Posts filed under kids

Tuscany Day Trip | Bonassola on the Italian Riviera

When I was 19, I was introduced to the Cinque Terre. After traveling to Italy several times before, something felt unique and untouched about this place. It was charming with tiny streets, dramatic beaches smashed on the Mediterranean, and the pesto… oh, baby. It was lush. Tyler and I would sit on the rocks in Vernazza with picnics at sunset and jump off the rocks of Manorola and feel like this was as good as cheap thrills can get.

Since that first time, I have to say (as many other would agree), it’s not really the same. It’s been blown up by tourism in a way that is both like winning the lottery for some locals and devastates a place of its natural charm. We visited Vernazza this summer and, literally, waddled along the main road trying to walk with so many other tourists alongside us. (To be fair, it was July and it was the day a cruise ship docked.) 

A few weeks later, we were at dinner with our friends, Grant, Georgette & Nico in Florence. I asked them where they went for a day out to the beach. Without skipping a beat, Georgette & Nico (who are married) said: "Bonassola!”

They explained that it was just beyond the top town of the Cinque Terre, just beyond Levanto. They said you could drive, you could rent chairs on the beach, that it was stuffed with Italians and, of course, pesto-covered focaccia. We were sold.

A few days later, we loaded up the kids for the 2+ hour drive there. We got takeaway cappuccinos (“a porta via”) and pastries from the best little spot, Laquale, near where we stay.

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We packed up the kids and a million other things (floaties, clean clothes,  water bottles, snacks, sun cream, laptop for Tyler, and, seemingly, every other random other thing we have ever owned.) As we started our mountainous decent from Levanto to Bonassola, we realised how special this place was. It’s a little bay where Italians come to spend August. You can tell that the people there are families that have come back to the same little apartments and beach clubs for years. There are friendships there that are so obvious and so charming. Yet, we still felt the perfect balance of being unnoticed outsiders and friendly experiences. 

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You can rent a beach chair for the day for about €15 per chair. I rented chairs for 6 of us, but it was honestly, a bit of a waste of money. I think for the 7 of us, I could have only rented 3, as for the most part, we were coming and going to the water. 

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We grabbed pizzas from a tiny local spot that had a giant line snaking out of, which obviously meant I wanted to try it, too. We had a sandy little lunch eating pizzas and peaches from the local market what spills right out from the beach front. I met men from Burkino Faso selling gorgeous blankets and grabbed one as a souvenir from the day.

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The water was clear and pretty- as you would expect the Italian Riviera to be. A dead jellyfish floated up and some kids pulled it ashore and played with it for hours. When Viola told me she had been playing with a jellyfish, I definitely didn’t believe her, but our au pair, Camino, laughed and said it was true. I wandered down to see it in person and found about ten kids squatting around it, playing with its tentacles. 

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As the sun started to set and the beach chairs started to gradually become empty, we packed up and wandered into town to find a place for dinner. The tables of the cafes were all filled with families and friends sipping aperitivos, eating pizzas and watching as their kids ran around the fountains by them.

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And as they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans. So we sat down and ordered as our kids ran free. They climbed up on the steps, the climbed down, they made friends with the family playing by them and ended up eating the kids crackers, at their mom’s kind offering. It was nearly dream-like.

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I kinda love to keep places like this a secret, because it makes me nervous to think that one day, Bonassola will be just like the Cinque Terre. Overexposed and haggard, but I kinda think that maybe if we spread out a bit, took a chance on other places and tried something that wasn’t just listed in every single tour book//blog, maybe we’d just disperse the chaos a bit better than we currently are doing. Well, that’s my hope at least. Maybe there is actually enough of great spaces for all of us to enjoy, if we don’t feel the pressure to fight for a space in the well-known ones. Because let me tell you, this was not settling for a consolation prize. This day trip to Bonassola was the jewel in the crown of our time staying in Florence.

And if you go, look for me. I’ll be the one on a beach chair- buried under kid’s floaties and empty boxes of pizzas- with a very content look on my face.


Find more of my favourite easy day trips from Tuscany or browse my Italy travel guide to help plan your trip.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Country BBQ (English Style)

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School is out! At last, Viola is finished with her school year. I can’t believe she is through Reception. (Our version of “kindergarten” that they start at 4.)

She finished school last Friday and then Saturday we got to celebrate the summer kick-off with a day at a barbecue at our friend’s lovely house in Oxfordshire.

Now first things first: a “BBQ” can be confusing. When we first moved to England, we got invited to a barbecue and I was like like: “OH BABY! YES! Finally!” I showed up to the barbecue salivating over the idea of brisket, spicy polish sausages, ribs, and was completely shocked to find burgers. I soon realised that when someone barbecues here, it simply means “grill out.” So if you’re a new expat, you’ve been warned and you can adjust your expectations accordingly. 

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But luckily, my expectations were in line for this party... and I knew that a day our in Oxfordshire at our friends house would be nothing short of lovely.

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And it was! Especially with seven black lab puppies to cuddle. My kids were smitten, and so was I as I watched them lug the sleepy little puppies around. It was so cute!

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Also, Edie decided it was her day to start really walking- so she got her first real steps in that day and it was hilariously cute watching her big thighs waddle around and plop in the grass. 

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The day was so fun. We left around 5:30, stopped at McDonalds on the highway and let the kids get Happy Meals... which, to our dismay and relief, they really only wanted for the toy.  

I’m not really sure what my kids will remember of days like this, but I’m hopeful they stack up as a hazy collection of imperfect days made up of lots of happy memories. Because as crazy as they may feel at times in the moment, I know that’s what they actually are!

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Little London | 5 Places to Splash & Cool Off Around London

I grew up in Texas with a pool. I could swim from one end to the other by the time I was three. 

