Secret Garden, an intricate colouring book


secret garden inside

My mom bought this Secret Garden colouring book for my kids last year and it was recently rediscovered when we went through our crafts cupboard last week during the move. My kids (especially Quin) have enjoyed colouring in the intricate colouring pages, and the end result is so pretty I’ve started hanging up all of their coloured pages on our walls. Even I have enjoyed colouring in the pages with the kids — it’s one of those colouring books that appeals to kids and grown-ups alike (probably best for kids aged four and older — you’ll see from the top photo that Marlow took it upon herself to colour the cover and it’s not really the desired result you’re looking for with a book like this).

The Secret Garden colouring book is available from Amazon (US and UK ) and I’ve just seen that there is also a set of colour-in postcards  in this same series. So pretty!

Courtney x

This month’s great giveaways!

Once again, we have a great selection of awesome prizes to win this month. Here are the details:

surton mer print
Sur ton mur is offering a CAD $190 gift voucher to spend on their collection of signed, limited edition art prints and original works of art by talented Quebec illustrators.

desmond elephant

To celebrate their first birthday, Desmond Elephant is giving away a £100 voucher this month to spend in store. We love their playful designs and functional pieces!

babies with love
From Babies with Love is a ground breaking baby boutique — 100% of the profits of the shop are donated to the charity SOS Children, and are used to build and run children’s villages around the world, where SOS foster mothers care for orphaned and abandoned children. So good! This month they’re offering one winner a £100 voucher for to spend on their collection.

hucklebones outfit
Little Concept has picked out one of their favourite outfits for one lucky winner! How gorgeous is this jacquard skirt from Hucklebones?! With a luxurious finish, it is fully lined and has a comfy adjustable waistband. To complete the look they are giving away a lovely ruffle blouse made from silver spot chiffon, also from Hucklebones.

To read more and enter to win, click over to our giveaways page. Good luck!

New spring collection at Elfie

spring collection at Elfie
elfie party hats
elfie boys clothes
elfie london
These images from the new collection at Elfie are just so springy and happy! Not to mention so English – don’t you love the pairing of floral dresses with lace cardigans and the wellies worn with shorts! I also love all the colourful felt party hats. Bring on springtime. Not long to go!

Courtney x

Tuesday Tips: Raising Happy Sleepers

three sleeping babes

As I’ve written before, it always surprises me how much pressure our society puts on baby sleep. It seems that from the moment babies are born, the questions inevitably roll in from friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers in the supermarket: ‘how is he sleeping?’, ‘how long is he sleeping between feeds?’ and even ‘is he sleeping through the night?’. I remember fielding these many questions after the birth of all of my babies and consequently feeling guilty that I couldn’t astound them with stories of my amazing sleeping baby. My babies never slept through the night until they were around one year old — they usually slept in bed with me and nursed on demand, which is something that always felt natural to me and worked for our family. Apart from the pressure from others, I never really minded that my babies weren’t ‘perfect sleepers’.

Sometimes I wonder if all of this pressure for babies to sleep through the night has a knock-on effect on whether they eventually do. I wonder if these societal expectations encourage parents to turn to techniques that might not necessarily feel natural and that in turn interfere with our children’s natural sleep development. In her new book, The Happy Sleeper , Heather Turgeon aims to teach parents that babies have an innate capacity to self-soothe, as well as the brain machinery to sleep well, and that by being more mindful and open we can encourage children to do exactly that.

We’ve asked Heather Turgeon to share some tips for raising happy sleepers. I love that these tips are more about creating a positive association with sleep and less about following strict methods that might not feel instinctive. Here are her tips below:

1. Build a good relationship to sleep. Schedules, feedings, nap issues…it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of sleep, but think about your children’s relationship to sleep (they have a one, just like they have a relationship to food). We influence our kids’ feelings about sleep in our subtle choices of language and tone. If we approach sleep as a “must do” or even a negative consequence, by saying things like, “You have to go to bed!” or “You’re cranky, do you need a nap!” with an anxious tone, or give kids a time out in their beds, it grows into a negative association. Instead, talk about sleep as the fascinating subject and welcome treat that it is. Sleep is something we get to do, not something we have to do. The more we convey that to our kids in small moments, the healthier their relationship to sleep for the rest of their lives.

2. Know that sleep is not learned, but habits are. Sleep is a natural, biological human activity—it doesn’t require “training,” because it’s programmed deep in our children’s brains. But even though sleep itself isn’t learned, the habits and associations around sleep are. Those habits include where your child sleeps, her specific routine, her blankets and loveys, and the sounds, sights, and feels of her room as she falls asleep. Our little ones are creatures of habit and their brains are primed to follow and latch on to patterns. That means (for good or ill), that what you do one night, your child usually expects you to do the next! The best sleep patterns stay the same from bedtime through the rest of the night—bedtime sets the stage for everything.

