Kiehl’s Overnight Hydrating Masque

Ultra_Facial_Overnight_Hydrating_Masque_3605970494407_4.2oz.So here is light and fluffy post for your Friday. Esther and I hung out last weekend as she was in town for the trade shows. We spent a lot of time giggling and being a bit ridiculous, and this year we decided that, instead of spending our night in the bars of my neighbourhood, we would have a fun night in watching a chick flick with a face mask on. We even did a yoga class to set the tone.

The face mask we chose was Kiehl’s Overnight Hydrating Masque (mostly because the guy selling it to us was very charming and persuasive we just could not say no). In this case we were right to listen to him – it really worked. We did a whole home facial with a cleanse, a scrub (as our new best friend, the Kiehl’s sales man recommended) and then we added on the masque for the night. Especially in the winter when our skin gets so dry, this overnight masque really did the trick.

The next day we were fresh and ready to face the world – it has been a really fun weekend (and we really missed you, Courtney!). Here is a little photo of us at the end of the busy weekend — exhausted but happy!

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Emilie x

Maths with Lego

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I am always looking for more ways of teaching maths in a tangible way to my kids. This is partly because one of the slight disadvantages of the French school system is that teaching is very academic. It is also because I want the children to understand at an early age how genuinely useful, fun and actually simple maths is. It is such an important lesson to know, because you suddenly understand why you are studying all this “nonsense”. Teaching math is not an easy task with my two – they would much rather disappear into the wonderful dreamland of their books, than think about numbers.

A friend of mine sent me this link which I love! A teacher did a brilliant layout of how to use lego to easily understand fractions and square number. The girls and I had a little session tonight working on fractions and it really worked.

Now it isn’t 100% fool proof – I went away to let the girls play around with their fractions and I came back and they had made excellent furniture for their lego houses with my 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 which they proudly showed me! … But I still think some information sank in. ; )

-Emilie

Play&Go play mat

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My friends seem to have baby in cycles – and, at the moment, I am back in the baby cycle with babies popping up everywhere around me – I love it! I do have a lot of fun finding the latest new baby presents and there is one clear winner. It is the Play&Go play mat –  and it is genius.

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Basically it is a pretty playmate that, in one movement, transforms into a bag with all the toys inside. I seriously wish it had been around when my kids were smaller. Perfect for when you have visitors and you need to quickly clean up!

Emilie

A simple knitted beanie!

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One of my many New Years resolutions (which I started over the Christmas period) is to continue making things – just because it makes me happy. ; ) I love watching movies in the evenings, but I also like keeping busy so I have started to try to find simple projects that I can do while relaxing in front of a good movie – which is easier said than done!

My first success story (and there have been a couple of fails, I have to admit) has been this simple pattern for a slouchy beanie. I have made it for my friends, I have made it for my daughters and as a present for my friend’s little twin babies. It is so easy and I love the result. The genius thing about it is that you knit it on a round needle so you never have to do anything other than a simple pearl stitch.

Do let me know if you have any other suggestions for simple projects. I would LOVE to hear!

Emilie

A weekend in… Marseille

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Living in continental Europe has the distinct advantage that our next adventure is probably only a few hours away by train. I love picking up a magazine and a coffee, waiting for our train to arrive, settling into my seat with a good book and seeing the French countryside flash by.

Marseille, France’s second largest city is about three hours away from Paris. It is such an easy journey right from the centre of Paris and when you step out of the train, you truly are on holiday. Now, Marseille used to have a bit of a bad rep which is quickly disappearing and for good reason: it is a seriously amazing place to visit.

We went at the very end of October and still got to swim in the sea! The nature around Marseille is stunning and we did not even hire a car, we explored everything with the local buses.

So here is a little list of the things we loved about Marseille:

On arrival we walked straight into the Tourist Office (something I do every time on arriving in a new city). I explained what we wanted to do and was given all the information we needed – I love, love French Tourist Offices.

We stayed with friends close to la Plage des Catalans, a local beach which is in  walking distance from the city centre. It is by no means the most beautiful beach I have ever been to, but the kids jumped straight into the water. If you can imagine that they had come straight off a train from rainy, cold Paris – it was paradise to them. The restaurant on the beach serves descent pasta and pizza and a cheeky glass of rosé.

The next day we packed a picnic and took 2 local buses out of Marseille to hike over to one of the Calanques, the bus ride took about 20 minutes. It was a beautiful trip – a great hike through a forest and hills and then the reward of a beautiful inlet with crystal blue water.