However, my children live in London. The closest thing they have to a pool is a bathtub, and they still love their floaties very, very much. (And so do I.)

Another thing that is different than my Texas upbringing is the lack of air conditioning. When it gets hot, it gets HOT like its so gloriously been the last stretch of weeks here in Britain. While we don't have access to a pool, there are some great spots around London... most come with a view and even better- most don't cost a dime.

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And if you're going to get familiar with this scene, you'll need to adopt the term "lido" into your vocabulary. Swap out "swimmin' hole" or whatever you called it back home and opt for this posh and very English term ("LIE-DOH"). It means an open-air swimming pool or bathing beach.

(Go on and drop that term to a local and feel very cool.)


DIANA MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN | This fabulous memorial is a giant water feature near the Serpentine. Kids can wander the circular water feature and play in the rapids. It can be a bit treacherous for tiny ones in spots, so plan to wear shots to escort them through those spots. 

*I just checked the website and it says that it asks people not to walk on the memorial... but I assure you that hundreds do this daily anyway and they have staff to supervise?

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THE V&A MUSEUM | In between the museum and the cafe of the V&A, there's a little pond/pool area. It's a bit deeper than your ankles and has a few fountains dotted around the side. In the hot days, you'll find kids splashing and playing in their diapers and underwear here. It's a great spot, as the cafe is just to your side to make it an easy spot to spend a few hours in... and with water so shallow you don't have to continuously fret about drowning. I would say that, as this is primarily a museum, make sure your children are changed and dry before re-entering the museum to avoid making a mess! It would be very uncool of you. 

 

RAVENSCOURT PARK LIDO | This is a neighbourhood gem in Shepherds Bush. Set in the back of a grand Victorian park, this lido is perfect for little kids (not too deep!) and is sandwiched between a playground and a sand pit. Just outside the lido gates, you'll find the massive park to enjoy and explore. 

 

KENSINGTON MEMORIAL | If you're looking for a splash pad, this is a great place to go. It's tucked back in Notting Hill in the neighbourhood that was devastated by the Grenfell Tower tragedy. It's very local and feels like a little trip back through time when you enter by it's tiny snack shack. When the kids are tired, they can play on the playgrounds just outside the gate with areas perfecter big kids (zipline and giant climbing frame) and a for littles  (smaller climbing frame and sand).

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DESIGN MUSEUM | Just off Kensington High Street, the new Design Museum is a very cool (free!) museum. Just outside that very cool museum, there are some fun fountains that they allow kids to play in. It's not very crowded and makes for an easy stopping point near Holland Park or running errands on Kensington High Street.

 


 

Though I've never tried them myself,

my very normal & cool friends like these places, too:

SERPENTINE LIDO (HYDE PARK )

LONDON FIELDS LIDO (EAST LONDON)

 PARLIAMENT HILL LIDO (HAMPSTEAD HEATH)

 


 

FIND MORE FUN THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN LONDON HERE.

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Little London | Thames Path in Richmond

 

I often get parents of small kids over for a visit, and they gush about how they wish they could have their kids grow up here. YES. It has some amazing advantages: culture, history, cool accents. I love the childhood my children have most every day of the week, but I also feel like I always need to be honest. (Because trust me, I glazed over city living with kids for a long time... before I actually lived with kids in a city.) The fact of the matter is that living in a major city with a young family comes with some huge downfalls: no space (seriously, like ever), long journeys of schlepping in bad weather or on crowded transport, somewhat difficult social boundaries to break through. 

We have been really lucky and are so grateful for our little life here. We have all our needs met... and beyond! 

But last summer, we were feeling a bit claustrophobic. Tyler finally broke down, jumped through the hoops to get his UK license and we added a (very used! very cheap!) car to our family after 7 years of living without it. We hardly use it still walk and scoot most places during the week. But on the weekend, we get a little crazy and get the itch to get out of town with the kids and give them room to explore.


THAMES PATH RICHMOND

For Edie's birthday, we wanted to do something simple. Since those first few birthdays are really for the parents, these parents decided that the best thing for us was to go easy on ourselves. So, when an extravagant party isn't an option, hanging out in a pretty place is the next best thing because it still feel really special.

We headed to Richmond, parked the car, unloaded the kids and went down towards the river. Along the Thames there is the cutest little river walk- which is just a small part of the the Thames Path National trail that stretches 180 miles from Greenwich to north of Oxford.

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The place we went to stretches between Richmond and Hampton Court and comes complete with boat & bike rentals, cafes with people dotted around the tables, grassy areas with people napping or lounging together, and cute little bunting to guide you along the way. We LOVED it!

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We found a little spot, tossed down our picnic blanket, lit a candle on a cupcake and sang happy birthday to sweet Edie.

After they gobbled down the icing and abandoned the cake part of the cupcakes, we watched Harrison scoot up and down a long ramp until we could no longer stand the heat.

 

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It was a perfect little escape from the crammed city routine we often do, and I can't wait to go back and do more picnics... and, when Tyler's feeling up for some arm work, going in one of the row boats. 

 

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You can easily reach Richmond by car or public transport (trains from Waterloo into Richmond or the district line to Richmond). There was some nice detailed instructions on this site. But basically, just get to the High Street in Richmond, and you're just a street or two away.

 

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This is a great day out and makes those tough stretches of being in London with kids feel less stressful and so, so lovely!

 

LOOKING FOR MORE ABOUT LONDON WITH LITTLE KIDS? CHECK HERE.

 



 

*images original to aspiring kennedy

 

Chicken Pox with Kids | A Memoir

The other week, I posted what I will fondly call “The Instagram Heard Round The World.” Okay, not really-but it did get a huge reaction. It was a post about my girls having chicken pox recently in our house.

