Tuesday tips — bike safety

bikes

We live in bike country here in the Netherlands — because it’s so incredibly flat (we have virtually no mountains whatsoever!) a bike is just the ideal method of transportation. Traffic layout has been optimised for bikes, there are dedicated bike lanes everywhere and we even have special bike-lane traffic lights. With biking in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to write a little post about bike safety… Here goes!

Tips for taking your children on your own bike:

  • Young children can be taken on your bike but have to sit in a proper bike seat. From when the baby is about 12 months old (or when the neck and the back of the baby are strong enough), you can take your baby on the bike with you, on a special seat hanging from the steer. When your child outgrows this seat (around 2 years old), you can transfer him to a special bike seat on the back of your bike. The seat on the back is more comfortable to cycle with and more comfortable for the child as well (wind, rain, sun, etc) — so as soon as you can, transferring your child to the back is a good idea. Ask you local bike store for a recommended bike seat that meets safety standards.
  • Make sure your bike is safe, strong, and stable. Make sure that the seat is low enough so you can touch the ground with both feet when standing still.
  • I personally like to have a special double leg bike stand under my bike so when I lift children onto my bike, the bike won’t fall over.
  • Spike guards are mandatory when you child has outgrown the special seat on the back of your bike. It’s ok to take your child on the back of your bike when she has outgrown the toddler bike seat (around the age of 5), but do make sure that the spikes of your rear wheel are covered with plastic guards so the foot of your child can not get caught in the spikes. These kind of guards are not expensive and can be easily attached, so if you don’t have them — get them! (Both my son, Pim, and Emilie’s daughter Vivi have broken their legs because their feet got caught in the spikes, so we speak from experience here!!) Foldable foot rests that attach to the frame are needed too.
  • Helmets should be worn. Even though here in the Netherlands it seems that nobody wears a helmet, I try to make a point of encouraging my children to wear one whenever they ride their own bike. Make sure the helmet fits well, and meets safety standards.
  • A little side note — even though some of my friends are comfortable doing it, I would personally recommend against taking a little baby on your bike. Not even (or especially not!) in a baby-carrier. I think a baby, until their back and neck is strong enough, shouldn’t be taken on a bike altogether.

Sara on her bike

And of course, our children love to ride their own bikes when they’re ready for it. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure you have the right size bike for your child. Your child should be able to touch the ground with both feet when standing still. A bike that is too big is not safe.
  • I prefer bikes with coaster breaks instead of hand breaks (or both).
  • A bike should always have proper lights front and back, and reflectors on the wheels, so the bike is well visible. (Here in Amsterdam, the police often checks cyclists and we do get fined if our lights don’t work properly!)
  • Again, your children should wear proper helmets that fit well and meet safety standards.
  • Practise with your children. Experience is key — children need to learn about road rules, different traffic situations and how to handle different situations. The more experienced they are, the more safe they will be.

On a side note — after trying with Sara to teach her to cycle with side wheels, with Pim we learned that it’s better not to bother with these. It’s best to immediately work on balance and control over the bike (yes! running next to them!). If you can, a peddle-less balance bike like a like-a-bike is a great introduction to cycling — the child will learn balancing perfectly and the transition to a proper bike will be a piece of cake.

Hope these tips will come in handy — as always, please share your tips and tricks if you have any!

xxx Esther

Some photos and an interview with Little Years blog

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A few weeks ago the lovely French/German photographer Christina Schumacher came over to our house to take some informal photos for an interview with the beautiful German blog Little Years, and I really love the way she captured our family. I thought it would be fun to share some photos here (well, more than some — it was too hard to choose!) but you’d better head over to the Little Years blog to read the interview here. It is the kind of interview that makes you step back and look at your life as an outsider, and then step back in and realise how lucky and entirely happy you are, with everything in your life — the joy, the sadness, the little things. Life is a journey, and a beautiful one.

xxx Esther

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DIY: Hairclips

Hairclips

Esther and her lovely Hair Style posts inspired me for this craft. Apparently someone’s eating Tila’s hair clips at our home because a week doesn’t go by that we don’t lose at least (!) one. Usually even more. So instead of buying them again I decided to make a few instead. And they turned out great! Like always I tried to find the simplest way and these are literally done in minutes – the thing that takes the longest is actually the drying of the glue.

Hairclips

So, the things you need are:

Some fabric leftovers
Scissors
Glue
Glitter and furry pom poms (optional)
Hair Clips (I got mine from Ebay)

Hairclips

Draw a shape (a star, a heart, a cloud etc.) on the back side of fabric and cut it out.

