Just say No?



In a recent parent-teacher meeting at my girls’ school, the teachers brought up some interesting points. They were not worried about the lack of support coming from parents, but interestingly were more concerned that, in the last few years, it appears parents want to be friends with their children rather than an authority figure. In short: parents just want to be liked by their children! While it makes sense to want your child to like you, the teachers were noticing that discipline was becoming less important to parents than being the child’s buddy. One example they gave was a parent dropping her child off inappropriately dressed for the weather. When the teacher mentioned this to the parent, the answer was: “But she really didn’t want to wear a coat, so….”. Another example was a kid throwing sand into another kid’s face. When the teacher mentioned this to the parent, the comment was: “But he really likes to throw sand”.

Courtney and I were talking about this a few days ago and we starting wondering: are parents of our generation getting a bit too soft on our children and is it getting harder and harder for us to use the dreaded word “no”? If so, what is the affect this is having on our children and the way they interact with others and respond to their teachers?

This is just a personal observation, but I am interested to hear if you have experienced this too, especially in other countries? I am not feeling in any way nostalgic towards the good old days when discipline was enforced with a ruler and a dunce cap, but I do believe there is a happy medium, where children don’t consider parents their equal but know which line not to cross.

- Emilie
PS Above are a couple of very old photos of Violette’s reaction when I once told her “No”. She did not take it too well!

When your babies grow up…

You know that feeling you get when you look over at your daughter and she suddenly looks bigger? Like she must have grown a couple inches over night? Well that happened this weekend. I swear she went from squishy little toddler to tall young lady in the matter of seconds. My heart!!!

I have felt this way with the boys as well, but it seems especially quick with Ivy. Maybe it’s because she IS actually growing quickly — she’s one of the tallest in her class despite being one of the youngest, she was the first in her class to lose a tooth, and because she has older brothers she’s always playing with the big kids. (Such a contrast to me as a young girl — I was the oldest child in my family so I was incredibly naive and was always a late bloomer both emotionally and physically.) Ivy will turn five next month and those five years have sped by. I can’t believe it!

Is it just me, or does time seem to move more quickly with each passing year?!  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just slow it down a notch?

xx Courtney

p.s. Ivy’s pretty dress is from Marmalade & Mash (currently offering 15% off), and the Saltwater Sandals are from EenyMeeny. x

Let’s talk about electronics and our children

This is not your average Babyccino post but I wanted to speak openly about a topic I feel really passionate about. I want to talk about electronics and the way they are affecting our children.

I recently went on a school field trip with my 9-year-old son’s class to see the Vikings Exhibition at the British Museum. What lucky children to live in a city where they can take a short subway journey to one of the world’s best museums (and I must say, the Vikings Exhibit was incredible)! While in the museum, I noticed that some of the children had brought a Nintendo DS. The more I looked around, the more children I noticed who were playing games on iPhones, Nintendos and various other devices. I think my jaw must have touched the floor; I was absolutely shocked! Here we were, on a once-in-a-life time school field trip, in one of the world’s most fascinating museums, and these children were completely unengaged and uninterested in their surroundings. Some were sitting down against a wall with their little thumbs pounding against their device, others played as they walked around, bumping into people because they were so focused on the little machine in the palm of their hands.

When I asked the teachers if this was allowed, I was told that they weren’t supposed to be playing games, but that they were allowed to bring cameras on the field trip. It seems that nowadays iPhones and Nintendos are considered cameras because they all have photo-taking capabilities. So, the line between cameras and video games has become blurred, and to my astonishment, we now have children going on field trips with their video games in tow.

And not only this, but I am increasingly aware of young children sitting in restaurants with an iPhone, playing video games on the bus, watching DVDs on every car journey no matter how long.  It seems children aren’t being given the chance to be bored, they aren’t being encouraged to create their own fun or to be present in the moment. What ever happened to good old-fashioned conversation? Talking to our children over dinner? Encouraging them to talk to each other? Or just waiting patiently to eat? What ever happened to observation? Taking in your surroundings on the bus? Experiencing exhibits in a museum? Asking questions, sharing observations, making memories?