While many of us have memories of having chicken pox, most of my readers and friends in the US now vaccinate their children against it. So it’s a bit of a thing lost to the past. Well, amigos, I’m here to tell you, the chicken pox is alive in well here in England where it is not included in the regular vaccine schedule for children and still a regular part of growing up here. (Just if you are curious- yes, we vaccinate! And yes, I think it’s very important to vaccinate!)

Viola woke up in spots one sunny Monday morning… the day that Tyler left town for a trip to Serbia. Wheee. I was a bit nervous of the days ahead, but her case actually was really mild and she really only had about 100+ spots throughout her case of it. She wasn’t super itchy and enjoyed the extra time off school (It came conveniently after a bank holiday.) We spent the week playing around the house, sneaking out early in cabs to play in parks and fountains before they got crowded and dotting calamine on her while counting her spots.

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It was no big deal. Chicken pox is kinda fun, I thought.

Then on Saturday, Edie woke up with a couple of bumps on her head just as we were setting up for Harrison’s birthday party. I texted our guests to warn them that I thought she *might* have it, and carried on getting things ready. My parents arrived just in time to have the party (en route for a trip to Africa), and more spots appeared. She wasn’t miserable, so I was thinking we were going to have another mild case to muddle through and kept checking Harrison for any signs of bumps. 

The next day, Edie had a good run of the pox. They were all over her chest and spotted around her head. I kept saying that I wasn’t sure if she had enough to get a “good case” of it, to insure she had immunity. (I had read and heard that if you don’t get enough, you can get it again later? Who knows.) Well, don’t worry- by the end of the second day, the poor baby was popping them out faster than a Kardashian can with Instagrams. When she woke up on Monday, she was totally covered. It was actually really horrible looking.

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She would use her little baby hands to rub her head and try to itch the pox there. It was like watching a teddy bear try to rub his head- the saddest and cutest thing you’ve ever seen.

On Tuesday, some of the spots were getting red and warm. After googling a bit, I decided to take her to the doctor to make sure they weren’t infected. (Thanks, Google, for freaking me out!) My doctor was full, so they told me to take her to the A&E (our version of the ER) since she was still little.

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At the hospital, we were whisked into a private room to avoid getting anyone else exposed and had some lovely doctors come check on her. She was fine, just had a nasty case of it and we were sent home to watch things in case they progressed. Luckily, they didn’t, but I was due to travel to Paris that night and decided to stay home with her instead. But what’s a girl to do when her baby looks like a raspberry muffin? Tyler took over for me and led our group there for the weekend while I stayed home with  the kids.  (Ouch, that was probably the toughest bit of going through the chicken pox for me, if I’m honest.)

But the days rolled on. The pox turned to scabs, we ventured out in public and freaked people out with our polka-dot baby, but were happy to finally get some fresh air and be able to get out of the house together after a few weeks stuck inside.

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It’s now been three weeks since she got it, so Harrison has somehow now not caught it from either sister… and resisted getting it last spring when he played with his two very infected friends. (I was hoping to get them through it before the baby arrived, to no luck.) Perhaps he’s one of those strange/lucky people who are immune to it? I don’t know… but I’m grateful they are done with it! Phew. 

Go hug your moms and tell them thank you for the oatmeal baths, the popsicles in your undies and their long days spent at home if/when you had it. They were showing big love for your little self!

Posted on June 18, 2018 and filed under family, kids, everyday living.

V is V

On February 23rd, Viola turned five. It was a sweet day- albeit a bit sad since she had to be in school for a big chunk of the day. (Welcome to the real world, kid.) 

She wanted pasta for dinner with brownies for dessert. Easy to please.

The next day, we had several friends over to celebrate this sweet girl in style. And it was in style. 

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Per the birthday girl's request, the party was “Valentines and Rainbows.” (Though until about ten days before, she was set on a Christmas birthday party... which required a Christmas tree and decor. Ha!) 

Our sweet friend, Grace, made her a cake exactly as she dreamed it up: a rainbow cake with white the icing on the outside with different coloured pink hearts all around it and little red dots along the top. 

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We played dancing statues, pass the parcel and then let them go destroy our upstairs as they played dress up and kitchen. 

Harrison & Edie loves being a part of the fun. Harrison was so sweet and endured the torture of celebrating a sibling's birthday so well. He cheered her on and was so sweet as she opened presents. 

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Party bags were simple little treats: pink & green dinosaur cookies, a chocolate kinder bar & DIY masks complete with a little stash of rhinestones, feathers, foam stickers & glitter glue pens to decorate it with. Cute & simple.

That was kinda the theme of the day. Hearts & rainbows. Which is also kinda the theme of this girl’s little life.

Happy Birthday, Viola. You are a peach.

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ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 2, 2018 and filed under family, kids.

Family Time | Creating Traditions & Eating Croissants

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I think one of the things I get asked the most is how I manage to do it all. Well, the truth is- it’s not always all done. We manage with a myriad of weekly routines and organisers that keep us all moving. (Sounds so fun, right?) Ha! Our au pair makes it possible, too. 

One thing that Tyler and I recently realised is this: while we might be getting it all done, we weren’t setting aside to do things all together. Like, we could get everyone to where they needed to be each day- but very rarely were we all doing anything as a family. And we weren’t really doing anything as a couple, either. We were all ships passing in the night.

Since that realisation, we have been trying to figure out what we can do during the week to assure that we are building time with all of us together. We want our children to really have the concept and feeling of family established within them. We want them to have the security of family- it’s truly a richness of life that can’t be inherited or stolen from you. It’s something that is only earned with days and moments spent together.