Hairclips

If you want to make it glittery, first cover the front side with glue and sprinkle generously. Let it dry for about an hour or so and shake off the excess. You’ll do yourself a big favor if you do this outside or you’ll have glitter everywhere like I do!

Hairclips

The bow is also really easy to do. First cut two strips about 6 and 4 centimetres long and one 1.5 cm wide and the other one half thinner. It’s even better if you have ribbons because they won’t fray on edges in time. Now glue both ends of the thicker strip together like on the second photo above. Fold in half and wrap the thinner strip around (begin and finish at the part where the thicker strip is glued together), glue in place and strip away the excess.

Hairclips

Done!

Hairclips

I also did one with pompoms where you only need to glue the three together but there are endless possibilities. Now all there’s left to do is glue the little embellishments on hair clips. So easy.

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Yvestown in the Kitchen

Yvestown in the kitchen

Do you ever take cookbooks to bed? I do! I just love food — eating it, preparing it, looking at it, and yes, even reading about it.
Yvestown in the Kitchen,  written by Yvonne of the beautiful blog Yvestown, is the kind of cookbook which is just the perfect read. It is the combination of a cookbook, a portfolio of beautiful food styling and photography, and it shows the most gorgeous interiors of some of the writer’s enormously creative friends.


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Yvestown_in_the_kitchen3

Yvestown in the Kitchen was first published in Dutch but has recently been translated to English, so if you’re looking for a nice present for a food-loving friend (or for your food-loving self!), you can now pick up a copy on Amazon (UK or US) .

xxx Esther

Tuesday Tips: Encouraging good table manners

Table manners

When I was little, my mom would occasionally organise at-home tea parties around the kitchen table for me and my four siblings. We brought out the fancy tea set with tea cups and saucers, we often got dressed up in our fanciest clothes and came to the table looking very proper, and my mom would joke that the Queen might very well show up to our tea party so we had to be on our very best behaviour. She taught us to sit still in our chairs, put our napkins on our laps, use our utensils properly, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, to offer treats to others before taking one for yourself, to sit at the table until everyone is finished, etc. Because it was such a fun and special thing to do, we all (even my rambunctious brothers!) got really into the idea of using our best ‘tea party manners’ at the table. Little did we know that my mom was teaching us table manners (and that the Queen of England was never going to show up to our house in small-town America).

Then, whenever my parents would take us all out to dinner at a restaurant or at a friend’s house, she would brief us beforehand, asking us to use our best ‘tea party manners’. We knew exactly what she meant when she said this because we had practiced it.

Isn’t that smart?! We may not have always been perfectly behaved at the dinner table and she didn’t always enforce perfect manners at every meal, but when she really needed us to behave, we knew what to do.

I’ll admit to being a bit of a stickler about table manners now that I’m a mother. I think it’s important for kids to learn how to sit properly through a meal — to know that they can’t get out of their seats, they’re not allowed toys or other distractions, and that they have to behave and be respectful at the table. I find that establishing these rules at home makes it easier to go out to restaurants with your kids and means that mealtimes are generally more enjoyable for everyone.

Do you have any tips or tricks for encouraging good table manners? I’m thinking I might copy my mom’s technique and start hosting the occasional tea party for my kids…

Courtney xx

Pregnancy Yoga DVD by Nadia Narain

Nadia's pregnancy yoga

I’ve mentioned Nadia before (here), and in that post I wrote a little bit about how she supported me through my pregnancy with Marlow and how she transformed the way I view childbirth. I am certain it is because of her yoga classes and support that I was able to give birth in a way I had always dreamed about doing. Nadia’s classes are both empowering and beautiful, offering both the emotional tools as well as physical endurance to feel strong, grounded and capable of giving birth.

I’m actually just about to head over to one of her (non pregnancy) classes this evening (!), but I wanted to quickly write to let you know that her new pregnancy dvd is finally out and I’m so excited to share about it with all of you lucky pregnant mamas. Her Everyday Yoga dvd is awesome (my husband does 20 minutes of yoga with her dvd nearly every morning before work!), and is such an easy way to squeeze in yoga from your home whenever it is convenient. How wonderful for pregnant mothers to be able to practice yoga in the same way, from the comfort of your home and without having to pay for each class.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!
Courtney x

Aether Cone, a Thinking Music Player

Cone Thinking Music PlayerI’m sure every family is the same, but we love a bit of a swing in ours. Very often, after breakfast or dinner, we turn up the volume and dance in our living room. It’s crazy! We all join in, and it’s just so much fun. And very often, we end up with a big fat group hug in the end.