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The last day we explored the city. Marseille’s old harbour has recently been redone. There is an amazing new museum called the MuCEM, specialising in Mediterranean culture right on the water front that you access via the old castle walls. We spent a whole afternoon there, exploring the grounds and the exhibits and the nearby cathedral – the setting is phenomenal.

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We bought fresh seafood off the fishermen in the old port to cook at home and also went for a final swim as it was impossible to keep the kids out of the water for the very last time before the start of winter.

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It was so simple and easy and fun! I really recommend it to anyone needing a break (can I point out that a lot of the above photos were taken on the 1st of November!!).

Emilie

Walking in the face of danger

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I am shocked that, for the second time this year, I am sitting in front of my computer to write a post about a violent tragedy that has hit my beloved city right in the heart. Our home is, for the second time in 10 months, right next to the site of inhumane violence. We were very lucky this time as the girls and I were sitting in a plane flying to Dublin for a weekend with friends and family. But we are back now and the air is still thick with the horror of Friday’s events.

The main reason the atmosphere is so different than during the attacks on Charlie Hebdo is that this time we, here in Paris, feel like we have been targeted for being us and for living our normal lives, so the fear is palpable.  We love sitting on lively terraces, enjoying an apero and laughing. We love live music and eating in restaurants. We love talking, arguing, drinking and celebrating life and our city. This is what the terrorists so callously honed in on and they hit us right in the heart of our being.

We have all done a lot of soul searching this weekend and the impulse to flee or lock ourselves and our family into our houses is overwhelming, but we cannot do it as that would let the terror win.

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I remember seeing the above photo a long time ago and it has always stuck with me. A  beautiful, made up woman in Sarajevo walking through a dangerous, sniper haunted neighbourhood passed armed guards, refusing to cower in the face of danger. I am not comparing Paris to the Sarajevo of that time, but I love her spirit and I believe Parisians will do the same thing. We will continue sitting at the tables of our beloved cafés, we will continue populating our streets and taking advantage of the beauty of our city. Because a couple of cruel individuals will not scare the inhabitants of this city and threaten that lifestyle and the liberty we hold so dear.

I want to ensure that my children do not live in fear and are not afraid of walking our neighbourhood streets, and the only way I can do this is by leading by example. Hopefully I can pass this message on to them.

Emilie

Top image was created by @jean_jullien on Instagram. 

Marie Puce, timeless Parisian chic for all ages


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As I mentioned before, finding the right style for a nine-year-old can be tricky. It is a funny age, when children are still children but also teenagers at the same time.

Luckily boutiques like Marie Puce have a great selection of clothes for older kids. I love their style – it is at the same time fresh and contemporary with a classic edge that works for all ages.

Here is a little selection of their current collection that I put together and which Coco, my cheeky nine-year-old gave me the stamp of approval on.

We both loved the crisp white shirt (1) that is not too girly, especially together with this cozy scarf (2). This little satchel was an instant hit with Coco who loves to carry around with her all her little bits and pieces (3). For longer day trips and sports day at school she loved this cute little backpack (4).  We also fell for the perfect blue jeans that are super comfortable and work for summer and winter (5) and these funky boots were a clear winner for both of us (6).

Emilie

A weekend in London with a nine-year-old

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To celebrate Coco’s ninth birthday I had promised her a trip to London, just her and me, for a little weekend. Considering her birthday was last December and we are now in October, it was high time I made good on my promise and so we jumped on the train and away we went to London, the city she was born in.

It was so much fun, not only to show her the city, but also to appreciate some moments together. The main aim was to go to the Harry Potter studios (we are dealing here with a hard core Harry Potter fan) but we managed to pack so much more into our two-day trip.

Here is what we got up to:

We arrived on a Friday evening and went straight to China Town to my favourite restaurant, to meet up with some friends. By chance there was a lampion festival going on so London’s tiny China town look magical (and I forgot to take photos ooops!).

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The next morning, we went straight to the Tower of London, to see the fortress, the crown jewels, the beef eaters and the guards. From there we had the most amazing view of Tower Bridge. Randomly some elderly gentlemen where reenacting a little battle on the lawn in front of the tower, so that got us straight in the mood.

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From that we jumped straight onto a public boat and travelled down the Thames to jump onto a tube, a train and a bus straight to the Harry Potter Studios. Now I am not a big fan of entertainment parks to say the least, but the Harry Potter Studios are actually great (even for me)! You can see the making of the films from the tiniest to the hugest set, costumes and maquettes.

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At the end of the day we were so tired we practically fell into our beds and started snoring! 😉

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On Sunday we headed off to the Science Museum and the V&A, where we had a hot chocolate and scone in the lovely courtyard. We had a walk around Hyde Park and finally headed back to the station on a double decker bus. We actually tried to cram in as much iconic British things as possible from black cabs and red buses to a fry-up and a Flake ice cream!

