Thursday Thoughts: How old were you when you started your family?

 

courtney with ivy and quin

Living in London, I have always felt like a young mum. I was 24 when Easton was born. I was the youngest mum in my antenatal class and the youngest of all my new mum friends. Even at 32, when Marlow was born, I remained one of the youngest mums in any of the children’s classes or activities we attended.

I have always been quite maternal so I never thought twice about starting a family at 24. It was really only when Easton started school (I was 28) that I became more aware of my age compared to other mothers in the class, many of whom were in their 40s.

Women in London tend to wait longer to start having a family. It seems that the majority of women I know in London put focus on their careers first, and then started having babies in their mid to late thirties. Some of my friends even waited until their forties to start a family. A good friend of mine in London just had her fourth baby at age 45!

A recent study in the UK found that Londoners find the ideal age to have children is 37. This is mostly financially motivated as the cost of living in London is so high. I read a separate article recently that said that, for the first time, more women in the UK are having babies after the age of 35 than the number of women having babies under the age of 25. The average age of first-time mothers is getting older and older over time.

But that is London.

When we arrived to Sydney a couple months ago, I was struck by how much younger mums are. Unlike in London, I saw loads and loads of 20-something mums pushing buggies on the streets. For the first time ever, I became conscious of my age, aware that I was not a young mum in this city.

I mentioned this to Esther and Emilie and they told me that when they were in LA for our ShopUp event, they were struck by how young all the mums were there. It appeared to them that many women started having babies in their mid twenties so that by the time they were in their 30s, they already had several children. This was a noticeable contrast to their home cities, Amsterdam and Paris, where, like in London, women tend to wait until their mid to late 30s to start their families.

So now I’m curious. I’d love to hear where you live and at what age you started your family? Did you feel young or old compared to your peers? Do you think there is an ideal age? Or is it all relative? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Courtney x

p.s. I searched in my photo archives for a pregnancy photo and found this one from 2012. I was 8 months pregnant with Marlow – look how little Quin and Ivy look!

Giant, luxury scarf swaddels from Marloe London

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The best baby care products are practical, functional, simple and clever. When they are extremely good looking too — well, that’s a bonus : ).

The giant Marloe London scarf swaddle scores on all the above points. It is a chic mama accessory and a handy baby accessory all in one: a scarf, a swaddle, a travel blanket, a play mat, a cot sheet, a breast feeding cover — it can even be a fun sarong for the beach or a pretty throw for over your sofa. It also serves well as a hut-building tool, I can attest!

Marlon, swaddles, scarf, blanket, personalised, baby present
The Marloe London scarf swaddles is made from an organic cotton / bamboo viscose blend, which makes it strong and ever so soft. It measures a good 140 x 140 cm, comes with a pretty embroidered hem and the dip-die pieces are hand died for a touch of unique (optional personalising is available too).

xxx Esther

The second day of our fabulous LA ShopUp event!

ShopUp entrance bloggers breakfast and acai bowls
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ShopUp balloon Moon Juice at The ShopUp Esther Emilie and Miraya at the ShopUp

The start of the second day of our LA ShopUp was perfect, with blue skies and lots of bloggers who came to breakfast! It was wonderful to bring together so many wonderful, like-minded women and see everyone meet, catch up and stroll around the event.

bloggers breakfast Lombardi House Olly vitamins and ShopUp visitor Babiekins Magazine Happy Baby at the ShopUp

A highlight of the breakfast were the healthy, beautiful and extremely tasty, acai-filled coconuts by Amazebowls. What an amazing way to start the day! The incredibly yummy juices by Moon Juices and the delicious (addictive!) coffee of Blue Bottle Coffee where also at hand. We got to sample the delicious gluten and lactose free cookies by Caer — chock-full of galactagogues, foods that promote the flow of breast milk! Caer specialises in organic, nutrient dense baby food delivered to your home. Free copies of Babiekins magazine were handed out, samples of Olly multi vitamins, and Happy Family Organics had all sorts of tasteful and healthy snacks to try, both for mama and child!

goddess tutus photo booth at The ShopUp Caer baby food and flowers MakersMess weaving at The ShopUp

The day progressed with more blue skies (we love!), an a busy and bustling day with so many wonderful visitors, both big and small. We loved the fun craft classes by Maker’s Mess (we even got to sit down and do some weaving ourselves!) and having the lovely Mischievous Goddess around to entertain the children. The photo booth by Red Anchor Photo (with the stylish backdrop made by Happenings Co.) was constantly filled by the most darling little ones, so cute!

ShopUp at the Lombardi House The ShopUp by Babyccino Kids OMY giant colouring poster at The ShopUp ShopUp visitor and dresses the pudding truck at The ShopUp Little visitor and cute products at The ShopUp

Oh, we can go on and on about all the fabulous visitors, vendors, venue… but the stunning photos by Nicki Sebastian speak more than words!

dad and son visitor at The ShopUp LuluLuvs and visitors at The ShopUp LA hanging out on the lawn at the ShopUp in Los Angeles Passported guides at the ShopUp stroller parking by baby bubbles ShopUp cuteness Esther and Kelli ShopUp cuteness and SollyBaby TaskRabbit helper at The ShopUp colourful bags and danni

ShopUp visitors Los Angeles

Thank you to all who visited, to all the truly amazing sponsors and boutiques who made this event what it was. We are so proud to be a part of this energetic and creative community!

xxx

PS Thank you Club Momme for helping us spread the word about our event!

