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.
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.
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.
p.s. Marlow’s romper in the photo above is from Marie Puce.
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!
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!
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?
p.s. Alphabet Flash Cards available here .
This weekend Violette was invited for a sleep over so Coco and I were all alone. We ran some errands, grabbed a cup of tea together, she had a friend over, we talked a bit about school and life, we then did some crafting and went out for some food. Nothing extraordinary… but at some point in the middle of this, she turned to me and said: “You know mommy, it is quite nice to be just the two of us”, and she was absolutely right. Though I obviously love her little sister, it is really nice to spend one and one time with my big girl and I really don’t do it often enough.
The thing is, Coco and Violette get on very well and the three of us have a really good rhythm going on, so I have suddenly realised I have the tendency to regard them as a unit. Doh! (as Bart Simpson would say)! So this is my new resolution: trying to sometimes take a day with each kid individually. It a good resolution and hopefully I can stick to it! I am actually curious, do you manage to spend one-on-one time with each of your children?
PS The photo above of Coco and me was taken by Esther when we visited her in the Auvergne last summer. Happy Times!
It was only when I had my third baby (Ava) and was struggling with one of those typical nappy explosions, that someone shared with me a little secret. Something so simple, I couldn’t believe I’d never been told this before or that I never thought of this myself.
As all new mothers of all new babies know: nappies don’t always do the job properly. I will spare you the details, but baby poo can seriously end up in their necks at times. (In our case this happens multiple times a day.) Which makes nappy changing a messy affair!
So here’s the trick: onesies can also be pulled down, over the shoulders. Instead of taking them off over the head, you can take them off over the bum. Which makes a huge, huge difference! I can’t believe I didn’t know about this trick for my first two children. Did you?
There are a thousand great things about being a mom, but one of the best things can be the total undulated love you get from small children. I have heard the rumours it changes for a couple of years when they get older but I am still privy to my kids thinking I rock. Now, I do also get my fair share of insults: “You are not nice” is often said straight to my face or, when they really mean it: “You really, really are not very nice”.
But there are moments I am put on a pedestal and it makes me very happy and warm inside, all at the same time… I recently tried to do some trapezing and even an elephant would have looked more elegant than me. I was afraid of the height, I had no upper-body muscle, I could not summersault down – it was a catastrophe. And yet a while later when we went to see a trapeze performance with artists literally flying through the air with the greatest of ease, Violette turned around to me and said in awe: ” Look mommy, just like you!!!”.
Now that is real love, a bit delusional, but real love none the less. Do you ever get showered with love just because you are someone’s mom?
P.S The above photo was taken by the super talented Sarah Gardan this summer in the place des Vosges!
Right next to our front door there’s an ever present collection of sticks. Our 5-year-old son Pim is like a dog, seriously! Every time we go to the park, he will find a stick and insists on taking it home. Some of them are too big for him to carry alone, so he has to convince his big sister to help him.
Because I don’t allow them in our house, the sticks are displayed right next to the front door — which is the closest the sticks will get to his bed, because he would take them up there if he could, I am sure about it. My husband once threw away all the sticks, which was a mistake — Pim was inconsolable and I admit that even I was upset. Those sticks seriously meant so much to him!
Emilie sent me the link to this interesting article in the Guardian last week. Hannah Evans is a mother of three boys and her article did shed some light on my little boy and his stick obsession. I quote:
‘And thus, sticks. For I have learned that boys like, nay love, sticks. But a stick to a boy is far, far more than an inanimate object. A stick is a toy, a weapon, a friend and a foe. A stick is adventure, possibilities, destruction and danger. A stick is, in the right time and place – or even better, in the wrong – everything.’
‘”Stick significance” is part and parcel of being a boy. And so, “Will you put that bloomin’ stick down … it’s only a bit of wood!” is a bit like telling me that my coffee would taste just as good out of any old mug.’
And so they stay, the sticks, next to our front door. And the collection grows. Do you have a son (or daughter) who collects sticks too?
Right around the time Elizabeth started contributing to Babyccino, she became pregnant with baby number two. She and I quickly discovered that we were both pregnant and due on the same day! It was so fun for me to share a due date with someone, and to bond over similar pregnancy milestones together (morning sickness, 12-week scans, breech babies, etc.). I’ve never actually met Elizabeth, but it turns out we share so much in common, the pregnancy being a big one.
Elizabeth welcomed her beautiful baby girl, Francesca, on October 30th, one week early. I loved reading about Francesca’s birth on Elizabeth’s blog (her breech baby never did turn around and she ended up having a beautiful, peaceful c-section birth) and I can’t get enough of all the photos of that sweet baby on her Instagram feed. What a beautiful family she has, what an inspiring mother is, and what a thoughtful friend she has become. I hope to someday meet Elizabeth and to introduce our babies to each other!
Congratulations Elizabeth, and welcome little Francesca!
After having me, my mother had a series of ectopic pregnancies, which sadly made her unable to have more children. So I grew up as an only child (although according to my dad, I counted for ten). I’ve often been asked if I ever missed having siblings. Truth is, that as an only child, you simply don’t know any different. I had a very happy childhood, without ever realising I was missing out on being part of a big family. I was always welcome to bring friends over to our house, and had loads of cousins to play with and share vacations with. I have fond memories of the many craft projects I did with my mum, and my dad often took me to work with him (he was a country vet).
I always wanted to be a mum, and I always thought I would have at least three children. And now I have four! It’s wonderful to see the interaction between those four. There is already so much love and support between them… Sara and Pim are so fond of their little siblings — and vice versa. Even though I know that only children enjoy equally happy childhoods as children from bigger families (and score higher in measures of intelligence and achievement!), I must say I love seeing what it is like to have siblings.
Of course, having (more) children isn’t always an option. We have plenty of friends with no children, or ‘only’ one child because of their age, infertility problems, divorce, etc. Or simple because they want to, of course!
There are cons and pros for smaller or bigger families. Are you from a bigger family, or from a small one? And how many children do you have, if you have any at all?
On the brink of giving birth we asked our super talented photographer friend Sue Cowell to shoot some photos of pregnant me with my family. It is, after all, my last pregnancy! I really like the outcome of the shoot — I love how natural Sue’s style is, the moments she captures are just full of character, and nothing is too ‘over-posed’ or ‘perfect’.
Here are some of the photos of the shoot — such a wonderful documentary to have for all of us! (I also asked Sue to come after the birth and shoot some images of the new baby and us — so more photos to come soon!)
Check out Sue’s website here, and her blog too with even more beautiful photo. Sue lives in Amsterdam but is British and travels around a lot, so don’t shy away of contacting her if you would like her to capture the essence of your family too!
I love how Sue came in the morning and stayed while the kids got dressed, capturing daily moments like Ava waking up with her dummy and ‘bearbear’, the kids getting dressed in their bedroom, Sara putting on her tights on her bed, me in the kitchen preparing sandwiches for a picnic…
My husband was class rep of Quin’s class last year, and when it came time to decide on the end-of-term teacher gifts he wanted to make the teachers something special they would treasure (and also hopefully use!). He decided to make them a personalised tote bag with all the kids’ self portraits and names on it. He asked all the kids to draw a picture of themselves and write their names above. He then used photoshop to get all the drawings together, and sent the pdf file over to the printing company. The most difficult part was finding a company with good, sturdy cotton bags, but after lots of research he ended up finding them at The Clever Baggers and they are really great quality.
Aren’t the bags so cute? We gave them to the teachers and they loved them. We then ordered more for all the parents because we liked them so much, and I’ve been toting ours around every day lately and receiving lots of cute comments.
I am having the most difficult time choosing a name for our baby! I think it is especially difficult when you don’t know your baby’s gender… maybe because you can’t really visualise your baby, or maybe it’s just because you don’t know what your baby is, so you don’t become too attached to either the girl’s name or the boy’s name. The minute I think of a girl’s name I like, there is something in the back of my head that says ‘but it might not be a girl, so why don’t you focus on a boy’s name…’. And then I’m back to the starting point again. Ugh!
It’s also tricky when you already have children. You have to make sure the new name goes with the other names, that it flows when you say all the names together, and that it isn’t completely in a league of its own (not easy when you already have three kids and you’ve already used up your favourites).
I did pick up a copy of Baby Names Now after reading the review on A Cup of Jo a few weeks ago, and I do find it to be quite helpful. I like how frank the authors are about the names, reminding you of the possible bad nicknames or suggesting good alternatives to the more common names. Hopefully it will inspire the perfect name! I’m waiting for it.
p.s. If you have name suggestions, please share!
p.p.s. Maybe we should create a book with all the baby names we all liked but didn’t end up using! I have so many great ones from previous pregnancies and a whole long list of names for this baby that we won’t end up using. It would be fun to hear everyone else’s un-used baby names! There must be so many good ones. xx
Being in the final stages of pregnancy, walking around with a nice plump bump, I’m reminded of that wonderful, sweet secret of pregnancy: there is some sort of unspoken yet certainly acknowledged ‘club’ that pregnant women belong to. Other pregnant women will always acknowledge you, even if it’s just in their eyes, and you feel this comfort in knowing that someone else understands what you’re going through. It’s a special bond you can have with a complete stranger, someone you have never even seen before…and there’s something so wonderfully supportive about it.
What I also love is that everyone, strangers even!, become so much more friendly. There seems to be different rules of engagement whenever pregnant women are involved. You suddenly become so much more approachable. People will smile and ask you how much longer you have to go. Are you having a boy or a girl? How are you feeling? etc. It’s so nice! I really wish it were always like this.
And, as I remember from previous babies, the funny thing about it is that… boom! the minute your baby is born, you are no longer a part of this ‘club’. Pregnant women will no longer send you that little knowing, comforting look, and you suddenly feel like you’ve lost a whole support system, just because you no longer have a baby bump. Does anyone else know what I’m talking about? I remember very specifically after my first pregnancy, trying to give a pregnant mom ‘the look’ and she just looked up and looked down, and there was nothing in her eyes that showed we shared anything in common. Isn’t that so interesting? I quickly learned that if I wanted any sort of supportive ‘I know what you’re going through’ looks, I should specifically look for other new mothers.
Please share your experiences. Do you know what I’m talking about, or have I just imagined it all? I would love to hear.
A few weeks ago, Esther and I and our oldest girls were in the South of France visiting a local market. At one of the market stands, some great, cheesy Euro 80′s pop music was blaring out of a little stereo. Of course, we launched straight into some rather impressive dance moves (if I may say so myself). The interesting thing was the children’s reaction: Violette, who is 4, joined us with great enthusiasm. Meanwhile Sara and Coco, 7 and 6, started cringing with embarrassment. And just like that, without realising it, Esther and I have moved into a new dimension of motherhood: we are now potentially embarrassing mothers. Up to now we could do no wrong; now we have become a occupational hazards.
I still remember this feeling of embarrassment vividly. I was embarrassed by my father’s favourite overcoat, by my mother’s French accent, and by numerous other ridiculous things. I also remember my parents noticing that I was embarrassed and being amused by this, which, at the time, I found very, very unfair. I never took into account that this would come full circle and I would become the object of embarrassment myself. And once the ball has started rolling, there is no turning back; it is now a slippery slope all the way toward the teenage years.
The hilarious thing is that I am reacting just as my parents did, as it is quite amusing seeing Coco cringe at my actions. It is certainly not going to stop me from playing air guitar in public whenever the opportunity arrises!
P.S. The photo above is of Coco doing some method acting of looking embarrassed for a very staged photo, in case you were wondering…
I have a dilemma. My daughter has the most beautiful long, red, wavy hair. It really is stunning (of course she gets it from me!! haha), and she is complimented on it regularly. The problem is she wants to cut it all off! As a child my mum never let me have long hair. My older sister was allowed to but as my sister told me recently my mum never let me have long hair because she didn’t want the hassle of having to brush two heads of long hair before school in the morning. I vowed that if I ever had a daughter I would let her grow her hair as long as she wanted. It seems you always want what you don’t have and my daughter wants short hair. Do I let her cut it all off? She is 5 1/2. Of course I can see the benefits of her having short hair especially with summer around the corner and going to the beach regularly and it would save me 15 minutes in the morning brushing and plaiting it. The other problem is if she cuts it all off my son will want to cut all his off too and I don’t think I will be able to cope!! :o)
Obviously this is a very minor life dilemma, but what do I do?
Every summer we leave London the day school gets out and head to the US to spend time with family. Our long summer stints in the US are what make living so far away from our family that tiny bit more bearable. Plus, my little ‘city mice’ get a chance to experience life on the farm and a glimpse of my own childhood.
I have always felt that this gives my kids the best of both worlds: city life for the majority of the year and country life every summer. But this year, for some reason, I’m starting to question the ‘city’ part. I wonder whether life on a farm might not be the happier one (it certainly feels easier!). Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones… but there is a large part of me that feels like a slower-paced, more ‘simple’ life might be nice for a change.
I know it’s summertime, and things are always happier when the sun is shining (and school is a distant memory!), but I do find my kids to be more relaxed, to be more adventurous and imaginative, to play together for really long stretches without a single moan or groan, and to have grown up so much in the past few weeks. The independence they have here on the farm, the freedom to make their own decisions and decide their own activities, the wide open spaces waiting to be discovered… these are all things I just can’t give them in London. No matter where we go in London or how far we venture off the beaten path, my kids are always under my constant supervision, there are always boundaries to how far they can run, how far they can throw their frisbee, ride their bike, etc. The difference between my 7-year-old in London and my 7-year-old on the farm is like night and day. The freedom he has to make his own decisions (within limit, of course), and the pride he has after making the right ones… has boosted his confidence and created a happier, calmer boy. This boy is in his element when he is outside. He is a born frog catcher, dirt digger, worm finder, fish catcher, animal loving, imaginative little boy… and his siblings are no different.
Of course on the flip side, there are so many things we would miss about London if we left: the interesting people and perspectives, the diversity and different cultures, the museums, galleries, exhibits, the food!, the parks, the constant interaction with strangers, the travel around Europe, the 2-hour train ride to Paris, the inspiration around every corner, the access to everything, the friends we’ve made, the life we’ve created, etc. etc. etc.
I know it is something so many parents consider and debate, and I know our little ”let’s move to the country and grow our own vegetables” discussions are not unique… so I would love to hear your thoughts. Where do you live? And what do you love about it? Have you found a life that mixes it both? (This would be the most ideal, wouldn’t it?!) Do you perhaps live on a farm, but very near to a city with access to city life and all its greatness? Please do share!
p.s. I read this article in the NYTimes the other day and found it very interesting — about how children thrive best in an ‘environment that is reliable, available, consistent and noninterfering‘. I suppose, no matter where you live, these are important parenting tips to keep in mind.
This summer many of us might have to stay at home. When I read in a magazine about this new word “staycation” I thought it was a good idea. In that magazine says that if it happens and you have to stay home, it doesn’t have to be something bad — we can even turn it into something good, and really enjoy it. Today, some simple but nice ideas!
1. The most important thing is to have holiday spirit. That will make you have the perfect holiday. Put the world on hold: turn off your phone, do an “out of the office” message on your email, skip the news for a week. Even if you have access to it, why not stay away during the vacation.
2. Go on a picnic. Prepare a beautiful basket, with good food, and make a party outdoors in the wood or the beach. That would make it so special.
3. Be a local tourist in your own town. Sometimes we do not take notice of the beauty of our towns just because we live there. Approach your city like a tourist and do all those things tourists do while in town. It is almost certain that you’ll learn and see amazing things.
4. Learn something new. With the long days and the holidays you can find some time to do something you couldn’t do during the winter. I want to learn to knit this summer!.
5. Look for shows and concerts that are happening in your town. Those you don’t usually go because they are late and you work the next day!.
Nico in a concert in La Laboral (Spain) last year
6. Treat yourself with some extra spending. Order food from your favorite restaurant and invite your friends to a lovely dinner in your house! And let yourself do extra expenses like go to the cinema, enjoy cafes, and terraces… without feeling guilty.
7. Get your house cleaned for you and forget about daily tasks. Not having to make the beds, do laundry or dust will just make a big difference!.
8. Take a camping trip in your own backyard or your livingroom. Kids will feel as if they were in the other part of the world.
9. Enjoy mornings in your own house. Most of the year we rush, sometimes even in the weekends. Spend some time at your house with no hurry, play your favourite music, plan the day, have long and relaxed breakfast…
10. And if life gives you lemons… make lemonade!. With tons of sugar, please!
I wish you all enjoy your holidays, wether at home or not!
If you ask me, potty training is one of the most frustrating parts of raising children. Every time, I promise myself to keep my spirits up, but every single time, by the third day, my patience is at a minimum and I seriously want to put the nappy back on and forget about the whole thing completely. But miraculously, sticking to it seems to be the trick. After the third and fourth day things improve, and after the first week things really get a whole lot better. Generally, after 2 weeks, the child is potty trained, which means almost all of the wees and poos go in the potty, exception taken for the occasional accident of course. I just went through potty training with Ava, and I thought I would give you my tips and tricks now that I’m fresh off the battle field.
- I’ve been told that around the time of the 2nd birthday, it’s generally a perfect time to start potty training. The child is open to learning new things, and doesn’t ‘think’ about the whole thing too much yet. I believe that the danger of waiting too long is that the whole thing gets much more difficult and frustrating. So we’ve always started potty training fairly early, I would say between 2 and 2½ depending on the child.
- We went cold turkey. On the day we decided to start potty training, we took off the nappy in the morning and didn’t put it back on until the child went down for his/her nap. (We keep the nappy on for naps in the beginning — when we notice the nappy to be consistently dry when the child wakes up we start leaving it off in bed as well). No pull up nappies, no training intervals without nappies — we really believe this too be confusing for the child. We take the nappy off, and don’t ever put it back on (except for in the bed) — even though I’ve been tempted!
- I think Friday or Saturday is a good day to start potty training, as you will be able to do it together over the weekend. We definitely didn’t plan anything on this first weekend!
- We made sure to have a few potties around the house (you will need one close to the child at all times in the beginning, so it’s handy to have one in different parts of the house). I discovered this portable potty to be super practical for on the go — we always take it with us when we’re out and about. It comes with plastic liners that you can tie and trash.
- I find it essential to have plenty of little underwear ready (at least 10 pairs) and plenty of easy pull up (jogging) pants (or pyjama pants).
- We kept two buckets ready, one with washing liquid to soak dirty underwear and clothes, one with soap and wipes to clean the floor.
- We made a reward sheet and bought stickers to reward the child for using the potty.
- Before we started potty training, we got our child used to the potty for a few weeks. We kept it in the bathroom and let the child sit on it before his/her bath. We discussed the potty as a cool and positive thing, read books about potty training. And we spoke about ‘big boy/girl underwear’ as a very cool thing too. (more…)