And so, with that goal in mind, we are trying to build up times when we can make sure that we are all together. The idea is simply to leave Saturday mornings as our time. We toss on whatever is easy to wear, keep the kids in their pyjamas and toss on wellies (because if we had to dress them, we’d never get out the door), and hop in the car. We drive ten minutes away to a bakery. We get a little assortment of cinnamon rolls, almond croissants, French toast, coffees & babyccinos and just chill out together. 

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It’s really nothing fancy, but it’s just something we do. Just the Knights. Sorry- it’s VIP and we can’t be flexible on the plans. If we are in London, it’s happening. 

I love making little traditions and I hope that our kids really do feel valued and loved. (Because they are!) The more I’m a mom- the more I realise that things don’t need tp be grand or elaborate. They just need to happen. My kids don’t need me to be perfect. Just a present and happy version of myself does the trick.

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So that’s the goal. I thought I’d share that with you guys in case it’s something you’re needing to do, too… and in hopes that you can give more ideas to us! I love hearing from you all in the comments, so please don’t be shy or quiet. This place is so much more fun when it’s a community. I’ve had the pleasure to meet so many readers and I’m always in awe of how smart and cool you people are. Add in your voice. It makes it way better than just hearing mine. Ha!

Chip in below with the small but meaningful ways you connect as a family!

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on February 5, 2018 and filed under family, kids, london.

A Nutcracker and a Ballbuster

I’ve been trying *hard* to be chill lately around the kids. In the midst of seemingly endless “not right now”s and discipline, I feel like my interactions are less warm with my kids than I’d have ever imagined.

If you would have asked me what kind of mom I’d like to be, before having kids, I would have definitely used “fun” as one of the descriptors.

And I AM fun. I’m a fun friend, a fun colleague, a fun director, a fun teacher.... but I realised that I’m just not really fun at home anymore. I’m doing dishes. I’m getting people dressed. I’m looking for my keys. I am... well, I’m whatever. What I realised was: despite all the other stuff, I was mainly just missing the good parts.

So I’ve been doing my best to ease up a bit. To slow down and stop the stroller when Harrison babbles at me as I walk. To chill about our room being a hot mess. To give more hugs than directions. 

And this week, this endeavour manifested into to having more parties.

It started rather innocently when I asked Viola if she’d like to have some friends over and the conversation evolved into a tea party. “A Christmas tea party... but with hot chocolate instead of tea.”

I loved the idea and she whipped up some homemade invitations to bring to her friends for the occasion.

I went to the store and bought a bunch of generic biscuits, two boxes of grocery store mince pies, fruit & a £2 Cadbury Yule log.

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The occasion seemed to call for my nice china, and decorated it with various random bits like crackers, napkins & plastic forks from HEMA & TIGER. (My two fave party good stores- now both on Tottenham Court Road just by my work!)

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Biscuiteers had sent over some pretty Nutcracker Biscuits & chocolates from their Christmas range. My newest party trick is to stack up any simple, store-bought biscuits and place some of those beauties among them because it looked so fantastic and was so easy!

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The evening was so sweet. The kids walked in from the cold after school and started squealing. They ripped open the crackers, dumped sprinkles over the marshmallows on their hot chocolate and giggled and sang the songs from their Nativity play.

It was easy to do, cheap to put together- but man, so worth it for that little shy girl’s face to light up like that.

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on December 18, 2017 and filed under kids in london, eat, holiday, kids.

No News Is Good News

I often get comments about how quickly I am on my feet and being productive after having a baby... and I always reply how easy it is to be when you have family in to help out, but to come find me in a few weeks and ask how we are doing.

Well, here we are, a few weeks later. And all I can say is: woof. Life with three is a new level of crazy, and we are peddling fast to catch up. We aren't there yet, and the lines under our eyes are starting to give us away.

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After a recent referall to the emergency room, they decided I didn't have a brain tumour, stroke or retinal detachment... just sever sleep deprivation. Ha! It's laughable now, but at the time, we were a bit on edge. (To say the least?) Turns out I need more than five hours a night, and I'm having to let a few balls drop in order to do that.

And the most obvious ball that has dropped? Keeping up with our bedroom. While blogging is typically a highlight of the prettiest parts of our days, I wanted to show a real view of our life with three small kids while both working full-time.

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So when people tell me they don't know how I do it all, now you know the truth- I don't! I've just kinda put up the white flag for now on keeping things in order in my room, cooking a few meals a week that double and triple for other lunches & dinners, and saying "no" to extraneous things than I'm usually comfortable with.

Oh... and let's not talk about the laundry room right now.

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I'm learning that there really aren't enough hours in the day, and that I've got to use the ones I have wisely. The hours of my waking day are the currency in which I'm living in and I need to make smart transactions.

And so far? Well, we're making it. We're keeping our head above water. We have each other, happy kids, jobs we love, and a God who has given us so much more than we deserve. 

But, yeah, I probably did need that shower this morning more than I'd like to admit.


Thanks for keeping up with our family as we grow and change. It's such a joy to share this with such nice people, and I love having this record of our life here to look back on.

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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 4, 2017 and filed under babies, kids, babies kennedy.

Having an Au Pair - A Vlog!

Well, here we go. Life and work have officially merged with the start of a new semester. I make a weekly grocery order that coordinates with a color-coordinated google doc of our weekly schedule with everyone person in a different colour, where they will be doing what at what hour, and then all the meals we will eat for the day prescribed days in advance. 

I wake up, read the sheet like a script and go!

Tyler and I are juggling a busy schedule and trying to keep things as normal and steady as we can at home for the kids. 

It’s not easy, but we’re doing it.

As I mentioned earlier, we have an au pair who helps keep us functioning in those moments when our schedules totally clash or there’s not a way for either of us to be at home. We do our best to take and pickup Viola from school and have one of us at home with Harrison as much as we can during the day, but… we both work and that’s not always something that we can pull off.

Luckily, we have a sweet au pair that is kind and so helpful! Since so many of my friends were so new to the idea of an au pair (and hey, I was, too, before we hired one!), I thought it would be helpful to do a vlog where I could answer questions people may have about the whole process. People submitted some great questions and I’ve got the final video now up. Be warned: It’s not one of my shorter videos… but then again, there were a lot of questions people asked! The questions ranged from standard “Do you have to cook for them?” all the way to “Can I walk around naked if they live with us?” Ha! And I get vomited on in the video, so, you know… it just took some time to get all the essential moments in the final cut,

Anyway, you can check it out below. (Or here, if you’re on a device that won’t show the video directly.)

AUPAIRWORLD.COM | This is the website we found our au pair through. It takes time, but you can avoid agency fees by interviewing and contacting candidates yourself. (Image e-harmony… but for au pairs and families. You shop their profiles, they shop yours.)

AUPAIRAMERICA.COM | If you live in the US, this is a reputable company that can help connect you to potential au pairs and offer additional services to make the process easier.


Did you like the baby vomit? No homemade video is complete without some. (That’s what I’m telling myself, at least.) Still feeling curious? Please leave any other comments or questions below and I’ll do my best to follow up in the comments!


FOLLOW ASPIRING KENNEDY ON BLOGLOVIN


*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

To A Tea | The Wind in the Willows at Haymarket Hotel

My mother-in-law has come to visit us in London each time we’ve had a baby… and this time was no exception. And each time she has come to visit after a baby has been born, we have celebrated with afternoon tea. In fact, we went to Fortnum & Mason when Viola was just a few days old. It was one of her very first times out of the house and I remember feeling like the whole experience was a bit of an out of body experience. When Harrison was born, we ventured to Sanderson’s Hotel in Marylebone for the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. It was adorable, but I think I spent the majority of our time there swatting VIola’s hand away from the music box stacked with sugar cubes. Ha!

And for Edie’s birth? Well, I had my site’s set on trying the special Wind in the Willow’s afternoon tea at the Haymarket Hotel just off Trafalgar Square. Now, if I’m honest, I knew slightly what to expect. After all, the Haymarket Hotel is another Firmdale Hotel- like Ham Yard and Number Sixteen. I was expecting a similar experience and taste to the other two previous teas… and I was right. But luckily, I really enjoy those places because this was just as good.

And if you remember my posts about those two, you may remember- I really love the price. At £24 per person, this was a special day out in Central London without spending a small fortune. At the moment, Haymarket is offering a special twist to their regular afternoon tea that I couldn’t wait to try- The Wind in the Willows afternoon tea.  This special offering runs through the 9th of September in honour of the new musical adaptation of the book by Julian Fellows to arrive in the West End. After that, the darling decorated biscuits and darjeeling cupcakes that are inspired by Ratty’s picnic will go away and the afternoon tea will return to it’s standard items.

The afternoon tea is held in the hotel's restaurant, Brumus. While we were seated by the window (per my request), the awning outside was pulled and made our table have some seriously blue tinged lighting… it didn’t bother us at the moment, but my pictures are pretty dismal from the off lighting. Luckily, I was grabbing a few moments on video here and there, so I’ve got a short little video of our day below to share.

It was a sweet day, and I’m so thankful for these moments and memories we have made to mark the birth of our London babies with such a simple- yet sweet- little tradition.

P.S. If you’re wildly observant, you may notice that the kids are dressed a bit like the book? Well, you’d be right. Boden has just launched a Wind in the Willows series, which was serendipitous timing, as they sent some pieces over for the kids that same week. Can you believe it? Lucky them! (No adult clothes from the series, sadly!) But I think they look pretty cute. Find the collection here if you’re in the UK. Or if you’re in the US, find the best selection of Boden I know of here.



HAYMARKET HOTEL | 1 Suffolk Pl, London SW1Y 4HX | +44 20 7470 4000




*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

Hampstead | A Local's Neighborhood Guide

I’ll be honest- I don’t know Hampstead very well. I have had a few friends live there over the past few years in London, but it’s always *just* far enough out of my way that I don’t go there just for fun. And I got lost there at 35 weeks pregnant with twins.. which doesn’t sound terrible, unless you know how HILLY the neighbourhood is. It was an hour of my life that I’ll never get back… but the effort/calories burned that day may have helped me get back into my regular jeans a few weeks earlier than expected.

Fortunately, it’s not up to me to give you this area guide. Melissa has lived there for several years and has made her home there with her English husband and their two sons. Melissa is a cool, smart lady with an impressive corporate career. She’s got great taste and a friendly smile that make her easy to talk to and a fast friend. Enjoy taking a spin around one of London’s prettiest and most loved hoods with Melissa. Welcome to Hampstead!


Hampstead, NW3

1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD.

Imagine a delightful little English village complete with cobbled alleys, stone churches and heaps of willowy trees. Now plonk it down 10 minutes outside the centre of London and you’ve found yourself in Hampstead! Most famous for its rich history and ancient woodlands (called the Heath), Hampstead is a modern neighbourhood with great pubs, cafes and shopping. I really believe you have to experience its charm for yourself in order to wholly translate the unique feel of this area. Hampstead is also a hotbed for a lot of great private and state schools.

2. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW CONNECTED WOULD YOU SAY WHERE YOU LIVE IS? WHAT ARE THE MAJOR LINES THAT RUN TO/FROM YOU?

