An interview on The Daily Muse

Courtney and Marlow
Courtney and Kids_the daily muse
easton and camera_the daily muse
girls in reception room_the daily muse
marlow on bed

I was extremely excited to be asked for an interview over on Fenwick’s online magazine The Daily Muse. I have always loved the children’s department at Fenwick — for years it has been my go-to place to find unique children’s gifts, and I’ve recently been really impressed with their blossoming childrenswear department which includes many of our favourite brands: Millie Manu, Caramel Baby & Child, Rachel Riley, etc.

When they asked to come over last weekend for a little photo shoot and dress-up session I just couldn’t resist. Not only was it fun to see a sneak peak of all the pretty new spring/summer children’s clothes, it was also a great chance to have the kids photographed in the house for what will probably be the last time (we’ll be moving very soon). I’m so thankful to have these photos, including some silly outtakes from the shoot (featured above).

I also enjoyed answering questions about motherhood, family, work, Instagram, children’s fashion and other parenting topics. You can read the full interview and see all the photos here. There is a reference in there to Maria Von Trapp, and if you know me even a little, you’ll know there is no bigger compliment. : )

Courtney x

Stylish maternity dresses from In Pig

courtney with four kids
I’m not pregnant (promise!), but I still love wearing my two-tiered shift dress from In Pig, which I’m wearing in the blurry photo above. : )

In Pig have recently released this shift dress in new fabrics, and I’m loving the black and white ikat cotton version below. Isn’t it beautiful? I love how comfortable and versatile it is — layering over tights in winter or wearing as is in the summer time.
InPig maternity dress
Of course I also give extra bonus points to any maternity dress that you can still wear beyond pregnancy (without looking pregnant!). Best kind of maternity pieces in my book!

Courtney x

Shakleton’s Journey by William Grill

Skakleton's Journey Cover

I loved this book before I read it – my friend, Clem, had just bought it and I knew I’d love it – she is always right about these things. I flicked through it sitting in her garden and first fell for the illustrations – in a naval palatte of blues, browns, gold and a dotted journey-line of red they were so tender — I was instantly drawn in. Then I came to page 7 – about how many dogs were aboard Endurance (Shakleton’s Ship) drawn more like an infographic (I’m a stats geek with a love of graphic-design so an infographic is my idea of heaven on a page).

Shakleton's Journey inside 1
Shakleton's Journey inside 2

William Grill uses so many illustrative techniques to bring the story of this remarkable adventure alive. On one page we are in a picture book, the next is more like a cartoon built up of lots of small pictures showing scenes from that particular part of the story, then a storyboard page and then we have the pages that feel like they are from a deliciously doodled notebook – it is a truly gorgeous book and it was the perfect introduction to a fascinating story, which I knew very little about. I love it that my kids have got to an age where their learning is teaching me too!

The book is shown here with my late Grandfather’s nautical flags from when he was a leader of the Sea Scouts in the 1960s – they now hang in my son’s room!

Shackleton’s Journey is available from Amazon (US and UK ).

-Mo  x

Shoe Lacing, Montessori-Style

montessori craft project
I am a big fan of Montessori methods of education and I’m still mourning over Tila’s Montessori daycare she went to in France. There are none here in Germany in the area we live at the moment so I try to implement as many Montessori principles at home as I can.
I especially love their toys which are in fact called ‘materials’ simply because they are designed with an aim to help children spontaneously learn when working with them. There are many ways to make Montessori-style materials at home and most of them are very simple so I thought about starting a series of “Montessori-Style Crafts” posts.

My first project in this series is a fun and super simple craft that can be actually done by kids themselves and its purpose is to help learn how to lace and unlace.

1

Things you need are:
-Shoes
-A piece of thick cardboard big enough to fit the shoes
-Paint (I used watercolors)
-Knitting needle or skewer

2

First make the outline with a pencil

3

Go over with a black marker and draw in the rest of the shoe like the eyelets and the tongue, I even had to do pink toe caps.

4

Paint the shoes and make holes in the eyelets using a knitting needle or a skewer.

learn to tie your shoes craft project

Now put the shoelaces in (or even better – let the kids do it) and you’re done!

-Polona

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

Tuesday Tips: Potty training

potty_training

This week for our ‘Tuesday’s Tips’ series, I would love to talk about potty training. Very soon, we will be potty training Casper (second try!), so I thought it would be good timing to dig up some potty training wisdom from my personal archives and share it here with you. And to hear your tips and thoughts, of course. (Please!)