3. Do a “last call for stuff”. If you have little kids, you know the amazing and random statements they make after bedtime: “My bunny jumped out of the bed,” “I need the water filled exactly to here”… Last week my son called me in and said, “My toenails are pointing inward!” One really helpful idea is to make a “last call for stuff”—in which everyone knows it’s time to gather the right animals, fill glasses, blow noses and ask questions. Once the lights go out, remind your kids that they’ve already had their last call, and now they’re in charge of their own “stuff.”

4. Work with your child’s biology. There are certain facts about our kids’ biology—use these to your advantage. For example, little babies are ready to sleep after about 90 minutes of awake time because they have a very strong “sleep drive” (the amount of time before the pressure of sleep builds to warrant a nap or bedtime). The internal clock is very powerful after the age of 6 months, and it likes consistency. Having a regular bedtime and routine harnesses this power.

5. Run sleep patterns by two criteria. When my partner and I do sleep consultations, we get asked whether certain sleep patterns are okay (like baby coming into bed for the last half of the night, child only napping in the stroller, or baby only sleeping in the parent’s arms). There’s no “right” way to sleep (look at how differently people sleep all over the world!), but a good sleep pattern meets two criteria: 1. People are sleeping enough (except in the case of having a young baby), and 2. The pattern works for everyone involved. If your child starts the night in her own room and joins you at 2:00 a.m., everyone still meets their sleep needs and feels happy with it—no need to change a thing. If one or more of you isn’t sleep well this way, time to change. The good news is that sleep patterns are adaptable regardless of age (remember, they are learned!).

 

I don’t know about you, but her first tip particularly resonated with me. I definitely need to be more mindful about the way I talk about sleep. I’m sure I’ve said things like ‘if you do that one more time, you can go straight to bed’ (making bed be a punishment). Ooops! It makes so much sense why this is exactly what you shouldn’t do!

The Happy Sleeper is available from Amazon (both in the UK and US ).

Courtney x

p.s. The image above is one of my very favourite photos found on Pinterest. Isn’t it the sweetest?

Beautiful, retro-style doll prams from The Tipi

dolls pram from The Tipi
retro dolls pram
grey dolls pram
We’re moving house this week (!!) and have spent the past month paring down our belongings and clearing out all of the stuff we’ve accumulated over the past four years. It’s really kind of appalling how much stuff one family can collect into one house. And I thought we lived quite minimally. Ha!

Anyway, we’ve made several trips to the charity shop giving away lots of toys that don’t get used or haven’t stood the test of time. This exercise has made it even more clear to me that kids really don’t need loads and loads of toys to be happy — just the basics: legos, Schleich animals, and Kapla blocks for the boys, and dress-up clothes, dolls and a doll’s pram for the girls. Their favourite things!

I wanted to quickly mention how much the girls love their retro-style dolls pram from The Tipi. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it’s really well made and sturdy in design — something we will certainly be taking with us to the new place and hopefully something we’ll keep forever for future grandchildren to use!

Alright – back to packing!

Courtney xx

New spring collection at La Coqueta

La Coqueta spring2015
La Coqueta dress
La Coqueta boys clothes
spanish children's clothes
spanish boys clothing
la coqueta suspenders
La Coqueta spring2015 _2
Celia from La Coqueta sent over her new spring/summer lookbook today and it has me longing achingly for spring! I know it’s still only February, but the tiny signs of spring are starting to crop up. There is sunshine at the end of this wintry tunnel!

As always I love the entire collection, but I think my favourite piece is the Manilva dress. It’s just so perfectly simple — you just can’t beat a white cotton dress in the summertime. I also love the grey draped linen Osuna dress, also so timeless and easy to wear. For boys, I’m loving all the colourful cotton shorts and suspenders! And don’t even get me started about those floral baby rompers. Somebody get me a baby (mine went and turned twenty over night)!!!! : )

Celia told me this collection was inspired by a simple, clean lifestyle — a return to the basics. So good, right? I think this might be my favourite collection yet!

Courtney x

Tuesday Tips: Simple Food Tricks

cinnamon on pears

This week we thought we would offer some fun tips for getting kids to eat… because every once in a while it’s good to have a trick up your sleeve to outsmart the kids at mealtime.