The LA ShopUp: Day One

Esther and Emilie at the ShopUp

Lombardi House barn at the ShopUp

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Craft table at the ShopUpSMALLER

Esther Emilie and Miraya at the ShopUp

ladies

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ShopUp balloons

ShopUp Mabo shoes

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Brimful toys at the ShopUp

cute boys at the ShopUp

pretty clothes at the ShopUp

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balloon funSMALLER

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ShopUp entranceSMALLER

girl and balloon at the ShopUpSMALLER

Day one of our LA ShopUp was an enormous success! It was fun, it was bustling and busy, and the weather thankfully behaved itself (phew!). We saw so many friends and familiar faces, we met lots of inspiring people, and we had so much fun mingling with all the happy visitors, young and old. We’ll give a full rec-cap of the event after it’s all over, but we quickly wanted to thank everyone who popped by yesterday and remind you of what is in store for today. We also wanted to thank our sponsors: TaskRabbit for providing helpers (‘taskers’) at the event, Baby Bubbles for manning the stroller parking and Olly.

Also, our talented photographer Nicki Sebastian sent over some photos and we wanted to share some favourites with you. Okay, a lot of favourites. We couldn’t help it. Aren’t they all so gorgeous and happy?!

We’re excited to do it all over again today! Here’s what’s in store:

  • Maker’s Mess Workshops – Maker’s Mess is hosting fun crafty workshops:
    11am-1pm: Sign up for our Beginner Mini Weaving Workshop at 11am and leave with your own handmade wall hanging and the know-how to continue this craft at home! $49/person https://makersmess.frontdeskhq.com/events/1370348
    2pm-4pm: Join us for Pom-Pom making! Create garlands, necklaces or bag swag! Come have fun playing with textiles with us. $20/person https://makersmess.frontdeskhq.com/events/1370365
  • Free Popsicles – Chloe’s Soft Serve will be handing out complimentary all-fruit pops the last two hours of Monday (3-5pm). Stop by during those hours for a tasty treat!
  • Don’t forget about our big Giveaway – We’ve partnered with Four Seasons Resort O’ahu, Passported, and Babiekins to celebrate our first LA ShopUp and to raise awareness for mothers2mothers, a nonprofit organization fighting to end pediatric AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Please help us by entering and sharing plus donating to m2m. The winner will receive a three-night stay at Four Seasons’ newest resort, opening this summer on O’ahu’s beautiful western coast, as well as a subscription to Babiekins magazine and a gift basket featuring ShopUp participants including Baby Bubbles, Pipsticks, Lululuvs and Mischievous Goddess. You can enter the giveaway here (and anyone can enter!).

 

Hope to see you there!

Win a Four Seasons Hawaiian Getaway!

Four Seasons O'ahu resort

Four Seasons resort O'ahu

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Our Los Angeles ShopUp event is just days away now!! In addition to planning lots of fun activities for visitors, we’ve been busy behind the scenes thinking of ways to raise awareness and money for our parter charity, mothers2mothers – a nonprofit organisation fighting to end pediatric AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

We’re thrilled to have teamed up with our friends at Passported, Four Seasons Resort O’ahu, and Babiekins to offer an exciting opportunity to win a three-night stay at Four Seasons’ newest resort, opening this summer on O’ahu’s beautiful western coast. A beautiful, luxurious beach holiday!

Please help us by entering, sharing and donating to mothers2mothers. The winner will receive a three-night stay at the resort, as well as a subscription to Babiekins magazine and a gift basket featuring some of our ShopUp participants: Baby Bubbles, Pipsticks, Lululuvs and Mischievous Goddess.

The giveaway is open to anyone, anywhereEnter here to win!

Thank you for all your support. xx

Tuesday Tips – Surviving Homework

using scrabble to help spelling words

I have to say being a teacher and setting homework is so much easier then being the parent who needs to help their child complete it! But last week was a success. My daughter finished all of her homework without any arguments and we still had time for some family fun. Hurray!

So how did we do it? Here are some tips which I’m going to share (and remember myself for next week):

  • Make a plan – Although the reality of homework is also marking its place in a child’s independence of organising themselves, they do still need advice. Look ahead to see what needs completing first. Make a plan to limit the last minute panic.
  • Schedule a regular homework time and break up the work in manageable chunks. Take a 15 minute break every hour if it’s a long project.
  • Choose your timings right – Some pieces of homework such as project work will take more time then other smaller tasks such as word or sentence level. Be realistic as to how much time there is in the day before after school clubs start or it’s time for dinner. Set realistic expectations.
  • Create a comfortable setting – Make sure your child has a well-lit area to complete homework. Keep supplies such as paper, pencils, glue, scissors within reach.
  • Feed their brain – Helena is so hungry when she comes home so I always make sure she has a healthy snack and drink before she starts.
  • Be encouraging – There are certain topics which I know will excite Helena more then others. So I always make a point of being enthusiastic right from the start. Praise their work and effects throughout. Make an achievement wall and showcase their great assignments, check their homework through and make yourself available for any questions they may have.
  • Eliminate distractions – It’s so easy for Florence to jump on the table and ask for her homework at the same time as Helena make a start on hers. Already we have chaos! So I print out some fun colouring pages for her from Twisty Noodle which keeps her quietly busy.
  • Trust your instinct – There are times when I know it’s just not the right time to do homework. Getting some fresh air, a walk, a jump of the trampoline all help dust the cobwebs off Helena before she sits down to it.
  • Use different mediums – Particularly for maths homework, we use a variety of objects around the house to help work out word problems or division sums. Kids love to help look around too to see what they’d like to use.
  • Set a good example – Children are more likely to do their reading homework if they see you with a book in your hand.
  • Have patience (and lots of it) – It’s so easy to say but patience is a virtue and it’s imperative during homework time. If your child really isn’t getting it then rephrase the question or give them another medium to use.
  • Talk to the teacher – Encourage your child to talk to the teacher is he/she doesn’t quite understand. Ensure you can talk to the teacher too. If your child doesn’t quite get something tweak the assignment slightly (making sure of course the teacher is ok with this).
  • Know your school – Read the school’s homework policy and know what they are expecting. Know where you can help out and if you should write a note communicating any issues or praises.
  • Relax – It’s so easily said then done but children pick up on your anxiety too.