I think the first and most important question raised with regards to potty training is:

When is the child ready?

So here’s what I have learned. Over the years, I have found out that there are quite a few cultural differences with regards to potty training. Compared to the UK, where the consensus seems to potty train around the age of two, here in the Netherlands parents generally seem to wait much longer – until around or after the third birthday, or until the child itself shows an active interest in the potty. Or, until there’s no time left to postpone longer! (At the age of 4 all children here in the Netherlands need to be potty trained in order to start school. The nursery teachers told me that even then, some children are still not fully potty trained — which must be such a huge burden on the poor teachers!)

Because we lived in London when our first babies were born, I followed the English way for Sara and Pim, and they were both successfully potty trained around the age of two. After we moved to the Netherlands, I stuck with this idea and Ava was also without nappies shortly after her second birthday.

In my experience, most children are ready to be potty trained around the age of two – in general, they are communicating well enough to understand basic commends and they understand the concept of potty training. They are open to new ideas, but are also still young enough not to overthink the whole idea. (I have heard stories of potty training being a long, emotional and stressful affair with older children).

Some indications that my children were ready to be potty trained included the ability to understand basic commands, the ability to pull down their own pants, and the awareness that something was happening in the wee and poo department. (Some of my children verbally communicated that they were weeing or pooing, and some simply got up from what they were doing and stood quietly in a corner – all indications that they felt it coming or at least that something was happening.)

To give you an idea about the exact age: Sara and Ava were potty trained within a month of turning two, Pim was not ready until about 4 months after turning two. Emilie’s girls, Coco and Vivi, were potty trained before they were 2 1/2 as well, and Courtney’s little girl Marlow, exceptionally, basically potty trained herself when she was 18 months! They do say that girls are a bit faster with things like this than boys, and I think you can generally say this is true.

On a completely different note, I’ve always been quite eager to get my children out of nappies sooner than later out of an environmental point of view. (Plus, nappies cost a heck of a lot of money too!)

How to prepare for potty training?

A few months before their second birthday, I put a potty in our bathroom and sat the child on the potty for a bit before their bath. Just to get them accustomed to the idea of the potty. We started to casually speak about the potty, read books, and play with dolls (and stuffed animals used the potty as well, of course). We’re all really easy going in our household (nobody closes the bathroom door when we’re on the wc) so we would talk about how mama or papa would use the wc, and of course the bigger siblings once they were there.

Then, we simply picked a weekend where we would ‘do it’. I think it’s best to choose a weekend where there’s little else going on, when you’re home, and you have your partner, a friend or family member around to help. In general, don’t mix major happenings if you can avoid it – so don’t take the dummy away when you’re potty training or around the time you’re expecting a new baby.

A note on the weather: I have potty trained my children in warmer and colder weather, and although it is generally perceived that it’s easier to potty train during the summer (just let the child run around without clothes), I don’t think that to be necessarily true. I think that it might be better to keep the child dressed, so he/she really feels the result of an accident. More of a hassle, maybe, yes, but I don’t think it’s best to wait ’til summer if your child is ready to be potty trained in winter.

What do you need?

Some items that are handy to have around before you start are:

– At least ten pairs of fun underpants for the child
– Plenty of easy-to-pull-down trousers with an elastic waistband, such as jogging pants or pyjama pants
– A few potties – depending on the size of your house, you may want one on each floor or in each bathroom
– A sticker chart with fun stickers – you can just make this yourself, it’s just a big sheet of paper with squares on it. One sticker for a wee in the potty, two for a poo!
– Two buckets prepared with soapy water: one to soak dirty underwear and clothes, and another used to wipe the floor clean
– A portable potty and wipe-clean shoes such as Crocks or Native shoes, for when you’re out and about

So how does the process work?

I strongly believe that the most successful way to potty train quickly and successfully is to go ‘cold turkey’. Which means, take the nappy off, and don’t put it back on unless you put your child to bed. No pull-down nappies, no nappy when you go to the grocery store or music class, no matter how tempting it is. Yes, there will be accidents, a lot of them! But I really think that this way, you’re giving the child a very clear and non-confusing message that a change has occurred and that it is time to adapt: no more nappies.

