I would like to point out an option that fulfils everyones needs – a stay by the lake.
The coast along Italian lakes are usually lined with trees that give good protection from the sun. With the water nearby, the temperature is milder during the day and the sunsets offer spectacular sceneries! Another important aspect that has kept us much more relaxed as parents – is the much calmer water – no big waves like when you go to the beach.
There are many lakes around Italy, suitable for shorter stops or longer stays. One of our favourites is Lake Bracciano north of Rome, about 1 hour by car.
The water is clear and in some areas the beaches are pure sand (others can be quite rocky). The lake is born from volcanic activity, that collapsed and left a big pit in the ground where today there’s a lake.
The lake is surrounded by 3 towns – Bracciano, Trevignano Romano and Anguillara Sabazia.
In Bracciano – the biggest town – the Orsini-Odescalchi Castle and the surrounding old town in Medieval style – is well worth a visit.
We normally search for the best offers for plane tickets via Skyscanner.
This time we stayed at a really nice glamping where our bungalow was located only 20 metres from the shore! The camping had everything we needed and it had a very modern standard.
We stay in Playa Blanca, the southernmost part of the island, which fortunately is also the least windy area.
From here we see the neighboring island of Fuerteventura, which as its name indicates, is constantly beaten by a strong wind.
March is the month in which we officially go from winter to spring and temperatures rise steadily as the days go by. It is very hot during the day, but the evenings are quite cool. You are fine with long trousers and a spring jacket.
The landscape is very similar to some areas of Gran Canaria, barren and arid. Also because of the volcanic activity present on the island.
There is even a restaurant, in the Timanfaya National Park, where they cook on the grill using the heat coming from the underlying volcanic calderas. We will try it!
The feeling is that Lanzarote is a bit like Gran Canaria’s little sister: it is not so touristy and the hotel complexes are not so impressive. This is partly due to a well-known artist from the island, the architect César Marques, who worked here to create a sustainable and non-invasive architecture.
The cheapest flights can be found with Skyscanner, while for accommodation Booking.com offers the best solutions. Also during this stay, we rented a car with RentalCars.com to drive around almost the whole island.
We came to Rome on Christmas Day and had dinner with our friends a few days later. They were going to Toscana over New Year and since we didn’t have any plans (last-minute trip to Rome this year) – we decided to go too!
They called their hotel (I Sette Borghi – a beautiful “Agriturismo” on the mountains North-West of Florence) to see if there was still seats available at the “Cenone” – the big New Year’s Eve dinner – and booked us in. So now we needed a place to stay (unfortunately their place was fully booked).
Finally, after having gone through the available (and affordable) hotels on Booking.com – we found Hotel Miró in the nearby town Montecatini Terme. This hotel is not too big but in very nice shape. There is a private parking, a beautiful pool area (obviously closed during this season) and the staff is very friendly. We got a really nice family suite with two bedrooms on the top floor.
The New Year’s dinner at I Sette Borghi was almost entirely based on local products, and even included wine and drinks, lenticchie e cotechino (a traditional NYE midnight dish), dessert, champaigne and fireworks. It was a success!
I really love the Swedish Christmas and have this dreamy idea of how it should be. And this year it was just perfect! We even had snow! Quite rare for this period.
After a long breakfast we headed out to our sunny winter land to the nearest “hill” (there aren’t many in the flat South of Sweden).
The boys had so much fun with the “pulka” (sledge), going downhill, running up and going down again.
After playing in the snow we headed back home for lunch (traditional different kinds of “sill” (herring), eggs, sausage etc. and to enjoy the rest of the day – with Kalle Ankas Jul (Donald Duck’s Christmas) on TV, opening gifts, eating ginger bread and drinking glögg.
Each family celebrates Christmas in slightly different ways. But watching Kalle Anka on TV at 3 pm and opening the gifts afterwards is pretty much a common tradition for everybody.
Even dinner was according to Scandinavian traditions with meatballs, Janssons frestelse, Christmas ham etc.
The boys’ best Christmas present by far this year was a racing track – the same I had (well, it was actually my brothers’) when I was little. The one with two cars/tracks, joysticks and loops. They went to bed pretty satisfied that night, and so did we!