I hope this short list has helped in some way. Please share any tricks and tips you have too.

Vanessa x

The ShopUp in Los Angeles — this coming Sunday & Monday!

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ShopUp LA

Our Los Angeles ShopUp event is finally happening! The ShopUp takes place this coming Sunday and Monday the 10th & 11th at the beautiful Lombardi House in Hollywood. We can’t wait to get all of our stylish shops together in this stunning venue for the very BEST shopping imaginable.

In addition to shopping, our lovely event manager, Pop Productions, has lined up an exciting selection of cute activities for kids, tasty food & drinks, and other fun opportunities for visitors. Here’s what’s in store:

    • Our partner charity, mothers2mothers, will be there giving visitors the opportunity to make a $5 donation and write a mother’s day card to a mom in Africa (and be entered to win a Kalon Studios field tent!!).
    • We’ll have delicious food and drinks from: Moon Juice, Blue Bottle Coffee, The Green Truck, Cool Haus, Sprinkles (Sunday), and The Pudding Truck (Monday).
    • Happy Family Organics will also be there offering free samples of their healthy snacks for babies, toddlers and kids
    • Olly will be offering samples of their children’s multi vitamins to test out for your family
    • British American Household Staffing will be onsite to watch your little ones and keep them busy with some fun activities while you shop!
    • You can get family photos taken by our in-house photographer, Red Anchor.
    • Makers Mess will be set up inside the barn with crafts. On Sunday you can make paper people and flower prints with the kids (walk-ups welcome). On Monday they’ll have cool crafts for mammas with 11am mini weaving and 2pm pom pom garland making. RSVP required.
    • Mischievous Goddess will be on-site with tutus, wands and crystals for the goddess in us all.
    • Passported has created dedicated LA guides featuring our favourite things to do/see/eat in the city which will be handed out at the welcome table.
    • We’ll be selling a limited number of custom ShopUp LA tote bags for $10 each. First come, first served!

We would also love to say a big thank you to the following:

  • The Photo Booth backdrop and beautiful entryway installation is being made by Happenings Co.
  • There will be plenty of space to park your strollers, parking will be provided by Baby Bubbles
  • Winter Wells will be making our space look extra pretty, providing custom made bespoke banners
  • The event is being powered by TaskRabbit. Check out our Taskers in action setting up Lombardi House, greeting shoppers and selling our limited edition tote bags. (Busy mums, Taskrabbit is for you. They do chores so you live life.)
  • Thank you to our media partners, Club Momme and Babiekins for helping us spread the word about the event

It’s really shaping up to be our best event yet. The event is free and open to the public! April 10 noon-6pm, April 11 10am-5pm.
RSVP not required but you can sign up here for pre event announcements.  We look forward to seeing you there!

p.s. There’s limited parking available down the street from the Lombardi House at 5963 Carlos Ave, LA CA 90028. There’s also plenty of street parking in the neighbourhood.

Thursday Thoughts – Is Homework Healthy?

word problems

I’m of two minds when it comes to homework. I’m not sure if I love it or loathe it. When I was teaching I would hand it out with such exuberance knowing that children’s learning would be reinforced and excited for the families who would bond over the projects I set. Now I’m a mother and only the word ‘homework’ brings the worst out in me. When I read my daughter’s homework plan I pump myself up with enthusiasm only to be very quickly deflated by her reply! Last year (when she was aged 7) each Monday her spelling words come home – ten of them each week, accompanied with the simple (and so utterly boring) task of writing them in ten interesting complex sentences. So first up is the word dictionary. My daughter writes I have a dictionary. No, I reply, it needs to be exciting. So here she goes again, I have a dictionary but I lost it. Within twenty minutes (of which time the task could have been completed) one sentence is complete and I’m slowly losing the plot, as is she. Not one single spelling word is learned, nothing has been reinforced and as for bonding I’m beginning to sound like Miss Trunchbull!

In England and Wales the government’s guidelines suggest pupils aged 5 to 7 should do 10 minutes of homework per night, stretching it to 30 minutes a day for pupils aged nine to 11. Homework was part of my school life. It was part of my childhood and now it’s my children’s. But does it do more harm than good? The teacher in me started researching this exact question. According to homework research guru Harris Cooper of Duke University, “there is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students”. So why are we putting our children and us as families through it? An example of this, is that my husband’s family live in the Netherlands where there is no homework for primary aged children. My husband always says to me, children learn what they need to learn in school. It’s simple as that.

Don’t get me wrong there have been some projects come home where we’ve all enjoyed helping. Like the one where my daughter was asked to compile a book entitled This is My Life. For three weekends we spent time together looking through photos and recalling wonderful moments. And the one where she had to design a new game for her topic on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We talked about the games we enjoy as a family and what we liked about them.

For now, I’m sitting on the fence when it comes to homework – should we or shouldn’t we? Maybe that’s because all the homework is done for the weekend and we’re about to spend some quality time together! It’s a challenging issue for schools to find ways of presenting homework that is meaningful to children and their families. Let’s hope one day they get the balance right.