In a few weeks my eldest will be going on a 4-day school camping trip. In a meeting this week to brief the parents, I asked if electronics would be allowed. And I opened a big can of worms! The teachers explained that the children would be allowed to bring electronics because it ‘keeps them quiet while on the journey.’ Another teacher explained that he thinks it’s good for children to embrace modern technology and to learn how to use electronics from an early age.

This is rubbish, and I feel compelled to say so.

We did not have iPhones or iPads when we were young, but miraculously we all know how to use them. Even my technologically impaired father uses a laptop and an iPhone with ease. Is there really any advantage to be gained by letting our children play games on our iphones? No. And with regards to ‘keeping the children quiet on the bus’… Really?! Shouldn’t they be singing songs, chatting to each other, looking out their windows, making silly faces to the people in the cars they’re passing? That’s what we did when we were kids and the bus ride was often one of the best parts of school trips. Why would we give them a sedative dose of Nintendo?

Our children are only little for such a short time. The window for imaginative adventures and play is so small. They have the rest of their lives to be attached to a device. Why start now?

x Courtney

p.s. I very rarely share my parenting views on this blog. I am generally quite open minded about the decisions other parents make, and I know that I am by no means an expert. But for some reason, this feels different to me. I hope you too will share your thoughts and comments, in favour or against my view. I would love for this to become an open dialogue between us all. xx

(Image above found here)

Head Lice woes

Lice – they are the bane of my life! I even dream of them. I guess because we live in a big city, lice are unavoidable. I have tried lotions, potions, shampoos, some of them ecological, some of them positively radio-active! I even managed to spend a crazy amount of money on a real jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise (difficult to find in France) because I read somewhere on the internet that I could get rid of lice with it.

This weekend the schools in our area decided to organise a collective delousing campaign. We were all asked to delouse our children on the same weekend. The hope is that this will stop the lice circulating — at least for a while. I am interested to see if this is successful, but it is really nice to see how everyone got on board!

So here are some tips I have gotten to prevent lice. (Once you have them, I find that the only thing that really works is brushing the hair with a fine tooth comb in front of a good movie!)

Lavender essential oil: Lice seem to be sensible souls who do not like the smell of lavender, so I drop a couple of lavender essential oil drops onto the girls’ pillows. That way their hair smells good and I think it does help to keep the lice at bay. I have also been told that teatree oil helps.

Braids: I told my 93-year-old grandmother about my lice issues and she looked at me incredulously and asked why my girls’ hair was not braided at school. I had never figured out why, in the olden days, all the little girls had nice, tight braids… It prevented lice!

Cleaning linen, and everything in the house: It is such a pain, but it helps. Every time there is even an suspicion that someone might have lice, we wash and clean our bed linen and towels and spray the sofa and armchairs.

Apart from that, I just freeze when I see anyone scratching their heads and throw my hands up in despair! I am interested: Do other countries also have the lice problem? How do you deal with it?

- Emilie

P.S Above is a photo I took of Violette pretending to be scratching her head and having lice. She got a bit annoyed with me because she was in the middle of measuring something, but I think the annoyed expression goes with the theme…

Chickenpox

Here in the Netherlands (and I believe in most parts of Europe), no vaccine is given for chickenpox. Which means it is a very common childhood disease here, and all parents know that at one point their child will come down with it. At least, they hope they do, because apparently getting chickenpox as an adult is seriously no fun!

Ava still hadn’t had the chickenpox at the age of 3 ½, so when her little girl friend from across the street showed signs of the disease, I decided to let her go over for a playdate. As the virus is highly contagious, I deliberately exposed her to it, in the hope she would develop the disease and get it over with. (After having had the disease, you’re immune for the rest of your life). And sure thing — after an exact incubation period of two weeks, I discovered the first blisters on her back.

