A special space to fight nightmares

Despite my kids both generally sleep through the night since they were around 7 months old, they have had periods when they had regular really frightening nightmares and have been waking up in the middle of the night, absolutely unable to fall back asleep as terrified to remain alone in their rooms.
Unfortunately we have the smallest double bed size in our room, a queen size, and my husband is quite big. We found in the past that letting them sleep with us was simply another nightmare for us, as not only there was definitively not enough space for 3 of us (let alone 4 when they had a nightmare during the same night at different times) but also because they move a lot in their sleep.
In the past we tried to lie next to their bed to comfort them so they could fall asleep again but they often cannot let go completely as they know that we will go back to our bed as soon as we think they are asleep again: that’s when they open their eyes wide open and they start crying terrified as we were about to leave the room…!

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14 years of loneliness in great company today

I care for my husband. Even on the days I feel miles away from him.

On the days I cannot forgive him for having once again forgotten to take down the compost bin the only time I mentioned I might not have a chance to do it myself, hoping one of us will remember this week as I always do. Or for having forgotten to help with our daughter’s potty training or our son’s homework, for wasting the left overs in the fridge as always even if  we said we will finish the following day, for often missing to tell me about a work engagement that forces me into babysitting duty last minute. Even on the days I feel so disconnected to him, to the point I don’t want him to look at me or touch me because I feel uncomfortable with myself and I might not even know why.

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Lots of ideas for a birthday party…

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When you become a parent one of the tricky things that starts appearing into your life planner once a year is the dilemma of your child’s birthday party.

You want them to have a great time to remember and celebrate something they like a lot as children, growing up (!), but at the same time you may feel overwhelmed to invite and entertain 20 kids in your tiny flat or be concerned they will destroy your house or garden!

Here are a few local ideas I used for my kids. They were born in the spring but weather is always a question mark in the UK so I used lots of indoor options as well 🙂

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When you finally have a real choice

Last Sunday I had the most amazing 5 hours in Camden in a long time! Did I go to the zoo? Did I have a stroll on the canal or in Regent’s Park? Did I shop in the market? I went for a workshop at London Meditation.
The location was the perfect environment for this kind of ‘retreat’: a 3rd floor flat full of light, with big windows on beautiful roof views and 2 big balconies, spotless cosy main room with the perfect temperature, comfortable rug, chairs, pillows and blankets, well studied in every single practical detail (like the kitchen and a second room if in need of privacy for a moment).
The topic I had chosen to attend that day was self compassion mindfulness as too many times I catch myself being extremely judgemental towards my limits and poor choices, totally ignoring all the good things I achieve on a daily basis.

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48 hours on the Amalfi Coast

If you like the seaside, good food and hiking as much as I do, then the Amalfi Coast is definitively the place to visit! The mountains called Monti Lattari which are part of a natural reserve arrive straight on the sea in this beautiful land with spectacular little towns built on the sides of those cliffs. I discovered Amalfi for the first time in September this year. I had planned to go to Salerno to see a gig of my favorite band when I was a teenager. Since it was on my 34th birthday and I find that beautiful places heal my soul and help me to cope with the family routine of washing up / dropping kids at school / going to work / ordering the grocery / ecc, I decided to give myself a mini break of 2 days and visit the area before going to the concert on the Friday night. It turned out that the trip to Amalfi itself was even more worth it than the gig! Here are my suggestions when you visit the area.

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Unusual protest

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For those who have walked for a decade from Brixton Hill into Brixton Water Lane on their way to Hootananny or Brockwell park, the meaning of this graffiti is much deeper than just some vandalism… If you want to understand more about it, read my previous post about Reclaiming Brixton.

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Miracles happen (with a little help from yourself: to believe)

A year has passed since the amazing unplanned home delivery that gave life to my daughter and I struggle to believe that this fearless, brave, hard working woman that gave birth to her that way was actually me. I wish I would remember every day I am capable of showing such strength and determination. I usually feel insecure deep down and wonder if I am a good enough mother, a competent employee, a present wife, a loving friend… I always doubt about myself, I tend to self sabotage my actions. But if I look back at that night of labor completely relaxed on my own, I believe I probably managed for once in my life to finally tune into my body and listen to what was happening, not fighting the pain, not even letting the fear take me to the core, at the bottom of my stomach. That was probably the first time I learned to let go: I knew what was coming and accepted that contractions would get stronger and stronger and by doing so, funny enough, they felt less painful. I also know now that her safe arrival in such an empowering way was actually a miracle of the God of my understanding, one of the many he performs in my daily life, the one and only that looks after me so well. My higher power helped me by raising my determination to make things different in my life in general, and more specifically in my second delivery. In fact, after the birth of my son 3 years beforehand, I was extremely anxious at how things would go with the delivery of my second baby. I remember having panic attacks in the last few weeks that brought to her safe arrival, thinking of all the things that could have gone wrong, as first time around… A nightmare period of my life! Luckily I had booked myself in early April for a whole day workshop at Active Birth Centre with Alice Charlwood, which I strongly believe made the absolute difference, together with my determination not to repeat the past and my Higher power’s plans for me.