So on Saturday ‘potty training’ morning, immediately after the child woke up, I immediately took the nappy off and replaced it with the cool big kid underwear (make a big fuss! so exciting!) and set the child on the potty.
The key is to put the child on the potty every 10 to 15 minutes on the first days. We always sat next to the child in the beginning to keep them entertained, reading books (I like the classic books from Alona Frankel for boys or girls ) or watching little films on the Ipad. It’s pretty full on! (This is why it’s nice to have some help around during the first days.)
And, in our case, the first days, most of the poos and wees actually happened next to the potty, so it was pretty frustrating as well. (And yes, it was so very tempting to put that nappy back on!)
But, perseverance and patience was always rewarded, and there were more and more successful attempts. When there was a wee, we made a big fuss about it (cheering and applause!), and we let the child participate in pouring the wee in the toilet, we let the child flush and wave bye bye. And of course, we put a sticker on the sticker chart!

If there was no wee, we would remain encouraging and just try again a little later. In case of accidents (many!), we remained positive but at the same time we made clear to the child that this was not the place were the wee belonged.

When you feel things are absolutely not working well after the first days trying, just go back to nappies for a few weeks and try again later. I’ve heard that some children simply don’t have the muscle control to hold their wee even at two years of age. Or they’re not mentally ready — when we first tried a few months ago, Casper hated the idea of the potty so much that he absolutely refused to sit on it so we quickly abandoned the idea. Now, he actually thinks the potty is really cool, so time for a second try (he turned two back in October). So if it doesn’t happen the first time, don’t fret! Simply take a break and try again in a month or two.

How long does the process take?

For my kids, the first days it seemed that they were just not getting it. I would dutifully sit next to them every 15 or so minutes, but still most of their wees would end up on the floor. By day three, I was so frustrated and so very tempted to put that nappy back on… But, magically, after a few days, they started to suddenly get the idea. So I’ve learned to hang in there! When the child started to really wee on the potty (in my experience by day 3 or 4), I could make the potty intervals longer, and things would really get easier. About a week after the start, my kids were all pretty much potty trained.

And I say pretty much, because there would still be the occasional accident, but less and less of them. And in the beginning, we would still have to very regularly remind the child to think about the potty. Also – in the beginning they would tell me they needed to go, but wouldn’t be able to hold it up very long, so we would need to act fast. But they have always learned very very fast!

What to do for naps?

Some kids can be potty trained during the day for years before they master holding their wee overnight. So for nap time and nighttime, we always put the nappy back on. When we saw that the nappy would be consistently dry after the day nap, we would start trying without. And then eventually, when the child would be ready, we would try without during the night as well. (Waterproof bedding is really helpful during that period.)

Out & about

Although it’s probably handier to stay around the house the first few days of potty training, there is no need to stay housebound during the rest of the process. Just make sure that when you leave the house, you have at least one change of clothes including shoes that can be wiped clean, and a plastic bag for the dirty laundry. We always brought a little potty on the road (for Ava, someone gave us a portable potty and it was brilliant!) because in the beginning of the potty training process, little children can not keep in their wee for very long, so if they need to go, they need to go! Right where you are! (On the pavement if necessary!)

Daycare

If your child attends daycare, I really believe that the staff should respect your choice and parenting method and should be willing to accommodate your efforts and work with you on potty training your child when you think it’s the right time and the child is ready.

Fallback

All my kids (and I hear it from friends too) have had a fallback about half a year after we potty trained them. For a few days (up to a week!) they start wetting their pants again! It’s crazy, but it just takes a few days and then they ‘get it’ again. I’m not sure why this happened, but it did!

So… that was a long story, but I felt it would (or could?) be helpful to write it all down. Of course these are just my experiences, and every child, and family, and parent is different. This weekend we’ll be potty training Casper, and we will see how it goes this time around!

xxx Esther

Nursery idea: rug on the wall

yellow cot with rug on wall
My friend Mo, who owns Pipsticks and whom I’ve written about before (here), is expecting a baby girl (her fourth baby!) any day now. I was over at her house last week and asked to see her baby’s nursery… because honestly, isn’t there something so magical and exciting about a newly prepared little space for a baby? The perfectly clean sheets, the soft blankets, the miniature baby diapers… all just waiting for a baby to arrive! Oooh the anticipation!

I love the way Mo decorated the space, and I especially love her idea of hanging a colourful rug up on the wall above the cot.