Chickenpox is mostly completely unharmful, but it is a very uncomfortable disease. First there’s a fever and flu-like symptoms, and then hundreds of tiny blisters develop all over the head and body, and they itch! The whole thing usually takes no longer than a week, and thankfully Ava was her usually happy self just before Christmas.

But then of course, again exactly two weeks later, Casper got it too! He was suffering for a week as well, and the worst part were the blisters on his nappy area — the poor boy. But now, after a month of dealing with the chickenpox, I am proud to say that our entire family is chickenpox immune.

Did your kids get a vaccine against chickenpox? Or did they get over it the natural way? (Or maybe they still need to get it?) Would you deliberately expose them like I did? I’m curious to find out!

xxx Esther

PS The photo is of Pim as a baby, just after he had the chickenpox at age one. Casper’s age!

Family life in Paris


I often am asked what it is like to bring children up in Paris and what I like and don’t like about it, so I thought it could be fun to write down some of my experiences! These are just random things that I have personally observed..

Playgrounds and Parks: There are not many and there is especially not a lot of green grass for the kids to play on. Most neighbourhood parks are small and consist of flowerbeds, a play structure with benches around it and no swings! Kids go play and the parents sit on the sidelines reading books. The Parisians are definitely not helicopter parents – children entertain themselves or play with their friends. It’s nice as the kids are really independent, but it is not so nice when they start throwing sand at each other’s faces and there are no grown-ups to intervene.

Schools: I do find the the school system of a country defines the country a lot. Like most French school children, my children go to the local French school around the corner. The standard of education is high, and the children are challenged and marked at a very young age (the word evaluation is used a lot). Interestingly this is not only something that the teachers impose on the children, but something that is actually being asked for by a lot of the parents. For example, teachers are not really supposed to give the children homework, but it is apparently often the parents who insist they do! Schools are also not a place for the whole family to socialise, but only the children. Parents drop their children off in the morning and rush of to work. At the end of the day, we pick up the children at the school gate, but there is not a lot of chatting going on… (My personal theory is that there is a belief in France that the education of children is responsibility of the state, not of the parents, so schools are not a place for parents to get involved). I might be wrong, but I do have the feeling that there are a lot more full-time working mothers in Paris than in other big European cities I know. This might also be the reason why there is less involvement from the family in school life.

Restaurants: Though it has improved a lot, Parisian restaurants do not cater toward children. Children are welcome though, as long as they tow the line and sit down and eat. Maybe I am mistaken, but not that many of my French friends take their kids out to eat. People cook a lot and have people over for dinner, even in the tiniest apartments.

Apéro: One of the favourite things to do over here is to have people over for apero (short for aperitif) which are pre-dinner drinks. My children have even been invited over by their friends over for an apero instead of a playdate! Usually there will be champagne or wine, beer, sparkling water and Champony (a sparkling apple juice in a champagne bottle) for the kids. Foodwise often you serve paté, foie gras and some good saucisson. It’s the perfect event to have with kids and parents, it starts relatively early and you are not required to serve real food for everyone.

Food Shopping: Parisians still go to the market on a Saturday or Sunday and buy their meat at the butchers, their bread at the bakers, their cheese at the cheese shop and their vegetables at the green grocers – it is one of the things I love about this city!

These are are just some personal observations. Other people might have had completely different experiences, which would be lovely to hear by the way!

- Emilie

Above, a photo of Place des Vosges, which is a typical Parisian park, which is beautifully landscaped, but definitely not full of rambling nature…

Praising children, an interesting suggestion

I read this post on A Cup Of Jo recently and it has really stuck with me over the past couple weeks. Joanna suggests that instead of telling your child he’s a great piano player (for example), we should say ‘I love to watch you play piano’. She argues that the latter is a way of boosting your child’s confidence and encouraging him to continue his activity without putting too much pressure on him to be good at it, or without your child feeling critiqued. She points out how sometimes our well-meaning praise can actually shut someone down, make them more aware of their abilities.

I’ve tried this simple suggestion on my kids recently, and it’s really amazing what kind of response you get — how happy they are to play/sing/draw/dance/read, and how it becomes less about seeking approval and more about enjoying themselves. Because, after all, isn’t it more important that they enjoy doing something than that they’re good at it? I really believe so.

xx Courtney

The new science of siblings

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

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

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

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

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

x Courtney

Growing up with animals

I grew up in the country side, and my dad was the local country vet. I was always surrounded by animals; we had dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, a pig, sometimes we even had cows. And, lucky me, I was always allowed to have my own pony. When I left my parents to study in a different part of the country, I really missed having animals in the house.

For my kids, life is a little different. Living in a big-ish city, and a small-ish house, we don’t have any pets (not after the goldfish died). But when Sara started horse riding lessons at the local manage here in Amsterdam, I discovered a joy in her eyes that reminded me of what it is like to grow up with animals. To have that special bond, to take care of a living being, to cuddle up to it when you’re sad, to feel the warmth… It is such a very special feeling.

We recently visited friends in the centre of Brussels who just got a huge dog, and it was so cute to see the kids playing and cuddling with her. But, the parents did have some feelings of regret, after their beautifully designed back yard had been totally destroyed by the puppy, their vintage carpets were peed upon, and the sofa had become a dog bed…

Pros and cons taken, I’m now seriously considering getting a little dog or a cat… Maybe next year, when Casper is a little bit bigger. (Or, maybe we would be able to fit a horse in our tiny backyard here in Amsterdam? Or would our neighbours mind some chickens you think?)

What is your take on growing up with animals? Did you grow up with animals? Do you have one now, or are you thinking of getting one? Please share your thoughts and experiences!

xxx Esther

PS Photos of Sara with her granddad’s horse. ‘Hello’ jumper is from Hello Apparel.

The Big Questions on Pregnancy

Tila is deeply, strongly and firmly in the “WHY WHY WHYYYY and WHY?” stage. She just wants to know everything in great details. And recently she asked me two questions that made me clear my throat.
The first one was how did a baby get into my tummy and the second one was where exactly does it come out.
On the first one I simply answered that mommy and daddy love each other so much and wished for another baby so he decided to finally come. She raised her eyebrows and asked again (by touching and pushing against my tummy – demonstrating) – “but how did he get in?!” Then I just said I’m sorry sweetie but I’ll have to answer that when you get a little bigger it’s not the right time since this is a topic for older kids. She was ok with that.
I really try to always give her honest answers – her age appropriate of course. I still have trust issues with my mum because she didn’t do that while I was younger and I don’t want that to happen with us two.
Then when she asked where will the baby make its exit I took a moment and decided to tell her the real, bare and unembellished truth – from the vagina (well, we have a cuter name for it in Slovenian that all the kids use but it’s the same thing) and after I did it I was kind of confused for a while and wasn’t sure I did the right thing but after I saw she was satisfied with the truth, kind of proud to know it I was confident I did. I just hope it doesn’t bite me in my be-hind when she starts a conversation about it at the checkout line in the store.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you answer these kinds of questions? Are you straight forward and honest? Or do you change the topic and hope they don’t notice?

By the way – don’t you love the pregnant mommy doll on the photo? I’ve been meaning to get one for Tila for a while now and I think it’s the perfect time now. They are from Frida Tierchen and come with a baby that is united with an umbilical chord (a cotton string), and there are magnets in both of them that allow the representation of breast-feeding! Every doll also has a carrier to carry the baby in after the birth. And if that’s not cool enough the materials used are wool, cotton and polyester filling from recycled plastic bottles. Perfect or what?

-Polona

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

My tips for travelling with young children

After a wonderful, lazy summer in the Seattle area with my family, we have just returned this week back to London. Every summer my husband flies out there with us, but unfortunately can’t stay the entire time… which means that every year I end up flying back home solo with all the kids.  It’s the teensy price I pay for a nice, long, extended holiday with my family. Totally worth the trek!