The day after, we flew to Rome. So we got a bit of the Italian Christmas as well. The boys get really spoiled with gifts when we come here. They are always the main attraction for family and friends! While “Babbo Natale” (Santa) is the main attraction for Emil and Marco 🙂
First – my husband Andrea. We met in Stockholm eleven years ago. He’s from Rome, Italy and had moved to Sweden a few years earlier. We both were working at that time, but Andreas’ job had quite irregular hours so we met mostly during the weekends. After a few years we moved 600 km to the south of Sweden (back home for me) which I’d been longing for quite some time. Andrea also got a 9-5 job immediately which made our life easier.
Soon we became pregnant, and in the winter of 2014 our twin boys Emil and Marco were born! It’s funny now that I think of how we decided the names.
Emil was chosen for two reasons.
First: If we were to have girl, we wanted her to be called ‘Emilia’, such a beautiful name.
Second: I really wanted to have a natural birth. Towards the end of the pregnancy they do quite frequent checks, especially if you are to have twins. They keep an extra eye on the one closest to the exit, normally called “Twin 1” (head down = OK, butt down = not OK). But he seemed to change his position every other time! Even during the last days when one might think there was no space to turn around. So, we found Emil to be a fitting name – from the unruly character “Emil in Lönneberga” by Astrid Lindgren (Swedish author).
The other one – Marco – we just liked it 🙂 And it was the only Italian name we could agree on. (In Sweden we are very aware of equality, so it felt appropriate to choose an Italian name for him).
And the funniest thing – Emil actually IS the Swedish one while Marco is the Italian one. Emil is blond, and likes potatoes, rice and bread. Marco has darker hair and skin, and loves EVERYTHING! He’s always curious about tasting new food and often asks us what we’re having and grabs a bite.
And me – I’m Madeleine and I love to travel and see new places. I’ve lately grown an interest in the global climate situation and try to be more conscious about our choices. For instance we have reduced our meat consumption and it has also had a positive effect on my well being. It actually feels like I’m doing my body a favour. I don’t judge any meat eaters though! I think we are all different, and everyone does what feels good for them.
What else.. We live in a house in a suburb outside of Malmö. The twins will turn five soon. Living in Sweden is really great if you have kids. You have the right to work less hours so you can be with your family. This affects the salary of course, but it is partly compensated by the state. The only thing I can complain about is the weather. Cold and dark winters and rainy summers. Except for this year – it’s been crazy warm! And no rain. Mediterranean summer from May to September, fans were sold out everywhere. We still had strawberries in our garden in October! I wonder how this winter will be…
The sleep cycle – we all know how sometimes you fall asleep in an instant, while other times you just can’t relax enough to fall asleep.
It’s the same thing for babies – if you just pay attention to their sleep pattern and find a good rhythm – your lives, both parent’s and baby’s, will be a lot easier.
So – what I’ve discovered from my boys, is that the evening goes really smooth if we put them to bed about 12 hours after they wake up (when they no longer take mid-day naps). Easy to remember too.
Wind down half an hour before bedtime and make sure notto miss the “sleep window”. When it’s closed, it could take 1,5 hour till it reopens. And that 1,5 hour can be quite challenging, I think every parent would agree on that.
If your kid is anything like one of mine – who shows few signs of sleepiness, I’ve discovered that massage is a very helpful tool to help him wind down. I’ve used it since they were babies to help them relax. Your fully awake toddler becomes a sleeping angel within just a few minutes. The release of oxytocin makes the baby sleepy and relaxed and works well throughout the night as well.
Nowadays the boys ask for it themselves – whenever they need a little extra help to fall asleep 🙂
I really advise you to try for yourself! I use no special technique but if you would like some guidance to find pressure points, here is a helpful link.
Normally we leave the Swedish “winter” (we live in the south where there’s rarely snow, just rain and darkness mostly) for a week or two for a sunnier and warmer place. One of our favourites is Gran Canaria, Spain.
Sometimes we do charters and stay in a hotel, it’s nice to have everything served. But usually we prefer to book accommodation and flight separately.
