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

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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

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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!

Maths with Lego

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

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

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

-Emilie

Thursday thoughts: are some kids naturally more naughty than others?

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My sister recently just spent a couple weeks with us here in New Zealand and toward the end of her stay, she looked at me and asked ‘do you think Marlow is more naughty because she was born that way, or do you think it’s because she’s the youngest and she’s been allowed to be?’. It’s an interesting question and one which I couldn’t actually answer.

I’ve always thought Marlow was just born with extra cheek and a bit of a naughty streak. Not really naughty in a bad way, but more of a cleverness and curiosity that can sometimes lead to trouble. She seems to have more of this curiosity than the other children have ever had. After all, none of the other kids ever had a problem with drawing on walls, climbing onto kitchen counters, cutting their own hair, escaping from her car seat in the car, etc. In fact, when Marlow cut the entire left side of her hair off last year and came walking into the room as if nothing had happened, all three of the other kids were so upset, they were crying hysterically. They couldn’t believe she would go that far.

So, while I’ve always felt like this is just the way Marlow is, my sister raised a good point. Could it also be that we’ve fostered this personality? Being the youngest of four children, she naturally has different parents than our eldest children had at her age. We are more distracted with the other kids so there are more opportunities to sneak under the radar and to get into trouble without us catching her. Maybe we’ve also become a bit relaxed with our discipline over the years and are more forgiving of her behavior. Another element I’ve noticed is that even when I do discipline her, she often turns to her older siblings for love and support, and mama becomes the ‘bad guy’ (receiving disappointing looks from all the children). I mentioned she is clever – she knows exactly how to play the ‘baby of the family’ card. : )

Could it then be a youngest child thing? Perhaps it is in our family, but I know it’s not the case in others. I’ve had many conversations with friends who tell me their ‘naughty’ child is their middle child, or even their eldest. So the birth order argument doesn’t always hold true. (On a side note – I find the study of birth order and children’s personalities SO fascinating! I even took a class on it in college. ) Maybe it goes back to my initial thought that some children are just born with a bit of extra cheek…

I would love to hear your thoughts. It’s an interesting nature versus nurture debate. Do you happen to have one child more mischievous than the others? If so, which number child is he or she?

The photo above was taken this summer by Sara Welch who happened to capture my children’s personalities perfectly. 

Sweet illustrations, by Laura Uy

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Laura Uy is a Canadian illustrator with such a lovely, playful style. Her work mainly focusses on greeting cards and prints, which make great decor pieces for children’s rooms. I love that bear in the photo above, so whimsical (the gold stars are hand-painted and make the print extra pretty).

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Laura’s greeting cards have such sweet illustrations with the cutest puns. There are cards for all sorts of occasions (loads for Valentines, too!), and they all bring a smile to my face. Lovely to send, to receive, and to keep!

xxx Esther

‘On a Beam of Light’ by Jennifer Berne & Vladimir Radunsky (and a personal story)

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I discovered this delightful book recently.  I was specifically looking for a book about the life of Albert Einstein for my eldest son (who is nearly nine) and came across this one.

We discovered that my son has severe dyslexia about 18 months ago and its been a bit of a roller coaster ride.  On one hand it was a relief (mostly to him!) that there was an explanation to why he just wasn’t getting reading and writing like his friends, but on the other hand we’ve had to find a new school (despite him being settled and happy where he was) and he has needed to change language (he was at a bi-lingual school before as my husband is German and they taught firstly in German with English as a 2nd language) – which have both been tough.

The hardest part for us was seeing his confidence deteriorate – whilst his friends started to read words, then sentences, then paragraphs and now books – he has looked-on confused as to why it seems so easy for them whilst 1 syllable words still get caught inside him, unable to find their way out.  His conclusion was natural (albeit wrong) – he must be stupid!  That belief slowly grew, until it was bigger than just ‘words’ – he forgets his gym kit at school; “It’s because I’m so stupid Mama”, he says with frustration … “No, its not, its because you’re 8 and human and sometimes we forget stuff!”.