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The political illiterate

The reason why I always find time to follow a bit of politics, even local movements and events, is contained in this smartly touching quote by Bertold Brech.

The worst illiterate is the political illiterate.
He doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events.
He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions.
The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics.
The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.

Good parenting: common opinion VS personal experience

What makes us good parents? Some people would easily fall into the cliché that the excellent parent is the one whose kids never have tantrums: they always do as they are told and are polite in public. This would apparently represents the proof that manners and hierarchy were well passed on to the new generation.

Actually, I would deeply suspect of those situations because if children are too compliant, it may not be a sign of good parenting: the risk is to simply erase their personality, asking them not to ever disagree or have uncomfortable feelings so that you as parents are always in a good place and don’t have to fight to get your mission accomplished (getting ready to go home, having a meal sitting down in a quiet restaurant and so on…).

The truth is we actually measure ourselves as good parents in those difficult times, when we manage to teach our children how to deal with their own emotions and why despite they want to do something one way, they will have to accept the frustration of doing it a different way due to the circumstances.

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Returning to work after your maternity leave… or not?

It may seem yesterday that your tiny little baby entered your life changing it forever in all the amazing ways they do (and all the hard working, depressing and exhausting ways too, to be very honest 🙂 ). Therefore, the end of your maternity leave feels so far ahead you have not even considered your options. But as a matter of fact, even when you take the maximum time allowed in the UK (the entire year from when you stopped working, not from when your baby was born), it goes faster than you think and one day all of the sudden you may have 2 or 3 months left to decide what to do and inform your employer as well. It is a very important decision you are taking, that will strongly influence your child’s life and yours as well for the years to come.When you evaluate what is the best solution for your situation, there are a few factors to take into account. Here is a guide of what I personally experienced first and second time around (having a 3 years gap in between my two children).

Financial affordability.

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The end of an era

When your youngest child stops going to the nursery which the older siblings attended too before them, because he/she starts to move on to the next school level, it feels like the end of an era. You know the whole staff names by heart, you remember how each Xmas show went every year, you recall when that class room was painted in green and now those walls are orange… You are so used to the journey from home to the nursery, you cannot imagine you will never do it again (unless you have another baby in the meanwhile!).

It was a difficult choice for us to make, we absolutely loved our kids first nursery and will never stop recommending it. However we feel that our youngest is ready to move to bigger spaces in a preschool nursery for kids from 3 to 5 years old as her older brother did at the same age. And the fact that we are now offered 30 hours a week for free (9am-3pm Monday to Friday) with only lunches and after school clubs to pay the days we are working until 6pm, is also another main reasons that lead us to give our notice to our previous nursery. Not only she will have teaching staff who is more specialized in her age group, with amazing indoor and outdoor spaces and activities; for us it will also feel like we had an increase of salary without actually having to ask for one… When you combine budgeting factor with thriving conditions, the answer becomes quickly quite clear.

 

Dear nursery manager,

It is with great regret that I am giving our 8 weeks notice to remove my daughter from your nursery.

My husband and I want her to follow her brother’s step and have a year at a preschool nursery before she will start reception in Sept 2018.
It was a very difficult decision to take, our children had the best years of their toddlerhood at your safe, loving and stimulating nursery.
Their little personality will have been shaped for ever by the input of the Montessori method and the great care of your staff as a whole.

We wish all the best to the school, the teachers and the kids and we never know, you may have a third little infant of ours attending in the future or maybe not, we will see!

Kind regards,
C.

Remembrance day

You are in every single tear, in every single breath of mine, you are the wind in my hair, the rain on my face, a leaf on a stream, a butterfly on a flower…

You will have never known newspapers headlines with pictures of Syrian kids' little bodies on a beach, the Bataclan massacre, Brexit and Trump USA president, gay people mass murdered in Orlando or tortured in Cecenia…

I hold the phone where your number is still saved, from which I won't be able to call you anymore; my mother sits in the evenings at the same caffe where you won't join her anymore.

Are you really gone forever? Or are you just hiding in a Tibetan monastery meditating and contemplating nature's beauty, far away from the pettiness of the human beings that you despised so much?