The advantage is that we can spend our holidays at our own pace – having a car, doing grocery shopping, cooking, having breakfast on the veranda. We like to feel “at home”, only at a different location. We do quite a lot of research to find the nicest place for the best value.
This time we rented a house in Meloneras for 10 days. The place was very peaceful and we had a stunning ocean view from the balcony.
The place – Bahía Meloneras– which used to be a holiday resort with 3-floors chain houses, swimming pool, bar and restaurant is now owned by privates and companies. The guests are mostly Spanish who come for the weekends, so we had the beautiful pool area to our selves most of the time!
Fun story 🙂
The first time we came to Gran Canaria with the kids, they were about 2.5 years old and we had already made several attempts to get rid of the pacifiers, but with no luck. So we came up with the idea to tell them that pacifiers were not allowed in Gran Canaria! (How mean are we?)
The first night one of them woke up and we had to sneak the pacifier back in, but to carefully hide it again before they woke up the next day. But that was it! End of story.
When I think back of the baby-toddler-time, I think of SLEEP. Or rather the lack of it. They say that babies’ sleep can be of varying quality in the first years but usually stabilizes around the age of three. Here’s our case.
My memories from the first year are a bit blurry, but as I recall, it was a relatively smooth ride. Both our twins slept well during the night. I normally got up just once to nurse. The hungry one always woke up first, I nursed him and after that, I picked up and nursed the other one while he was asleep.
Our days were rolling by, we had our routines. Especially with twins, it ‘s CRUCIAL to be one step ahead. Avoid getting into situations where you have to handle babies that are overtired, too hungry, too bored or too much of anything. That could just devastate you and make you regret the whole parenting thing.
I was pretty good at it – and the boys were good too. I know, for instance, that some babies only take short naps during the daytime, but our boys have usually slept quite long, on average 1½ hours. The trickiest part was to get them to fall asleep more or less simultaneously. By the end of the first year, I even managed to repaint upstairs. All while the boys were napping.
Well, at least that’s how I remembered it. But when Andrea and I spoke about it the other day, he just looked at me: “Have you forgotten? How it was?!?” Now that I have found the journal I wrote during their first years, it’s clear that my memories are more romantic than the reality!
Here is the real version:
One child did not sleep well during the evening hours (when we FINALLY had our chill-out time). He used to wake up and cry every 15-20 minutes for the first 2-3 hours. But he eventually fell into a deep and calm sleep until the next morning.
The other one woke up 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 times during the night, killing our precious sleep and making us feel like a total wreck the next day.
I guess the glass is half full though. We could have gotten TWO babies who didn’t enjoy sleep as much as we do, but at least one of them was kind of a sleeper!
One more thing that I had forgotten all about: the cold and flu seasons that knocked the routines out in an instant. JUST as we’d got them into place again since the last fever. Simply put – FRUSTRATING!!
However, I want to point out how important it is to establish routines. And be prepared to do the work more than once because they WILL get erased!
If you’re not already doing it, keep the same schedule for your kids – think of it like running a mini Kindergarten =)
Set a time for naps, eating, changing diapers and adjust it as they grow.
Naps – Keep them more or less equally long for both.
Let them wake up at the same time. When the first one awakes – wake up the other one too. This makes bedtime easier in the evening since they’re synced (see more below).
90-minutes cycles awake/asleep – Babies (and even adults) have “sleepy windows” recurring every 90 minutes after waking up. Note the time your baby wakes up in the morning (or afternoon, or after a car ride etc.). The next sleep opportunity will appear after 1½ hours, 3 hours, 4½ hours and so on. So don’t miss it!
Last meal of the day – Let at least one hour pass before bedtime (going to bed with a full stomach is not a good idea).
Last hour before bedtime is for chilling and winding down. Make up your own routine that works for you. Kids LOVE routines – it makes them relax when they know what’s coming. Give them a bath, brush the teeth, cuddle, dim the lights, listen to soft music, read a book, sing or play an instrument.
Screen time – I have to admit that sometimes the iPad / TV is a helpful friend, but NOT before bedtime! Instead of calming them down it will generate a lot of impressions and activate their brain.
So, by having good routines and learning your baby’s sleep pattern – you could make a huge impact on your daily life. And it’s not hard! That’s the best part. