You wake up and have to get your kids ready for school – you roughly have an hour to do this. During this time one kid is probably going to hit the other kid. The clothes that were carefully chosen and laid out the night before, are just wrong and proclaimed ugly. The cereal is the wrong cereal and the milk is the wrong milk and anyway, the milk should have have been poured first and then the cereal not the other way round and, to top it all off, it is the wrong amount of milk. You ask your kids to put on their coats and shoes as you are running late now because of the whole milk/cereal/clothes saga and when you try and meet them in the hallway ready to rush out of the door, they are nowhere to be seen. One is standing by the window munching on her hair and the other one has decided to check if her new stickers actually do stick on walls. By this time you have lost your cool several times and someone is shouting (very likely you). This pretty much sums up a lot of my mornings — not very relaxing as you might have guessed. I have tried to devise various strategies and coping mechanisms, but the fact of the matter is, mornings in my house can be painful.
A few weekends ago, Courtney, her husband and I were talking about how important it is to stay calm and not let our children rattle us. Courtney’s husband made a great observation: We just need to lower our expectations… If we wake up in the morning and start our day knowing that everyone is going to be moody and disobedient, then every morning that goes well actually is a bonus… and every morning that doesn’t should not affect us too badly, as it is what we were expecting anyway.
I love this philosophy and have been trying to apply it in the heat of the morning. I have not always been successful in the application, but it does often work!
P.S. The photo above is of Violette giving her big sister hell one morning. I obviously had no expectations whatsoever that morning, as I was staying very calm taking photos.
I have an old photo of my dad, using a pinard horn to listen to my heartbeat on my mother’s very pregnant belly, the morning of the day I was born, 38 years ago. There was no ultrasound and no fancy doppler technique. There was no way they could have seen their baby before it was born, there was no way of finding out if I had all of my 10 toes and fingers, if I was a boy or a girl. What a different feeling it must have been — the excitement, the insecurity…
I’ve personally always found out the sex of my babies, taking full advantage of modern technology. I really like to know what we’re having, I love that moment of finding out, the slight confusion immediately after (a boy?! a girl?! really?!) and then, the excitement, the anticipation. Talking about the future with my husband, imagining what our family will look like. Thinking about names for that little baby, searching through the baby clothes, decorating the baby’s room… For me, finding out the sex of the baby makes me feel connected to my baby, makes me look forward to meeting that little girl or boy.
But — I can also fully understand that it must be SO wonderful to give birth, and meet your little baby for the first time, and only then find out if it is a boy or a girl! That moment must be priceless, and so, so special and emotional.
What did (or would) you do? Did you find out the sex of your baby before giving birth, or did you wait? I’d love to know your thoughts and opinions!
PS Photo of me, three days old, with my mum and dad.
PPS I’m having another…. (more…)
A while ago I did this post for my blog and it was a great success, that’s why I would love to share it here.
The advice comes from Lara, the owner of the Bosque de la Maga Colibri bookstore in Gijon, Asturias. She is very sweet and knows a lot about these things: ”One of the most pleasurable experiences that will remain more intensibly in the memory of the whole family is shared reading. From the moment of birth the time spent each day to share words, stories and images is a haven of warmth and unbeatable communication.” She says to:
1. Pick a good book.
2. Sit close. Contact and affection are for life and help to build self-esteem and optimism.
3. Sign out of everything, get off line, don’t think about the boss or the laundry accumulating in the basket.
4. And above all, enjoy, without obligation, just as a gift!
I have really loved these tips. At first glance they appear simple but they are not. They are ideal to remember every night when we are about to read the book to our children. Personally I try to remember number 3 and make that time unique and banish from the mind the things that remain to be done.
Enjoy your reading!!
My daughters’ father and I separated a few years ago and, while it was not what I had planned in life, it is a thing that happens to many couples and families. After a bit of an adjustment period, with some rather rough patches, I have actually learned a ton of new life skills and have possibly become a stronger person because of it. I thought it might be interesting to share a few things I have learned along the way: things that have made my life as a single parent a lot easier and actually quite enjoyable!
BE ORGANIZED: I think it was Courtney’s husband who once told me that the reason he was so organized was because he was actually quite a lazy person (Apologies Michael, if I am quoting the wrong person). A truer word has never been spoken: a bit of organization makes life a LOT easier. Now people knowing me will laugh at this point, as I am one of the least organized people on the planet. But everything is relative and even at my very low level, being organized has made life a lot less stressful. Small things like setting the breakfast table in the evenings, getting clothes for the whole family ready at night, having a shower at night and not in the morning, ordering food online and pre-cooking dinner for the following days is important to a single-parent household. We can’t just pop out quickly to the shops if something is missing nor do we have the spare time to choose an outfit for work when we are trying to dress and feed two children in the morning. At one point I started putting my girls to bed in a a pair of leggings and a t-shirt so that in the morning I just had to slip a dress on top of them and they would be ready — basically I try to come up with things that will just make life run a little bit more smoothly with a bit of forward planning.
LOWER STANDARDS: I think it’s quite normal for single parents to try to do way too many things to compensate for the lack of a traditional family set-up, as we (or I) constantly feel guilty. But it’s not worth it. I have tried to decide on what is important to me and what isn’t. Turns out that a lot of things are not that important. My kids have turned up at birthday parties with the present wrapped up in magazine pages because I had run out of wrapping paper — nobody cared. We have had pasta with olive oil for dinner, because I didn’t have the time to buy food… and the kids survived. Sometimes their clothes are not ironed and perfectly co-ordinated or their hair is not properly brushed. Sometimes guests have turned up and the beds have not been made yet or the dishes washed and stashed away. I have officially decided that this is totally ok!
GIVE YOURSELF A TIME OUT: This point is essential and yet the one most of us totally fail at. Because most single parents work full time and deal with kids and everything else, we have relatively little time for ourselves. It is very important to somehow find the time even if it seems impossible. The problem is that if we don’t find some space to do something for ourselves we burn out, which is no good for anyone. I have tried many things: yoga, tennis, weekend away, massages and going out. I have not been able to keep one thing up consistently, but I have found that even just trying out new things and planning adventures has kept me a little bit more sane. The one thing that is easy to do is to simply walk for a good 20 mins with some good music on. Even if I am just walking along the metro line to work, it does clear my head!
Anyway, these are just little things that work for me. If you have other tips for what works for you, please share!
There was a lot of excitement in our house last week. My daughter (a few days shy of her 5th birthday) lost her first tooth. I remember when I was little, wiggling and twisting my loose teeth until they fell out. However, when my daughter had the same fascination with her wiggly tooth it made me feel so queasy!
When the tooth finally came out there were a few tears from her as I think she got a fright, but when I mentioned that she could put it under her pillow that night for the tooth fairy to collect, the tears stopped. So that day Mia drew a picture for the tooth fairy and left the picture with her tooth under her pillow. In the morning the tooth fairy had taken her tooth and picture and left her $2. How much does the tooth fairy pay for teeth at your house?
A friend of mine recently referred to the way my 3-year-old daughter speaks as Creole. It a great way of describing it: she speaks an absolute mixture of French and English. Phrases like “Can you s’il te please tirer my culotte” (please pull up my undies) are very normal in our household and it is so cute I don’t want it to change! But it won’t last; she is quickly learning to differentiate her two languages.
In our household I try to only speak English at home and the children are exposed to French at school and with their friends. I myself grew up with a French mother, and an Irish father but spent my childhood in Germany, so I grew up speaking English, French and German. I actually now have a bit of an accent in every language I speak! As a child I really did not enjoy coming from a multi-lingual family as I felt I was different from my friends. My girls have the great advantage of going to an inner-city Paris school where a huge amount of the kids speak at least two languages, if not more.
So now that I am trying to bring up my kids bi-lingually myself, I have done a bit of research. I am not an expect in anyway, but here are some of the facts I thought were interesting:
- Being bi-lingual or tri-lingual has nothing to do with intelligence, people of different levels of intelligence are multi-lingual.
- Children start differentiating between languages around the ages of 2-3.
- Bi-lingual children do not usually learn to speak later because of learning different languages, as previously thought.
- One of the simplest approaches towards having bilingual children seems to be the one-parent/one-language approach. It is easier for a child to differentiate a language if one person speaks one language consistently to them.
Voila! I am really interested to hear if anyone else has tips and ideas on how to bring up kids with several languages!
Every year of my childhood my mom took us to see Santa. We would drive into the city, head to the big department store and wait for hours in the queue to see Santa. I still remember standing there with all my siblings, waiting eagerly to see him, and my mom telling us all to behave and stand patiently! My mom has kept all the santa photos in one big album… and it’s hilarious to look through them. From the time I was a baby (crying on Santa’s lap) until the time I was 20 (looking very awkward standing next to him!), there is a photo from every year.
Isn’t it funny how some kids LOVE santa and others think he’s the scariest thing they’ve ever seen? My now four-year-old has cried every year we’ve visited Santa. And he told me the other day that this year when we go he wants to sit on a stool, not Santa’s lap. (Sweet.)
So tell me, is visiting Santa a tradition you did when you were younger? Do you now take your own kids to see Santa? I’m curious to know which countries do and don’t do this!
p.s. That photo is of my two boys when they were younger (2½ and 6mos) and it’s my favourite of all our Santa photos. I just love how they’re both crying… and Santa looks so perfectly poised!
Our daughter Sara started playing the violin when she was 5 years old. She has now been playing for over half a year, and can finally play simple songs like ‘Frère Jacques’. Sweet! My husband and I are hoping that an early start with playing musical instruments will help our children develop an interest in music and an ease to play instruments later on in life (might they still be interested).
Practising is still a little bit of an issue though — Sara’s teacher says she has to practise daily for at least 15 minutes, but I find it really hard to keep her to it. After school she has play-dates, swimming or ballet class, or is simply too tired. She’s only 6, I keep telling myself, but maybe I should be a bit more strict about it!
Sara’s little brother Pim, now 4, has been obsessed with trumpets for nearly 2 years now. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to re-direct his passion to other instruments (like the guitar) — not that I don’t like trumpets, I’m just not sure about hearing it all day long! But Pim’s passion is indestructible so I think we’ve decided that Santa this year will bring a trumpet. Wish me luck!
Do your children play instruments? Which one? Did you play as a child? Did you study daily?
A friend recently told me about this amazing feature of video blogs on Redbook called “The Truth About Trying“. I thought it was a fantastic way to personalize and put a face to the issues that many women silently face. Whether you have ten children, one child, or in the midst of trying for your first – the struggle to conceive is a difficult and emotionally taxing journey when it does not work out as planned. Thought I would pass along and give praise to Redbook for helping to bring light to an often closely guarded subject.
(Image from Redbook)
After getting math tips from my son’s teacher last week, I then met with the reading support teacher who gave me all sorts of handy tips for helping kids with their reading. She introduced me to the game of SWAP… which has since become an obsession in our house (and has helped enormously with reading skills!). The game is easy — it’s like UNO but with words, and you can buy different games for different skills (there are currently 35 different games). Game 1 focuses on the vowels so you get words like hot, cup, den, cub, sat, etc., and you have to match the different vowel sounds. Game 2 focuses on ‘ch’, ’sh’ and ‘th’ sounds and includes words like fish, path, thin, crash, chin, chop, etc. Both my 4-year-old and my 6-year-old are hooked on the game — my son even asked if he could bring SWAP to the park this past weekend!! And, in only one week, both boys have improved their reading skills by leaps and bounds.
The games are available to purchase here (the website is unimpressive and somewhat clumsy, but seems to be the only place to get them).
I recently sat down with my son’s school teacher and she gave me a very brief suggestion for how to teach basic math skills to a six-year-old. She explained that they’re trying to get kids to think and count not just by ones, but also by fives and tens. She explained that they will take a number (say 38) and ask the kids how many tens go into this number, how many fives, and how many ones. I suppose it’s really division/multiplication without the kids knowing or really grasping that idea yet. The funny thing is, if you talk to kids in a certain causal way, they can actually sometimes do difficult math without knowing it. Even my 4-year-old surprises me with his ability to ‘get’ fractions.
This weekend we cut out a bunch of paper circles in three different sizes, and then labeled the circles with tens, fives and ones. Then we played with the numbers, adding them up and subtracting them to reach certain numbers. It’s such an easy project, and once you’ve made the numbers, you can keep them around for future math lessons. We brought out these numbers several times over the weekend to ‘play maths’, and the kids had no idea how much they were learning.
I was recently asked to become a godmother to my cousin’s little boy — a huge honour. The slight problem is that to become a godmother you do actually officially need to believe in God, which I don’t. I was brought up Catholic, but as a teenager decided that the Christian faith was not something that worked for me and have since cobbled together my own little philosophy — I think you could describe me as a happy agnostic. I do have great respect for all the religions of the world, but do not suscribe to any of them. So becoming a Godmother was a bit of a dilemma for me. I wanted to be someone special for this little boy and for him to have another adult person to turn to other than his parents. But I would not be able to promise to bring him closer to god.
I myself have also asked friends to be “godparents” for my girls, because I really like the idea of having friends become part of my family and my children having an adult other than me or their father to identify with… although we didn’t have a celebration of any kind, which I now regret as it would have been great to have a moment with friends and family to celebrate the birth of my daughters. This is the big advantage of organised religions: the important moments in life have a ceremony organised around them: weddings, births and funerals.
I did decide to become his godmother in the end. My cousin and his wife are completely aware of my religious beliefs or lack thereof, so I figured that if this was not a dilemma for them it wasn’t going to be one for me.
By the way, ceremony was great and was fascinating to watch Coco, who is now 5, trying to take it all in. It was the first time that she had ever been inside a church for a service and throughout the whole ceremony I was bombared with the “why” questions that she is famous for (Why is the lady at the front dressed in a white gown? Why is the baby boy wearing a long white dress? Why are people sitting, standing up and sitting down again? Why are they pouring water over the baby’s head? And who is this Jesus guy that they are talking about all the time?).
Brooke Reynolds, mother extraordinaire from the much-loved Inchmark blog, recently offered up her rules for family dinner over at Dinner A Love Story, and I was so inspired by her rules and her reasonings.
I don’t know about you, but dinner in our house usually goes something like this… ’Quin, take another bite…Ivy, eat your food……Easton, use your napkin, not your sleeve!….Ivy, scooch your chair in….Quin, eat your dinner!…Easton, clear your plate… etc.’ Dinner in our house is hardly a peaceful family time. In fact, I recently told my husband that it was my least favourite part of the day! I always feel like a broken record, saying the same thing over and over, constantly on edge and unable to enjoy that we’re all sitting around the table together.
After reading Brooke’s Ten Rules, I’m feeling inspired to make an effort. I love Rule No. 2 that ‘The Table is a Safe Place’ where only nice things are said (siblings don’t bicker, parents don’t lecture). I also like rule No. 8 to ‘Play High and Low’ where everyone tells the high and low point of their day. When I was growing up we did something similar: we all had to say one thing we did that day and one thing we learned. It made for interesting conversation! And lastly, I like rule No. 3 of ‘No Distractions’. Do you allow toys at the table? I need to be more strict about this — I find that toys are so distracting and give kids an excuse to zone out into ‘play time’ rather than family eating time.
Anyway, I’m feeling inspired. I’m going to try to make dinner a happy, more peaceful time in our house (fingers crossed!). What about you? Do you find dinner to be stressful? Do you have any other tips for making it more enjoyable? I would love to know!
A few hours ago, I caught my 4-year-old son Pim with his Micro Scooter in the living room. Now, Micro Scooters are intended for use outdoors, at least that’s the rule in our house. So I told him to put the scooter back in the hallway and I made my way to the kitchen. A few minutes later, I heard baby Ava (who had just had two nasty shots (jabs) and was feeling miserable) screaming and crying, I looked up, and saw Pim with his scooter in his hand, he clearly had run into the baby. I was so angry, I dragged him to the corner and yelled at him.
Fact: he disobeyed the rule in the first place, didn’t listen to me in the second place, and unjustly hurt Ava in the third place. I had the right to become angry. I try not to raise my voice too much, but sometimes I lose my patience and yell. I don’t like it but it occasionally happens — usually when they’ve been nagging me for a while, trying to find out how far they can go with me.
I do believe (I hope) that I’m human, and that my kids need to learn that there are borders, and that it’s ok for them to experience that their mother (exceptionally of course) may lose her patience if they go too far. It’s not nice, however (for both of us).
I sent Pim to his room so I could cool down and after 10 minutes we spoke about what happened, why I had become so angry, made sure he understood what he did wrong — and we apologised to each other and hugged bigtime. Peace is back in the house. And I’m promising myself to work on being more even-tempered!
I am always amazed by mothers who seem to never lose their patience, never seem to explode, reason with their children as if they are grown-ups. So tell me, do you think I am a terrible mother for losing my patience, or is it normal? Do you ever lose your patience or do you have a trick up your sleeve I should know about?? Yoga, meditation, medication? I’m very interested to hear.
(photo from here)
I just came across James Mollison’s photographic essay, Where Children Sleep, and I can’t stop staring at those touching photos. Mollison provides stories of diverse children around the world, told through portraits and pictures of their bedrooms. Some photos are simply heart wrenching, others totally fascinating. Isn’t it incredible how wide our world is and how differently people live? The book is written and presented for an audience of children 9-13 years old with the intention of showing kids the lives of other children around the world. Would you show your children? I will definitely show mine!
I must say, I am really liking that more and more information is starting to come to the forefront regarding the issues surrounding infertility. My mother pointed me towards this article entitled “My Fertility Crisis” which ran in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago and I thought it was a real eye-opener. All too often, when we DO actually hear about a woman’s struggle with conception, it is usually only discussed and disclosed only once “success” (aka a baby ) is achieved. Rarely do we hear about those who have been unsuccessful in the journey to motherhood and/or have been dealt multiple blows over the course of years and years. Infertility is still one of those closely guarded secrets that women keep to themselves, which is why I need to commend Holly Finn, the author of the article and of the new e-book “The Baby Chase” who bravely and honestly shares her experiences of IVF and the quest to have a child. While not the usual post you would find at a place like Babyccino Kids — I know that many of the moms out there can totally relate and I thought it was a good article to share.
I love how honest kids are. They just have no social responsibility to obey the rules of etiquette — they can say things that grown-ups could never, ever get away with saying! And sometimes it is SO funny the things that come out of their little mouths. The other day my son (pictured) told me my forehead was bumpy (wrinkly). The week before he told me, as he sat in the bathroom with me, that my bum was too big it didn’t fit on the toilet! He has also told me that my sister’s boobs ‘look better’ than mine (which, by the way, is definitely true!). It’s a good thing I’m not overly sensitive — my self-esteem would be shattered by now with the amount of honest remarks my kids make. So tell me… what funny things have your kids said recently? Do you also have a ‘bumpy’ forehead or a ‘big bum’? And when do kids start to realise that they can’t be so honest all the time?
My oldest son was potty trained when he turned two, and was sleeping without a diaper by the time he was three, no problems whatsoever. My second son was also potty trained when he was two (and actually did it all on his own!)… but is STILL sleeping in a diaper at bedtime even at four years old. He just can’t seem to go the whole night without needing to wee!
I’ve talked to several friends, and it seems that most kids are sleeping in undies by the time they’re four. But I have some friends with even older kids (it seems mostly boys) who are still wetting the bed! So… is it genetic? Does bed-wetting happen to some kids in particular? What causes it? Smaller bladder maybe? Is it ‘treatable’ (for lack of a better word)? I’ve tried all the normal tricks, but nothing seems to work. Does anyone have any tips or experience to share?
I have finally had The Talk with Coco who is now 5½. You know which talk I mean? The one where your innocent, little kid turns around to you and asks: where do babies come from? The Talk invariably happens at an inopportune moment, normally in a crowded tube or in a civilised, quiet restaurant while your kid should just be enjoying an ice-cream and certainly not be thinking about baby making.
I actually panicked, as this was a defining moment of her life! If I messed this one up, there could be years of therapy in front of my daughter, where she would blame me for messing up her sex life. But how do you go about it? Do you get technical, throw a book at your child and hope she figures it out, talk about birds and bees or even the stork? I thought I dealt with it reasonably well and only got stuck on the technicality of what sperms look like… which I decided could be dealt with later.
Yesterday we were walking down the street with a friend of mine who has recently become pregnant. She told Coco she had a baby in her tummy. Coco’s response was certainly direct: “You mean that you did the thing where you stuck the penis in the vagina?” Maybe I should have stuck with the stork version of the story! Have you talked to your kids about sex yet? Any tips?
Photo found via Antique Trader.
ONE YEAR AGO WE WROTE ABOUT:• Things to do with BOYS in Paris
A) because I literally do not know how to boil an egg — they are either so undercooked that the egg white is still transparent or I forget about them and the egg yolk gets this really ugly grey cover, and
B) because my Aunt Liz, whose parenting advice I listen to more than Gina Ford and Tracy Hoggs combined, taught me a great trick — if the kids are fighting about a toy, simply put on the egg timer for a few minutes and the moment it rings they have to swap, then the egg timer goes back on until the next swap. Works like a charm. It turns out that kids are much more reactive to the ring of a egg timer than to my nagging voice. Must be some kind of a Pavlovian dog reaction…