Finnish Babies in a Box

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Have you heard of this custom in Finland? I just read this article and had to share it! Every baby born in Finland receives a box from the state full of clothes, a sleeping bag, accessories and toys. The box can then be used as a bed. Everyone receives it, so it has become part of the excitement of having a baby.

I thought it was really interesting how over the years the content of the box has changed. In the ’30s the box contained fabric as woman were used to making their own clothes… and now the box contains condoms! The Finns are certainly moving with the times, but the principle stays the same and so generations of children in Finland have started off their lives sleeping in a cardboard box — such a great tradition!

– Emilie

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.

Are We There Yet?

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Have you been following the Rosetta mission on the news lately?  I have been a bit obsessed in the last few days to see if the mission of landing an unmanned space craft on a comet that is about 6bn kilometres away from earth was going to work, so improbably and yet, somehow it landed! It took the space craft 10 years to reach its destination; insane, right?

As we were listening to an update on the radio in the morning, my kids were asking probing questions about the mission, which I have actually been at a loss to answer. Because, how do you explain comets, space crafts, 6bn kilometres and the universe to a 6-year-old over a bowl of cereal at 8 am in the morning? Not my strong point, and many of the questions, I have to admit, I actually could not answer.  So I discovered this little animated video  called “Are We There Yet” made by the European Space Agency. It is super cute and very informative, even for adults!

– Emilie

What kids around the world eat for breakfast

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I am sure a lot of you have come across this article in the New York Times but I still wanted to post it, as I think it is so interesting to see how differently children eat. At my flat we are so used to eating sweet things in the morning, be it cereal, porridge (very unusual for France) or tartines – the idea of  miso soup and soy sauce for breakfast would not even cross our mind. And yet it would feel completely natural somewhere else…

I remember Esther staying with me one day and telling one of her kids off for having grabbed something sweet to eat before eating something savoury. Only then did she realise that there was nothing savoury on the table! It is funny how we all have our breakfast traditions. I think it is the meal that we are the least adventurous about, possibly because adventure is the last thing on our mind when we are still waking up.

I also love the photos in this post, the children look so cute, still sleepy with ruffled hair and preparing themselves for the day.

– Emilie

Smallish Magazine

Smallish and the ShopUp

I know it’s a bit of old news by now, but did you see that Baby & Me Magazine got a cool new name? Our favourite London-based magazine has relaunched and is now called Smallish.  No longer focused just on pregnancy and birth, the new magazine will include beautiful fashion shoots, issue-led features, inspiring parents, glossy interiors, up-and-coming brands and the best scoop on what’s new and cool for kids (and their parents). You can pick up a copy of the magazine at newsagents across the country, or download the digital version here.

And… best news for last….we’re really excited to announce that we’ve teamed up with Smallish Magazine for our big ShopUp event this December. Visitors to the event will be able to pick up their own copy of the magazine and discover the monthly goodness for themselves. They’ll also be helping us promote the event, ensuring this year’s ShopUp is a big, fat success. !! We could not be more excited! Have you marked your diaries yet?

Courtney xx

The importance of handwriting

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There are a lot of things I like about my kids schooling in France —  there are also a lot of things I criticise. Compared to the children of my Anglo-Saxon friends, school seems to be so rigid over here.

One of the things I found unnecessarily strict here is the importance placed on handwriting. Children learn how to write in cursive script and are given bad grades if this is not done well. I never understood, how, in 2014, this made any sense and have been quite vocal about this to the teachers and other parents (who must roll their eyes at yet another foreigner lecturing them about their archaic teaching methods).

But the other day Violette’s teacher (who has been teaching for 34 years) made a very interesting point. Apparently 15 years ago the national curriculum had stopped the emphasis on handwriting, as it was thought that the use of keyboards was going to eliminate the need for writing by hand. They have now completely revised this stance based on a lot of research, as it seems that students taking notes by hand remember and analyse the material they are being lectured on a lot more than people typing notes. If you type notes, you have a tendency to write down the lecture word for word. If you write it down by hand, you are already analysing and interpreting the lecture, which in turn makes it a lot easier to remember it and learn from it. I thought that was so interesting! I found this article about a similar study here.

This is actually the saving grace behind the French education system: there is almost always some kind of theory behind the madness, even if it does not always seem obvious to a bystander!

– Emilie

PS. The above photo is of Coco’s homework, who is in the equivalent of 3rd grade. They are now starting to write with a fountain pen (I did not even know those things still existed!)

Get organised! This month’s column in Baby&Me Magazine

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Every year I promise myself I’ll be organised come the first day of school. I’ll be ready for early morning wake-ups and prepared for the rush to school. But no matter my best intentions, I’m never ready.