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It was such a wonderful weekend and a such a special treat to have my big girl all to myself (I think she also quite appreciated having her mom to herself too).

Emilie

Paris, Up, Up and Away

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Vivi has mastered reading in French now and she is experimenting with this new found skill and figuring out how to apply it to English, which is sometimes quite easy and sometimes not so much. It is actually very cute, she pronounces the English words with a strange French accent and the translates the word into “normal English”.

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At the moment she is testing all of this out on picture books and so I wanted to tell you about the lovely book “Paris, Up, Up and Away” we recently received! It might actually count as one of Vivi’s favourite books at the moment. It is beautifully designed with one laser cut page leading into the other as we follow the Eiffel tower soaring over Paris and discovering all of the sites. It is perfect to practice reading on, with a poetic text and enough illustrations to help out if there is any insecurity about a word.

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I also think this would be a great book to read before coming to Paris with kids!

Emilie

Little Dish Cookbook

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I have to say Bethie’s post a few weeks ago did inspire me! I am not at all the kind of person that plans ahead, it just does not even occur to me, but the thing that struck a cord with me was sitting down with the kids and choosing the menu for the week together. I love that idea, especially as we are in a bit of a cooking rut, making the same things again and again and again.

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So I decided to put this meal planning thing to the test and I sat down with my girls and a cookbook and gave them free reign to chose the menu for the next week. That responsibility was exactly what they needed and every evening they have been super keen to help out and cook. As they are quite big now I do tend to let them get on with it themselves and intervene only when asked. The book we used for this little experiment is ideal for this: the Little Dish Family Cookbook. It is full of easy, good, healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most of them are pretty fast to put together, which is essential for us if we are going to start cooking from scratch on school nights. The girls have made everything from Birchner Musesli to Stir Fry Chicken Noodles and Lamb Burgers and I am very much looking forward to the next few concoctions they come up with.

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My goofy helpers who at the moment cannot keep a straight face whenever a camera is pointed at them.

– Emilie

Tuesday Tips: shopping for tweens on Pinterest

 

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I wanted to share with you this little tip, as my kids are getting bigger and are starting to have an opinion on what they would like to wear. We don’t always have the same opinions and this results in a verbal wrangle in the mornings that we would all really like to avoid, as none of us are morning people.

The other day my daughter turned to me and said, “You know mummy, you are not the only one who has good taste. My taste is good too, but it is just different to yours”. Darn these kids growing up and being able to build constructive arguments!

So we have learned to compromise and now we all need to agree on an outfit before we buy it. After all, two good tastes are better than one.  ; )

The issue we have is that I work full time, so the only time we could go shopping together is on weekends and none of us feel like doing that. So I have started to create Pinterest boards for us to quickly have a look at together. They then can tell me what they like or don’t like and I can order online or run to the shops in my lunch break. The great thing is that I just walk up to the sales assistant with the pinterest board on my phone and can ask them to pull out all the items I would like to look at. It saves me having to browse through the racks and look for them.

Up to now this has actually worked really well for us, but I would love to hear if you have any good tips about shopping for/ with tweens!

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Here is a photo of Coco and Sara that we took this summer. They are both so big now and they now also each have their own individual style. Coco loves anything urban and Sara is more vintage inspired.

Emilie

New video: What is in our Carry-on Bags

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Last month, when we all got together in New York for the ShopUp event, we filmed a little YouTube video. We all turned up from long-haul flights and were talking about what we like to take with us into the cabin to be as cozy as can be in a little seat for seven hours. We thought it would be fun to share all of our little tips with you!

Now the results are not very fancy, but we did have a lot of fun filming it. A big shout out goes to our friend Belinda who graciously gave up her Saturday night to wrangle and film 3 very giggly and jet-lagged girls!

Here are a couple of links to some of our favourite items: The leather tote, the lip balm, the hand wash, the little leather pouch, the eye mask and neck pillow. Both Esther and I were reading the A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, which we both loved and it was the perfect read on a trans Atlantic flight.

You can join us on YouTube here.

Emilie

Momo, by Michael Ende

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Do you remember the first book that you read from cover to cover as a child? My first page turner was a book called Momo and I read it on a long, long car journey across Europe one summer. I remember not wanting the journey to end until the book was finished! It is by German author Michael Ende who is most famous for writing the Neverending Story (another one of those magical page turners).

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I had totally forgotten about this book until I recently found it in my favourite children’s book shop L’Enfant Lyre here in Paris.  Coco, who is nine now, read it this summer and also could not put it down.

The thing is, this book might have been written in the early ’70s, but its subject is more relevant than ever before. A little girl saves her city and its inhabitants from ominous grey men who are stealing everyone’s time – no one has time to play and talk anymore, which is as much a subject now as it was 40 years ago apparently!

-Emilie

Vegetable Lasagne

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We have spent the summer enjoying ourselves and indulging in saucisson, paté, sausages, cheese and bread — as you would if you are on holiday in France. But I am now craving vegetables so badly!

I have spent bit of time browsing the internet for new recipes (as I am a little bit bored of my usual dishes) and stumbled across this recipe for a Vegetable Lasagne. I am a massive fan of Felicity Cloake’s recipes, and was excited to discover this one.

I like the fact that there are not massive chunks of vegetables in it, but rather a lovely, slightly smokey vegetable sauce. It is seriously good, perfect with a big helping of salad!

I am actually going to continue experimenting with different types of Vegetable Lasagnes; I would love to try this one and this one!

– Emilie

A little tip on how to choose a French wine

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I am still, after living in France for 8 years now, a total wine-choosing novice. I seriously make my friends cringe as I still have the tendency to choose the bottle based on prettiness of the label!

The other week a friend of mine pointed out something to me whilst we were picking up a bottle of wine: the caps on the top of French wine bottles have different colours and it is not random at all. Obviously I then spent a very merry 30 minutes in the wine shop quizing the owner and this is what I found out:

So a blue capsule means the wine is a “vin de table” a cheap(ish) wine, the green capsule means that the wine is from a specific region. The grapes have been grown in that region and the wine was also produced in the same area, and fall under very strict regulations – basically a sign of quality. The orange/ brown capsule is for sweet wines and liquors.

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The other thing to look out for is the words Recoltant ( or the letter R), which means that the wine was created entirely by one person. They grew the grapes, harvested them and produced the wine. Negotiant (or the letter N) means that the wine was made by someone else than the producer of the grapes. Now this does not necessarily mean that the wine isn’t good, but the assumption is that if someone has grown the grapes and produced the wine themselves, they have possibly taken better care.

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This is just a rule of thumb by the way – one of my favourite wines, which is produced in my region has a blue cap, but is absolutely delicious. Also these rules differ from country to country here in Europe.

– Emilie

PS BTW apparently 2011 was a good year for wine here in France!

 

A trip to the Loire valley

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As I mentioned before, we met up with Esther and her family in the Loire valley for a little family get together this summer. As you can imagine, we had a fabulous time – what can go wrong with France, friends, summer, countryside and being surrounded by vineyards and chateaux?

The Loire valley is an area I’ve never truly explored before, even though it is only about a 2-hour drive from Paris. The main attractions are the amazing chateaux, most of them built around the time of Louis XIV, who did have quite a high opinion of himself and liked to demand grand chateaux to stay in. Now there are about 90 of them all along the Loire that are open to visitors.

We rented two little cabins on a campsite next to each other. They were nothing fancy, but exactly what we needed as the kids roamed freely all over the campsite and made friends wherever they went.  We were based in the lovely medieval town of Saumur, where we got to visit the caves of the Veuve Amiot, vineyards, one of many caves built into the rocks in Saumur, and the horses of the Cadre Noir. We visited the underground network caves of the castle of Brézé, the castle of Ussé (which is rumored to be the castle Sleeping Beauty was based on). My personal highlight were the beautiful gardens of Villandry.

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It was such a great little holiday and I wanted to note down some of the things I recommend when you are visiting France:

Tourism Offices: Most little towns have one, and every time I visit a new place, my first stop is always the tourism office – the internet just cannot replace them. The staff is normally super knowledgable and will be able to recommend a ton of things, also events happening in the area that you would not normally know about. They are also very used to English speaking visitors. 😉

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Night Markets: Night/evening markets are popping up all over the place in France (you can find out where they are happening at the tourism office). Local food sellers come and sell their products. The local town then sets up barbecues so that you can have your food cooked on the spot. There is normally a band, trestle tables and old ladies preparing fries. It is always easy going and fun and no one cares if kids are running around.

Chateaux: the Loire Valley is full of them, but pretty much anywhere you go in France you will find a few local chateaux stepped in history. They are a great place to escape the midday heat and I do not know a single child who does not like to run around a castle and hear about kings and queens and knights and ladies.

– Emilie

Hugo Champagne Spritzer

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In the summertime I am very, very partial to having a refreshing drink to nicely finish off the day (one of my favourite drinks is this one). But this summer’s favourite is a Hugo, which I discovered in Berlin a few weeks ago. Sooo very good!