Esther says…

  • Sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon on apple slices. My kids eat apples, but they LOVE them with cinnamon. And if I add some raisins to the mix, it’s like they’re eating apple pie! Cinnamon also works on porridge, pears, sweet potato, frothed milk (babyccino!), and even on toast.
  • My dad used to play this game with me when I was a child, and now my children play it with us: When eating soft-boiled eggs, teach your kids the practical joke of turning the empty egg shell upside down after they’ve eaten it to trick someone into believing it’s a new ready-to-eat egg. I swear, my kids eat the egg quickly just so they get to do the trick! (Oh, and don’t forget to act surprised!)
  • Make faces, or stories out of the food. Just be creative — broccoli or green beans for hair, a sausage for a nose, tomatoes for the mouth (and mozzarella for the teeth!), mashed potatoes for the bow-tie, etc. So fun! (‘Oh no! You’re eating his eyes! Now he can’t see anything!’)
  • A few years back I got a stash of vintage fondue plates from the ’70s, and my children love it if I use those for their dinner. A little dish in each section (a bit of left-over pasta, some slices of banana sprinkled with cinnamon, a hard-boiled egg, some raw veggies — anything that you can find in your fridge!) — I think it’s their favourite dinner — they eat everything so well. And it’s really easy and fast to prepare ; ).

frozen peas

Courtney says…

  • Offer your kids a bowl of frozen peas for a little snack — my kids prefer to eat them frozen rather than cooked. Marlow eats frozen peas like it’s candy!
  • Pretend your toddler is a dinosaur eating trees (broccoli) or a mouse eating cheese or a bear eating fish, etc. Somehow pretending they’re an animal gets them to eat the food on their plate with added gusto.
  • Make frozen fruit lollies — insert a popsicle stick or toothpick into sliced fruit (watermelon, kiwi, peach, pineapple, strawberries, a banana, etc.) and stick it in the freezer. Easiest ice lolly you’ve ever made.

ricepaper3

Emilie says…

  • Make DIY dinners (meals that kids can make themselves) like fajitas, stuffed pitas, summer rolls, pizzas or any kind of flat breads or crackers. They seem a lot more inclined to try and test new things if they can assemble it themselves. You can also just serve finger food items and let the kids have fun dipping: guacamole is a great way of eating avocado, houmous a great introduction to chickpeas, etc. I have even made beetroot dips, yogurt dips, broccoli and parmesan dips — basically dips out of everything in my fridge. The fun of being able to dip, rip and roll makes eating a lot of fun.
  • Let your kids help in the kitchen. You are more likely to eat something you have personally slaved over and are super proud of. Be it being the person who has pushed the button on the blender or having mixed the salad dressing or cut the vegetable etc. It also takes away a lot of “prejudices” — if you have made your own pesto (which all kids love) you are less likely to protest about eating basil, pine nuts or garlic…

Please share your food tricks — we can never have enough of them!

Handmade ‘Maria’ doll from Mamma Couture

girls with dolls
girls with dolls2
dolls and blocks
In the run up to Christmas I spotted a Maria doll on Mamma Couture’s Instagram feed (a ‘Maria’ doll meaning Maria from The Sound Of Music, complete with her own guitar!). I just knew Ivy would love this, so we ordered one for her for Christmas and it has been a huge hit.

The dolls are all handmade by Mamma Couture’s creator, Eva, who is happy to take custom orders on dolls if you have specific requests. I think it’s such a sweet idea to create a doll based on a character your child loves. It has certainly encouraged lots of ‘Sound of Music’ themed play scenarios with all her other dolls… and lots of ‘Do Re Mi’ sing along sessions too! (You can contact Eva for custom orders.)

Courtney x

(Photos by Caroline Leeming, taken for the feature on The Daily Muse.)

An interview on The Daily Muse

Courtney and Marlow
Courtney and Kids_the daily muse
easton and camera_the daily muse
girls in reception room_the daily muse
marlow on bed

I was extremely excited to be asked for an interview over on Fenwick’s online magazine The Daily Muse. I have always loved the children’s department at Fenwick — for years it has been my go-to place to find unique children’s gifts, and I’ve recently been really impressed with their blossoming childrenswear department which includes many of our favourite brands: Millie Manu, Caramel Baby & Child, Rachel Riley, etc.

When they asked to come over last weekend for a little photo shoot and dress-up session I just couldn’t resist. Not only was it fun to see a sneak peak of all the pretty new spring/summer children’s clothes, it was also a great chance to have the kids photographed in the house for what will probably be the last time (we’ll be moving very soon). I’m so thankful to have these photos, including some silly outtakes from the shoot (featured above).