 

rug hanging on wall
rug wall hanging

 

Mo told me she used a big yarn needle to loop pieces of chunky, grey yarn through the rug to attach it to a cheap, unfinished wooden dowel (which she picked up at her local DIY store). She spaced the yarn evenly, starting from the center, and made about 4 loops around the dowel at each spot. She then hung the dowel from the wall with nails. The whole thing took her only 15 minutes and instantly transformed the space. How clever is that?!

She bought the rug from Oliver Bonas which has a small, but nice selection of rugs. I love the vintage feel of the one she chose and think it looks so perfect above that yellow cot!

Courtney x

Photos by the talented Lesley Colvin

Colourful cashmere accessories from Olivier Baby and Kids

Olivier Baby cashmere bonnet
Olivier Baby cashmere snood
Olivier Baby bear hat
cashmere snoods
I recently got the kids cashmere snoods and I honestly don’t know what took me so long to catch on to this convenient fashion trend. Snoods are so much easier than scarves. Hands down. (I can totally understand now why scarves were banned from Emilie’s girls’ school! They’re a pain to keep wrapped around the neck, and often end up dragging in the dirt, falling off and getting in the way.) Snoods stay put and keep kids warm, all the while looking super cute!

Olivier Baby & Kids is a great place to pick up cashmere accessories for kids in a variety of pretty colours. I love the baby bonnets as well as the snoods (so handy with the strap under the chin), and how fun are all the colourful pompom hats?

Apparently it’s supposed to get colder before it gets warmer here in the UK, so it’s not a bad idea to stock up on winter accessories, especially now that the sale has started.

Courtney x

A quick morning make-up solution

DayWear2 DayWear

With four children to get ready in the morning for their school and daycare, lunch boxes to prepare, gym bags to collect, my mornings are a bit hectic to say the very least.  Most of the time my husband drops the kids off to school on his way to work (all of them piled up on the bakfiets!), but when I do the school run, there’s not much time (like none) to apply any make-up before we run out the door. Enter Estée Lauder Daywear Sheer Tint Release Moisturiser, a one step morning solution I swear by. If there’s no time for anything else, this cream will make my skin look smoother and more radiant. It works a little like magic — it goes on without colour, but when you apply it the tint and glow will magically appear on your skin! That, and some lip balm, leaves me feeling just that little bit more pulled together. In less than ten seconds.

As always, I’m very curious to find out about great, easy-to-use beauty products that have a nice, natural effect. Please share your favourites?

xxx Esther

This month’s Giveaways!

This month’s four giveaways are especially lovely! What a good way to brighten up the month of January?! Read about each of them below, and visit our Win page to enter…

mamaowl giveaway

MamaOwl was started by a Danish mother living in London who wanted her baby to stay warm during the colder winter months. Having begun with her favourite brand, Engel, the collection has now grown to include many of our most loved alpaca, merino, and lambswool brands as well as not-to-be-missed organic cotton pieces. MamaOwl offers a wide range of organic and natural wool clothing for babies and children up to 8 years. From hats and scarves to leggings, jumpers to sleeping bags, choose gorgeous, warm pieces from the likes of Misha + Puff, FUB, Serendiptiy and babaà.
This month MamaOwl is offering one lucky winner a £100 gift card voucher.

lennebelle giveaway
Lennebelle Petites is a beautiful jewellery collection celebrating the special connection between mother and child. These are gorgeous, delicate, wearable pieces, born out of a mother’s love. Designer Lenneke was inspired by the desire to appreciate the small things — those little bits of everyday magic, and the knowledge that our children help us do that – as you can see in these sweet films.
We just love the matching mother-child bracelets. How perfect, then, that Lennebelle Petites are offering one winner just such a set this month! The winner can choose their design and preference of 18K gold or silver.

smallshires
Smalls is a British range of the softest, non-itchy luxury merino long sleeve tops & vests with gorgeous subtle detailing, equally good as outerwear or base layers. Smalls supermerino is machine washable, temperature regulating – keeping you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot – and breathes like a second skin. It’s moisture wicking, flame retardant, anti-allergy & itchy label free for kids 2-12 years. So perfect! This month Smalls are offering one lucky winner one long sleeve and two tanks, you can take your pick of sizes and colours! Perfect for ski season!

greenberry kids giveaway

Greenberry Kids offer a playful, colourful collection of stylish & comfortable quality clothing for children from 2 to 6 years. Here you’ll find the finest pieces from Korean brands; such a fresh selection with fun designs and unique shapes!
This month Greenberry Kids are offering one lucky winner a £100 shopping spree on their site!

To enter any or all of these awesome giveaways, just visit our Win! page over on the shopping portal. Good luck! x

Birds of a Feather (and other books) by Francesco Pittau Gervais

Birds of a Feather Cover
Birds of a Feather inside 1
Birds of a Feather inside 2

All three of my kids fell in love with books when they first ‘read’ Dear Zoo – the definitive lift-the-flap book (in my view). In fact lift-the-flap books were always a hit in our house and that’s why this book by Francesco Pittau Gervais was a perfect gift for them last Christmas.

Whilst I am a big fan of one of Pittau Gervais’s earlier books – Elephant Elements (which I wrote about here), this series of lift-the-flap books aimed at older children – Birds of a Feather , Out of Sight , The Open Ocean are more sophisticated in their style. In ‘Birds of a Feather’ the flaps give you a hint to the bird hiding behind – maybe a silouhette of a particular feature of the bird, a detail of the markings on their feathers or the egg they came from, and the illustrations of the birds are really beautiful.
The book takes that which babies and young toddlers love about a lift-flap – the element of surprise – and uses it to educate in a playful but informative way. It is really a treasure of a book – but beware of young lift-flappers – the books are made using thinner card then the normal board-books and so are not as robust!

NB: the photo shows the German version of the book – the English cover is actually a lot nicer (in my view).

-Mo  x

Tuesday Tips: Preventing Sibling Rivalry

Easton and Quin in Venice
adamo kids

We’ve decided to dive straight in to our new ‘Tuesday Tips’ series with a weighty discussion about sibling rivalry! We hope you’re up for it, and we really hope you’ll share your tips and experiences too. Here goes…

Growing up in a big family, the eldest of five children, I remember how important it was to my mother that my siblings and I were friends. It was a worse offence in our house to hurt your sister’s feelings than it was to be told off in school or to forget to do your chores. Get in a fight with a schoolmate and you were given a stern talking to. Get in a fight with your sibling and you could feel the deep disappointment before she ever said a word. My mom always maintained that her biggest goal as a mother was to raise children who liked each other, and it was this goal, above others, that guided her parenting practices throughout our childhood.

I remember when I was pregnant with my second baby and we found out we were having another boy. Sitting there in the ultrasound clinic, it became immediately apparent what my mother had been talking about for all those years. The only thing I could think of was how much I hoped my two boys would become the best of friends. Becoming a mother of two, I could feel the focus of my parenting shift: it became less about me and more about them. A loving relationship between my children became, and has remained, my biggest commitment as a mother.

Over the years, as our family has grown from two to now four kids, it’s become even more apparent how much my children are shaped by each other, how their individual personalities are so influenced by their birth order and relationships with their siblings. (Do you remember this post and the article in Time Magazine noting that children are more shaped by their siblings than by anyone else?) Even more reason to ensure that the relationships between my children are happy ones.

Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way:

1. Don’t compare your children, not even to raise ambitions: Try to resist the temptation to make comparisons with the hopes of encouraging your child to do something. For example, at the dinner table when my kids are eating and Ivy is sitting there eating VERY slowly, my first instinct is to say something to Ivy like “Ivy, hurry up and eat your broccoli. Look at Marlow – she’s eaten all her food already”, but I have to bite my tongue here because I don’t want to create a competition between the girls or pit them against each other.

Thinking back on my own childhood, I remember one sunny summer’s evening, standing with my mom in our backyard watching my three brothers play basketball. My middle brother was so clumsy; he was short, even shorter than my youngest brother, and he couldn’t make a basket no matter how hard he tried. My mom just sat there smiling and encouraging them all. Never once did she let on that my youngest brother was better than my middle brother, not even to light a little fire under his behind. Looking back on it, I think my brother just played because he liked playing with his siblings. He didn’t play to win or to be good at it. And I think my mom didn’t care if he was good either. She was just happy to watch them play together.

2. Resist the temptation to intervene:  My natural reaction as a mother is to step in and make sure things are always fair and right, to ensure the older ones aren’t coercing the younger ones into doing what they want, or that the younger ones aren’t just breaking down in tears to get their way. But I’ve learned that actually my children play better when they know I’m not going to get involved in their little disputes or sort out their disagreements for them, and that in most cases when they sort things out for themselves, they usually do so in a pretty fair and decent way. If my kids are playing outside in the garden or upstairs in the playroom, they tend to play better knowing I’m not within earshot of whining or tattle telling. Of course if an argument becomes physical, or if someone’s feelings are really hurt, I will step in. But if they’re fighting over toys, or arguing over who gets to choose the bedtime story, I have learned that sitting on the sidelines and letting them work out their differences is the best approach.

3. Encourage your children to empathise with each other: I was talking to Esther a few days ago and she explained that whenever one of her kids comes to her complaining about their brother or sister being cranky or mean, she tries to encourage them to understand why their sibling is acting this way — perhaps they’re tried, or hungry, or not feeling well (usually it’s something quite simple like this). Esther told me that she wants her kids to understand and empathise with their sibling rather than to immediately feel attacked or be angry with them. Isn’t that so sweet? It’s something I hope to start doing with my kids too.

It also got me thinking about my own siblings and how whenever I have a small argument with one of them, I can usually understand their point of view almost before I start to feel defensive. (Perhaps my mom used the same approach as Esther!) I think it’s such a great problem-solving technique; if only we could employ this with every relationship and with every argument!

4. Encourage your children to share a bedroom (or even a bed): I’ve written before about how my boys share a bed, but I think many of the same benefits can be said of simply sharing a bedroom. I think by giving your children a shared space, it naturally gives them a sense of being on the same team. They have a shared responsibility of keeping their room tidy, making their beds, putting the books away, etc. Plus, the bedtime chats before they fall asleep are just so sweet; the bonding that takes place during this ‘secret’ hour can only bring siblings closer.

5. Ask your kids to help you by helping their sibling: One of the obvious downsides of having several children is the lack of one-on-one time with each of them. It is something I’m constantly aware of and always trying to improve on.  The benefit, however, is that your children rely more on each other, and it creates a sense of teamwork between them. I remember when Marlow was born, I asked for a lot of help from the older kids with her, and it helped to encourage a nurturing relationship with the baby and it built up their confidence as care-givers to their younger sister. I don’t always have time to sit down and read with all of my kids in the afternoons, but I will ask Easton to listen to Ivy read and help her with words she doesn’t know, or often Quin will read to Marlow, or Easton to Quin. (My mama heart!)

6. Allow your kids the opportunity to negotiate their own way with each other: I always use bath time as a perfect example of this. I usually put all my kids into the bath together, and while it’s a bit of a squeeze for them all, it is the perfect time for them to learn important life lessons: like vying for space, sharing and swapping toys, arguing over who gets to sit closest to the faucet and negotiating who must get out first based on the previous bath, etc. Not only do they learn to love and play and care for each other, but also to argue, negotiate, and share.

I’ve recently noticed a new dynamic in our family: because Easton now spends more time reading and doing homework in the afternoons, Quin, who is normally Easton’s playtime pal, is left to play with Ivy or Marlow. The relationship between Quin and Ivy is a somewhat ‘new’ relationship, and I have to admit it hasn’t really been smooth sailing. I guess it all comes down to pecking order and Quin, being the eldest in this relationship, becomes the dominant ‘player’, and Ivy ends up being bossed around or somewhat bullied by Quin (who has always been the sweetest, most loving little boy). I’ve been watching this relationship unfold from a distance and noticing that it is certainly a bit of a rocky one. I’ve decided that it’s important for the two of them to learn how to play with each other even if it means the occasional argument needs to happen, and I’m hoping that it will only strengthen the bond between them, and of course help with other relationships in the future. (At least I’m hoping — I’ll let you know how it goes in a few month’s time.)

 

So, those are some more general tips and experiences that have worked in our family. I’d love to hear your experiences and any tips you would like to share.  Please leave your comments below.

Courtney x

 

Tuesday Tips, a new series

ten kids

Over the years we’ve been asked by readers to share our thoughts and tips on parenting-related topics. Whether it’s a question about something basic like potty training, weaning or dining out with children…or something slightly more complex like preventing sibling rivalry or raising healthy eaters, we’ve received these questions somewhat apprehensively, as we didn’t quite know how best to respond.

Apart from the odd post (like views on electronics or co-sleeping) we have mostly shied away from writing these more advice-driven parenting posts. I think it’s because none of us have ever felt qualified enough to offer advice (none of us have ever officially studied or read up on these topics). And yet… the questions keep coming. Which got us thinking: perhaps it’s not about reading all the books. Perhaps it’s the actual trial and error of raising kids that makes a mother an ‘expert’? And perhaps, even more than that, maybe we don’t necessarily want an expert’s advice; maybe we’re more interested to hear how other like-minded mothers approach all the many parenting stages and challenges.

Between the three of us, we have spent the past ten years birthing, sleep-training, weaning, potty-training, feeding and raising ten children! That’s ten years of parenting, learning, discussing, questioning, adapting and becoming generally more confident as mothers. Perhaps we do have a trick or two up our sleeves? (At least for parenting young kids — we’ve got a lot to learn about the next stages…. like teenagers… yikes!!!)

Actually, the more we think of it, the more we realize that all mothers, regardless of how many children they’ve had, are experts. Don’t we all have some tips we’ve learned along the way? Wouldn’t it be fun to create a platform where we can all weigh in with our tips and suggestions (and questions!) so that we can all learn and benefit from the wisdom of other mothers?

We would love to start a weekly series here on this blog where we pick a parenting topic and shed some light on what we’ve learned and what has worked for us (not in a preachy way, but in a hopefully helpful way). We would love for this series to encourage healthy discussion and to prompt even more questions and topics to discuss. And of course we really hope you will all chime in with your own tips and tricks. We’re super excited to kick it off!

In the meantime, please feel free to offer suggestions for topics we can cover. We’ve got a list from previous questions but would love to hear your suggestions so we can start to organize these topics. Also, if there’s a question or topic we don’t feel qualified to shed light on, we’ll try to seek out a mother or expert who has the experience and insight to share. This is going to be so fun! Our first ‘Tuesday Tips’ post will be up later today…

Love,
 Courtney, Esther and Emilie

Brio labyrinth game, suitable for 6-99 years!

brio labyrinth toyThis labyrinth game by Brio was one of the presents we gave Pim for Christmas and it was such an immediate success. During the courses at our Christmas dinner that evening, the kids were literally fighting over it, together with their grandfather (see photo!). So the fact that Brio markets this toy as suitable ‘for 6 to 99 years’ is really spot on : ).

brio labyrinth game

The classic labyrinth game was introduced in 1946, and it’s all about fine motor skills, reactivity and… patience. The little ball is balanced by turning the two knobs at the side simultaneously to keep it from falling in one of the holes. Different levels can be chosen by inserting a different board.

It all sounds really easy, but it’s much, much harder than you think!

xxx Esther

Pim’s bed, and wonderful Jim Flora wallpaper

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Last weekend, my husband and I did something new for both of us: we wallpapered a wall. We learned a lot about measuring, cutting, and patience, and got to deeply respect the skills of professional wallpaperers. But after hard labour I’m proud to present the results: the wall behind Pim’s bed is covered in gorgeous blue wallpaper! Pim picked this design, featuring original drawings by the late Jim Flora, because he loves music and plays the trumpet. So it’s perfect.

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I love the quirkiness and originality of the wallpaper design, and the dark colour makes his bed really stand out. The bed is made of brass and antique, we found it in France last summer, stuck in a corner somewhere at a ‘Vide Grenier’. The plexiglass Star Wars sign was found on the street when we lived in New York 13 years ago, before we were married and had children. We stored it all this time, until we had sons who would appreciate it in their room! I found the bedside table on the streets here in Amsterdam, and it displays all of Pim’s little treasures. (He is such a hoarder!) The house shelves were an investment I made a few years ago for the old room, and we still love them. The badger rug is from Molly & the Wolf.

xxx Esther

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau
Madame Chapeau inside
Madame Chapeau inside 2

Beaty & Roberts are a pairing akin to Donaldson & Scheffler – if I see a new book from the duo I buy it without thinking, without reading the sleeve, without anything – it WILL be good.
OK, so unlike the latter pair these guys have only produced 3 books together (so far) but those 3 books are just soooo good – we have written about Iggy Peck Architect before and Rosie Revere Engineer and now I’d like to introduce you to Madame Chapeau … I’m sure you will fall in love with her!
Unlike Iggy & Rosie, Madame Chapeau is not in Lila Greer’s 2nd grade class but rather owns a hat shop in Paris and makes the most beautiful hats for her chichi Parisian clientele. But Madame Chapeau is a lonely lady until on her birthday a thieving crow gives Madame Chapeau the chance to see how many people are eager to be her friend.
The story starts with a pang of sadness for this lady who is quietly unhappy and lonely but how powerful the message is that there is love out there for all if you seize it and a birthday is always a good time to ‘seize’!

Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau is available from Amazon (US and UK ).