Even though it has an English countryside vibe Hampstead is really connected so I’d give it an 8. We are in Zone 2 and I can get to places like Kings Cross, Reagents Park and Leicester Square in 10 minutes. We’ve got two tube lines, the overground and buses. The Hampstead stop on the Northern line puts you right smack centre in the village. The jubilee line to Swiss Cottage is just a short walk away and the Hampstead Heath overground stop puts you right at the bottom of the Heath near the duck ponds.

 

3. IN A DREAM WORLD, WHAT WOULD BE THE PERFECT STREET OR AREA TO LIVE IN WITHIN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD? WHY?

Even after living in this area for 7 years, I still love to get lost with the kids in Hampstead’s little nooks. We find beautiful new alleys that would be a dream to live on all the time! My favourite is Downshire Hill for its beautiful single-family homes with huge yards. I also love the 5 story Georgian townhouses on Church Row and the terraced houses with brightly coloured doors on Flask Walk.

4. ON A SCALE FROM 1-10, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE VALUE FOR SQUARE FOOTAGE IS? DO YOU PAY A PREMIUM FOR WHERE YOU LIVE OR WOULD YOU SAY IT IS A BETTER VALUE THAN OTHER AREAS IN LONDON?

All the greenery and brick mansions in Hampstead definitely come with a premium price tag; I’d say a 5. Hampstead is one of the most expensive areas to live in London just behind Kensington and Westminster. However, the house prices are consistently rising so it’s a good investment if you are buying. We bought our 4-story maisonette (fixer upper!) four years ago and it’s still rising even after Brexit! I’m sure the great schools in the area have something to do with this. I also think the slower pace, sense of community and lush greenery in Hampstead really give back to your well-being and overall sanity living with a young family in a big city.

5. WHAT IS THE GENERAL VIBE OF THE NEIGHBOURHOOD? GIVE US THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE MEET SEE ON YOUR HIGH STREET?

Hampstead is very quiet with a bohemian and creative flair. The three type of people you will meet on Hampstead are celebrities, Hampstonians and young families. I think celebs like it here because they aren’t bothered by anyone. I’m always running into Josh Hartnett, Ricky Gervais and Isla Fisher. Hampstonians are the locals, born and raised in Hampstead. I think it says a lot that they send their children to the same schools they attended, which is hard to find in a transient place like London. Mostly, you will find families in Hampstead. We’ve got a solid expat community from all over the world but definitely a lot of Frenchies and Americans.

6. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET COFFEE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

You definitely have plenty of options for a nice cuppa. My favourite is Melrose & Morgan because I’ve gotten to know the staff well and they have picnic tables big enough for lots of moms and buggies to crowd around. On weekends the whole family heads to a casual little café called Mani’s for a well-priced full English breakfast and Monmouth Coffee. There are two more traditional spots for coffee in Hampstead called The Coffee Cup and Louis. The Coffee Cup is a Hampstead institution and Louis is a cool Hungarian bakery and tea room with the most delicious cakes.

7. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO GET DINNER IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

My husband and I had our first date in Hampstead so we like to relive the night! If you drink or eat at one place in Hampstead, it must be The Holly Bush. Full of charm, fireplaces and dark panelled walls, it is supposedly one of the oldest pubs in Hampstead and it certainly is my favourite in all of London. 28 Church Row is also a favourite. It’s a small romantic spot nestled in a cellar complete with brilliant tapas and wine. La Cage Imaginaire is cute too.

8. HOW WOULD YOU SPEND A SATURDAY IN HAMPSTEAD AS A LOCAL?

Our Saturday routine is as follows: First up we head to a farmers' market that is just next to our house for coffee, produce and weekend treats. We usually meet up with friends for a nice pub lunch at either the Wells Tavern or the Freemasons Arms (also really great spots for dinner!). We walk off our lunch on the Heath, usually starting behind the Wells Tavern and then walking up to Kenwood House. In the evenings we catch a film on the comfy red couches at the Everyman Cinema

9. HOW MUCH WOULD AN UBER TO OXFORD CIRCUS COST YOU? (APPROXIMATELY)

£10-13 -- but I usually just take the tube as it’s only 20 minutes. 


Looking for the right London neighbourhood for you? Check out my other neighbourhood guides: 

SHEPHERD'S BUSH | CHELSEA | DULWICH



*images courtesy of Melissa Reeve

Edie | One Month + An Official Welcome

One month old! Time flies when you’re… wiping buns. It’s been a great month. Edie is such a dream, and I just can’t stop kissing her… and, at times, also forgetting she is now part of our family. (Phrases like “Oh wait! Don’t forget the baby!” as we start to walk out the door to go somewhere seem far too common.)

I’ve shared this on my Facebook page, but in case you missed it- here’s a little video of Edie's arrival. I always feel like a huge dork getting out my camera to record moments that seem mundane… but I’m so glad I took the time to save a few of these. When they are knit together in this video, it makes a really special memory. I already love watching it and know that it will become something that makes me so teary in the yard to come.

Life is sweet with three. Granted- it’s crazy and unglamorous and what have you, but I can’t tell you how comfortable and cozy it feels to have a family of five.

Trying hard to our feet under us in a routine... but also, trying to enjoy the days of just being together and rolling with the days as they come.)  The kids have been so sweet with her, but the lack of a normal schedule, endless visitors and us being distracted is finally starting to show. Any advice on how to manage with the early days of adding a new baby to your family routines?



*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 9, 2017 and filed under babies, babies kennedy, home, kids, life, pregnancy.

(Little Kids + Working Moms) x Being an Expat = Complicated

As a mom, I’ve learned that the issue of childcare is a tricky one. So many factors are involved in finding someone to replace your role as mom- even if it’s just for a short time while you get errands run. This list of factors mainly includes (but is not limited to): income (because we all have different budgets and can’t all spend the same on childcare), distance (do you live near people you trust, or are you in a place away from trusted resources?), time (are you looking for something consistent or do you need random hours here and there?), trust (how do you know that the person watching your child(ren) isn’t crazy… and are they actually enriching your children’s lives/minds or merely keeping them alive until you return).