Plus, I feel like I’m getting kind of good at it by now. Or maybe it’s that my kids are getting good at it and that makes an enormous difference. In any case, I thought I would share with you some of my simple tips for (long-haul) flying with young kids…

  • Try to avoid the ‘oh my gosh, I’m flying for 10 hours on a plane with my kids –  I must pack every single thing I have in the house to entertain/feed/care/clean/change them’ feeling, and pack as little as you can. I used to bring the kids their own headphones for the TVs, and those neck pillow thingies for sleeping, and a change of clothes, and an entire bag of snacks. But it meant that I was carrying on at least two enormous (and heavy bags!). It made the schlep through the airport tiresome, and we often ended up not using most things. This recent trip, I packed one bag and tried to keep it as lightweight as possible. (You can also give your kids their own backpack and ask them to tote around the things they need for the plane – toys, books, snacks, etc.)
  • Use a baby carrier instead of a buggy. It’s so much easier going through security and navigating a busy airport if you’re carrying your baby instead of pushing them in a buggy. You can go straight through security carrying your baby – no need to empty your buggy, fold it up, have it examined by the airport security, etc. It also means you have your hands free to hold other children’s hands, or carry bags, etc. My favourite right now is the Ergo Baby Carrier.
  • We always eat in the airport before boarding the plane and skip the first meal they serve on board. It’s not easy holding a baby and trying to eat off your little tray in front of you. And inevitably one of your kids will need his meal chopped up, or will spill his drink in his lap, and you’ll have to get up to help… and it will be extremely difficult if you have your food on a tray on your tray table in front of you. Just skip the meal entirely.
  • Make sure your kids use the toilet before boarding the plane to eliminate any extra trips to the bathroom on the plane. It seems like common sense, but I have forgotten before… and there’s nothing worse than your child telling you he has to go potty when the plane is taking off and the seatbelt sign is on! (Also make sure to change your baby’s nappy.)
  • Pack simple, non-messy snacks. I like raisins because it seems to occupy the kids for a while, trying to grab little raisins out of the box, and they’re not messy. I also like to pack nuts or trailmix, snack bars, dried mango, pretzels, fruit, etc. Before take-off, I always have a box of raisins ready for the baby in case she gets antsy sitting still on my lap when the seatbelt sign is on. (I also still nurse Marlow… and that is a big help for calming her down, and keeping her ears from popping during take-off and landing. Nursing is the easiest thing, but if you don’t nurse, you should have a prepared bottle on hand for the same reason.)
  • Dress (you and your children) in comfortable clothing. I never bother with changing them into their pyjamas – I just find that it’s an extra hassle. Instead, I dress them in normal, comfortable clothes, and make sure everyone has an extra layer (like a hoodie or a cardigan) in case it gets cold. I always bring a scarf for myself because I always get cold on planes.
  • Don’t bring too much, but make sure you have some simple entertainment on hand. I have always found that once kids get to the age of 4 or 5, they are much more independent on airplanes because they can watch TV or movies. My boys are so easy on airplanes now. I don’t even think they got up to use the toilet the entire time on our recent flight from Seattle to London – they were either watching movies or sleeping. So… for children under 4, you will need to have some entertainment on hand. Things like simple paper pads and a pen, sticker books and colouring books (you can often buy them in the airport bookshops), and paperback books (hardback books are too heavy – leave them at home!). If you have an ipad or iphone you should make sure you have children’s games or books on there (see here for ideas).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. People are always so sympathetic to mothers travelling with small children. Ask the flight attendants to help if you need it. You can even ask for help when going through the airport. One time I had to ask for help getting my sleeping children and bags off the airplane and to over customs because I simply couldn’t carry everything. Someone came immediately to help me and got me all the way through the airport.