I also enjoyed answering questions about motherhood, family, work, Instagram, children’s fashion and other parenting topics. You can read the full interview and see all the photos here. There is a reference in there to Maria Von Trapp, and if you know me even a little, you’ll know there is no bigger compliment. : )

Courtney x

Stylish maternity dresses from In Pig

courtney with four kids
I’m not pregnant (promise!), but I still love wearing my two-tiered shift dress from In Pig, which I’m wearing in the blurry photo above. : )

In Pig have recently released this shift dress in new fabrics, and I’m loving the black and white ikat cotton version below. Isn’t it beautiful? I love how comfortable and versatile it is — layering over tights in winter or wearing as is in the summer time.
InPig maternity dress
Of course I also give extra bonus points to any maternity dress that you can still wear beyond pregnancy (without looking pregnant!). Best kind of maternity pieces in my book!

Courtney x

Nursery idea: rug on the wall

yellow cot with rug on wall
My friend Mo, who owns Pipsticks and whom I’ve written about before (here), is expecting a baby girl (her fourth baby!) any day now. I was over at her house last week and asked to see her baby’s nursery… because honestly, isn’t there something so magical and exciting about a newly prepared little space for a baby? The perfectly clean sheets, the soft blankets, the miniature baby diapers… all just waiting for a baby to arrive! Oooh the anticipation!

I love the way Mo decorated the space, and I especially love her idea of hanging a colourful rug up on the wall above the cot.

 

rug hanging on wall
rug wall hanging

 

Mo told me she used a big yarn needle to loop pieces of chunky, grey yarn through the rug to attach it to a cheap, unfinished wooden dowel (which she picked up at her local DIY store). She spaced the yarn evenly, starting from the center, and made about 4 loops around the dowel at each spot. She then hung the dowel from the wall with nails. The whole thing took her only 15 minutes and instantly transformed the space. How clever is that?!

She bought the rug from Oliver Bonas which has a small, but nice selection of rugs. I love the vintage feel of the one she chose and think it looks so perfect above that yellow cot!

Courtney x

Photos by the talented Lesley Colvin

Colourful cashmere accessories from Olivier Baby and Kids

Olivier Baby cashmere bonnet
Olivier Baby cashmere snood
Olivier Baby bear hat
cashmere snoods
I recently got the kids cashmere snoods and I honestly don’t know what took me so long to catch on to this convenient fashion trend. Snoods are so much easier than scarves. Hands down. (I can totally understand now why scarves were banned from Emilie’s girls’ school! They’re a pain to keep wrapped around the neck, and often end up dragging in the dirt, falling off and getting in the way.) Snoods stay put and keep kids warm, all the while looking super cute!

Olivier Baby & Kids is a great place to pick up cashmere accessories for kids in a variety of pretty colours. I love the baby bonnets as well as the snoods (so handy with the strap under the chin), and how fun are all the colourful pompom hats?

Apparently it’s supposed to get colder before it gets warmer here in the UK, so it’s not a bad idea to stock up on winter accessories, especially now that the sale has started.

Courtney x

This month’s Giveaways!

This month’s four giveaways are especially lovely! What a good way to brighten up the month of January?! Read about each of them below, and visit our Win page to enter…

mamaowl giveaway

MamaOwl was started by a Danish mother living in London who wanted her baby to stay warm during the colder winter months. Having begun with her favourite brand, Engel, the collection has now grown to include many of our most loved alpaca, merino, and lambswool brands as well as not-to-be-missed organic cotton pieces. MamaOwl offers a wide range of organic and natural wool clothing for babies and children up to 8 years. From hats and scarves to leggings, jumpers to sleeping bags, choose gorgeous, warm pieces from the likes of Misha + Puff, FUB, Serendiptiy and babaà.
This month MamaOwl is offering one lucky winner a £100 gift card voucher.

lennebelle giveaway
Lennebelle Petites is a beautiful jewellery collection celebrating the special connection between mother and child. These are gorgeous, delicate, wearable pieces, born out of a mother’s love. Designer Lenneke was inspired by the desire to appreciate the small things — those little bits of everyday magic, and the knowledge that our children help us do that – as you can see in these sweet films.
We just love the matching mother-child bracelets. How perfect, then, that Lennebelle Petites are offering one winner just such a set this month! The winner can choose their design and preference of 18K gold or silver.

smallshires
Smalls is a British range of the softest, non-itchy luxury merino long sleeve tops & vests with gorgeous subtle detailing, equally good as outerwear or base layers. Smalls supermerino is machine washable, temperature regulating – keeping you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot – and breathes like a second skin. It’s moisture wicking, flame retardant, anti-allergy & itchy label free for kids 2-12 years. So perfect! This month Smalls are offering one lucky winner one long sleeve and two tanks, you can take your pick of sizes and colours! Perfect for ski season!

greenberry kids giveaway

Greenberry Kids offer a playful, colourful collection of stylish & comfortable quality clothing for children from 2 to 6 years. Here you’ll find the finest pieces from Korean brands; such a fresh selection with fun designs and unique shapes!
This month Greenberry Kids are offering one lucky winner a £100 shopping spree on their site!

