Despite being unwell, the Ruler_of_spike tried her best to entertain her. Unfortunately, the mind of an uncommunicative teenager was hard to fathom and it was difficult to tell if she was having a good time or not. Unlike previous house guests, it was almost a relieve when she left. However, that was not the end of our visitors. My brother-in-law and his family arrived just I was about to drive our first house guest back to the airport on the final Sunday. While my brother-in-law's stay was comparatively short, the Ruler_of_spike was again the tour guide. I could see that she was getting very tired, not only she has to look after the boys, but also entertained our visitors, although her brother and his family was in some ways easier than the teenager. As mentioned, my brother-in-law did not stay for long. When he and his family left, there was a sigh of relieve that the last of the visitors have left, and get to have our house back. May be all the work that has been going on in the house since the beginning of the year, along with the incredibly busy schedule with the boys throughout, was simply too wearing. And then to have house guests on top just too much hard work. We needed to be more careful with our time in the future.
Home: The reason for hurrying the painting of the door was because we were about to become very with a lot of thing. More of those later. However, the first item was replacing the carpet in the upstairs hallway and in the stairs. The carpet in the hallway was taken out as soon as we got the keys to the house, even before we moved in proper. However, the one covering the stairs was left untouched as we did not know of the condition of the wood under the carpet and we did not want to risk having an exposed broken stairs in the house. That was the reason for getting carpenters in to make good the floorboard under the hard board in the hallway and subsequently replacing the hard board. We did not want to find fragile floorboard after we replaced the carpet. We actually took longer to choose the carpet than it took for the carpet company to lay it. The result was astonishing. Having lived with the horrible carpet since moving in the house, and having to continuously delay replacing it because of unfinished work upstairs, the new carpet marked the beginning of the end of the work we have identified. There was much more to do, but those were things that we needed to get our act together rather than things we needed to pay other people to do for us.
Home: It was hard to believe that we had the bathroom renovated way back in June this year, yet, there was still a door missing. The original door had been taken down during the renovation process and it was not fit to be re-hung. The original door was actually too small for the door frame and to make the door fit in the frame, the previous owner added some thin pieces of wood to the hinge which made the door appeared wider. However, it did not swing properly and it was a constant annoyance as it was catching the floor and difficult open and close. Additionally, there was a dent which was poorly mended and painted over. All in all, it was not the best compliment to the newly renovated bathroom, so we did not have the door re-hung after the work was completed. Owing the size of the door frame, it was not possible to go for the cheaper hollow door, so we had to invest in one that was solid wood. However, unlike the hollow alternatives, the solid ones were not pre-painted, which means that we had to find time in our busy schedule to paint the door. With only a bare door, while it looked very nice in its natural state, it was not enough as a stop gap solution. While doors did not have the physical volumes of rooms, there were nevertheless big surface areas to cover. As with all projects in the house, timing was an issue, and also availability of time. So it was a case of biting the bullet and getting the paint out to put at least one coat of paint, any paint, to protect the door before more time was found to cover the door properly. So, in order to get things right, we decided to start with the undercoat. In general, undercoats were not the most appropriate finish on any door. However, given the totally white decoration of the bathroom, with many highly reflective surfaces, the mid-grey color and matte finish was a complementary to the rest of the room. One of our visitors actually thought mid-grey was the color we chose for the door as it provided good contrast to the rest of the room. Alas, we only had enough time to slap on one coat of paint before other events took place. We just had to find time to complete the job in the near future.
Home: Sometime, when I needed to get on with some work in the house, I needed to go and visit our local DIY store. Given our busy schedules, and the boys' growing curiosity, we thought it was a good idea to bring the boys with me to the store and allowed a little time for the Ruler_of_spike to do things in the house without them around. I drove with the boys to the store and managed to get them out of the car and we walked, with me holding their hands, into the shop. On one occasion, I had to use a flatbed trolley and had the boys standing and holding on to the handle bar of the trolley as I pushed them around the store. The boys were in a state of amazement - all the bright lights, aisles of interesting things, power tool displays, garden tools, hose pipes, demonstration bathrooms and kitchens... The boys were captivated by all these different things. At the turn of each corner, there were new things to check out. It was a paradise for curious little boys. Of course, there was a serious reason for our visit to the store as I needed a piece of hard board to replace the one that was taken out by the carpenter who came and repaired a floor board in the upstairs hallway. After finding the hard board, there was a moment of panic - Just how would one load the hard board onto the flatbed trolley when one's children were standing on the trolley? A small complication while shopping with the boys... I managed to get the boys off the trolley without upsetting them and had them stood next to it and not ran away. I then quickly grab a sheet of the hard board and had it loaded onto the trolley. Finally, I picked the boys up in turn and put them back on the trolley again, standing on the hard board. Thanks to their cooperation, the operation went smoothly. I also managed to pick up couple of other items. Paying for the item was the next tricky item to tackle. Luckily, the assistant used to handheld barcode scanner to scan the items so the boys did have to move. Master Chill was naturally interested in the scanner, and Master Cheeky wanted to see what I was doing with the chip-n-pin payment card reader, so the two of them ended up getting off the trolley and standing on self-service payment counter. Somehow I managed to get the boys back on the trolley and we moved back towards the car. After getting the boys strapped in the car, I loaded my shopping and realized that the piece of hard board was too long to fit in the back portion of the car. As a result, a big portion of the hard board was actually resting on top of the boys' car seats. The two Masters had a great time playing with the board on our drive back home.