I hope these tips were somewhat helpful and not just redundant things everyone already knows. Please feel free to add any tips I may have forgotten below.  And lastly, I’ve written my tips for beating jet-lag here if you’re interested.

xx Courtney

p.s. Photo above is of my children on the ferry overlooking Seattle, and a photo of Marlow in the Ergo carrier.

Stuck on You name labels

One of my friends once admitted to me that she spent at least one session with her therapist discussing her frustration about her kids continuously losing their belongings at school. If I remember correctly — I think that even her husband was present in that session! And I can see where she’s coming from — clothes do continuously seem to disappear without a trace, never to be found again. Winter is especially bad — isn’t it a fact that mittens (like socks!) prefer to lead a single life instead of being one of a pair?

My friend’s therapist, by the way, simply advised that labelling her children’s clothes should eliminate (at least one of) her stress factors. I took note! So this school year, I have started to iron name labels in my kids’ bags and coats. The Stuck on You name labels were very easy to iron on, and my kids find their personalised coats and bags the coolest ever! (So let’s hope they will make a bigger effort at not losing them!)

xxx Esther

Some thoughts about weaning your baby

After the physical act of birthing a baby and the initial days of discovering your baby and getting into some sort of a rhythm, to me weaning a baby is the next major event in the first year.  After the first hectic months have passed, when finally there’s a bit of a routine with the baby and (breast)feeding goes smoothly, then the next moment of insecurity comes… Weaning! Solids!

Out come the baby guide books again (all of them!), and there you are — back in the land of the unknown. When to start? What foods to introduce first? How to cook it? Or steam? The insecurity hits again.

When I had my fist baby, I did a lot (a lot!) of research, like I’m sure most, if not all first time mums do. Still not entirely sure what to do, I decided to follow the advise most doctors were giving at that time: I started solids after exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months. Ignoring the fact that Sara was already litterally grabbing the spoon out of my hands if I was trying to eat (which I did all day long because I was so hungry because of all of that breastfeeding)!

I started with baby rice because the guide books said so (and none of my babies liked it). Then I introduced vegetables first (I read somewhere that otherwise the baby would develop a sweet tooth!), repeated this for three days before introducing the next ‘ingredient’, so allergies could be discovered immediately. And then after that (although it wasn’t completely clear exactly when as to avoid the dreaded sweet tooth), I introduced fruits. All of this was exclusively home cooked and organic, and carefully frozen in mini batches, meticulously labeled.

I remember my mum raising an eyebrow but cleverly not interfering (she had simply mashed up a banana for my first bites when I was around four months old).

Thankfully Sara was a good eater and the whole process went well. So for the second child, I repeated the process. So far, so good. My third baby however, refused to eat. After her first taste of baby rice, she decided that food was not her thing, and she refused to open her mouth again! (I wrote a post about it here.)

It’s funny how things change. How I have changed! Even though I try to cook meals for Casper whenever possible, I do end up squeezing shop bought baby food in his mouth an awful lot of times. (Hey — it’s organic!) My old me would be appalled. Also, the general advise has changed — I understand that nowadays, doctors say to start earlier — at 4 months, 3 even! — and to introduce all sorts of food at the same time, peanut butter and all.

So what is wise? To me, it seems sensible to wait until your baby shows an interest in food. When he follows your spoon with his eyes when you’re eating, and is grabbing for objects and bringing them to his mouth, it might be a good time to start. Possibly with a mashed banana! And also: cooking for your baby is fun (the BabyCook is a big help I find!), and surely very healthy, but there are plenty of great, ready-made baby food products on the market that are yummy and can bring stress factors down dramatically. Finally, mashing half an avocado with half a banana and mixing it with a spoon of full yoghurt is the easiest home-cooked baby meal I have in my repertoire.

I’m very curious about your thoughts and experiences about weaning in general. And if you’d like to share your fool proof baby food recipe — yes please!

xxx Esther

Breastfeeding in public?