To enter any or all of these awesome giveaways, just visit our Win! page over on the shopping portal. Good luck! x

Tuesday Tips: Preventing Sibling Rivalry

Easton and Quin in Venice
adamo kids

We’ve decided to dive straight in to our new ‘Tuesday Tips’ series with a weighty discussion about sibling rivalry! We hope you’re up for it, and we really hope you’ll share your tips and experiences too. Here goes…

Growing up in a big family, the eldest of five children, I remember how important it was to my mother that my siblings and I were friends. It was a worse offence in our house to hurt your sister’s feelings than it was to be told off in school or to forget to do your chores. Get in a fight with a schoolmate and you were given a stern talking to. Get in a fight with your sibling and you could feel the deep disappointment before she ever said a word. My mom always maintained that her biggest goal as a mother was to raise children who liked each other, and it was this goal, above others, that guided her parenting practices throughout our childhood.

I remember when I was pregnant with my second baby and we found out we were having another boy. Sitting there in the ultrasound clinic, it became immediately apparent what my mother had been talking about for all those years. The only thing I could think of was how much I hoped my two boys would become the best of friends. Becoming a mother of two, I could feel the focus of my parenting shift: it became less about me and more about them. A loving relationship between my children became, and has remained, my biggest commitment as a mother.

Over the years, as our family has grown from two to now four kids, it’s become even more apparent how much my children are shaped by each other, how their individual personalities are so influenced by their birth order and relationships with their siblings. (Do you remember this post and the article in Time Magazine noting that children are more shaped by their siblings than by anyone else?) Even more reason to ensure that the relationships between my children are happy ones.

Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way:

1. Don’t compare your children, not even to raise ambitions: Try to resist the temptation to make comparisons with the hopes of encouraging your child to do something. For example, at the dinner table when my kids are eating and Ivy is sitting there eating VERY slowly, my first instinct is to say something to Ivy like “Ivy, hurry up and eat your broccoli. Look at Marlow – she’s eaten all her food already”, but I have to bite my tongue here because I don’t want to create a competition between the girls or pit them against each other.

Thinking back on my own childhood, I remember one sunny summer’s evening, standing with my mom in our backyard watching my three brothers play basketball. My middle brother was so clumsy; he was short, even shorter than my youngest brother, and he couldn’t make a basket no matter how hard he tried. My mom just sat there smiling and encouraging them all. Never once did she let on that my youngest brother was better than my middle brother, not even to light a little fire under his behind. Looking back on it, I think my brother just played because he liked playing with his siblings. He didn’t play to win or to be good at it. And I think my mom didn’t care if he was good either. She was just happy to watch them play together.

2. Resist the temptation to intervene:  My natural reaction as a mother is to step in and make sure things are always fair and right, to ensure the older ones aren’t coercing the younger ones into doing what they want, or that the younger ones aren’t just breaking down in tears to get their way. But I’ve learned that actually my children play better when they know I’m not going to get involved in their little disputes or sort out their disagreements for them, and that in most cases when they sort things out for themselves, they usually do so in a pretty fair and decent way. If my kids are playing outside in the garden or upstairs in the playroom, they tend to play better knowing I’m not within earshot of whining or tattle telling. Of course if an argument becomes physical, or if someone’s feelings are really hurt, I will step in. But if they’re fighting over toys, or arguing over who gets to choose the bedtime story, I have learned that sitting on the sidelines and letting them work out their differences is the best approach.

3. Encourage your children to empathise with each other: I was talking to Esther a few days ago and she explained that whenever one of her kids comes to her complaining about their brother or sister being cranky or mean, she tries to encourage them to understand why their sibling is acting this way — perhaps they’re tried, or hungry, or not feeling well (usually it’s something quite simple like this). Esther told me that she wants her kids to understand and empathise with their sibling rather than to immediately feel attacked or be angry with them. Isn’t that so sweet? It’s something I hope to start doing with my kids too.

It also got me thinking about my own siblings and how whenever I have a small argument with one of them, I can usually understand their point of view almost before I start to feel defensive. (Perhaps my mom used the same approach as Esther!) I think it’s such a great problem-solving technique; if only we could employ this with every relationship and with every argument!

4. Encourage your children to share a bedroom (or even a bed): I’ve written before about how my boys share a bed, but I think many of the same benefits can be said of simply sharing a bedroom. I think by giving your children a shared space, it naturally gives them a sense of being on the same team. They have a shared responsibility of keeping their room tidy, making their beds, putting the books away, etc. Plus, the bedtime chats before they fall asleep are just so sweet; the bonding that takes place during this ‘secret’ hour can only bring siblings closer.