As parents our hearts bleed – we needed to address his education, to put him into an environment that would not only be able to teach him to read and write but also a place that understood there are often wonderful side-effects of being dyslexic and the fact that dyslexic people ‘learn differently’ often makes them see the world differently – a way which can lead to endless opportunities if harnessed correctly.  We hope we found that place.  But secondly we needed him to start believing in himself again, to see that he is amazing … and not just in a “I’m amazing because my Mum thinks so” kind of way but in a “I’m amazing because my mind, thoughts & stories are exciting and inspire those around me and when I dream, my dreams are big and ambitious and because I’m stubborn and determined and …. because my Mum thinks I am”.

I wanted to tell my son about some amazing people, who have changed the world with their brilliance who were (or are) dyslexic … Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, Andy Warhol, Muhammed Ali, Henry Ford, Richard Branson, Hans Christian Andersen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Steven Spielberg, Thomas Edison and even Albert Einstein.  Not a bad bunch of people to look up to.

So excuse my HUGE detour in this book review but I wanted to share with you a little bit about our personal journey … maybe you have experienced something similar? Maybe not because of a learning-difficulty but for another reason your child has experienced a dip in their self-esteem?  As parents it’s hard to know how to navigate.  I often take solace in a book and finding a story that can connect to the problem and bringing it out in the open, it maybe gives us a chance to talk about it but if not then we just sit together and enjoy a story – that in itself is a salve that soothes many wounds.

And so … whether you have a dyslexic child or not “On a Beam of Light” is a lovely story about Albert Einstein.  As the author points out at the end, the subject is a big one and with some “quite” tricky concepts to articulate! However Jennifer Berne edits this biography perfectly so there is a harmony between the story of one man’s life and the scientific facts & figures that inevitably go with it.  There is almost a poetry to Einstein’s discoveries which is complimented by Vladimir Badunsky’s illustrations. I especially like how we see the ageing process of Einstein … he starts the book as a baby and ends as an old man.  The illustrations are tender & soft and the faces are kind, immediately you are so engaged with this interesting man.  By the end, we know a little bit more about the significance of Einstein’s thinking but we’re also inspired to think for ourselves and think big, to think in pictures to see things as they could be … because maybe they are? to ask questions, to try and answer questions no one else can and to relish the power of thought – the message is a good one for all of us but especially our kids!

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On a Beam of Light is available in the UK here and the US here.

Mo. x

Thursday Thoughts: a vivid imagination

a vivid imaginationIt’s a big cliché for parents — the moment you give birth (or even conceive!), the worrying begins. And it’s true, it does. We parents worry… a lot.

Quite recently I started to realise that I have a very vivid imagination: I can see scenes taking place vividly in my head, in my imagination, like a film being projected on a screen in my head. It can be very funny: with a friend of mine, who has a similarly strong visual mind, we can really come up with entire slapsticks like this. One of us describes a scene, the other adds to it, and we see it all happening on the screen in our brains. It is hilarious!

But when that vivid imagination is applied to the wellbeing of my children, it is not so funny. I can see bad stuff happening to my children in a not-so-safe situation, when I allow my imagination to run away with me; to play with the possibilities of what could happen.
I have realised that it especially happens when heights are involved (perhaps a hidden fear of heights?), but it can also happen around water, or around traffic. I not only realise there is a potential danger here, I actually, vividly start to imagine the possible result of the dangerous situation.
It doesn’t always happen, and sometimes it doesn’t happen on the scene but a little later, when I realise what could have happened at that specific moment. Sometimes (years later even!), the scenes replay when I wake up in the middle of the night — seriously no fun!

It might sound like I’m a completely crazy, extremely stressed and over-protective parent, by I don’t think that this is the case (maybe I’m a bit crazy, but in a fun way I hope). I actually hope to believe that I’m a relaxed mama in most situations, and that I give my kids a lot of freedom to explore their little world.

It’s funny, the things we keep learning about ourselves and the people that surround us. When I started to recognise this phenomenon in my brain and started to shape my thoughts about it, and bounced the idea off some of my friends. Some of them immediately recognised what I was talking about, but most didn’t have a clue what I was talking about (including my husband, he has no such mind).

I would love to hear your thoughts about this too. Does it sound familiar at all? Are you a worrier? Or does your mind work in a different way? Please share, I would love to hear.

xxx Esther

PS Photo taken in the atlas mountains in Morocco, where we were in a 4×4 car driven by a local Berber — quite fast, and quite scary. I vividly imagined the car driving off that road.