I’d love to know your thoughts. What is the homework situation in your house? Do you see the benefits of it? Or is it just something that needs to be done? Do your children have no homework and yet you’d like to see some? Do you think there should be more homework? Please share.

Vanessa x

Thursday Thoughts: The almost teenager

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I have always had a healthy fear of my children turning into teenagers — probably based on my personal experience of being one! But I have found it fascinating, not at all scary, to watch Coco, who is now 10, swing wildly between being a child and a teenager.

Esther and I were talking about it the other day as Sara is going through the same metamorphosis. We especially noticed it a couple a weekends ago when we were visiting and realised that Sara really wanted to hang out with us and stay up late – and yet she fell asleep while doing so. So sweet.

Neither Esther nor I had not really thought about how kids actually become teenagers. In our minds, somehow the kids would go to sleep one morning still being a child and then wake up a full blown teenager.  Not so – we have found out. On the one hand the girls can play with toys for hours, on the other hand they want to take themselves away from the rest of us and find a quiet spot to brood and read.

Coco can, in one movement, be sitting like a kid and the next moment be sitting with the attitude of a young woman! What is that all about? She wants to listen to music, develop her own dress style, talk with assurance about important issues and yet have a cuddle every night. It must been so very confusing! I almost feel as divided as she, as I know I am going to miss having her as my little girl, but I also love seeing the glimpses of the person she is growing into.

Do you remember this phase? Now that I think back I actually do remember so much of this. I remember looking down at myself in a swimming pool and suddenly realising with surprise that I might need to start wearing a real swim suit and not only little swim pants (like we all used to wear). I also remember swearing my brothers to secrecy so that I could spend hours with my Playmobil and run around dressed in a toga — but I did not want anyone to know about it. Of course, I am sure, no one cared. 😉

Do you have any experience with kids becoming teenagers? I would love to hear!

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The above photo is one I took of Coco last autumn, already looking so grown up. The below photo is one I found recently of Easton, Quin and Coco. It was only taken 6 or 7 years ago!  How fast things change.

Emilie

Thursday Thoughts: To shave or not to shave

 

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Okay ladies, a funny thing happened to me this week. I posted this photo (above) on my Instagram feed to feature a watch brand I like and to talk about the two opposing sides of my personal style, as reflected by my wrists. But, the comments and conversation quickly became focused on my arm hair!!! Some people told me “it looked gross,” while others suggested I would look more feminine if I removed it. Some were just surprised I would post a photo showing my arm hair (what?!). Of course many people left comments in my defence, equally stunned by the inane discussion.

And to think, until this week I never ever thought twice about my arm hair. In fact, it never occurred to me that people would shave their arms. Okay, I know Olympic swimmers do, but…!  Frankly, I don’t feel insecure at all about my arms. This is how they look.

Here are my thoughts: Woman have hair. Some have more than others. We already spend WAY too much time worrying about these things. Do we really need to add another task to our personal grooming regimens? Don’t we already have enough pressure on us to meet society’s arbitrary standards of beauty? Why are we encouraging (or more accurately, pressuring) each other to have more insecurities? As a whole, I think we suffer from confidence issues based on our appearance and that has knock-on effects on our ability to achieve success in our careers and happiness in our lives. Society puts enough pressure on us to be thin, to be tall, to have big boobs, to not go grey, to show no wrinkles. Do we need to add ‘to be hairless’? Where does this end?

Please share your thoughts.

Courtney x

ShortStitch, personal shopping — also for boys!

ShortStitch box
Do you remember the personal shopping service, ShortStitch, that we tested for Ava last year? I loved the easy process, the excitement of receiving the box full of gorgeous outfits, and was so happily surprised by the awesome suggestions Darina had put together (some of them I would have never thought of myself — and that was the fun of it!).

ShortStitch box
Darina also wanted us to try her amazing service for boys, so we agreed she would assemble a box of clothes for Casper. He definitely needs a cool new outfit for spring and summer, some good shoes, and swim shorts! So I filled in a very easy online questionnaire and answered questions about our taste, Casper’s sizes, and which items he would need for the coming season. I always love filling out questionnaires, and this was a fun one. After a day or so Darina gave me a quick ring to go over some specifics, like Casper’s hobbies and interests, what he thinks is cool, clothing wise (like superhero details! and pockets!), and the way our family usually spends the weekends.

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The process was so easy and streamlined, and the ShortStich Boy of Yay! arrived on our doorstep two days later, full to the brim with gorgeous pieces of clothing of some brands we love (like 10 IS, Emile et Ida, Bellerose and Zoobug) and with a sweet personal letter accompanying it. It revealed a beautiful coat, a selection of super cool trousers and shorts, some fun shirts, jumpers, and swim trunks. There were also sweet sandals and trainers (with velcro as requested by school!), and some pieces to layer until the weather is warm enough.

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The clothes had definitely been chosen with a lot of care, keeping in mind the preferences in style we had indicated and the specific requests we had made about certain items. I also love that Darina really though about what Casper personally liked, too. The clothes were definitely not just selected for the parent, but very much so for the child as well!

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Casper and I didn’t have an easy job selecting one new outfit — everything inside the box was very want-able! But in the end we settled for a beautifully designed linen trousers with awesome button details. I love how casually smart it looks on Casper (and he loves how many pockets it has!). We combined it with a sweet t-shirt with a tiny, tasteful print, and a cardigan which he immediately fell in love with and which also looks so super cute on him. It will come in so handy as a layering piece in the next months! Of course we also kept the superhero socks, and the trainers which are so practical, and so cool looking (yet dressy enough for school as well).