Also, sometimes when I’ve had a busy and difficult day, and I feel stressed and tired and my patience is low, it helps to get up and move, to be crazy, and sing along. Music surely is medication for the soul.

casper dancing on cone music player dancing children

It has recently become much easier for our children to initiate their own dancing because the awesome Aether Cone entered our house. The Aether Cone is not only a striking music player (in fact the most beautiful looking one I’ve ever seen), it’s also incredibly easy to understand and to work. Not only easy for me (too many buttons and screens put me off completely), but really handy for the kids as well! The only thing they need to do, is press the center button and ask out loud for any artist, song, or radio. Within seconds, the Cone will be playing their choice and our family will be in full swing!

dance2 dance3

And last weekend, my dad was here, and he just had the best of times with the Cone as well. He kept thinking of song and artists from his childhood (the early sixties), and voila — the Cone followed his commands without fail. Just to indicate how simple and fun it is to work with!

I’ve also understood that the more we use the Cone, the better it will get at playing the songs we love. I’m currently writing this with some lovely random background music in the background — I just took the Cone into my office (it’s portable with an 8-hour rechargeable battery). On the associated app on my phone I read that right now I’m listening to Isobel Campbell, a Scottish singer-songwriter. Nice suggestion, I must say!

xxx Esther

PS This post is sponored by Aether, a company we respect for making beautifully crafted products that use powerful technology and simple, natural controls to make everyday moments nicer.

A personal uniform

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I just read this article about a woman who has decided to wear a “uniform” to work everyday, which was originally written for Harper’s Bazaar. I thought it would be fun to share, just because this morning I had yet again the work clothes panic: what should I wear? My daily morning routine involves getting the kids up and dressed and fed and getting myself ready for work. The amount of times I don’t know what to wear while I am standing in front of a cupboard full of clothes, seriously running out of time, is ridiculous.

I really fancy the idea of a work wardrobe that fits everything! How much easier would my life be? A girl I once worked with had a similar idea: she always wore a black top and a patterned skirt come rain or shine. She always looked so put together and it worked for every occasion.

My problem is that I worry I might get quite bored… but perhaps the practicality of the “uniform” would outweigh my boredom. What do you think? Do you have a work uniform that makes your day easier or do you just freestyle?

– Emilie

Sweet Smokks Summer Dresses (for mama and daughter)

smokks summer dresses

There’s something a little bit cheesy about matching mums and daughters outfits, but also something incredibly cute. Definitely cute. And especially these dresses from NYC based label Smokks. : )

smokks summer dresses smokks summer dresses

Hallie started Smokks a few years ago, after her husband dressed their daughter in her pyjamas for a ballet graduation, while she was away on vacation — because, as he said, he couldn’t deal with all of the buttons, zips and otherwise complicated dresses in his daughter’s wardrobe. I must say this sounds very familiar; my husband would totally do the same thing (or maybe, he would simply dress her in her jeans like he always does). Anyway — Hallie figured there was a market for effortless girls’  clothing: no zips, no buttons, no ribbons. Just a very cute and simple dress, a uniform, almost.

Smokks are, as the name implies, old-fashionedly smocked, but definitely have a modern feel to them. They are, as said, simple, but not actually as simple as it seems. I can tell that a lot of thought went into these dresses! There are deep pockets for treasures. The neckline is wide and comfortable, but flattering. The length (with royal hem) and the low arm hole means these dresses can be worn for years — layered with legging or tights and a cardigan for colder days. They are totally cute for everyday wear and play, but can definitely also be used for more formal occasions.

Hallie messengered over some dresses for our girls to try when we were in NY a few weeks ago. Since her biggest girls’ size is a size 9, she sent over a women’s size S for Sara, which is still a bit big on her… Haha, lucky me! I love it! : )

xxx Esther

PS I love Ava’s curled toes in the photos above. The photos were taken by Sara, by the way — roles reversed!

Tuesday Tips: Transitioning from one to two…

two boys

We’ve had lots of requests from readers to share tips on dealing with the transition from one child to two (or from two to three, etc.). It’s a tricky one for me to answer because it was 8 years ago that my second was born and my memory is foggy, but I wanted to raise the topic as a discusion and to try to gather tips from readers for readers.

I’ve said it before, but for me the most difficult period in the past ten years was the three months after my second was born. I found it so, so overwhelming to go from one baby to two — to have two small children with completely different needs, both of them needing me at the same time!  I just wasn’t prepared to be tugged in two directions like that and I think I cried nearly every single evening, both from pure exhaustion and from a sense of relief that I had survived another difficult day. I also remember wondering how anyone could possibly have more than two children! : )

My first two are only 22 months apart and my second was a colicky baby, so I think it was an especially tricky time. But I also think that there is something about this transition that is different from others, and that once you learn your way and master the multi-tasking, it’s actually not that much more difficult to go on to have a third or fourth baby. It’s a bit like juggling – once you learn how to juggle, it’s not that much more difficult to add another ball to the mix. (At least I found this to be the case — I would be interested to hear how others have found it.)