-Mo x

Girls on Tiptoes

Girls on Tiptoes leotard
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I’ve always been really reluctant to sign my kids up for classes and activities that take place on weekends. I just find the weekends to be such precious family time and I’ve never liked dropping kids off at classes (or even birthday parties for that matter) where it divides the six of us up. We’ve never been a boys-go-to-football/girls-go-shopping kind of family — we all really prefer to spend the two days together.

But this September I finally gave in. Ivy has been asking to take ballet classes for years now, and because the only available beginner ballet classes take place on a Saturday I had to make an exception to our weekend rule. So… Ivy now does ballet on Saturdays and she literally looks forward to it ALL WEEK LONG. Consequently, the ballet obsession has rubbed off on Marlow, and now, at any given point, you can be sure that at least one of my girls is wearing a tutu or ballerina leotard! (To think there was a point in my life where I had two boys and was only surrounded by trains and dinosaurs and building blocks!)

Anyway, with ballerina fever running rampant in our house, we’re really happy to have discovered the range of ballet and gymnastics wear from Girls On Tiptoes. The brand was started by three Polish mothers who have created a range of pretty-yet-playful pieces offering something more modern than the average pale pink leotard. The site, with its dreamy imagery, is mostly in Polish, but the shop is easily navigable, and I have a feeling it’s only the beginning for this great brand. You heard it here first. : )

Courtney xx

Finnish Babies in a Box

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Have you heard of this custom in Finland? I just read this article and had to share it! Every baby born in Finland receives a box from the state full of clothes, a sleeping bag, accessories and toys. The box can then be used as a bed. Everyone receives it, so it has become part of the excitement of having a baby.

I thought it was really interesting how over the years the content of the box has changed. In the ’30s the box contained fabric as woman were used to making their own clothes… and now the box contains condoms! The Finns are certainly moving with the times, but the principle stays the same and so generations of children in Finland have started off their lives sleeping in a cardboard box — such a great tradition!

– Emilie

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers

Once upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers
Once upon an Alphabet inside 1
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A – Astronaut, ages, adventure, aliens, although, anything, air, accurate
B – Bernard, Bob, bridge, battling, burning, between, back
C – cup, cupboard, cold, closed, clear, counter, concrete

Leave it up to Oliver Jeffers to take the concept of an alphabet book and raise it. This book of short stories works its way through the alphabet avoiding all the obvious phonetic examples – no apple, ball or cat in this book! Whilst some of the examples may be a little tricky for a first reader (see M for Marvellous, Mattresses, Mountains, Microscope and Molecule) the stories are a great way to introduce children to letters and each story is (in typical Jeffers style) hilarious (I LOLed!!!), surprising and beautifully illustrated.

Once Upon an Alphabet is available from Amazon (US and UK ).

-Mo  x

Weekly book reviews by Mo (she’s back!)

Mo de Graaff

Do you guys remember our friend, Mo, who used to be a contributor here? You might remember her stunning children’s room with the dark walls, or the Cops ‘n Robbers birthday party she threw for her son, or her lemon curd recipe, or, my favourite, her Christmas Book Advent Calendar idea?! We were so sad when she told us she was too busy to continue writing for us (or perhaps too bogged down with baby number three!), and honestly we’ve missed her ever since.

So, we’ve begged and pleaded and asked her to come back…and, lucky us, she’s agreed to return as our weekly book reviewer!!

There is honestly no one better for this job than Mo. She is the biggest children’s book enthusiast I know and always gives the best book tips. She once told me that she never reads a children’s book for the first time without her kids — she likes to wait to read it with her kids so she can experience it at the same time they do. Isn’t that so sweet?

You guys, we are in for a treat. I can’t wait for her weekly posts — I’ve been needing some book inspiration in my life! This week’s post is up next…

Courtney x

Everyday is a party! Gorgeous leather crowns from hubble + duke.

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My kids had a little party on our bed this weekend (like most weekends), and they were being so cute, wearing their leather crowns from Hubble + Duke, that I just had to take a few photos. And then, I even got them to sit still just long enough for a portrait! Yay!

Hubble + Duke crowns

Hubble + Duke is an Australian company run by three creative mums, offering some gorgeous goodies like soft mocassins, sweet rompers, adorable bloomers, and beautiful handmade apron dresses. And then, of course, there are the before mentioned crowns, which are so beautifully made and so comfortably soft. To be worn for dress up, birthdays, or just any day, because everyday is a party, isn’t it?

xxx Esther

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