I have become borderline obsessed with my WordPress blog stats, which analyses my readership daily, showing me where visitors come from, search results and clicks. I have an oddly loyal following in the South Pacific islands, though not in Outer Mongolia, which is perplexing given Joe and I must have met most of the 5 or so inhabitants when we visited, and their yaks. The analytics reveal that, despite my desperately entertaining prose, people are most interested in the practical, given ‘poo chart’ is not only one of my most popular search terms but also has the highest click through rate. Either that, or I am attracting a lot of Tahitian scatophiles.
So, dear reader, I am listening, and this week’s blog is therefore a guide to what twin and general baby equipment has been useful, and where you may as well save your money and spend it on earplugs instead.
Let’s start with the big ticket items. First and foremost, The Buggy. We spent AGES researching which one to buy and talking to other twin parents. With this and the car seats, Jon pretty much took the lead, which I guess is a bit of a boy thing, as they have SPECS and lots of numbers which can be compared on a spreadsheet; oddly he hasn’t been as involved in choosing frilly swimming pants.
We plumped for the Out and About Nipper (http://www.outnabout.com/) , which is a side by side buggy rather than a tandem (where one twin is behind the other, making it narrower for doorways but, frankly, dangerous for crossing roads as they’re so long you have to push it into the road before you plus one twin is just staring at a seat back). It’s easy to manoeuvre, comfy and cosy for the girls, and served us well in London. However, despite claiming to be the width of a wheelchair, there were a lot of doors literally closed to us, it doesn’t fold up small and is heavy to lug about (we needed to keep it in the car boot as it was too big for our hall, so I was always having to lift it out). But the biggest problem has been since we moved to a more rural setting. We get a tyre puncture now every other day, and it is VERY HARD to pull a buggy with two heffalumps and a flat tyre up a hill. It’s not as if we’re going for walks over jagged lava fields; mostly pavements and the occasional dirt track, and this is meant to be an off roader. We’ve written to the manufacturer, pointing out they claim you can venture where others daren’t, and the Wirral isn’t exactly the surface of the moon, and they’re sending us new tyres, plus some special gunk which goes between the tyre and the inner tube so that even if you get a thorn, the tube should still say intact. So credit to them. But, till that arrives, it’s costing us a fiver each time we go out.
We’ve bought a spare buggy – the McClaren Twin Techno (http://tinyurl.com/a9lk6vz). It’s much lighter, is still suitable from birth, but isn’t quite as sturdy for repeated use. However, it’s only 10.5kg, and is a much easier fold, so we’ll be using that when we fly in May as we should, fingers crossed, be able to take it right up to the gate.
Lesson one – should have got these much earlier, as we spent a couple of months trying to spoon porridge with them cradled on our laps (more in my weaning post to follow; I have a dead sofa now). I thought they needed to be sitting up properly but really the chairs are so supportive they only need to have strong necks. We went for the Stokke Tripp Trapp chairs (http://tinyurl.com/bc3rh85). They’re VERY expensive (thanks Mum!) but with the adjustable seat and foot rest should last for ages – they’ll be able to eat with us at the table and then it can become a desk chair for homework until they’re about 10. They’re made of wood, and come in different, tasteful finishes to blend in with your kitchen. There aren’t any grooves between padding and seat for food to get trapped and start to grow. There isn’t a tray, so instead the food goes on the table which means the chair can be pushed in safely. On the downside, in addition to the £200 for the chair itself, you have to get a baby set (harness, leg extenders to make it more stable, plastic support to keep them from falling forward , cushions etc), which adds another £50, but there are literally hundreds of them for sale on eBay, Friend of Twin Parents, so, especially if you’re in London, you should be able to pick two up for half price locally.
I scoured the internet for playpens which were larger than a postage stamp and couldn’t find any. I think they’re restrictive enough for singletons, let alone two hellbent on sitting on top of each other. I’ve therefore made my own, out of those rubber interlocking floortiles you get in nurseries, which are colourful and soft on little heads when you haven’t quite mastered staying upright, combined with some riot grade fencing. They now have a 64 square feet safe and fun area which should be plenty big enough for them up to about 2. It means all their
crap toys are in one place and not taking over the adult spaces, and I know I can dare to nip to the loo and they won’t die. Thanks Granny Margaret! The tiles cost £35 for a pack of 36 (we use two packs) and the fencing is £99 plus another £99 for an extension pack. We’ll be able to use it in the garden in the summer, and to divide off rooms later if and when we move. Good buy.
Bits and pieces
Bumbos ROCK. And, again, we should have got these much earlier, possibly as soon as they could support their necks, as they have really helped them with sitting but now, at almost 10 months, one of the girls who shall not be named can get her bottom a bit wedged…they graduated to Bumbos after growing out of their swing seats. You MUST get these (although I still catch myself humming the brain-rotting tunes) as the rocking motion and music soothes them and when they were wee they’d nod off.
Musical instruments. They LOVE their little bells and marraccas. They are quickly becoming the VERY LOUD soundtrack to my life. Can’t wait till they start the recorder. Oh, actually, I can…
We dutifully bought two slings from Mamas and Papas. They’re soft, but structured but, tbh, we never use them. The plan was we could both go for walks down cliffs and stuff, free from the buggy’s insistence on a flat earth, but they’re just so HEAVY, and they’re a faff to get the girls in and out of.
We have endless toys, but the hits have been some of the basics/unexpected. Scores of different teething rings, but what they’ve found most helpful is an old leather wallet. Before the Bumbos an old Pampers box worked as a brilliant ship to sail them across the floor. Anything mirrored. Those envelopes with the clear window. Stacking plastic cups. Sod special baby music CDs – it’s Britney, Girls Aloud and Peruvian panpipes all the way.
Not going broke
Twins are expensive, there’s no getting away from it. Unlike Normals, you can’t hand things down as they need to use stuff simultaneously. Make friends with eBay, and be the exception to the rule that normally BOGOFFs are RIPOFFs because you never wanted 24 apples in the first place and they just rot…as a twin parent, develop BOGOFF radar.
Join ALL the supermarkets’ baby clubs for endless vouchers, and fill in every form you find for Pampers/Huggies etc. Accept that your washing machine and tumble drier will be on 24/7 so make sure you get a heavy usage tariff with your fuel supplier.
Join TAMBA and check out their discount page. You get 20% off with JoJo Maman Bebe for example, and with Clarks, who also hold special twin days each year where you can make an appointment and bulk buy (including for you). Mumsnet also has some great partner offers, including on holidays eg 7% off Mark Warner and at the Martinhal in Portugal, a baby resort we will be checking out in May, a £100 credit per room.
Finally, don’t be ashamed of begging. Everyone oohs and ahs over twins – they ARE special – so exploit it. We got 10% off our rooms at the Martinhal and, after pointing out that for the 300 euros they were charging us for an extra cot for a fortnight, we could stop at a shop on the way from the airport and buy three, they waived that too.
Talking of their specialness, I leave you with this tale. I was at the surgery last week to book an appointment for one of the girls. The receptionist was checking on the computer and looked up at me saying ‘it says here you’ve got two children born on the same day, huh?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied. To which she asks, genuinely perplexed, ‘How come?’ ‘They’re TWINS’. ‘Oh, wow.’
I think we may have inadvertently moved to Dibley…