Living away from family, we have really battled with finding people to care for our children. Whether it’s just for a night for us to get a night away together or for something more steady during work hours- we’ve tried a bit of everything possible. Our work is a bit too sporadic to plan for a full-time help at scheduled hours… but when we need someone for work, we need someone who can pretty much dedicate their full attention to us…. But only for a few months. 

While the idea of family is sooooo appealing, we live an ocean away from anyone that we are related to. (With the exception of my aunt/uncle this summer… they have been SO wonderful to have in town with us to help in mundane moments and bigger ones like having a baby early!)

When I first heard about an au pair, I chalked it up to unrealistic for us. Full-time nannies are trop cher, and we don’t make enough to, essentially, pay their salary. I filed it away, and then when an ex-student approached me about coming to work with us in Paris after she had returned from a year in Australia (as an au pair for a family there), I started to ask her a bit about the basic format. When she told me how it all worked, my mind was blown. It actually was something we could do/afford… and seemed like the perfect fit for us.

After a year and a half of having an au pair, I have to say: it totally suits our family. Having someone live with us, be like family to us, and help watch our kids in random hours/spurts is just what we were needing… without really knowing was possible. 

Now, I'll be honest: we have been SPOILED with the absolute best au pairs. We have had people that have become family members to us, so having them share in daily life with us was never awkward or weird. The toughest part of them living was us was only when they had to leave. (PS. If you're reading this Cami, come back!!)

So I thought that maybe I’d do a vlog where I talk about what having an au pair is like… because maybe, just maybe, it could open up some options for your family, too. And maybe, just maybe, you’re currently as clueless about au pairs as I once was. Yes? Well then, ask away! I’ve got my own experience of two au pairs- with a new one arriving soon! Plus, I’ve asked a few friends to weigh in when there’s a question that I can’t answer. 

Ask away- from the basic (where do you even find someone to be an au pair?) to the more tense (what if your au pair has gross living habits- like leaving hair in the shower drain or has the smell of rot perfuming their room?) I kind of can’t wait to read these, by the way!


Hopefully this helps you if you’re at the point of breaking in trying to juggle it all.. and gives you an option that works great for your family.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

A Tiny Surprise | Meet Edie.

Much to our surprise and delight, and nearly a month before her due date, we welcomed our daughter- Edith Brooke Knight- into the world on Sunday evening. 

What started as a weekend date night to celebrate an anniversary with friends and eat some pizza by the river, turned into timing contractions and coming in- "just in case" to the hospital that evening (with the hospital bag I had randomly and obsessively packed earlier that afternoon). Going into the hospital for a quick check then turned into 20 hours of contractions and, finally, an emergency caesarean when I finally started to dialate and she decided to start coming. 

Since all of this ended up happening before 37 weeks, the doctors wanted to hold off on delivery for as long as possible to allow her lungs to develop before they got her out. Luckily, steroid injections and slow-playing everything resulted in her needing no extra breathing support when she was born.... which made every single miserable contraction in the meantime worth it.

It was long, it was sudden, it was scary and also- it was totally fine and happy... but I think most people would look back on their deliveries with some same words. 

Either way, we're praising God that she's here and she's ours to keep.

Welcome, sweet Edie. 

 

Edith Brooke Knight | 9 July. 2017 | 17:24 | 6.46 lbs


Since we weren't planning on having a baby here so soon, life was moving on as normal the past few days. So much so, I made a video about what it's like to have a baby on the NHS in London on my last visit to have a regular appointment. Take a peek and you'll get a small glimpse into what the last 72 hours have been like for our family here at UCLH in London.

 



 

*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on July 11, 2017 and filed under babies, babies kennedy, kids, family.

Did Somebody Say... McDonalds?

This week has been a long week. The temperatures here are really warm… and while this may be a land of many charms, it does not have air conditioning like Americans are used to. It’s our eighth summer here, and still- it just feels suffocating for a few of the weeks of the year.

Anyway, it’s been a hot, long week home with the kids feeling so big and tired. And when it’s hot and you don’t have a car, getting out of the house this pregnant requires long, sizzling walks on pavement while you collect sweat on your body in places you can’t even mention. Beyond that, it’s been busy with big and little things filling up the days… and I’m sitting here at the edge of the weekend without much relief in site. (You know what I mean? The days are just kinda bleeding together and Saturday might as well be Tuesday.) 

In the midst of long morning of crying and fighting and picking up a million toys, I was just totally over the idea of going downstairs and staring in the fridge to conjure lunch. So I pulled out my phone and scrolled Uber Eats, knowing I wouldn’t actually end up buying anything off there because it would be a waste of money to spend that much money on a lunch for kids and myself.

But then, whaddaya know… the first option that appeared: McDonalds.

Now people, I don’t have a car. We don’t do drive through… because they don’t have it, and, well, we don’t have a car. I pretty much make everything from scratch that we eat. But just as the American in me would really love to crank her air conditioning down to a cool 65 right now, that same person sure did order 2 happy meals, a cheeseburger and French fries to be sent to her house with the enthusiasm of an American mom from the midwest on Black Friday when those Kohl’s doors open at 4am. Yeehaw.

And 23 minutes later, a knock on my door came and lunch was delivered. (To be honest, they forgot my fries- but I mooched from the kids and no one was the wiser.)

It might be one of the best £10 I’ve spent in a long time.

Now, if only Chick-fil-A would arrive in London… I would be able to merge all the great things into one life.