Wherever you are, we terribly miss you and we hope you may rest in peace

Emilian mountains for every season

My husband and I were raised in Tuscany, Italy. Many Italians actually don’t live the country for their holidays as there is so much to see all around Italy and every region is so different from one another that you feel a tourist in your own country even just after a few hours drive. That is probably why, when coming to visit our family in Tuscany, we often chose to spend a few days in another beautiful region next door, Emilia Romagna, to have a break and leave the kids with their grandparents without being too far, ideal destination both in winter and summer.

 

The first time we went it was August 2013; we stayed in a town called Porretta Terme where you can relax and have amazing spa treatments at Hotel Helvetia.

There is a beautiful natural park in the area called Corno alle Scale where, with the use of a chair lift, you can do some amazing hiking with breathtaking views on the Appenines mountains or simply walk in silently enchanted woods.

Even just wondering around and discovering nature, little castles and waterfalls is worth your relaxing holidays.

 

Lakes of this region are charming under any weather conditions (first line Lago Santo and Lago Baccio in January, below Lago Scaffaiolo and Lago di Suviana in August – just google them).

 

During our stay for new years eve this year we rented a flat in a lovely little village called Fiumalbo.

 

Val di Luce, which by car is not far from there (surrounded by free parking spaces), is excellent for skiing, even for beginners as it has a very small ski run for lessons, together with the higher and longer ski runs for experts, so even if you are a mixed level group of friends, everyone can ski 🙂

 

 

So if you love mountain in the winter or the summer, Emilia Romagna is one great region to go to in Italy!

PS All pictures in this post were taken by myself between August 2013 and January 2017.

My kids and potty training….

This could be one of my posts of which I am so proud of, full of tips for a quick and successful potty training and overflowing enthusiasm for my new accomplishments with the kids I want to share with everyone… If only I had found the grip of how to deal with this all lol! Still up to nowadays, I don’t know why but this is certainly my kids’ phase I struggled the most with so far. Not the sleeping through the night, not the tantrums, nor the healthy eating or the socializing: the potty training. Which means that if it was not very easy to achieve for me, you can expect horrifying details of smelly explosions and disgusting stories of ‘human body products’ spread everywhere in the house! Don’t worry, I will spare you 😉

I have always been fascinated by a theory of mine (based on exchange of experiences with several of my friends): mothers that succeed quickly in sleep training tend to encounter more difficulties with potty training, whilst the ones who don’t mind if their child still wakes them up several times in the night or sleep in the same bed with them, usually start potty training at ‘ridiculously’ early ages such as 18 months and they often crack it quickly and without many bumps along the road… I guess it’s a matter of priorities and maybe our children can feel it: in fact I cannot live without a good night but compared to lack of sleep, I don’t mind cleaning a bit of poo now and then from clothes, sofa covers, floor and so on. My friends with kids, who can survive with little sleep but absolutely could not stand the whole changing nappies that came with motherhood, made it very quickly through this phase of their child.

I cannot really say that it has been a total disaster in our family, however there are common behaviors in both my kids to note and try to understand once put together. They both were absolutely not interested in potty training at all and never really gave us those famous signs they were ready for it (books legends in our case lol). They got to start it totally under our initiative as it felt it was time to put a limit to procrastination: around the age of 3 years old, my daughters 3 months before her birthday, my son 3 months after. They both had constant wee accidents for over 6 months so we had to keep on asking them to sit on the potty every hour or so to avoid those (you may be happy to do it only in the initial 4 weeks every book promises you will need, but after month 3 you are so sick of it!). The main remarkable fact is that they both kept on pooing in their pants absolutely uncaring: rather than just going to the loo and get done with it quickly, even if they knew by now how to do so as it had happened in so many past occasions, they preferred doing this way despite they had to then interrupt their game afterwards to be cleaned and changed.

My daughter who is in month 7 of her training still does this, she does not like to tell us she feels she needs a poo, so she closes the door of the room she is in to remain alone or she would hide behind a curtain whilst she feels the stimulus: if we catch her in time we have to promise her several stickers and some chocolate to convince her to sit on potty or loo… And my son who is now 6 still suffers from nocturne incontinence. I hear some children do, even girls, without being too worrying, however it may be a bit embarrassing to have to wear a night pull-up at a sleep over, no matter how nice is your best friend… I have to say I should not be surprised: I wet myself when I laughed wholeheartedly until the age of 15 (my kids do the same if they have not been to the loo for a while when they start laughing hysterically at something funny!).