ShortStitch by Babyccino Kids
We also kept a dark blue sweatshirt with red stitching, just because it looks so, so good on him!

ShortStitch by Babyccino Kids ShortStitch by Babyccino Kids

The swim trucks with the fish (for pirates, according to Casper!) and the sunglasses were also a huge hit. (He has been wearing them day and night — no joke.) So we decided to keep those as well.

The rest of the clothes we returned to the box — all ready to the picked up by the courier to be returned to ShortStich. The beauty of the ShortStitch service is that you only pay (regular retail prices) for the items you decide to keep! The service and shipping is completely free of charge.

I loved this personal shopping experience with ShortStich very much again, and I have to admit that I am now slightly hooked on it. I love discovering so many cool pieces for my kids this way — it is so fun, and so, so easy!

xxx Esther

 

PS This post is sponsored by ShortStitch, a personal shopping service we have tested and absolutely love, and would definitely recommend! ShortStitch is also a member of our shopping portal.

Thursday’s Thoughts : Who do your children most admire?

Michaela DePrince

Helena is now 8 years old and my husband and I are beginning to notice she’s looking further afield than her family for role models – she’s looking for someone to look up to, to inspire her. When she was younger she always looked up to either my husband and myself or to close family members, and just like all the parenting books say, ‘we need to practise what we preach’, I’d like to think we all did. We have shown her feelings like happiness (and sadness), consideration, self respect, patience, self-discipline, kindness, and encouragement. I’d also like to think we’ve shown her the appreciation of good food, the magic of travelling and exploring new places, the ability to make new friends and have an open mind to arts and culture. And I suppose we’ve naturally (instinctively) shown her who would make good friends and who we’d rather her not to hang out with.

But it wasn’t until I read an article about the incredible ballerina, Michaela dePrince, in an on-flight magazine recently that I started thinking about role models. In the article, Michaela explained she had always wanted to be an inspiration to young girls, and it reminded me that there are so many great role models for young children — people who will mould children and help them make healthy choices and achieve goals. Like Emma Watson, for instance, who is such a tremendously talented actress and well-read young women, or Jamie Oliver who has put the ‘bish, bash, bosh’ back into cooking, and Oliver Jeffers who creates the most wonderful illustrations.

It’s really had me thinking lately, and I’ve started asking friends who their children’s role models are.  Those with boys have confidently said sports people – Beckham and Federer amongst a few others. I asked my nephews and they said Epke Zonderland (who is a Dutch gymnast) and Paul van Loon (who is a Dutch writer). A few friends of Helena’s have said their class teacher and their Brownie leader which pleased me that it’s not just the media where children find their role models.

Perhaps to a point, we as parents are still influencing our children. I’d say I’m still giving Helena some guidance, for example I won’t allow her to watch MTV because there are so many negative role models out there too! I do see that her independence is increasing when she listens to her own choice of music, we encourage her to develop her sports abilities and talk of sports people who do strive in their field, we read books making a point to notice who the author is (and illustrator) and we continue to visit art galleries where’s shes now becoming more familiar with artists.

So who are your children’s role models? Are they in the media or part of their social circle? Do you encourage them to find positive ones? How do you feel about negative role models? I’d love to know your thoughts….please share.

Vanessa x

PS The image above is taken from the magazine with the article of Michaela DePrince

French baby products

It’s funny, my friends and family seem to have babies in bursts, and at the moment I have new babies turning up around me — all over the place. So sweet! One of my favourite presents for newborns are French baby products, as there are some things you only seem to get over here and I, for one, really love them.

One of my all-time favourites is the Oléo Calcaire lotion which is what we use to wipe bottoms clean. It is environmentally friendly, baby-friendly and it puts a light protective film on the baby’s bum, protecting it from irritations. 71GNCRvqoEL._SL1500_.

 

Serum Physiologique is something you find in every baby’s house in France. It’s basically a saline solution, and we use it to clean out gunky eyes and squirt it up noses to clean out more gunk. Doctors here don’t understand how parents in other countries manage to get rid of stuffy noses without this! (By the way the obsession with this goes way past the baby stage. There is also a grown up version of the serum).

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It is funny how most countries have a distinct product they use for their kids and Mustela is the quintessential French clean baby smell. Almost all pharmacies stock it all over the country.

Monoprix

Though it is not a product as such, my favourite baby clothes come from my local supermarket Monoprix. The little onesies and clothes are simply perfect.

Emilie

Thursday Thoughts: Teaching our Girls to be Gutsy

girls on beach

Earlier this week, my mom forwarded me this opinion article from the NY times, ‘Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute To Be Scared?’. The author, Caroline Paul, is a San Francisco firefighter, and she writes about how we condition our girls to be scared, while boys are encouraged to be brave and resilient. It’s a topic I haven’t stopped thinking about since.

Reading through the article, I must admit that I felt a sense of affirmation of my relaxed parenting style. Like my own mother, I have adopted a rather hands-off approach when it comes to my children’s adventuring and playing, within reason, of course. In general, I’m more likely to encourage my girls and boys to be adventurous than to caution them to be careful. I have always felt that you have to let kids explore independently and find their own limits so that they can learn for themselves when to exercise caution. Michael, however, is much more safety-conscious so perhaps that allows me to be the more relaxed parent. It’s funny how our role in parenting is influenced by our partner, and sometimes we have to adjust our parenting strategies to ensure you’re a balance team. (This is perhaps an interesting discussion for another time…!)