Here are some simple tips I can remember, but again I would really love to hear from mums who have done this more recently:

  • Cut yourself some slack. Don’t worry about how tidy your house is, don’t feel guilty if you cook scrambled eggs for dinner two nights in a row, don’t worry if your kids aren’t bathed every day — everything will be perfectly fine despite not being ‘perfect’.
  • Try not to feel guilty about the lack of time you give to your eldest child. Focus instead on how important it is to teach your child how to share the attention, and even more importantly on how wonderful it will be for him/her to have a sibling to play with as soon as the baby gets a bit older. (My second child started walking at 8 months and my boys were playing together from a really early stage. I remember seeing them playing together, or watching my eldest push the youngest one on the swings, and thinking that it was definitely ALL worth it!)
  • Use the baby feeding down-time to your advantage. Make good use of all that time on the sofa by reading books to your older child or just simply sitting still and talking to them, asking questions, or playing simple games while you feed the baby. (We had a stack of flash cards sitting next to our sofa and I taught Easton his letters while nursing Quin. It was something he really enjoyed, and it meant that nursing Quin didn’t have to mean time away from Easton.)
  • Allow your eldest to be as independent as possible. Velcro shoes and elastic trousers that your child can do and un-do himself are so smart. Also, keep toys in baskets on the floor, so they learn to access their toys on their own and tidy them up too. Buy step stools for the bathroom sinks so he can wash his own hands, etc.
  • Get out of the house, even though it’s difficult. I have always found that a simple walk around the block can do wonders for your mind, and that running small errands can make you feel like wonder woman! It might be tricky to get two small children out of the house and it might take twice as long as it did before, but once you do it, it feels so good and you feel so proud of yourself for putting in the effort.
  • Make friends with other mums who are in a similar boat. Esther lived just down the road from me when our second babies were born, and it was SO nice to be able to have someone to talk to and share tips and tricks.  Sometimes it’s just nice to admit to someone else that your day was really hard or that you’re feeling especially exhausted or that you haven’t been romantic with your husband in months, or whatever it might be. Most often, she’ll be feeling the same way and it’s nice to know you’re not alone.
  • Depending on the age of your older child, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a good double buggy, preferably one that isn’t too wide to fit into shop doors and one that folds easily to fit into your car/train/plane, etc. (We loved the Phil & Teds double buggy, but I’m sure there are loads of other great ones on the market now.)
  • Remind yourself how quickly time passes and try to enjoy those precious first months of babyhood. It took me until my third baby to really understand what my parents were saying all those years when they told me to stop willing away the time and to enjoy even the sleepless nights and busy days. It really is so true — you blink and they are big!

I hope these simple tips are helpful. Please, please share any tips you can add.

Courtney x

The photo above is of my boys when Quin was around six months old and  — the first time that Easton could push him on the swings. This was a turning point for me when things started to feel easier and when I could finally see the benefit of having two kids so close in age.

DIY: Dipped Wooden Spoons

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

I’ve been eyeing the dipped wooden spoons for a while now and the penny pincher in me decided to make something similar on her own instead of buying them. And they turned out great, plus the feeling of making something with my own two hands is priceless (when it succeeds anyway).

This project is also one of the easiest but it takes a little more drying time. You can use some old wooden spoons lying around the kitchen already or buy new (I got a bunch of them from IKEA).

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

The items you need are:

Wooden Spoons
Paint
Tape (I used Washi Tape)
Sealer
Medium (optional)

I wanted the make the paint as durable as possible so I used both the medium and the sealer. The medium I used is for textile and it worked great!

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

1. Tape the line with a tape (I use washi tape because it’s the easiest to work with)

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY
2. Mix the paint with the medium (if you decided to use one) in 1:1 ratio and paint two coats (decide on weather you want to also paint the round end of the spoon) then wait for about 5 minutes and take the tape off before the second coat is completely dry – that prevents the paint to chip while taking off the tape!

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

You can use a low jar or a glass to dry them in but put the spoon face down!

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

3. Let them dry for a couple hours, put the tape on again and paint a coat or even two of sealer. And if you want the color to be really durable set the oven to about 150C and “bake” them for about 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and take them out only after the oven gets cold. Leave them rest over night before use.

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

4. I decided to give the spoons a little facial as well and made them Beeswax Wood Polish after this recipe. That made all the difference! You simply rub on warm conditioner, let it sit for about an hour and wipe off the excess. You also don’t need to complicate as much as I tend to do and just buy one.