Mark your calendars – the ShopUp is coming to Los Angeles!!

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We couldn’t be more excited about this announcement. After successful events in both London and NYC, we’re thrilled to bring the ShopUp to Los Angeles! The event will take place this spring on April 10th and 11th in Hollywood. We’ve secured the prettiest, most perfect venue, Lombardi House (see photos above!), we’re working with our wonderful event manager, Miraya Berke from Pop Productions, and we’ve already lined up a wonderful selection of shops so far! It’s going to be so, so good. Babyccino is going to Hollywood (we’ve always wanted to say that! haha)!

So far we’ve lined up gorgeous brands like Mabo Kids (adorable clothing!), LuluLuvs (handmade accessories!), Pipsticks (stickers galore!), Natti Natti (beautiful bedding), Papergirl (illustrated clothing & decor) Starling (beautiful, intricate jewellery) and cool LA-based clothing brand, Frankie & Ava. We’ll also have the brilliant Brimful shop as well as Toronto-based boutique Mini Mioche — and Little Lu, with the cutest organic hair accessories. We still have room for more of our wonderful shops, so please get in touch if you would like to join us.

We’re also looking for press partners, collaborations and sponsors at this stage, so please reach out if you’re interested in working together. We’ve got lots of great ideas up our sleeves.

Mark your diaries for Los Angeles. We can’t wait to see you there!

Courtney x

Banner image at the top was created by the lovely Alex Labriola from Al Stampa. Thank you, Alex! 

Kittens!

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Over the Christmas holiday, we got a call from some good friends here in the neighbourhood with a rather strange but lovely question: they recently had gotten two kittens to extend their family of four, but now it turned out that the dad had developed an allergy for cats. So would we want to adopt their little cats? (They could also have asked us to adopt the dad, but I guess they wanted to keep him 😉 ). We didn’t have to think long — Tamar and I both grew up with animals. My dad was a veterinarian and our country home and garden was always filled with all sorts of pets, and Tamar grew up in a farmhouse also full of animals. So here we are now, proud owners of kittens for the past week. Their names are Hunter (a ginger tom) and Kitty (a black queen), and they are so funny and cute. According to the kids, this brings our animal count now to ten: we have Domino the rabbit, Peet the parakeet, Bagel the hamster which we share with our neighbours, kittens Hunter and Kitty, and then there are Pim’s 5 stick-bugs. (Although three escaped overnight and Pim so far only found 2 back!)

I find it so lovely to be surrounded by animals again, it’s so cosy. I also think it’s good for the children to have animals around: if they are sad they always have a friend to cuddle with, and it also teaches them a sense of responsibility (feed their animals, keep their surroundings clean). I wonder, do you have any pets in your house? Or are you thinking about getting one?

xxx Esther

Our Third London ShopUp: Day 1

We were thrilled to see so many of you at our third London ShopUp! We truly couldn’t have been happier with how it all went. We had some of the absolute best children’s shops in the world join us, and they were each truly spectacular — so many beautiful products. (You can see a full list of who joined us by clicking here.)

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This year’s ShopUp also brought us a wide array of fun and festive activities. The kids loved the beautiful, interactive Christmas trees that Starting With Art dreamed up.

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Adults and kids alike loved the braid bar from Ruuby!

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Thank you to those of you helped to support our charity beneficiary, mothers2mothers. They were there wrapping gifts and chatting about the amazing “Mentor Mothers” they work with in sub-Saharan Africa who are trained, employed, and empowered to teach other mothers how to prevent the spread of HIV. If you missed the opportunity to support this incredible organisation, you can do so now by clicking here! Donating as little as £3 can make a real difference in the lives of these women.

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Perhaps our favourite addition to this year’s ShopUp was Father Christmas! He was with us both Thursday and Friday and was, by far, the best Father Christmas we have ever seen (obviously because he was the REAL Santa!). He listened intently to each child, asking questions, clarifying gift requests, and posing for photos both from parents and from our elf with an instant camera.

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It is no surprise that Santa’s elves did some shopping at Hedgehog in preparation for Santa’s visit to the ShopUp. Their classic toys are always a hit with kids of all ages!