Anyway, what I find especially interesting about Caroline’s article is the fact that we, as parents, are often guilty of parenting our children differently based on their gender, and that these differences have a direct effect on how boys and girls view themselves and their capabilities as they grow older. For example, we are much more likely to compliment little girls on their appearance than boys — a topic covered in this article on ‘how to talk to little girls’. In most cases, I think we do these things without even being aware of it. We have been brought up with the same biases.

Caroline’s article is another reminder not to put our children into gender boxes — we should encourage both girls AND boys to be emotionally sensitive (see this previous post), we should encourage both boys AND girls to be brave, and we should stop praising girls for what they look like and should instead celebrate their interests, skills, hobbies, etc.

This parenting job is not easy, right?!  Please share your thoughts.

Courtney x

Tuesday Tips: A simple birthday party

party2

Esther has organised some epic kids birthday parties, some of my favourite being the disco party and the stick horse party .

disco_1b

I on the other hand am terrible at this! I seriously cannot compete. BUT I do think it is important for my kids to have their friends over, host them in our home and basically say “thank you” to all their friends for a great year together. Because that is what birthday parties are all about, right? (Not at all about presents and being the centre of attention ;)).

Now another mom at school, who is a pre-school teacher, gave me a couple of tips on how she organises a typical birthday party and I thought it was so genius I wanted to shared them with you. She manages to have some of the best parties without any preparation whatsoever.

When the kids turn up she divides the kids into 2 groups (depending on the numbers) and each group then bakes a cake. It takes them a good 30 mins to get all the ingredients together, mix the batter and get the cakes ready to be popped into the oven. Then she gets the kids to make the world’s longest chain garland which they then decorate the room with. After that, they have time for about 2 games (musical chairs, statues or memory tray). By that time the games are finished, the cakes are ready to eat and everyone loves them even more because they have made them themselves. When the cakes are eaten up and everyone has sung happy birthday, it is already pick-up time.

I thought this very so simple and fun! If anyone has any other ideas to share I would LOVE to hear ;). I have a birthday coming up soon..

Emilie

PS. The above photos are of Esther’s children’s amazing birthday parties!

Thursday Thoughts: Crying it out. When is enough, enough?

marlow in her cot

Earlier this week, while camped at a beautiful beach on the Coromandel Peninsula here in New Zealand, we encountered a situation that has whirled around in my head ever since. We arrived to the campsite in the early evening with enough time to set up camp and prepare dinner. Marlow had just fallen asleep in her car seat on the drive (she had a poor night’s sleep the night before, and we knew she was probably down for the night), so we transferred her from her car seat to her bed and started to make dinner. Meanwhile, the family in the site next to us was busy clearing up their dinner and settling their kids for the night. We noticed they had two kids — around the ages of one and three. Before long, we could hear their youngest crying from inside their tent. At this point, I didn’t really take any notice–I’m secretly relieved when other kids are noisier than my own boisterous bunch! But the crying continued and soon escalated to a loud wail.

Being so close, we could hear the baby’s cries like they were inside our own van, and Marlow began to stir from the noise. I took a nosy little peek at our neighbours and realised the parents were sitting contentedly at a table outside their tent, conversing with friends. Not one of them seemed disturbed by the crying so I figured they must be letting their baby cry himself to sleep—or practicing ‘controlled crying’ as it is sometimes called. Fair enough, every parent has their own way of dealing with a baby’s transition through this phase. Surely it wouldn’t be much longer before they settled him down if he hadn’t fallen asleep, right?

Unfortunately not. The wailing from inside the tent went on for more than an hour and only increased in intensity and volume. It went on for so long that people from all corners of the campsite wandered over to see if everything was okay. Meanwhile, the parents ignored the concerned looks from passers-by and continued to behave as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. It seemed this was part of their nightly routine and they weren’t going to break it, even if it meant disturbing dozens of others’ enjoyment of the peaceful evening.

As their neighbours (our van being only a meter or so from their tent), Michael and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the screaming baby and a bit annoyed with the parents. The crying was waking up Marlow and was clearly bothering almost everyone else in the campsite too. Should we say something? What would we say? How long were they going to let it go on? It brought up a discussion about controlled crying, something Michael and I have differing opinions on.

Michael, being much more of a softie than I am, has never wanted to let our babies ‘cry it out’. I think he would prefer to rock his children to sleep until they were twenty years old than to make them cry it out in any sort of ‘sleep-training’ regime (I could see that he even found it difficult to ignore a stranger’s baby’s cries!). I’m also quite relaxed about sleeping arrangements — always letting my babies sleep in my bed and feeding on demand — but with each of our kids, there came a time (usually around one year) where I had to transition them to fall asleep on their own and in their own bed. I found that once my babies learned this skill, they slept more soundly during the night. BUT, it required a few days of letting them cry a bit at bedtime. (Michael had to plug his ears.)

My approach was to cuddle and comfort them, give them a kiss and lie them down in their bed. I’d then walk out of the room, closing the door behind me. The first day was usually the worst, with maybe 10 or 15 minutes of crying, plus a couple of return visits to console them and lie them back down. By the third or fourth day, they would go to sleep without much of a fuss, and usually by the end of the week, they were sleeping much more soundly and happily in their own bed.

So, I’m not opposed to letting a baby cry for a bit, and I’m not one to tell other parents how they should handle this tricky transition. But I don’t think I could ever let my baby cry for over an hour, for any reason, without attempting to settle them. I certainly could never let them do so in a public place. I would prefer to bend my parenting routines or techniques for the benefit of others. How about you? Please share your thoughts.

Courtney x

p.s. The photo above is of a little Marlow in her cot in our old home. She was laughing, not crying! 