We still have another two weeks until school starts for my kids, but this year I’m determined to be prepared for the inevitable routine that’s coming. This month for Baby & Me Magazine I’ve rounded up some of my favourite products to help get organised: notebooks, planners, pens, name labels and an office wall organiser I’ve coveted for years. You can find my selection in this month’s issue here.

x Courtney

Baby & Me Magazine, my favourite childhood items

childhood favourites at Baby & Me Magazine
This month’s issue of Baby & Me Magazine features the best and most stylish of children’s products in the 2014 Style Awards. They handed out awards to winners based on their criteria of iconic design, good looks and innovation (you can see the winners here).

This month they asked me to round up some of my personal favourite children’s products — the products we have used and loved in our family, ones that I hope to keep forever and pass down to my grandchildren. The products shown above are a few that made the cut. You can find my column in this month’s issue here.

x Courtney

 

Our favourite travel games in Baby&Me Magazine

This month’s issue of Baby&Me Magazine is all about travel, which of course is a topic that excites us all! You’ll find a selection of family-friendly holiday destinations to kick-start your summer holiday planning, plus stylish travel essentials, holiday packing ideas and a fashionable photoshoot in sunny Palm Springs!

In this month’s issue we’ve rounded up five of our favourite travel games that are both easy to pack and guaranteed to entertain. Click over to the Baby&Me website to see our picks, or you can read the full digital version here.

x Courtney

My Favourite Things at Baby&Me Magazine

We’re really excited to announce a new partnership with Baby&Me magazine which has us contributing a little column in their magazine each month and rounding up a selection of cute products to fit our topic. Baby&Me is a super stylish, monthly glossy which keeps London parents updated on all the latest news, fashion, design and other interesting lifestyle topics. We are thrilled to be contributing each month and thought it would be fun to share our selection here with you as well.

In this month’s issue I wrote about getting out in our garden with the kids, sowing vegetable seeds and enjoying the onset of spring. I also rounded up some cute fruit & veg products I’m loving right now. Here they are:

You can read the digital version of this month’s issue here. You can also download the Baby&Me app from iTunes here. And lastly, you can now buy the magazine at newsagents around town.

I’m already excited for next month’s contribution! Stay tuned…

x Courtney

Five second rule

In my house, one of the first rules my children will quote is the famous ‘five second rule’. It is the rule that, if any food has fallen on the floor in the kitchen, it can possibly still be eaten f it is picked up very quickly.  (They learned very quickly that the five second rule did not apply to the lovely streets and boulevards of Paris!)

I always thought the five second rule was a complete myth and just a good excuse for tired parents not to have to go fetch yet another cookie or throw away a sandwich with just one bite in it, but turns out I was possibly wrong. Scientist at a British University have found proof that the five second rule could actually be true! I love it!

Now I am wondering, is the five second rule just a European thing? Or even maybe just an English thing?

– Emilie

The Digital Neighbourhood event in Athens, Greece

group_final_logoOne of the things I love about our job, is the wonderfully supportive online community in which we work, and the amazing friendships we have developed over the years. Bloggers (and professionals working in the children’s retail world) are such a friendly, supporting group of people, I feel it makes such a difference from the often competitive and political atmosphere in other fields of business.

One of the friends we have made over the years, is the lovely Pepi Nikolopoulou from the Greek online boutique and blog Alice on Board. Pepi wrote a Weekend Getaway about her beautiful city, Athens, a few years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.

Pepi is one of the five talented women who are organising the “Digital Neighborhood” event which will take place for the second time this year in Athens this coming Friday and Saturday. (She’s the cute blonde girl in the photo above!) The concept of this year’s event is “Growing towards the Future”, and it is open to everyone who is interested in creating a blog, would like to improve their existing blog, strengthen their Social Media presence, or is simply looking for inspiration. There will be tons of professionals walking around, like photographers, Social Media experts, journalists, portal owners, and bloggers of course, who will be there to offer knowledge, to exchange ideas, and to inspire with their success stories.

I’m so excited to be representing Babyccino Kids at the Digital Neighbourhood event this Saturday! I will be talking about how Babyccino Kids evolved from a friendship, to a blog, and then to an international business. I’ll speak about our growth, the structure of our business, our roles within the company, and our plans for the future. It will be so fun to share our story, and I’m so excited to meet some of our Greek readers and to learn from the other professionals at the event. And of course, I’m extremely thrilled at the prospect of hanging out with Pepi this weekend in her lovely city of Athens!

xxx Esther

The new science of siblings

In my recent home tour and interview over on Design Mom where I talk about my kids and my desire to raise children who love each other, a reader left me a comment suggesting I read this article from Time Magazine about the importance of siblings. I clicked over to the article and have since read it twice. I find it so fascinating, and it really rings true in my experience of growing up in a big family with my many siblings, and also with my experience of raising my own children. We are truly shaped and defined not only by our parents and our genetics, but in a large part by our siblings. The article reads:

From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and cautionary tales. They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys. Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we’ll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life.