You can also do some stripes, dots, heart or other embellishments. I wanted to keep my first batch simple but will definitely play around more with the second one. Maybe a little bronze ends?

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

New Spring/Summer collection at HATCH

HATCH maternity wear
The new spring/summer collection at HATCH has arrived and it’s as pretty as ever! So many pieces that are both stylish and comfortable. Whether you’re running errands or going out on the town, and in fact whether you’re pregnant or not, the clothes are easy to wear and flattering at the same time.
Hatch spring collection
The thing that’s brilliant about the HATCH maternity label is that it’s designed to suit and flatter a pregnant body, and yet the pieces work and look great even after pregnancy. Because let’s face it, our bodies change after we’ve had a baby (and, at least in my case, change forever) — our hips become wider, our bellies aren’t quite as flat, our breasts…. (sigh). The clothes from HATCH are designed to adapt and flatter with these changes in mind.
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I’m especially loving the jumpsuits in this season’s collection as well as these comfortable-looking trousers. And, while I know it’s an investment, I really like the cool cocoon shape of the trench coat — a classic style that can be worn for years, pregnant or not.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Courtney x

Bobo Choses — not just for kids!

Bobo Choses for mamas
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Bobo Choses
I think by now we all know (and love!) Bobo Choses. Their collections every season are both fun and stylish with playful graphics and easy, wearable styles. But did you know they’ve recently come out with some pieces for women too?

I know it’s a little cheesy to match your children, but I have to admit that my girls think it’s really the coolest thing ever to match their mama. When we were in Portugal this past week the girls asked me every day to wear my yellow stripy skirt like theirs! So I finally gave in and we wore our matching outfits on the last day of our holiday, and it was really quite fun. Some silly photos here to show for it. : )

Courtney x

‘Smartypants: Pete in School’ by Maira Kalman

Smartypants book

There is so much I want to tell you about Maira Kalman. She is my current ‘book-creator-crush’ – I have loved everything I have read by her – adult books or kids books.

Maira Kalman was born in Tel Aviv but moved to New York aged four. She is an author, an illustrator, a curator and just a brilliant, brilliant voice and mind. She has a style and stream of consciousness like no other author I have ever experienced and as everything she writes is also illustrated the whole experience of looking through a Maira Kalman book is an energizing joy – her books always make me laugh but can be thought-provoking and also touching to draw a tear.

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Smartypants 3
The stories often don’t follow a clear path – you need to commit to her style and prepare to jump around a little but when you do you go on a journey which is just about as delicious as a salt-beef and pickle bagel – which brings me back to her Jewish / Bronx routes – which gives her work such a rich tone – I’m not sure you can be funny like Kalman unless you are Jewish and from the Bronx (but I may be wrong on that?).

So to choose a book to review was the hard thing here – I’m sure I’ll tell you about some more soon but I picked Smartypants: Pete in School because it is the book that makes my kids laugh loudest and what better reason to spread the love?

Pete is the dog of Poppy & Schmookie Wise – he eats everything. One day he turns up at school and starts causing havoc by eating his way through Poppy and Schmookie’s classes – until, called to the principal’s office, he eats a Big Book of Everything and ends up really smart …. The story is funny but the characters – Poppy, Schmookie, the teachers and of course Pete you will just love. Kalman, talks in asides (if she was on Instagram she’d be the hashtag queen!) and goes off on tangents, which lets us get to know these characters in a deeper way.

Smartypants 4

You can buy Smartypants: Pete in School here, but I warn you it could spark a book-buying-spree!

-Mo x

PS: If you want to know more about Maira Kalman you can hear her 2007 Ted Talk here (it’s perfect!) and books for grown-ups by her are The Principles of Uncertainty, which is a compilation of her columns for The New York Times. And the Pursuit of Happiness  is her year-long investigation into American democracy and lastly (my personal favourite) is My Favorite Things which was created to accompany her curation of the artifacts at the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The book explores the significance of objects in our lives and combines personal objects and artifacts from the exhibition. Lovely.

Tuesday Tips: Bringing up children Bi-lingually

IMG_8495Having bi-lingual children is great — it is so impressive to see them jump from one language to the other seamlessly. For our Tuesday Tips series I wanted to jot down a few things I have learned about bringing up children with two languages (though I am by no means an expert). I hope they help and I would love to hear your tips and your experiences!

I was born in Germany to a French mother and an Irish Father who had met in San Diego. So we were tri-lingual: I went to a German school, my brother and I spoke German together (and still do), but my father spoke English to us and my mother spoke French. It was a great experience and something I am so grateful my parents insisted on, because, my gosh, I really rebelled as a kid. We were living in this teeny village in Germany and I did not want to be different from all the other kids. But every time I answered back in German to my mother, she did not answer me until I repeated myself in French… so I did not have the choice!
Interestingly, I have always gravitated towards English. I moved to England to study right after finishing high school, so English is now my most dominant language and the language I naturally felt the most comfortable speaking to my children.