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Santa’s beautiful paper flower backdrop was from the talented women behind the Paper Flower Wedding who handmade each of these gorgeous flowers! His furniture was lent to us from sofa.com (who can still get a beautiful new couch to you in time for Christmas!).

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We want to give a massive thank you to all of our sponsors who helped make this event such a success. A particularly large thank you goes out to our major sponsors: Eve Mattress, The London Gifting Studio, and Childcare.co.uk. We had so much fun getting to know Eve Mattress and The London Gifting Studio who were able to join us at the event.

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Also a massive thank you to (the adorable) Nina Weinreich who provided bubbles for us on Thursday evening! The Weinreich wines are so deliciously flavourful, and we always love seeing Nina!

If you can believe it, this was only a recap of day one! We have another post on the second day coming to you soon, so stay tuned!

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Thank you to Lesley Colvin who supplied us with all these gorgeous photos!

Macarons, in Amsterdam and at the ShopUp today

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A little while back, we spent a fun weekend morning with our friends Veit and Julie from the German brand Macarons who visited us in Amsterdam together with their cute girls Cécile and Cleo. They also brought their friend the photographer Oliver Kröning along, who took some really cool snapshots during the day.

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We had a long lunch and then all went to the park for a stroll. Those are the best kind of weekends, I feel — long and lazy days with lovely food and lovely company!

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It was such a fun, relaxed day — with all of us wearing pieces of the newest Macarons collection. (Yes, there are adult jumpers available now, and how awesome is that green colour?)

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Macarons is here in London today for the ShopUp event (I’m writing this post from the café, while there’s a lovely buzz going on around me. It’s been such a great event so far, and there is so much more fun to come!)

xxx Esther

PS Congrats to the Macarons family with their newest baby, a little boy called Charles, born just two weeks ago! : )

Our Third London ShopUp Starts Tomorrow!

Our third London ShopUp event starts tomorrow and we couldn’t be more excited to share the fun with you! We have so much going on this year, so we want to give you a quick overview of what to expect. Let’s start with the most important part: the shopping!

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Shopping:

We have gathered fifty incredible shops together for you this year. You will find everything from pyjamas, to books, to stocking stuffers, and more! You can start and finish ALL of your shopping in one fell swoop!

Santa’s Grotto:

Santa’s grotto will be open from 12:00-17:30 on Thursday and 12:00-18:00 on Friday. Santa has been shopping at Hedgehog so you know that his toys will be especially good this year! There is no need to pre-book; just sign up when you arrive. Tickets are £10 and include a gift and photo.

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Workshops:

The Mamahood has done such an incredible job of putting together our workshops, that they have all sold out! That being said, we will still have two, super fun, mini workshops running in the cafe both Thursday and Friday. You can read more about those on the Mamahood site.

Wrapping Station:

We have paired up with the incredible charity mothers2mothers to bring you a gift wrapping station! If you like brown paper packages tied up with string, then this will be for you. The best part is that your donation will help this truly exceptional charity in their quest to prevent and treat mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Braid Bar:

Both kids and grownups can enjoy braids from Ruuby! They have prepared a special braid menu just for us, with styles that are picture perfect for a mini photo shoot with Maud!

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Activity Centre:

The incredibly creative minds behind Starting With Art have put together the most amazing interactive art project for your little ones! They have also organised a gorgeous colouring sheet for our shopping guides.

We know that many of you aren’t free during the day, which is why we have planned an evening of late night shopping tomorrow (Thursday) night! Bubbles from our favourite German winery Weinreich will be flowing, and we will be handing out festive mini cupcakes from Primrose Bakery (who will be selling cupcakes in the cafe!). We will be open until 21:00, so please stop by! Entry is free!

xxx the Babyccino team

Katrina Campbell Photography

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A few weeks ago we spent a lovely Sunday morning with the talented photographer Katrina Campbell, who came from London for the day to photograph our family (and to spend some time in our lovely city, of course).

Katrina told me beforehand not to worry too much about a tidy house, perfectly posing children, well, not to worry too much about anything! And I didn’t, and it was just the perfect state-of-mind for a relaxed photoshoot — my kids were running around, playing, and while I was making coffee, getting Casper dressed and chitchatting with Katrina (who really is such a lovely lady!), she was taking snapshots of our children. (I love that photo of Casper on our window sill in his underwear, with his sweet baby belly and his round little knees!)