Joy & Joice, 100% natural, aromatherapy candles for expecting or new mamas

Joy & Joice aromatherapy candles for babiesThe months before and after having a baby are just the cosiest periods, the waiting, preparing the house, and then the delightful cocooning on the couch with your tiny newborn in your arms…

Rachel (a really cute young mum I met at the London ShopUp last December) really craved the comforting atmosphere that scented candles create during these cosy months, however she felt the pollutants and toxins that most fragranced candles release were definitely not the right choice when welcoming her new baby. Unable to find a safe enough choice on the market, she started to create her own organic candles, made solely from soy wax and essential oils.

Joy & Joice offer a collection of three candles, for pregnancy, birth and new babies, each of them using aromatherapy oils that have been used for centuries to soothe, relieve or stimulate as needed in that specific stage. Each candle is hand blended and poured in South West London, and is so pure that you can use as a massage oil as the wax softens.

What a lovely idea (and what a nice gift for a new or expecting mum)!

xxx Esther

A sweet announcement and my Top 10 Baby and Mama Products

Ultrasound

Hello everyone. The ones that follow my blog have read the news already but to the ones that don’t I’m over the moon to share that from this summer on I’m going to be a mama of three! I can hardly believe it. If it wasn’t for the ultrasounds I don’t think I would. We are not 100% sure yet about the sex but it is probably a girl. And Tila wants to name her Elsa! I wonder why – any ideas? :)

This is also the main reason behind my absence. I don’t know why but I handled my first two pregnancy better than great but this one was something else. I refuse to blame it on my age (at 33 I’m still technically a teenager after all) but I was extremely sick in the first trimester and have even developed a giant cold that dragged for more than a month!

But it’s over now (yaaay!) and I’m feeling great and super excited about the little avocado in my tummy, all the crafts I have lined up to share, the plans I have with my blog and another news that I want to share with you very soon!

I know you’re used to reading DIY posts from me but having a third newborn in a few months I thought it would be the perfect timing to share my favorite products for the mama and a new baby minus the unnecessary clutter we so love to heap up before the baby is even born; especially the first time around – I would know, believe me. Let’s see:

Fav Baby and mama essentials

1. Onesies from Petit Bateau are the best! I still have them from both Tila and Talan and they have many more life left in them. None others that I tried by now can’t compare with the quality of Petit Bateau. You will never regret the investment.

2. I tried a couple of as-natural-as-possible baby wipes with both of my kids but when I found the WaterWipes I stopped looking. These truly are as natural as they get. They are just cotton wipes plus (boiled) water and 0.1% of grapefruit seed extract, nothing more! And most importantly – no sign of any nasty chemicals! They are also quite thick, super soft and just the perfect size and moist enough to actually do their job properly; even at the messiest “events”.
And thanks to their gentle composition WaterWipes are suitable from birth and even for cleaning baby’s face. They promise not to irritate skin so they’re also perfect for babies prone to eczema and/or nappy rash.
If you’re from UK or Ireland here are the retailers near you, other countries check on Amazon (US, DE, FR).

3. My second one, Talan, was born in winter so a winter muff was a must! I bought this super warm and cozy one from Voksi that can be, thanks to special openings for the harnesses at the bottom, easily installed into a car seat and the pram. And I love the fact it’s made of natural materials like wool, cotton and feather which is something that is truly hard to find these days.

4. I found this baby carrier right here on Babyccino Kids blog. It’s so soft and comfy for the mamas as well as for the babies – they lie in it in a natural, pouch-like fold so it can be used immediately after the birth and it can also be worn in three other positions appropriate for babies up to 2 years but to be quite honest I’d recommend a woven type if you decide to carry after the age of one because they don’t stretch and hold the baby nicely up in place when they get heavier. You can order your Combi Cotti over this email: meeloomans(at)gmail.com

5. I absolutely adore Aden + Anais and I think everyone that ever owned at least one of their pieces does. Their swaddles are an absolute magic and they are the only thing that made my babies sleep! Swaddling calms babies down so amazingly that it’s the number 1 thing that I would recommend you buying. You can read more on swaddling here.

6. Besides the big swaddling blanket we also have their musys, smaller muslin squares that Talan uses as security blankets. He absolutely loves them and can’t fall asleep without at least one besides his face. It’s the cutest thing ever to see him rub one against his cheek. We also used them under his head to cover his pillow when he was a newborn. And on top of everything their designs are super cute too! And they just came out with a small clothing range for babies last year. Needless to say I want their every single piece!

7. If there is something you shouldn’t scrimp on it’s the Baby Monitor! I learned that the hard way. Trust me, you will hate yourself for the strange voices or sudden noises and beeps in the middle of the night or even wore – nothing! Your baby will scream his heart out and your monitor will stay silent. That are just a few features of cheap monitors. So after the third one I decided to get this one from AngelCare that also comes with an under-mattress movement sensor pad that sensors babies movement. And the monitor only turns on when there are any actual noises so you don’t hear every single breath, the transmission is perfect and the battery lasts remarkably long.

8. Now a few things for mamas. There are are few nursing bras I changed over the course of my three pregnancies but the brand I swear by is Amoralia. They truly do the carrying, keep the shape, give comfort and last for ages! My favorite two models are Cupcake Nursing Bra and the Second Skin Organic Nursing Bra, which is prefect as a sleeping bra.

9. After I gave birth to Talan I tried the Belly Band that help you get your tummy and hips back in shape sooner but I just found it too uncomfortable right after the birth. So I bought these Shaping Briefs from H&M and they were amazing! I just loved the feeling of everything being held in place if you know what I mean. They were super comfortable but at the same time they squeezed my abdominal area with just the right amount of pressure. Plus they made my tummy go back quite fast! I’m definitely getting a whole pile of them before summer!