Opinion: If you asked anyone who was successful how they achieved their success, their honest would have been hard work. Yes, talent was also an ingredient, but hard work was the main component. Tactics also has a part to play, but tactics provided only the marginal difference on a level playing field. Hard work, talent and tactics, these were the ingredients. Nowhere was cheating featured in the recipe for success. Taking performance-enhancing drugs to achieve success in sport is cheating. Damned if caught. It will always be so. To lie after being caught is cheating twice. Doubly damned! Lance Armstrong, the disgraced cyclist who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, was one such double cheat. I loved cycling and loved the sport of cycling. This person, along with all the other drug cheats, has ruined a sport which I have followed and loved since my youth. While damage had been done over many years, Armstrong's track record of seven victory in the Tour was a landmark of greatness until being stripped, the fall from grace of the 'greatest' and the 'most successful' would only fuel the critics, the skeptics and the unconvinced that the sport of cycling was still not clean and every victory was met with doubt on whether the rider was doping or not. To continue his denial over his cheating over the years, given the weight of evidence against him, was absurd. It demonstrated how selfish a person he really was - someone who did not care for the sport he once involved in and even less those he encouraged to cheat alongside him. He could have 'done the right thing' by admitting his wrong. He could have cooperated with the governing bodies and help strengthening their monitoring regimes. He could have turned things around be being honest and help the sport to move on. But he did none of these things. Instead he hid behind his lawyers and pointed his fingers at others but not himself. Shame on you, Lance Armstrong. Shame for the sport of cycling.
Home: I have previously mentioned that the paediatrician has referred the boys to hearing tests as they were not 'talking' at the age of two. Well they have also been referred to speech therapy also as speech function and hearing were closely linked. After the horrible experiences with the hearing tests, we were dreading the speech therapy assessment. We were assigned a double session which potentially meant that the boys were going to be assessed in turn, which would not have shown their interactions. Thankfully, the speech therapist decided to assess them together so one of them was not kept waiting. As usual, Master Chill got rather excited when he saw the computer when he entered the room and he had to be persuaded to join his brother at the table, even then he was more interested in the toys and other stuff in the room rather than the therapist. We sat in our chairs and let the therapist got on with her assessment. Master Cheeky was a star, interacting with the lady and was clearly demonstrating that he understood a lot of words. The therapist clearly knew a lot about dealing with children and after forty five minutes, she had seen enough to come to the conclusion that the boys were doing just fine. She took in all the factors which would delay the boys' speech developments: being seven premature, being twins, being in a multilingual family and being boys. She asked if we had any concerns and we told her that we were only there because of the paediatrician's referral and we had no particular concern on the speech and other developments. Fortunately, the therapist agreed. She also gave us some tips on how to encourage the boys to speak and how we could provide them a structure language environment to help them learning multiple languages within our multilingual home. For once, it was a good experience visiting a medical professional.
Home: This time when we went to the park, Master Cheeky dragged the Ruler_of_spike of to a different direction, just when she was about to lead him to our usual route. All this happened when I was still getting Master Chill ready. Being quite a big park, there were a few wooded areas and the path which Master Cheeky led us was through one of these areas and was quite boggy. He was enjoying himself and once his brother caught up with him they were off together while we adults played catch-up. Once through the little wooded area (fifty meters or so) we were greeted by an open grass field which has been mowed. There was a slope which was in complete contrast to our usual route which was almost totally flat. In the middle of grass field was a fallen tree which has been cleaned up but with the main trunk, which was a good meter in diameter, left behind for both wildlife and people. The boys insisted on climbing onto the trunk and walking along it. After the boys exhausted their patience with the log, we climbed up the slope and when we reached the top, that was when we discovered a massive children play area. There were swing, slides, climbing frames, and there was even a zip line for children! The boys were in heaven. They were going round to try all the different things. The new climbing frames were the first targets. The place was quite busy also, so it was fun to see them interacting with other children - how they lined up behind other kids. They eventually went on to other toys, including the zip line. By the time they were done, it was truly well-passed the time to leave. It was fast approaching their lunch time. However, even it was a decent walk from the car to the play area, it was fair walk in reverse also. Although it was late for their lunch, we believe the boys had a good time. Additionally, it was great to find something new in a familiar surroundings.