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

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

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

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

xxx Esther

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

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

Sleeping with your baby

This is a post I have been thinking about in my head for months now! It’s a post I have wanted to write, then changed my mind and thought I shouldn’t write, and then have come back to it again. I want to talk about sleeping with your baby. Not because it’s what I think you should do… but because it’s what works for us.

I have always slept with my babies, usually from birth until around 10 or 12 months when they start to sleep through the night. It’s not that I feel strongly one way or the other about co-sleeping, it’s just what has always felt more natural, and frankly more easy, to me. In fact, with every pregnancy I would set up the moses basket before the birth thinking that’s where the baby would sleep… but once the baby was born, I just never felt comfortable putting them into their own bed. My husband and I both felt more at ease having the baby in our bed, close to us, to be in tune with their little bodies and sleeping rhythm. (I’m a very light sleeper and wake at the teensiest sound or smell or touch.) Also, I just find it easier to nurse my baby in bed, often in a hazy half sleep/half awake state — I find it less disruptive to my sleep than getting up out of bed to feed and put the baby back into her own bed. Perhaps sleeping with my babies has come out of pure laziness!?!

The funny thing is, that while it feels completely normal and natural to me, it doesn’t seem to be common practice, at least not amongst my friends or the other mums at my children’s school. I remember when Marlow was a baby, even just a few weeks old, I was constantly asked ‘how is she sleeping?’ or ‘is she waking in the night?’ or even ‘does she sleep through?’. (It must be one of the most common questions a new mother is asked!) When I told people that she sleeps with me and that I feed on demand sometimes up to four times a night, I would get such shocked replies.  For a while I even started to doubt our co-sleeping ways! But then I read this post about co-sleeping on A Cup Of Jo, and I also read this guest post on The Littlest blog by James from Bleubird where she shares how she sleeps with her baby. It made me feel comforted to know that other mothers do the same… and it made me wonder if perhaps it’s not really so rare?

Marlow is 7 months old (today!) and she’s still sleeping in bed with us. I usually put her to bed in her own bed around 7pm and she goes to bed willingly. Around midnight (sometimes even 1 or 2!) she will wake and I will bring her into our bed. She usually feeds a couple times through the rest of the night and then we usually wake up together around 7am. Of course I would love to have a full night of uninterrupted sleep, and some days I really do feel so tired… but I love waking up with Marlow in my arms, and I love nursing her in bed, and the way our bodies fit perfectly together like a puzzle piece. Some day… we won’t fit together as easily, and when that day comes, I will miss these wonderful sleep-deprived nights.

So anyway… I would love to hear from all of you. How goes it in your family? Do (did) you sleep with your baby? Or does your baby sleep in his own bed (or even bedroom)? What works for you? Please do share!

xx Courtney

The man behind the Bugaboo

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

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

- Emilie

Thoughts on children’s personalities…


Before I had children, I genuinely thought that when I had children I would be producing miniature clones of myself. Even after I had them, the thought lingered on. After all, I had two girls, they looked similar to me, why would they not be similar in character?

Fast forward 7 years and I cannot help laughing about how wrong I was. Not only are my two girls nothing like me, they are also nothing like each other. One of them can pick up a stick and give it a complex life story that is longer than a Harry Potter novel. The other one will see the same stick and see nothing but a stick, and have a great time poking random things with it. Experimenting, she calls this.

One girl is easy going and off with the fairies, the other one is headstrong like a bull. As my grandmother once said, at least I was not boring and did not mass produce. Not quite sure where I am going with this, but I am quite interested to hear if you were as naive as I was and thought you were going to produce mini versions of yourselves.

Emilie x

P.S. Quick disclaimer: I am incredibly glad that my children are nothing like me, that would be sooo boring!

P.P.S. The above photo was taken last week when we were in the south of Spain. On the left, headstrong Violette, on the right dreamy Coco.