5. Ask your kids to help you by helping their sibling: One of the obvious downsides of having several children is the lack of one-on-one time with each of them. It is something I’m constantly aware of and always trying to improve on.  The benefit, however, is that your children rely more on each other, and it creates a sense of teamwork between them. I remember when Marlow was born, I asked for a lot of help from the older kids with her, and it helped to encourage a nurturing relationship with the baby and it built up their confidence as care-givers to their younger sister. I don’t always have time to sit down and read with all of my kids in the afternoons, but I will ask Easton to listen to Ivy read and help her with words she doesn’t know, or often Quin will read to Marlow, or Easton to Quin. (My mama heart!)

6. Allow your kids the opportunity to negotiate their own way with each other: I always use bath time as a perfect example of this. I usually put all my kids into the bath together, and while it’s a bit of a squeeze for them all, it is the perfect time for them to learn important life lessons: like vying for space, sharing and swapping toys, arguing over who gets to sit closest to the faucet and negotiating who must get out first based on the previous bath, etc. Not only do they learn to love and play and care for each other, but also to argue, negotiate, and share.

I’ve recently noticed a new dynamic in our family: because Easton now spends more time reading and doing homework in the afternoons, Quin, who is normally Easton’s playtime pal, is left to play with Ivy or Marlow. The relationship between Quin and Ivy is a somewhat ‘new’ relationship, and I have to admit it hasn’t really been smooth sailing. I guess it all comes down to pecking order and Quin, being the eldest in this relationship, becomes the dominant ‘player’, and Ivy ends up being bossed around or somewhat bullied by Quin (who has always been the sweetest, most loving little boy). I’ve been watching this relationship unfold from a distance and noticing that it is certainly a bit of a rocky one. I’ve decided that it’s important for the two of them to learn how to play with each other even if it means the occasional argument needs to happen, and I’m hoping that it will only strengthen the bond between them, and of course help with other relationships in the future. (At least I’m hoping — I’ll let you know how it goes in a few month’s time.)

 

So, those are some more general tips and experiences that have worked in our family. I’d love to hear your experiences and any tips you would like to share.  Please leave your comments below.

Courtney x

 

Tuesday Tips, a new series

ten kids

Over the years we’ve been asked by readers to share our thoughts and tips on parenting-related topics. Whether it’s a question about something basic like potty training, weaning or dining out with children…or something slightly more complex like preventing sibling rivalry or raising healthy eaters, we’ve received these questions somewhat apprehensively, as we didn’t quite know how best to respond.

Apart from the odd post (like views on electronics or co-sleeping) we have mostly shied away from writing these more advice-driven parenting posts. I think it’s because none of us have ever felt qualified enough to offer advice (none of us have ever officially studied or read up on these topics). And yet… the questions keep coming. Which got us thinking: perhaps it’s not about reading all the books. Perhaps it’s the actual trial and error of raising kids that makes a mother an ‘expert’? And perhaps, even more than that, maybe we don’t necessarily want an expert’s advice; maybe we’re more interested to hear how other like-minded mothers approach all the many parenting stages and challenges.

Between the three of us, we have spent the past ten years birthing, sleep-training, weaning, potty-training, feeding and raising ten children! That’s ten years of parenting, learning, discussing, questioning, adapting and becoming generally more confident as mothers. Perhaps we do have a trick or two up our sleeves? (At least for parenting young kids — we’ve got a lot to learn about the next stages…. like teenagers… yikes!!!)

Actually, the more we think of it, the more we realize that all mothers, regardless of how many children they’ve had, are experts. Don’t we all have some tips we’ve learned along the way? Wouldn’t it be fun to create a platform where we can all weigh in with our tips and suggestions (and questions!) so that we can all learn and benefit from the wisdom of other mothers?

We would love to start a weekly series here on this blog where we pick a parenting topic and shed some light on what we’ve learned and what has worked for us (not in a preachy way, but in a hopefully helpful way). We would love for this series to encourage healthy discussion and to prompt even more questions and topics to discuss. And of course we really hope you will all chime in with your own tips and tricks. We’re super excited to kick it off!