Whenever I think about the importance of siblings and the invaluable lessons they learn from each other, I think about bath time in our family. I think about how my four kids have to cram into one bath tub, how they have to learn to share the space and take up their fair share (usually, they first discuss their placement in the bathtub – who’s turn it is to sit closest to the faucet, etc.). Then they discuss the bath toys and who gets to play with each toy. Then, when it comes time for them to rinse their hair, they all have to make room for each person to lie backwards and soak their heads – they all shift to one side to allow their siblings to rinse their hair. They pass the shampoo. They take turns with the bath toys. And then, of course, there’s the debate about who has to get out first, who gets the biggest towel, etc.  If those are not valuable life lessons, I don’t know what are!!

Anyway… this is, of course, my own experience with having four children, and I am very aware that not everyone chooses (or is able) to have more than one child, so their experiences might be different (maybe in that case, they have cousins or friends who shape them?!). I’m not arguing the case of having many children, but mostly just observing what I see and know in my own family, and what I know from the family I come from. I really do believe that my own children are very much shaped by one another, and in a way I think it takes a tiny bit of pressure of me as a mother. Maybe it is my way of justifying our own family size and dynamics?

Please share your thoughts! Do you think siblings play an important role in shaping who we become?

x Courtney

The Great Sleep Obsession

I recently stumbled upon this great article, written by Sarah Ockwell-Smith, about the unrealistic expectations we have of babies and their sleeping behaviour.  She writes about how modern day society has created such an obsession with babies sleeping ‘through the night’, and about how sleeping through the night is not a reality for most children until they are 2 years of age.

After reading this article once (to myself) and a second time (to my husband), I must say I feel not only a sense of relief that I’m not the only mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown (!!)…  I also found it incredibly reassuring to know that my baby (with her unreliable sleep habits) is totally normal.

Following on my last post about sleeping with your baby, Marlow is now 10 months old and still not sleeping through the night. She starts the night in her own bed, and usually wakes up around 3 or 4am when I bring her into our bed. Most of the time she will go back to sleep in my arms, while sometimes she needs to be nursed back to sleep. In any case, she is certainly not sleeping through the night. Not even close. And according to this article, it’s totally normal and natural.

Anyway, I found it to be a really reassuring article and thought I would share with you to hear your thoughts. What do you think? Do we have unrealistic expectations of our babies? Should we relax a bit more and just simply enjoy this precious time when they’re so little? Or… do you happen to have a strict schedule with your baby that works for you? Do you have a baby who does, in fact, sleep through the night? (If so, please share your secrets!) : )

xx Courtney

p.s. Photo is of sweet baby Casper, taken from Esther’s Instagram feed.

An interview on the CultureBaby blog

CultureBaby is a global children’s boutique which offers a darling selection of children’s products from all over the world. I love their search feature which allows you to shop by region so you can find cute goodies from Africa, India, South America, Asia, etc.

Each month on their blog they feature a new ‘CultureBaby mum’ – a global mum raising kids in a different part of the world. I was so thrilled to be asked to answer a few questions for this interesting series. You can see my interview here and read other great interviews here.

xx Courtney

Breastfeeding in public?

This weekend I was sitting in a park in Paris with Courtney and Emilie, feeding Casper. The three of us were talking about breastfeeding in public, and Courtney then took this photo of Casper and me which started up a discussion: Could we post this photo? Would we post this photo?

When I had my first baby I was much more shy about my boobs than I am today. Yes, I would breastfeed in public, but first I would find a dark corner somewhere and I made sure my boob and baby were covered with a scarf completely. I had the feeling breastfeeding in public was frowned upon, and it should be done in private.

Now, 8 years and 4 babies later, I don’t feel that I have to cover myself completely anymore. I’m so much more comfortable! I feel I am breastfeeding my baby, which is a very natural and beautiful thing to do, and I think I shouldn’t have to be shy about it. I also have the feeling that these last years, breastfeeding in public has become a bit more acceptable; people are getting used to it now and the general feeling about it seems to be more relaxed. Which is so great!