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We also went for a little walk outside, the kids on their bikes and climbing in trees like normal. Katrina just walked along with us, camera in hand, and took the most beautiful photos. I love how natural they are, and how the character of each child is captured.  On just two occasions, Katrina asked us to quickly pose as a family, because as she said: every family likes to have a nicely posed family photo every now and then. (So true!)

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What I am most impressed about, are the beautiful portraits Katrina made of the children. Again, so natural, so well done. Pim and Sara both told me that these portraits are the most beautiful photos anyone has ever taken of them!

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But, Katrina’s service doesn’t stop by taking beautiful photos. She will also select some of her favourite shots, and can have those printed on beautiful, matte photo paper. If you’re in England, she can even have them framed for you! (In my case, she sent just the prints and all I had to do is take them to the framer.) What a super fantastic service for a busy parent! I never find the time to select, print and frame photos — how nice that someone does this for you, so it actually gets done for a change, and beautifully so!

Katrina Campbell family portraitsI can highly recommend Katrina Campbell‘s service to you — she really captures families the way they are, with her documentary-style photography. Plus —  she also puts the icing on the cake by selecting, printing and framing those family favourites! If you’re in London this week, you can meet Katrina at the ShopUp where she is one of the sponsors, and she can tell you all about the (fabulous) way she works.

xxx Esther

Great gifting from Sarah and Bendrix

Sarah & BendrixI’m getting more and more excited about the London ShopUp this week! We have so many amazing brands joining us, I just can’t wait to fill that extra suitcase I’m bringing over : )!

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Sarah & Bendrix is one of the wonderful shops setting up their booth at our great venue, offering a selection of very simple but beautifully crafted gifts. I love the darling children’s collection, with some beautiful wooden toys and gorgeous watercolour games (check out this sweet video here for gift inspiration — so sweet!). Sarah & Bendrix also offers pretty cards and complete gift boxes, to make gifting even more easy.

xxx Esther

Thoughtful and beautiful gift boxes from The London Gifting Studio

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To give, but mostly to receive a gift that was chosen with care, with love, with attention to detail, with just that extra something, is so, so special. A gift that has meaning, a purpose, that is (and becomes) an experience and a memory — those kind of gifts are the best ones. But which busy parent has the time to such organise such a very special gift?

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Enter The London Gifting Studio. Busy mama-of-two Annie started a service that aims to create perfect presents, consisting of beautiful products carefully assembled in a luxurious gift box. A service that is convenient, quick and easy to use for the giver, but never evidently so for the receiver. The products, which Annie sources from local companies (mostly cool East London ones), are always made by hand by talented artists, designers and makers — very often so on their kitchen table. Materials are mostly organic or recycled, but always sourced with integrity.

There are boxes for cooks, for bathers, for writers, for coffee lovers — boxes that encourage to create, to relax, to experience. The wooden boxes, which are so pretty by themselves, are wrapped beautifully in seasonal wrapping paper, ribbons and a flower posy, and personalised with a handwritten note.

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Annie sent our family a Box for a Cosy Christmas, and we’re so impressed with what is inside — such pretty products, all collected with the aim to provide us with everything we need to get in the holiday spirit. A sweet Christmas tale to read, a handwoven woollen blanket to snuggle under. Hot chocolate with marshmallows. A hand poured soy wax candle. A bar of chocolate, spiced with clove, nutmeg and black pepper. And (so special) a gorgeous rag doll angel for the top of our tree, made from recycled materials — something to keep forever.

Receiving a giftbox from The London Gifting Studio means receiving a gift that was chosen with care, with love, with attention to detail, with just that extra something — a gift that becomes an experience and a memory. I will certainly be using Annie’s beautiful service myself in the near future (in fact, I just ordered some for dear friends)!

xxx Esther

PS The London Gifting Studio is one of the main sponsor of our London ShopUp event next week. Come and meet Annie personally there, and discover her beautiful gift boxes!

Maud Fontein’s Happy Holiday Shoot, again at the ShopUp!