Mum & Baby yoga

As I mentioned in this post, I took my first yoga class when I was pregnant with Marlow and after just one class I knew it would become an important part of my life from then on. I don’t know what took me so long to start up yoga, but I am so thankful I finally did. I loved taking pregnancy yoga classes when I was pregnant, and I am so convinced it helped prepare me mentally and physically for the birthing experience I had always longed for.

When Marlow was 8 weeks old we started taking yoga classes together. Once a week the two of us hop on a bus and head over to Triyoga in Primrose Hill for the Mummy & Me yoga class with Nadia Narain. It is always a highlight of the week for both of us! I love that I get to practice yoga even though I have a little baby who still can’t be left with a sitter, I love that every Wednesday I wake up and my muscles are slightly sore from the previous day’s work out, I love being surrounded by other mums with young babies and chatting to them about motherhood and baby stages, and I love ending the class with a little dance with Marlow – a special time for the two of us to share with each other. Marlow loves the bit at the end when we sing songs (Incy Wincy Spider is her favourite!), and she loves checking out all the other sweet babies in the room —  I’m certain that she loves our yoga class as much as I do.

x Courtney

p.s. Marlow’s romper in the photo above is from Marie Puce.

An easy nightmare remedy. It might help!

Our son Pim (he just turned 6) recently went through a period in which every night he would stand next to our bed because a nightmare had woken him up. The nightmare was very consistently about bears, and would leave him very scared, the poor boy. During the day he would sometimes ask me if there really are no bears here in the Netherlands! (There are not, in case you were wondering.) Of course I tried to comfort and reassure him, but the dreams kept coming back.

After a few weeks I suddenly remembered something my sister-in-law once told me after my nephew had a series of bad dreams when he was around that same age: she had given him a toy sword in his bed to fight of his bad dreams, and it worked like a charm. That night, I taught Pim the following magic spell to empower the bears that would surely come to haunt him in his dreams:

I am Pim
And I say:
All the bears
Now go away!!

That night, he didn’t have a nightmare. And ever since, he has been sleeping very well. No nasty bears in his dreams anymore! And when a few weeks ago wild boars were threatening to disturb his sweet dreams, we simply changed the magic spell, and again, it worked!

I think the secret is to give the child a way to empower whatever scares them in their dreams. For Pim, the spell worked wonders, for my nephew the toy sword did the trick, and Courtney has told me that for her 3 year old daughter Ivy a magic princess wand was all that it took.

I just thought I’d share this little trick in case your child has been suffering from bad dreams. I hope it helps! And if you know of another magic remedy — please share!

xxx Esther

PS The above illustration is of two of the creatures that were haunting Pim’s dreams recently: a bear and a boar are having tea together under a table — it’s by Lieke van der Vorst, and part of this poetry poster. I love it!

Parenting your third child versus your first…

The other day I was riding the bus with Ivy when she pointed out another passing bus. “There’s the C11 bus,” she said, “The C is a letter and the 11 is a number”.  I was so impressed she knew the difference between letters and numbers, that I nearly fell out of my bus seat! And then I realised that I have been so bad at sitting down with her to work on her letters and numbers. I have completely relied on her nursery school to teach her those things.  And the fact that I didn’t know she was able to tell letters from numbers is really a testament to how un-involved I have become. Sigh.

With my first child, I remember teaching him his colours, numbers and letters at such an early age. I would sit with him for hours and do puzzles, read books, play with letter games and practice flash cards. He knew every letter by the time he was 18 months! And here I am… four children later… and my 3½-year-old doesn’t even know all her letters.

I know this is probably a very common parenting issue, the difference between parenting your first child and your third, but I totally remember thinking I would never be that mum who runs out of time to devote to all her kids. I suppose the reality is… there is simply not enough time in the day. And also, I’ve realised that if Ivy doesn’t know all her letters yet, she will learn them when she starts school next year. And that all kids eventually learn to read and write, so it doesn’t really matter if they learn them when they’re 18 months or when they are four. Right? Or have I become one of those mums?

-Courtney

p.s. Alphabet Flash Cards available here.

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