So, I decided to be bold and bare (!) and post a photo of me feeding Casper in a public park in Paris. Is it too much you think? Do you breastfeed in public? Would you? I would love to hear your thoughts about it.

xxx Esther

PS Joanna Goddard, who just had her second baby (a beautiful little boy called Anton), wrote a great post about breastfeeding in public here.

PPS Following up on our discussion in the park, Emilie sent me this link — a fabulous poem by Hollie McNish which helped me decide to indeed post this photo here. Nobody should have to feed her baby in a public restroom.

The man behind the Bugaboo

I read this article today and thought it was really interesting. Courtney, Esther and I all had/have Bugaboos and I actually never thought about how much design, engineering and development goes into designing a push chair! So funny thinking that someone spent years coming up with a concept that I take for granted…

I also thought it was interesting that the Bugaboo was originally designed for men, which is such a clever approach to the buggy market. I will never forget buying our first buggy before Coco was born. We went to this baby section in a big department store in London. In all the sections the women were in charge: picking up breast pumps, outfits and furniture. All sections, apart from the buggy section. There, the dads suddenly came into their own and were testing wheels and suspensions and velocity of all of these buggies, as if they were cars. Hilarious!

– Emilie

‘As They Grow’ on The Littlest Blog

Elizabeth from The Littlest blog (and our lovely LA-based contributor) has started up a wonderful new series on her blog called ‘As They Grow’ which features a different mother & baby duo to highlight the monthly stages of a baby’s development from birth up to 24 months. Each mother will describe how they engage with their baby – how they play with their baby, what songs they sing, what games they play, etc. She asked me to describe the third month in a baby’s development and Esther to describe the fourth month.

Take a peek at The Littlest blog to see our contributions and to see what other mums say about the different months. We’re excited to read about the coming months (months five, six, seven, eight, etc.) in anticipation of our own babies being at that stage. It’s always nice to hear ideas for how to engage and play with your baby at the different stages.

x Courtney

Stick significance


Right next to our front door there’s an ever present collection of sticks. Our 5-year-old son Pim is like a dog, seriously! Every time we go to the park, he will find a stick and insists on taking it home. Some of them are too big for him to carry alone, so he has to convince his big sister to help him.
Because I don’t allow them in our house, the sticks are displayed right next to the front door — which is the closest the sticks will get to his bed, because he would take them up there if he could, I am sure about it. My husband once threw away all the sticks, which was a mistake — Pim was inconsolable and I admit that even I was upset. Those sticks seriously meant so much to him!

Emilie sent me the link to this interesting article in the Guardian last week. Hannah Evans is a mother of three boys and her article did shed some light on my little boy and his stick obsession. I quote:

‘And thus, sticks. For I have learned that boys like, nay love, sticks. But a stick to a boy is far, far more than an inanimate object. A stick is a toy, a weapon, a friend and a foe. A stick is adventure, possibilities, destruction and danger. A stick is, in the right time and place – or even better, in the wrong – everything.’

And:

‘”Stick significance” is part and parcel of being a boy. And so, “Will you put that bloomin’ stick down … it’s only a bit of wood!” is a bit like telling me that my coffee would taste just as good out of any old mug.’

And so they stay, the sticks, next to our front door. And the collection grows. Do you have a son (or daughter) who collects sticks too?

xxx Esther

Bringing up bilingual

A friend of mine recently referred to the way my 3-year-old daughter speaks as Creole. It a great way of describing it: she speaks an absolute mixture of French and English. Phrases like “Can you s’il te please tirer my culotte” (please pull up my undies) are very normal in our household and it is so cute I don’t want it to change! But it won’t last; she is quickly learning to differentiate her two languages.

In our household I try to only speak English at home and the children are exposed to French at school and with their friends. I myself grew up with a French mother, and an Irish father but spent my childhood in Germany, so I grew up speaking English, French and German. I actually now have a bit of an accent in every language I speak! As a child I really did not enjoy coming from a multi-lingual family as I felt I was different from my friends. My girls have the great advantage of going to an inner-city Paris school where a huge amount of the kids speak at least two languages, if not more.

So now that I am trying to bring up my kids bi-lingually myself, I have done a bit of research. I am not an expect in anyway, but here are some of the facts I thought were interesting:

  • Being bi-lingual or tri-lingual has nothing to do with intelligence, people of different levels of intelligence are multi-lingual.
  • Children start differentiating between languages around the ages of 2-3.
  • Bi-lingual children do not usually learn to speak later because of learning different languages, as previously thought.
  • One of the simplest approaches towards having bilingual children seems to be the one-parent/one-language approach. It is easier for a child to differentiate a language if one person speaks one language consistently to them.

Voila! I am really interested to hear if anyone else has tips and ideas on how to bring up kids with several languages!

– Emilie

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