Maybe I started too late? Though I was waiting for those signs and did not want to force things through too quickly… Maybe it’s their way of getting my attention, as an amazing child advisor pointed out so well with my son (‘Do not get angry when it happens, it still means attention to him, even if negative… Instead praise only when he does well and make all accidents very boring with the changing clothes procedure and no reaction on your side’ – Great advise as it sped up the training with him after a moment of despair!). Maybe my expectations are too high and everyone on average takes a few months to assess in their whole new condition of autonomy. Maybe it’s just genetic since they act in the same way and I had some issues too… Well if you had a better experience please free to send me some tips in the comments! Or comment to relief me if you had worst situations than mine 😉

 

 

How to encourage your child’s positive behavior and gratitude at the same time

I often think back to the ‘Raising Boys’ course which I attended 4 years ago as a guidance to understand what could be my next step to help me and my children in a difficult period…. So when I noticed my 6 years old son (who is usually naturally well behaved and gets amazing reports from his teachers about both his learning and his social skills) struggling to respect some simple rules for a few weeks in a row, I came up with a reward chart of my own, since its use was suggested in one of this course sessions. We had some purchased ones in the past when he was only 3 or 4 but this time I wanted it to serve several purposes so I needed more flexibility in its diagram and he loves new family projects such as home made boards and so on!

The above works as follow.

  • My son gets 1, 2 or 3 points depending on the behavior I want to encourage (he hates getting dressed or playing on his own and he has quite frequent fights with his sister lately).
  • The points are represents by stickers (who does not love some good stickers when they are under 10?!) which he can allocate to the different prizes as he wishes (apart from the piano lessons ones, see below).
  • He can get several points in a day (on average 5 which is good if I want him to have 2 play dates a week!) if you count clothes in the morning and pajama in the evening; moments when I need him to occupy himself without a screen whilst I am doing something important for half an hour or so; and all the times I ask him to stop screaming in the car, hitting his sister during an argument or responding to her or us (when he enters the ‘no I am not, yes you are, no I am not, yes you are’ kind of endless useless conversation lol).
  • Prizes relates to activities more than material objects, so that he can appreciates for instance that organizing and hosting (or going with him to) a play date takes up quite some of my time, so he has to earn it by behaving well and helping the family routine instead of giving it for granted.
  • He expressed a strong desire to have some Lego boxes as prizes and I had 2 big ones that I had bought on massive discount a few months ago, so rather than giving those away to him straight away, he is ‘earning’ them little by little, whilst I have not spent any money recently to buy any new.
  • We are spending quite some money on his piano, swimming and football lessons during the year and lately he has shown no gratitude for our budgeting towards those activities, refusing to practicing or attending them regularly, nevertheless he does not want us to stop paying for them: so now he needs to practice 3 times a week his piano during the summer break in order to get more lessons paid in September, and that is the only prize that he can get by earning a specific type of sticker (1 practice, 1 sticker towards piano lessons only).

With this chart I am trying to achieve the best of both worlds: his good behavior in our day to day family routine but also appreciation of the things we do for him every day, his social life and diary, his extra scholastic activities, little chocolate treats now and then, and his passions such as Lego building or books! I hope to have passed on you some ideas out there 😉

 

Update a few weeks later – What I have noticed since using this chart is that an added benefit is also my increased sense of gratitude towards my child good behavior, so now instead of using it as a reward (‘if you do what I need you to do you will get a sticker’ command) at the end of the day I reflect on what positive behaviors my child had in a spontaneous way, so we remark them together before bedtime and notice what a kind and smart boy he is still outlining his positive acts which did not come from my requests or bribes but more out of his personal choice to do the right thing. Maybe that is the best key for the use of this kind of chart, to promote his internal price more than any external motivator (as mentioned in the Raising boys course).

New interesting local campaign 

Fostering is something that my husband and I always considered. It must be extremely hard yet so rewarding, and that just sounds like parenting in general, but this is a another level. Your kids learn to share with those who struggle more than them in life and to value what they have: a family, a unique roof to which they can always come back at the end of the day…

So will definitively look into these for some more information.

Easter break away from London on the seaside

You don’t have to go far to find beauty. Whilst you may find yourself attracted by foreign countries’ temperatures and landscapes and feel an urge to book an expensive flight to have a proper break from London, there are also lots of little gems at a few hours drive from the capital. It’s ideal when you only have a short break at disposal and a little budget too but you are nevertheless in need of that holiday feeling for the whole family.

That is why last Easter we spent a great weekend in Bournemouth. It was like one of those quick Japanese tours as we only had the Sunday night free (my husband was working both Friday and Saturday) but we really enjoyed it!

First of all, if you drive to Bournemouth from London you have to cross the New Forest so whilst we drove there we made a stop in Furzey Gardens to have our Easter lunch picnic. It was so beautiful! Not only it is really relaxing for the grown ups but there are also lots of things to do for the little ones such as looking for fairy doors, or climb on to small huts!

 

 

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