Now this is a very inexact recipe as it really depends on how sweet you like your drink – just have fun testing!

You will need (per glass):

  • Lemon, Lemon juice and mint
  • 100 ml Champagne, Prosecco or and other good sparkling wine
  • 100 ml Perrier
  • Elderflower syrup (cordial)
  • Ice cubes

Put some ice cubes in the bottom of a glass. Gently crush a few mint leaves and pour the prosecco and Perrier into a glass, add a slug of elderflower syrup, a a little bit of lemon juice. Finish off with a wedge of lemon, and one or two ice cubes and enjoy!

– Emilie

PS. Esther and I were making these in jam jars as we were camping last week. Turns out that Bonne Maman jam jars are an excellent size for a cocktail 😉

Dinner – Ready and Served

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Last week we were on holiday in France with Esther and her family. It was such fun seeing the children interact, getting to know each other again and to see how they have all changed in what feels like a blink of an eye (it is also so nice to hang out with a great friend and have time to talk about anything and everything for hours ;)).

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For one night on our trip the kids were responsible for dinner, from deciding on the menu, to buying the groceries to cooking the whole meal. Apparently this was the best activity ever — there were secret meetings in which they decided what to make, shopping lists had to be put together and recipes had to be followed.

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And it all went off without a hitch! All kids still have all their 10 digits, nobody burnt themselves and we ended up with a genuinely good meal and some very proud children. Kids feel responsible, parents get time off to sip a glass of wine while watching the sun set — everyone is a winner.

-Emilie

PS Apologies for the bad quality photos, we were just quickly snapping on our phones.

In my hand luggage

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I have been on the road so often lately that my suitcase is just sitting open on the floor and gets emptied and refilled again on a regular basis. I also never have the patience for waiting for suitcases at airports, so I have been honing my talents of traveling not only with a capsule wardrobe but also with a little transparent bag instead of a sponge bag.

I thought it could be fun to share with you my little “capsule” transparent bag, so here is a list of some of my favourite things I always travel with:

  • Uriage facial wipes because they are the best: efficient, great for sensitive skin and one wipe is enough to get your face squeaky clean.
  • I actually am now French enough that I feel like I am missing something if I leave the house without perfume. Esther gave me this perfume stick recently and I am addicted, it is teeny and is not classified as a fluid and it also smells heavenly.
  • Klorane Dry Shampoo: This stuff is genius, especially if you have to get up early, jump on plane and then  go straight to a meeting.
  • I actually often do not take a foundation when I travel but only a tinted moisturizer. This Caudalie one is great, as it makes my skin look fresh and natural and also moisturises very well which basically makes it a two-in-one.
  • This Burt’s Bees lip balm is actually not available in France so I scoop it up every time I am in the UK or the US. I get very dry lips when I travel, so I love the fact that it moisturises and also adds a little colour to my lips.
  • I always have an eye mask with me as I like to sleep in the dark and I never know where I might pitch up for the night. Especially in Northern European countries in the summer I hate getting woken up when the sun is rising! This eye mask from Muji is super soft and machine washable.

Do let me know if you have any tips, I would love to hear!

– Emilie

Let it go!

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Last Saturday the girls and I went to a music festival; we listened to music, danced and had a generally great time. But we got home very late and the girls were tired, so after putting them to bed I decided to test something: the next day I was going to let it go! (Like in the freaking Disney song). I decided I was just going to let the girls chill out and allow them to dictate the rhythm of the day, and not take control! So I let them get up when they wanted, play as long as they wanted and move at their own pace throughout the day. And you know what? We had a fabulous day, but my gosh, it was hard!!!

Why? Because in my head I had activities planned: people to see, places to discover, things to do — things I personally thought are important and fun to do.  But obviously those decisions were taken without my daughters’ consent, and they weren’t a priority for them. We had planned to go to the swimming pool… and we got there 3 hours later than I had hoped because the Lego mini people were apparently having a music festival! I think part of the reason why it was so hard is because I project what I think is going to be fun on my kids, who, I sometimes forget, are now individuals with their own tastes and preferences.

But, I must say, we had a lovely day without any arguing or conflict.  The girls came to me when they were ready, they were happy to go out and ready to face the world, and for once I was not pleading and coercing everyone out of the door. Meanwhile, I tidied my desk and did things around the house that I usually don’t have the time to do. A win/win for everyone!

So I am going to make a conscious effort when I can (and when it is possible) to let go and let my little people be, even if we are not on holiday and even if I have in my mind projected many fun things that we could do.

Do you find it hard to let go and just let them be too?

– Emilie

P.S. Photo taking by the lovely Emily Ulmer a wee while ago.

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