Home: There were a few little parks which were within walking distance from our house and time went on we slowly got used to them and found out which were ours and the boys' favorites. However, our preferred bit of green space was actually in the town next to the area we lived in. The Ruler_of_spike and I have been going there pretty much since we have been living in our current house. It was a sizable bit of space and we enjoyed the place throughout the year. The park was favored by walkers, runners, cyclists, dog walkers and families. The strange thing was that once we have found a route through the park, we have stubbornly stuck to it. We might have made some small variations to it, but it was effectively the same route over and over. Thankfully, the scenery varied greatly over the seasons and over time. Since the arrival of the boys, we introduced them to the park early on - we were pushing them in their buggy around when they were barely weeks old. Again, always following roughly the same route. On one recent Sunday, we were at the park again. The boys loved the place. With wide open spaces to run around, lots of areas of interest for them to explore, not to mention the large number of dogs being walked, it was not difficult to see why. They squealed with delight when they spotted wildlife - squirrels and birds were particularly exciting for them. Lately, they were pointing out bicycles and scooters. They were obviously attracted to them and it was a good indicator of the passage of time - they were now toddlers - and were not content by watching, but would soon demanding to participate in these fun thing. Way to go, boys!
Home: After the long days at work, I seldom managed to get away from work and got back home before the boys' bedtime. However, when I did manage to get back they go to bed, it was a total joy. At the typical time when I got home, the boys would have finished their dinner and have had their milk and would typically enjoy a little bit of television before they went to bad. As I walked through the door, I would hear the little foot steps of one of the boys coming to the porch to investigate the sound made by the door, even though I tried to be as quiet as possible. Usually, my appearance would lead to an excited scream which was a prompt to the brother to come and investigate. I would usually be holding a copy of the free evening newspaper which Master Cheeky would take off my hand and he in turn would give it to the Ruler_of_spike. Then, he would come back and drag me by my hand to the living room. In the mean time, Master Chill would be trying to get my rucksack off me. Once he got procession of it, he would carry it to where I would normally leave it, leaning against a chest of draws in the dining room. Once it was at its normal resting place, Master Chill would then unzip the top compartment where I kept many interesting things - shoehorn, keys, coin purse, etc. - and proceeded to empty it item by item. I would normally tried to stand right next to him to receiving each of these items as he pulled them out of the compartment and thanking him for his 'help'. Of course, Master Chill did not have a monopoly of my rucksack - his brother would wrestle it of him and tried to carry the rucksack by its straps on his shoulders and he would try to do the same. So we ended up with some rather comical scenes where the boys were struggling to stand up owing to the weight of the rucksack on the backs. Invariably, they would move on to other things. For some reason, they were both fascinated by my dress belt and cuff links. Fights had broken out and tantrums were thrown if they wanted the same things at the same time, ie. often. Of course, things would calm down and the boys would finish watching the bedtime cartoon. Following the changing of nappies and reading of bedtime story while they were already in bed, it was light off. Not a bad way to finish a long day...
Work: Whaaahhhoooo!!! The market has finally awaken! After spending much of the first three quarters of the year sitting on the fence, investors have finally putting their money to work, or, more precisely, asset managers have realized that they needed to provide some sort of return to earn their fees. As a result, the whole market has lit up. In a sense, it was difficult to blame the managers for being cautious: the Eurozone crisis has dragged on and on, with the odd pieces of good news mixed in a stream of bad ones; the global economy was heading into a lot of head wind with even the BRIC economies looking at less than stellar growth in the coming quarters; and paralysis in the US ahead of the presidential election in November. They all added up to make investors very cautious. Added to the fact that there was hardly any real trends to latch onto which could potentially turn into interesting trade ideas. There were hardly any activities on the equity primary market and likewise in M&A and advisory space. With yields in bonds hitting lows, high yield was the only about the only asset class that was producing desirable yields. As such, there were a lot people simply sat on their cash and waited for the right opportunity. Or, at least that was my impression. Then in September, there was a lot of activities - asset managing firms setting up new investment vehicles, winning new mandates and entering into new asset classes. All these translated to work for our little team, a lot of work.