My two daughters are now also totally bi-lingual, but the circumstances are very different to my German childhood. We live in a huge cosmopolitan city and, though the kids go to the local primary school (and speak French, of course), they have always had at least two other Anglo-speakers in their class and numerous bilinguals from all across the world. It is so normal for them to speak two languages, they don’t even think about it.

So here are a couple of tips:

  • Stick to the one language you have decided to speak to your child – Of course there will be moments when you will have to switch (homework for example), but it is important to stick to one language and build up a relationship with your child in that language. I read somewhere that a child needs to be exposed at least 30% of their waking time to an environment where the foreign language is spoken to be able to learn the language properly.
  • Build a network – one of the things that has been really helpful for us here in Paris is to have an English speaking network of friends. Joining the local Anglo parenting Network helped a lot. The children have grown up together and still speak in English to each other, though, when they are with French friends, they will swap back to French. It means that it feels normal for them to speak to other children, not only adults, in English even when in their home city.
  • Don’t listen to and don’t worry about myths – I have been told that bringing up my children with two languages may delay their development or might even give them a speech impediment. Total nonsense if you ask me. As long as your children are thriving and happy, I don’t see a single reason why speaking two languages should harm them. And in all cases, the benefits outweigh any potential downside.
  • Books and Films – I mostly read books in English to the girls to counteract a whole day of French in the classroom. Again it is also interesting to expose them to a different culture via books. When we watch films, we watch them in the original language they were filmed in. We also have the international BBC Iplayer to watch nature documentaries etc. in English and Netflix if we want to have a movie night and watch a film.
  • Travel – We are lucky, as we are only a short plane ride away from my family in Ireland and a train ride away from all our friends in London. Traveling to English speaking countries is really helpful as there is nothing better than emersion once in a while to develop language skills. It also helps for my children to put their second language within a context. They read books about children wearing uniforms to school, riding double decker buses and eating fish and chips, but there is nothing like being able to see and understand the culture of the language you are learning with your own eyes.
  • Reading and Writing and Music – For Coco, who is nine now, learning how to read and write in English has opened a new world to her. Again so much of learning a language is also getting to know a different culture. Listening to the lyrics of songs, reading books and also writing has been a massive step. Interestingly she has never had a formal class in English but, because of learning how to read phonetically in her French school, she managed to teach herself how to read in English.
  • Ideally I would love to send my kids to live in a host family abroad when they are 16 or 17 for 6 months. I did this when I was 17 and lived in the USA for 6 months. It not only improved my English a lot, but also it was an amazing experience to get to know a different culture.

The photo above is of my kids on yet another little trip away to Ireland. The moment they get onto the plane, they start speaking English to everyone around them.

Easter Craft: Hen Egg Cups

egg carton hen
Easter holidays are here and I’ve prepared a new Easter craft for you. This one I absolutely love because it’s so very simple that even very young children can make it, and it takes very little time to finish so it’s also perfect for those types of kids that can’t stay still for very long, like my Tila. She loved this craft and has even made one for her (boy)friend from school! (Also, it’s a great way to make use of all the left-over Easter eggs.)

Hen Egg Cups
Things you need are:
-Egg carton (you can only make 2 chicks from one carton)
-Orange and Red Crafting Paper
-Feathers (I used white and yellow)
-Wiggle Eyes (or black paint)
-Scissors
-Crafting Knife
-Glue

Hen Egg Cups
1. Cut out the edge part of the egg carton like on the photo
2. Trim the excess around the upper edge
3. Take the red paper and cut a comb (or as we call it – the crown) and an orange beak (shape of rhombus, folded in half). Check the width of the top of your cardboard’s peak for the comb first and then about a centimeter below the top for the beak. And make both a few mm narrower to leave a little room for the edges. Cut notches the notches to fit the comb and the peak
4. Put a little glue at the bottom of both pieces
5. Insert them into slots and either glue on wiggle eyes or draw them on.
6. Put a generous amount of glue on the inner side of the back part (where the should be) and glue feather on.

Now wait for it to dry and insert an egg! Give it away or not 😉

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Tuesday Tips: The Dummy Fairy

Marlow sleeping with dummy

The ‘Dummy Fairy’ came to our house last week and flew off with all of Marlow’s dummies! And just like that our baby became a ‘big girl’ (no more bottles, no more nappies, no more dummies!). Marlow went to bed that evening telling all of us that she’s a big girl now — she hopped into bed, fell asleep quickly and hasn’t asked about her dummies ever since! Indeed, a very big girl (sob!).