As we sat there- moods beginning to lift and a calm quiet wafting through the house like a sweet perfume, Viola randomly said: Harry, do you know that there is nothing you can ever do to make mommy stop loving you? Nothing!

Ahh… they don’t think I’m a mean, four-headed dragon, after all. Well, at least, not all the time.

And here’s to anyone else out there, who knows that while half of your friends may be horrified that you fed your kids McDonalds- your entire self can rest assured that occasionally giving your kids French fries and a dubious hamburger is actually a really great thing for everyone involved. Keep truckin’ ladies. This biz is hard work! I got your back.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 9, 2017 and filed under kids, family, everyday living.

Forcing American Baby Showers on British Friends

Well, I started to blog about how I was forcing baby showers on my British friends. This is, for the most part, true. Over the past few years, they have awkwardly shuffled away from the idea of any hoopla before a baby arrives… they claim it’s just not done, and, when I’ve dug a bit deeper, they claim it’s bad luck! Well, amigos… all I can say is, thank goodness I don’t believe in superstition because otherwise, I would be a bit freaked out. As an American, the idea of celebrating an-almost-there-mom is one of the sweetest things- just a pause before the baby arrives to enjoy the anticipation and hope of that sweet little life that will soon be here. Plus, when you’re pregnant- you can eat tons of cake at a party like that and not feel guilty for the baby weight you’re still wearing. (See what I mean- It’s definitely more fun on this side of the due date.)

I have four friends in my group of friends that are pregnant at the same time as me- in the same social circle! That may feel normal for you guys in the States, but here in London that seems massive to me. People have less kids, they have them later and they hardly seem to overlap… but here we all are… all waddling around with baby girls!

Since this is almost as rare of an occurrence as Viola & Prince George having playdates (which you know, is pretty rare), I thought it was reason to celebrate. And by celebrate I mean, sit in the garden on a sunny day, eat pretty food, and talk without kids around. It was lovely.

The lunch was simple and light- since it has been so roasting hot this week in London. We had Greek chicken with roasted potatoes & green beans smothered with tzaziki sauce, mediterranean orzo (inspired by Bridget’s recipe), watermelon dotted with mint, and huge bowls stacked high with Eton Mess.  

It was definitely a day that called for my prettiest dishes- my Burleigh Blue Regal Peacock place settings. If you’ve been over to my house, you probably have heard me wax on about how special this company is, how they hand-make every single piece, and how they are last-standing pottery company in Britain to employ this painstaking method of artisan quality. But honestly, they make me happy every single day when I use them.

I mean really, Eton Mess in any other bowl would just look… uninspired. Put it in a gorgeous dish like that, and, voila! You’ve got yourself a gorgeous day with the ladies in the garden. (For those that are infinitely cooler than me, check out their new Black Regal Peacock. It’s edgy and cool and all my hip friends make it look so much cooler than I can. It’s amazing.)

When the shade finally arrived, we had fresh mint tea (my favourite!) and chocolates… because, chocolates with tea/coffee are kind of essential.

The afternoon was lovely, and we all ate until our stomachs filled our throats- which, at this stage, of pregnancy isn’t too hard to do.

And just as soon as I thought I had pushed my American-self on them, they surprised me with a gorgeous evening celebrating our new baby girl just a few days later. I’m not going to lie- sitting there in that room, surrounded by so many Brits who were going out of their comfort zone to love me and our baby- well, it made me emotional. These friends have been through all my baby deliveries with me, and they graciously walk beside me as I fumble through motherhood, and I’m just so so grateful. So yeah, I may have pushed baby showers on my British friends, but they gave me back great friendship, unending prayer, and a blind eye to my obnoxious Americanisms. I’m so grateful!

(As a tiny post script for my own memory- one of my friends from the party is actually at the hospital now delivering her baby! Exciting times… especially, as that means the baby dominos are starting to fall… and I’m the next one in line!)



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Just Another Manic (and Pretty) Monday

Hello from a big bed at 2:19 in the afternoon. Harrison had a weird virus where he had a fever for five days... and then graciously passed it along to his sister. I had high hopes it would be chicken pox, because the timing would be pretty easy and it had been circling our church. But alas, we just got the nasties and have been, more or less, staying inside for the past two weeks.

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C'est la vie! It could be worse, and, if I'm honest, it has perks. Like not wearing real clothes. Or watching so, so many movies. Or not wearing real clothes. Wait, did I say that already?

After a harsh early wake-up this morning, I was feeling snappy where I begrudgingly picked up the house in a fury. (Sorry, Ty, you really are the wind beneath my wings.) But after a few hours out of the house for a coffee date and peek at the Lulu & Nat pop-up, life actually seems pretty sweet. Perspective, people. It's a gracious gift from God.

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I came home to a clean house where the kids are happy, they have food and I have a nice man repeatedly putting up with my floundering through motherhood.

Just this morning, my friend Amber & I were talking about how we once judged moms for "letting themselves go" when they had kids... and how we realise now, it's not letting themselves go. It's, simply, letting go. Knowing that every moment isn't going to be perfect, and you can't keep it all perfect all the time.

So maybe today you feel like one area of life isn't as pretty as it maybe once was or your friend makes it seem. It could be your squidgy body, your dirty house that always seems chaotic because it is, or the pathetic count of unread text messages that remind you of how your disconnected social life is, or that you haven't had a conversation with your husband that didn't revolve around kids, housework or what to watch on Netflix in ages.

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Just know... you're not alone. And that what you're doing is worth it. Those opportunities can (and, I really think will) come back. It just won't be for a while. Just take a deep breath, let go, and make a conscious trade off for living in the crazy, physical today of raising little kids.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on April 25, 2017 and filed under kids, everyday living, home style.