10. The last but certainly not the least is this CushionChane from Ballab. It has three press-on buttons at the ends so by buttoning it up together you get a donut-shaped cushion and can use it for things like a resting place for your baby, as a sitting cushion after the birth and if you take it apart you get a really long cushion that can be used to help you sleep while pregnant, as a nursing pillow, support for babies during tummy time or back support when the baby starts to sit up on its own and so much more. And they look great as long couch pillows!

I am not a big fan of using cosmetic products with small babies or even children (even I reduced them to an absolute minimum) but there are times when they help with conditions that other things don’t. So there are two more products I wanted to mention: the Diaper Ointment from Burt’s Bees that works absolutely amazing on nappy rashes (nothing else helps the way this baby does) and the Siriderma Skin line for skin prone to eczema that we use since Talan had the eczema all over his body for the first year of his life, now he only has problem areas like his chin during winter. You can read more about it here.

I hope I helped at least someone with this list but I would be super happy if you shared some of your favorite’s! Are there any other products that you can’t live without and I should know about?

-Polona

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

Thursday Thoughts: Do you share a toothbrush?

Ivy brushing her teeth

Over the past few months of travelling our family has adapted to a pared down lifestyle. Camping, in particular, has encouraged us to take simplifying to a whole new level. A few examples: we often all share the same water glass throughout the day to save washing up, we share baths/showers, we even share towels (keeping two on rotation for all six of us), and we’ll re-wear soiled clothes to avoid the laundry pile from growing too quickly. Not that any of us were overly fussy before this trip started, but we’ve definitely become more relaxed on the road (I actually don’t remember what it’s like to have clothes that smell clean!!).

It’s a good thing I grew up on a farm and don’t mind a bit of grit. We’ve tried to bring our kids up this way too, encouraging them to explore and play and not worry too much about dirt or germs.  But I can’t help thinking about our friends and families who prefer a more ‘hygienic’ lifestyle. What would they think if they saw (or smelled!) us now?!

And now for a confession: we even share a toothbrush! We have one electric toothbrush with us (with one head), which we all share.

I never gave it a second thought until I was tidying up the van earlier this week and it occurred to me that some people would find this to be absolutely disgusting. Michael has a brother who won’t even share toothpaste out of fear that someone else’s toothbrush may have touched the paste. Imagine how cringe-worthy he would find our toothbrush sharing! : )

I guess I’ve always been quite relaxed about this. When I was little, my siblings and I would use my mom’s toothbrush if we went on holidays and forgot to bring our own. In fact, I still use my mom’s toothbrush when I’m visiting her and don’t have mine handy. She’s just my mum, after all. In London the kids had their own toothbrushes (or colour-coded heads for the electric toothbrush), but during our travels it just doesn’t make sense to carry around so many different brushes. And none of us seem bothered to share.

So… where do you stand? Is it disgusting? Absolutely revolting? Or would you (do you?) do the same? Please share!

Courtney x

Tuesday Tips: Introducing a second language in a single-language family

Babyccino Kids
Over the years, I have received a few requests to explain how it is possible that all four of my children speak English, even though we live in the Netherlands, we solely speak Dutch at home, and, from the age of four, they attend public Dutch schools like all other Dutch children. Our children speak and understand English — maybe not fluently like a native English speaker, but they can follow and initiate conversations on a very functional level without problems. So here’s what happened.

My husband and I are both Dutch, born to Dutch parents and raised in typical Dutch villages in the south of the Netherlands. We met through mutual friends when I was in my final year of my study in Delft, and less than a year later we moved to New York together, the beginning of a 7-year adventure of living abroad in three different countries.

Sara and Pim were born when we lived in England, and by the time we moved to Amsterdam, Sara was 2 years old and spoke both Dutch and English. At the time we weren’t sure if we would stay in the Netherlands, so to keep all options opened we entered Sara in the nursery of the British School of Amsterdam when she turned three.

She stayed there until she turned four, and then started a Dutch primary school here in the neighbourhood. The reason for this was very much a financial one — Dutch schools are state funded whereas the British school is a private tuition with steep yearly fees.

That year in the British school was so much fun for her, with so many great activities for a three-year-old, that we have repeated this for all of our children (Casper is currently attending the nursery of the British school — he will start the Dutch primary school in the fall). So what we (sort of accidentally) have done, is to make use of the fact that the British school offers a nursery from the age of three, whereas Dutch schools start at the age of four. The private fees that we pay in that bridge year we would have otherwise paid to the Dutch daycare, so financially it didn’t make much difference. And the big bonus is — they all got a really nice kickstart in English! So this is how we activated their second language.

To sustain their English, we have done a few things: we have always worked with English speaking nannies or baby-sitters; we let the children watch un-dubbed (English spoken) films, and even though we don’t speak English to our children, we do read to them in English (for instance, I’m currently reading Harry Potter to the bigger children, and I do so in English).

The result is, that our kids continue to speak and understand English pretty well. I actually have also noticed that they pick up written English quite easily as soon as they comfortable read in Dutch. What also helps their language development is meeting up with our English speaking friends. Like last summer, we spent a week camping with Emilie and her girls, and the children were super comfortable speaking English all day.

So here you go, this is what we have done, and it seems to work. Do you have any tips about introducing a second language in a single-language family? If so, please do share, we would all love to hear!

xxx Esther

PS Photo of a memorable trip to Belgium with the entire Babyccino clan. Still a favourite!

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