All four of our babies used dummies, so this is the fourth time the Dummy Fairy has visited our house, and in all four cases I was surprised by how easy a transition it was. I think it’s one of those things that we build up in our minds to be worse than it really is: we worry how they’ll ever fall asleep, that it will mess up their good sleep habits, we worry they will cry for hours and become very unsettled or that they’ll find another emotional attachment to replace the dummies, etc. As with any big transition, whether it’s sleep training, potty-training, weaning, or taking bottles away, I think it must be very natural for mothers to overthink and dread it, but in my experience I’ve found that it’s almost always easier than we anticipate it will be. Perhaps it’s actually us mothers who aren’t really ready? (Although in our case it’s definitely Michael who is the bigger softie. I think he would have let Marlow keep her dummies well into her teenage years! Ha!)

Because it’s fresh in my mind, I thought I would share some simple tips for taking away dummies (or bottles, even) and making it a smooth and easy transition. NB: we’ve always gone down the Dummy Fairy route, but there are other ways too that don’t involve a fictional fairy (like the concept of the ‘dummy tree‘ in Denmark and Sweden, or the idea of ‘giving’ dummies to another baby who needs them more, or Esther’s idea of leaving the dummies in the Christmas tree and asking Santa to replace them with gifts!). Here are my tips:

  • I think the most important thing is to get your child excited about the idea and to be really honest and direct with them. Start casually talking about the dummy fairy (or dummy tree, etc.) and mention that they’re getting so big and don’t really need a dummy anymore. Be really positive about it — make them feel like it’s a really cool thing to be too big for dummies! You can even discuss the benefits of being so big — like eating with the ‘grown up’ cutlery, choosing their own outfits, sitting in big chairs, eating without a bib… whatever it is!
  • If you have bigger kids, start talking to them about it too. Get their support in encouraging the little one.
  • Think about timing: don’t do it during any other transitional period, or if they’re sick, or if you’re traveling or if you have visitors in town, etc. (I always like to do these sorts of things on weekends when I know I have my husband home and we can do it together and when our sleep schedules are more relaxed.)
  • Talk to your child about the dummy fairy. Discuss that you’ll be giving away ALL of the dummies and won’t get them back. Write a card/draw a picture for the dummy fairy together (we usually write something like ‘Dear Dummy Fairy, please come and collect my dummies. I’m so big now – I don’t need them anymore!’).
  • Collect all the dummies in the house (don’t forget any strays!) and stick them in a paper bag with the card. Stick it somewhere special for the fairy to find (we hung ours on our front door) and hope the dummy fair comes to collect them (this is where the husband comes in handy).
  • In our case, the dummy fairy collects the dummies and leaves behind a small gift and a note saying how proud she is. I’ve found that giving a cuddly toy or something they can take to bed with them is a good idea because it gets them excited to go to bed and distracts them from the missing dummies — it also offers them something to grab for in the night if they wake and would normally reach for their dummy. (Although the boys got Schleich animals from the dummy fairy, and it really didn’t matter that it wasn’t so cuddly. : ))
  • Don’t make too big of a fuss about it — try to be very straightforward. Put them to bed as usual without mentioning the dummies, kiss them goodnight and walk out of the room. If they ask for their dummy, just remind them that the dummy fairy took them away because they’re a big girl/boy now. I think the key is to be firm on your decision, don’t wobble or doubt yourself. Ivy was the only one of my kids who asked for her dummy as I walked out of the door. She had a bit of a restless first night, but was fine by the second night.

That’s it! I really have found this transition to be a pretty seamless one, but perhaps we’ve just been lucky. I’d love to hear your experience with this and any tips you have to share.

Courtney x

p.s. We usually took away the dummies when the kids were between two and three. We also had a rule that dummies were for sleeping only, so they weren’t allowed out of their beds.

Design Mom’s book ‘How to live with Kids: A room-by-room guide’

Design Mom book How to live with kids

A few months ago my friend Gabrielle Blair, the famous Design Mom, asked me to share some photos of our home, for the use in the book she was working on. I was super flattered to be asked, because I have been a Design Mom fan from the moment we started blogging. Gabrielle is so incredibly talented, so entrepreneurial, so creative, so stylish, and so real. I love her down-to-earth style, her guts, and her drive to connect people. Also — I love how she shares her successes, as well as her difficulties. So you can imagine that for months I’ve been awaiting the highly anticipated launch of her book, and this week a preview copy of the book landed on my doormat… and it’s even better than I could have imagined!