Home: The boys have had their highchairs for a while now and we have managed to keep them in relatively good shape. Since coming back from France, Master Chill has developed a new trick while sitting in his highchair. (In truth, it was originally Master Cheeky's chair, but they swapped seats a while back.) He put his feet behind the foot rest which extended down from the front of the seat. He used this much like how people would use the gym machine which strengthen the thigh muscles to repeatedly lift himself off the chair while being strapped in. This, of course, was not original designed purpose of the part. So after just under two weeks, the part, which was made of tough plastic, broke during a meal while he was trying to same lifting-off-the-chair maneuver. I could only imagine the surprise on his face and that of the Ruler_of_spike. I tried in vein to obtain a spare part to repair the highchair, but to no avail. The online store just could not help and they gave us a standard response that they did not carry parts for discontinued models. While we recognized that, as an efficient and well ran company, this online store was unlikely to have spare parts in stock, particularly for a discontinued own-brand product. However, we were hoping that the firm could at least reach out to its manufacturer(s) to see if they still had the part. We were even prepared to accept the shipping cost of getting part over from the Far East. In effect, the company was forcing us to replace a perfectly functioning highchair, except for a small broken part, which, rather to our surprise, could so easily be broken by a two and half-year old boy. So with no spare part to perform the repair, Master Chill was sitting in the highchair with his feet dangling. He even tried to swap chair with his brother, which would be rather unfair to Master Cheeky as he played no part in breaking the chair. Of course we were not going to shell out more money for a high chair as we were thinking of getting the boys their own little table and chairs for their meals once they progressed sufficiently with their eating ability. So Master Chill had to put up with not having a foot rest for the time being.
Home: Another thing the Ruler_of_spike did was to tell the boys what has been planned for them for the day. Typically, after their breakfast, she would tell the boys what was installed for the rest of the day. While Master Cheeky would loose concentration of such thing very quickly, his brother would act as if he was making a mental note of everything the Ruler_of_spike would say. So, a typical example would be: "We are going to the library in the late morning, we would first start with playing with some of your toys and possibly read one of the books. Then we go to the library for the children story session. You can stay after to play with the computers there or read some books there. Then we come back and I'd cook your lunch. And after time, you two would have your afternoon nap..." It was all very structured, which made the days predictable but with a definite rhythm. There was a rhythm when the Ruler_of_spike told them the schedule. Master Chill would be nodding to each of the planned event, as if to make a mental note of what was coming. It was almost as if he was compiling a list also and would checking against it during the day. Meanwhile, his brother would have gone off to do something else, uninterested in what 'the plan' was...
Home: The Ruler_of_spike regularly took the boys to the library. Aside from getting books to read to the boys, many of which they picked themselves, there were children story times and they had a chance to play with computers. (Sorry, they were a little young to play with my rig and I have yet to install children games.) Another reason why going to the library was great was because of the giant soft toys in the children area. There were two in particular which they loved. Master Cheeky particular liked the giraffe, which stood over one and half meter in height, while Master Chill's favorite was a massive lion. However, it was a toy dog called 'Paws' which really captured Master Cheeky's imagination. It actually belonged to one of the ladies who work in the library. Having seen how happy Master Cheeky was when playing with it, this lady made a point of bring Paws to the library on days which the Ruler_of_spike brought the boys to the children story times. To start with, Master Cheeky simply would not let go of it. However, as a sign of how he, and his brother, has been maturing over time, when the Ruler_of_spike told him it was time to leave and to return Paws to the lady, he would bring the toy back to her, gave the toy a kiss before handing it over with a big smile. I was certain that the regular scheduling that the Ruler_of_spike has worked so hard to put in place and kept up has given the boys the confidence in knowing that they would be going back to do the things that they liked and, as a result, able to progress without worrying about letting go.
Home: It has been around two weeks since the boys came back to the UK. During their stay in France, the Ruler_of_spike informed me that they had almost insatiable appetite. Main meals, bread, cheers, fruits, yogurts, biscuits, compots, milk, wild fruits, they got their hands on pretty much every they could reach and polished them off. Yet, they did appeared to have put on much weight. They got taller, but not heavier. However, since getting back, we noticed that they were suddenly getting heavier! Just like that. Master Cheeky was over thirteen kilograms and Master Chill was approaching fourteen and half kilograms. Given that they still needed to be pushed around in the double buggy, the boys represented a heavy load for the Ruler_of_spike to push around. What we needed now was the boys to walk and remained in control. Unlike a single child, who could be looked after by one adult, the two Masters, if they decided to something different, they could be running in opposite directions, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to control them. I discovered that when I took the boys out to the play area on my own at weekends. I ended up quickly picking up one of them to run after the other. With the weight they have recently gained and the fact that whoever that was picked up was likely to be complaining and struggling, running after the other one was a tough assignment.