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It’s becoming a little ritual, my yearly trip to Maud Fontein‘s studio with my four children. It’s always a bit chaotic, because it needs to be done quickly, in between school pick-up and tennis training. Maud is great at making the kids feel at ease though and always captures them looking so cute, making use of clever little tricks and parental involvement like sitting on the whoopy cushion or throwing confetti in the air.

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I love the sequence of the yearly shoots (here‘s the one Maud took 2 years ago, and here is last year’s shoot). So cute to see those sweet faces develop!

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This year’s theme with the black background and the confetti is so fun — it brings so much movement to the photos and makes for such a sweet series, with such honest, spontaneous faces.

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Maud will be at the ShopUp this year again, like the previous three years, so if you’re in London here’s your chance to have cute portraits of your children taken. (Or maybe you already have started a series last year?) She will be set up the full two days, so do bring your sweeties along when you come to our event! (If you would like to reserve a specific time, it’s best to drop Maud an email beforehand.

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xxx Esther

Tuesday Tips: 5 things we’ve learned about parenting

Esther and family

Esther and I have both recently been asked to share five things we’ve learned about parenting over on the Wear&Where site. What a great series! I read Esther’s answers from last week and thought her tips were so good that we should share them here as well. Spoken like the super experienced mama of four that she is:

  • Take care of yourself and your relationship: Becoming parents is a big change and a big challenge. It’s easy for us, mothers, to focus entirely on our family and to forget to take good care of ourselves as well. But our own wellbeing is just as important as that of our children and partner! A mother that feels good about herself is a happier mama and a sexier partner.
  • A change of scene can mean a change of spirits. When things are not going very smoothly, consider a change of scene. It can be as simple as putting everybody’s wellies on and splash puddles in the park for half an hour. Dinner can wait.
  • Step back and reflect. In the bigger scheme of things, hugely important parenting decisions like ‘which organic nappy brand is the absolute best for my baby’ are maybe not as important as they appear to us, over-worrying and over-achieving parents. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back, and reflect.
  • Take things with a grain of salt. No-one is perfect. Don’t be fooled by what you see, or what you think you should be!
  • You don’t have to do it all! Kids generally love doing what you’re doing, so if you do something you love, your kids will love doing that with you. (For example, spending hours on the playground is not my biggest hobby, but I love cooking and crafting, and my kids love to cook and craft with me. It’s a way to spend time together we all enjoy.)

 

And I thought I would share my answers as well:

  • Everyone does it a little bit differently, and that’s okay. One of my closest friends, also a mother of four, just sleep-trained her 6-week-old baby to sleep through the night. My first instinct was to judge her as one of those crazy, straight-laced mothers with a tight schedule, but then I reminded myself that it works for her and that her children are all happy and healthy. My babies all slept in our bed and nursed on demand for the first six months of their lives, and I’m sure she would think I’m a crazy, hippie mother with no routine! What works for one family might not work for the other, and that’s okay.
  • Take the parenting books with a grain of salt. There is so much advice and so many books targeted at new mothers, and it can all seem overwhelming and confusing. I think we often forget to listen to our gut and trust that we can make the right decisions for our family. Sometimes the best thing I can do is to slow down, tune in and listen, really listen to my children to truly understand their needs.
  • Kids don’t have to be bathed every day – they’ll survive without being squeaky clean! I’ve become way more relaxed about baths over the years, and I’ve realised that my kids are just as healthy and happy as before, even if they’re only bathed twice a week.
  • Despite coming from the same mould and being raised the same way, each of my children is unique and individual. I’m constantly surprised by how different my children are from one another and even how different they can be from me. They are little individuals with their own ways of doing things, and I really find it fascinating to observe this nature versus nurture phenomenon and encourage them to be their own individual selves (no comparisons).
  • It’s addictive! I love having babies; I loved being pregnant (apart from the first few months), I even loved giving birth, and I especially loved those first few months of sleepy newborn magic. I’ve now gotten to a point where our baby is two and we are pretty sure we won’t have any more babies, and yet I still don’t want to close that baby chapter. I guess I always assumed it would be an easy decision to reach, that I would just feel finished. I had no idea it would be so difficult!

Now it’s your turn! Please share what you’ve learned about parenting. We would love to hear.

Courtney xx

Image of Esther and her family is by Katrina Campbell

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