Sometimes, I take a photograph of Ava and Ruby together and I am astounded at how similar they look.
That probably sounds odd – I mean, they are sisters after all, and very close in age. But when I look at them, just day to day, they look really different to me.
Ava has big, dark brown eyes and straight hair, and she's quite tall and willowy, whereas Ruby has big, bright blue eyes and a mop of ringlet curls, and her body is strong and more stocky.
When I see those photos though, those completely static images which have captured their striking similarities, it makes me wonder whether my perception of them looking so different from one another is really about their personalities.
Chalk and cheese might be slightly too strong a phrase (woe betide me if either ever feels they're not being treated exactly the same as the other), and I don't really like to label them when they're so little.
But I'll do it anyway.
As an overview, Ava is the theatrical one – she's loud, and confident and never stops talking. She likes telling everyone she's going to sing them a song (knowing full well they'll expect a quick Twinkle Twinkle Little Star), and then making up a song which last for approximately 25 minutes.
It's quite often about a lonely flower or a baby unicorn, or sometimes both – and if she senses you're tiring of it, she'll inject something very unexpected into the tune, like a "AAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHH!" to pull you back in. By the time she's finished, you've sort of forgotten who you are, and where you live.
Ruby is not shy, but she is the quieter one. Being littler, she'll often follow suit with a singing performance, but it'll be something like a relatively quiet chorus of Fly Me To The Moon, and it'll last for two minutes rather than 25.
She'll take a quick bow and then, tired by that time of being the centre of attention, she'll pootle off to find something more interesting to do, like seeing if she can go fast enough on her scooter to smash the French doors open, or seeing if she can balance enough things on top of each other to climb up to the loft hatch.
Ava is all about the words. Ruby is all about the numbers.
Ava likes pink. Ruby likes blue.
Ava would snack on fruit all day. Ruby dislikes fruit so much, she's almost phobic about it, and if she sees Ava with a slice of apple, she'll ask me for an olive, or pretty much any sort of antipasti.
And so began a standard 'mummy day' recently, full of indecision about what we should eat, what we should talk about and what we should do.
Ava: "Boiled egg, please."
Ruby: "Noooo! Scrambled egg! With oliffs, Mummy?"
Me: "We'll have cereals and toast."
Me: "Right, shall we decide what we are going to do today?"
Ava: "Mummy, you know... when we have a real cat I'm going to call it Rainbowy and it will have a bow on it and it will be white and it might be naughty but I won't put it on the naughty step because cats don't stay where they're told and mummy you know when it's Easter we should get a chick and we can call it Chicky and it can live in the garden and it won't be eaten by a fox because it will be too quick and anyway foxes like to eat hedgehogs which is what Bobby said and..."
Ruby (at the same time, bashing the back door): "MUMMY! THERE'S A PIGEON!"
Ava: "...hedgehogs are spiky have you ever touched one are you allowed to touch them or do they hurt and mummy maybe we could make a card with a hedgehog on it and give it to Daddy or we could make a hedgehog out of this cardboard and we could leave it by the front door and when daddy comes home he will JUMP because he will think there is a hedgehog in the house and he might laugh after that and..."
Ruby (still at the same time, but managing to get the door open and suddenly running down the garden at full pelt with a plastic spade in her hand): "MUMMMMMY THERE IS A PIGEEEON!"
Ava: "...that would be REALLY funny can we do that mummy can we do that can we mummy can we do that...?"
Me: "Hang on a minute, Ruby's trying to get over the garden fence..."
Me: (regretting presenting them with a choice the instant the words left my mouth): "Right, well I think we could either go to the park, or we could go to soft play."
Ava / Ruby: "YAY! THE PARK!" / "YAY! SOFT PLAY!"
Me: "Well we have to choose, it's one or the other, we can't do both..."
Ava / Ruby: "YAY! THE PARK!" / "YAY! SOFT PLAY!"
Me: "Seriously, which one?"
Ava / Ruby: "NOT soft play!" / "NOT the park!"
25 minutes later...
Me: "We could go to soft play today and the park tomorrow?"
Ava / Ruby: "NOOOOOO!" / "YAAAAAAYYY!"
15 minutes later...
Ava / Ruby: "Waaaaaah!" / "Poor Ava."
10 minutes later...
Me: "So let's go to the park today and..."
Ava / Ruby: "YAAAAAYYY!" / "Waaaaaaah!"
5 minutes later...
Me: "It's too late, we don't have enough time left. We're going to the supermarket and then the post office."
Ava: "Nooo, Mummy, that's boring!"
Ruby: "Yes. Boring, Mummy!"
They were right, it was boring, but at least they bloody agreed on something...