Design Mom book How to live with kids
Design Mom book How to live with kids

‘How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide’  is a family lifestyle book full of inspiration, with beautiful photos of real homes. It’s full of useful tips stemming from real life experience with 6 children. Gabrielle shares easy decor tips and doable DIY projects, lovely family traditions and sweet tips. (Like: keep a box of Band-Aids within children’s reach in the bathroom, to make children feel in control when they have an owie, plus, when a little friend needs a band-aid, your child can help and get a positive experience with empathy. Or, one of my favourite phrases from the book: ‘Ugly couches can make beautiful childhoods’. So true!)

Sometimes parenting, interior or DIY books can be so terribly overwhelming. What I like best about Design Mom’s ‘How to live with Kids’ is that’s it’s all so approachable, so doable and so real. Gabby shows us that it’s no about what to buy, it’s about working with what your already have, to make your house happy, and wonderful.

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon (US or UK ).

xxx Esther

Hattie the elephant (from Four Monkeys)

Hattie_1

When Pim was 2 years old, he pulled over a marble sculpture that my mum had made as our wedding gift and it broke in half. Thankfully we were able to restore it, but — better safe than sorry — we now keep our delicate sculptures in storage until our children are bigger. And I’ve been missing something cool on our floor ever since!

But then, I was browsing the super well curated collection of the awesome Austrian e-store Four Monkeys and my eye fell on Hattie the Elephant. And I couldn’t resist. Here we have a sculpture, a piece of art really, that is absolutely fine to display on the floor, within children’s reach, for children to play with, even. Because it is designed as a toy!

How cool is that?


Hattie the Elephant, heirloom toy from Four Monkeys (via Babyccino Kids) Hattie_3

Hattie the Elephant is made from beech wood and really royal in size, and it can be placed in different poses due to the elastic-band muscles, making it a fun and interesting toy that children will keep coming back to to play with. It is absolutely beautifully made and it is such a cool design element! (I also saw it on display in one of the world’s coolest shops, Hay House, when I was in Copenhagen recently.) Also, it is an extremely sturdy and durable sculpture, which makes the (steep) investment worth it, because this sculpture will survive generations of play in our living room. It probably will survive me! ; )

xxx Esther

How to care for your tulips

adrem tulips

I grew up in a small farming town about half way between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. The area is known for the wonderful produce that is grown there, including all the delicious berries in the summer, but is probably best known for the hundreds of acres of tulip fields that bloom each spring (I have previously shared photos of the tulip fields here and here. Isn’t it so pretty?!)

My father and his brothers are tulip farmers and run what is now one of the biggest (bulb) flower farms in the world, shipping flowers to people and businesses all over America (you can read a little bit about the family business here). I grew up on the tulip farm and remember how exciting it was every spring to watch the surrounding fields fill with colour. Our spring break from school always fell in the middle of tulip season and my dad always put me straight to work in the flower stalls selling tulips. I think, by the time I was eight, I knew all the different names for every tulip variety and I could answer any tulip question, no matter how random. (Of course I have since forgotten all those different varieties! My dad would be so disappointed.)

Every year at this time, as the flower stalls around London fill with tulips, I’m reminded of my childhood and the tulip farm back home. I spoke to my dad over the weekend and he told me that the tulips are blooming really early this year due to a really mild winter. So, now that it’s tulip season I thought I would share some tulip tips I’ve learned from my dad over the years. (Please forgive me if you’re a long-time reader. I posted a similar post back in 2008, but thought it was worth re-posting since it’s been so long!) Here are some handy tips for buying tulips and keeping them alive as long as possible:
tulip tips
cutting tulip stems

  • Try to buy the freshest tulips. Don’t buy tulips that are limp; make sure the stems are thick, plump and strong. (In general, the bigger the stem–the bigger the bulb– the healthier the flower).
  • Make sure the leaves are tight and curled inward toward the stem. If they are already bending outward, they are not very fresh.
  • The bud should be closed and on the tighter side, but you should still be able to see the color of the flower.
  • Cut ½ an inch from the bottom of the stem and place immediately in cold water. (Remember that the stems will continue to grow in the vase, so you can cut them down to be a bit on the shorter side).
  • If the tulips came in plastic wrap, you can leave the plastic on for the first couple hours. This will encourage the stems to stay straight instead of bending over. (As soon as you cut the bottom of the stem, the tulip ‘comes back to life’ and will begin to respond).
  • Leave the vase in a cool spot (not in direct sunlight or near a radiator). You can even place the vase outside during the night (unless it is freezing) for even longer ‘vase life’.

*Don’t ever mix daffodils and tulips in the same vase. The daffodil juice taints the water and will ‘poison’ the tulips!

And apparently all those silly things we’ve all been told about putting a penny in the water or adding sugar really don’t work!

 

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