In the meantime, please feel free to offer suggestions for topics we can cover. We’ve got a list from previous questions but would love to hear your suggestions so we can start to organize these topics. Also, if there’s a question or topic we don’t feel qualified to shed light on, we’ll try to seek out a mother or expert who has the experience and insight to share. This is going to be so fun! Our first ‘Tuesday Tips’ post will be up later today…

Love,
 Courtney, Esther and Emilie

Girls on Tiptoes

Girls on Tiptoes leotard
girls on tiptoes2
girls on tiptoes3
girls on tiptoes4
I’ve always been really reluctant to sign my kids up for classes and activities that take place on weekends. I just find the weekends to be such precious family time and I’ve never liked dropping kids off at classes (or even birthday parties for that matter) where it divides the six of us up. We’ve never been a boys-go-to-football/girls-go-shopping kind of family — we all really prefer to spend the two days together.

But this September I finally gave in. Ivy has been asking to take ballet classes for years now, and because the only available beginner ballet classes take place on a Saturday I had to make an exception to our weekend rule. So… Ivy now does ballet on Saturdays and she literally looks forward to it ALL WEEK LONG. Consequently, the ballet obsession has rubbed off on Marlow, and now, at any given point, you can be sure that at least one of my girls is wearing a tutu or ballerina leotard! (To think there was a point in my life where I had two boys and was only surrounded by trains and dinosaurs and building blocks!)

Anyway, with ballerina fever running rampant in our house, we’re really happy to have discovered the range of ballet and gymnastics wear from Girls On Tiptoes. The brand was started by three Polish mothers who have created a range of pretty-yet-playful pieces offering something more modern than the average pale pink leotard. The site, with its dreamy imagery, is mostly in Polish, but the shop is easily navigable, and I have a feeling it’s only the beginning for this great brand. You heard it here first. : )

Courtney xx

Weekly book reviews by Mo (she’s back!)

Mo de Graaff

Do you guys remember our friend, Mo, who used to be a contributor here? You might remember her stunning children’s room with the dark walls, or the Cops ‘n Robbers birthday party she threw for her son, or her lemon curd recipe, or, my favourite, her Christmas Book Advent Calendar idea?! We were so sad when she told us she was too busy to continue writing for us (or perhaps too bogged down with baby number three!), and honestly we’ve missed her ever since.

So, we’ve begged and pleaded and asked her to come back…and, lucky us, she’s agreed to return as our weekly book reviewer!!

There is honestly no one better for this job than Mo. She is the biggest children’s book enthusiast I know and always gives the best book tips. She once told me that she never reads a children’s book for the first time without her kids — she likes to wait to read it with her kids so she can experience it at the same time they do. Isn’t that so sweet?

You guys, we are in for a treat. I can’t wait for her weekly posts — I’ve been needing some book inspiration in my life! This week’s post is up next…

Courtney x

Little Auggie pajamas

Little Auggie robot pajamas
Girls in Auggie robot pajamas

I have always loved the baby and children’s bedding at Little Auggie. The prints are so sweet, the colours so fresh, and I love the way they mix and match patterns and textiles to create the most gorgeously styled little beds.

Little Auggie have recently launched a line of children’s sleepwear to compliment their bedding collection, and I love that they didn’t just stick with the blue robot print for boys, but created a pink version for girls too. Because who says robots are a boys’ thing anyway?

Courtney x

p.s. Wooden robot ‘cubebot’ toy is from e-Side.

Organ donation and one mum’s incredible story

Last month at our ShopUp event, I had the pleasure of meeting fellow London mum, Louise Hannon. We started talking about children and life in London, and she told me her incredible story about her son’s illness, his life-threatening surgeries at Great Ormond Street Hospital and his heart transplant through organ donation. We spoke about organ donation and how important it is to spread the word about it. Did you know that, according to statistics, more than 90% of us would consider donating our organs and yet, here in the UK, only about 30% of us are registered? It all comes down to spreading awareness.

Here in the UK, more than 10,000 people need a transplant and three people die every single day waiting for one. In the US, there are more than 120,000 needing a transplant and 17 people die each day waiting for an organ. Also, one organ donor can save up to eight lives!

I was so moved by Louise’s story, we asked her to share her story with us and she very kindly agreed. Here is her story, a rather brief re-cap of a very tumultuous past 18 months:

On 28th January 2014, my six-year-old son Joe had a life saving heart transplant at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. This was due to the amazing generosity of a lady who, through organ donation, chose to save other’s lives in the event of her death.

Louise and kids

Up until summer 2013 he had been a non–stop little boy, full of energy, who loved being outdoors, playing football and climbing trees. We had just moved to South Australia when he suddenly became unwell, and Joe received a diagnosis of ‘Dilated Cardiomyopathy’ – serious heart failure that would most likely require transplant in order for him to survive. We were utterly devastated and struggled to deal with the news especially being on the other side of the world away from friends and family. Calling our parents back in the UK to tell them the news was incredibly hard and the first of many difficult phone calls we had to make to them over the following months.

After a month in Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital Joe was repatriated back to London in a medical jet in the hope that he would receive a heart transplant more quickly in the UK. However, Joe’s heart transplant did not come as quickly as we had all hoped and he continued to decline despite the maximum IV drugs he was on. It was frightening to see how quickly his heart was giving up and the effect this had on him as he lost huge amounts of weight and would lie listlessly on the bed unable to really talk to us. We were desperate to get the phone call each day to say a heart was available. We were also aware though that when a heart did come that meant a family somewhere else would be experiencing tragedy and this was such a difficult process to reconcile ourselves with.

We were told his only option now was to undergo open heart surgery for a ‘Berlin heart machine’ to be fitted to keep him alive until transplant. He had a number of serious complications whilst on the machine requiring further surgery including pneumonia and bleeding into his lungs. There was a huge amount of uncertainty as to whether he would pull through and we literally held our breath for weeks willing him to fight and get better. Our four months in intensive care was an awful experience of watching him suffer horribly. I naively hoped that, though unconscious, he wouldn’t suffer pain. I hoped that it was only us suffering as we watched and waited to see if he would recover. The reality was that he was often conscious and very distressed, unable to speak or swallow due to the breathing tube in his throat. We would watch him cry and feel completely helpless. This was the hardest part of the entire ordeal.

photo of Joe after his stroke

His biggest complication arising from the Berlin heart machine was the severe stroke he suffered on Boxing Day, 2013, which is one of the most significant risks associated with the Berlin Heart machine. After the first brain surgery to relieve the bleed in his brain we were told he would not survive and we asked my parents to bring our three year old daughter up to the hospital to say goodbye. They operated for a second time as a last ditch attempt and he miraculously survived, but was left paralysed down his left side. A heart finally became available a month later and Joe had his long awaited transplant. We then began the arduous road to recovery, involving rehab to help him learn to walk again and use his left arm. Joe spent a total of six and a half months in hospital, enduring thirteen operations and a further six weeks in a children’s neurodisability rehab centre.

joe in hospital

He is truly a living miracle and we are hugely proud of all that he has battled through at such a young age. We are slowly coming to terms with what has happened to our family in the last eighteen months and the far reaching effect this has had on all our lives. We never thought something like this would happen to us. We had coasted along in life ticking off our plans for career, children, and travelling, believing we were in control of our lives and future. As Christians, this experience has taught us we need to rely on God who is the only one who has ultimate control and it has been a hard test of our faith.

Joe takes lots of medicines every day and will do so for the rest of his life. He can now walk short distances and has returned to his old school part time. Day to day life holds lots of challenges for him that can leave him angry and depressed. He is much more volatile as a result of his stroke and tires easily. We also live each day knowing that a heart transplant is a palliative option, not a cure, with the average life expectancy being ten years. As we near the first anniversary of our son’s transplant we think about the woman who donated her heart to him and the family she left behind. To see our son in the garden kicking a football around again or playing with his sister reminds us of the incredible gift she gave us. (Below are some photos of Joe since coming home from the hospital.) 

Louise and family

joe

louise with kids

Please consider signing up online for organ donation, for yourself and your children that in the unfortunate event of an untimely death, a second chance at life for others can be brought out of tragedy. Signing up for organ donation costs nothing but could mean everything to another family facing their worst nightmare.

To read more about organ donation and to sign up in the UK, click here. To sign up for organ donation in the US, you can click here. For international registry, click here.

Louise, thank you so much for sharing your story with us, and we wish you all the best with your two beautiful children.

Gorgeous tutus from Tutu du Monde

Tutu du Monde tutus
Let’s talk about tutus, shall we? Santa Claus brought new tutus for the girls this year and now it’s an all-consuming topic in our house these days. Marlow nearly had a meltdown a few days ago when I explained that she could not wear her sparkly new tutu out into the muddy garden! She has hardly taken it off since Christmas.

We’ve written about Tutu du Monde before (here), but I just thought it was worth mentioning the amazing quality as well as their beauty. I did a little clear-out/organisation of their dress-up trunk after Christmas and realised that so many of the other dress-up dresses or tutus are torn or broken, but not the ones from Tutu du Monde — they’re all still in pristine condition, despite being worn and played with for years and years. (Marlow still wears Ivy’s first tutu from 4 years ago!) The tutus from Tutu du Monde might look gorgeously delicate and detailed, but they are as sturdy and hard-wearing as they are pretty.

Below are a couple photos of Ivy on Christmas day. The sweet girl — all she wanted for Christmas was a pair of tap shoes so you can imagine her delight when Santa gave her a ‘tap dancing tutu’ as well. The sweetest!

ivy wearing tutu2
ivy wearing tutu

Courtney x

Older Posts »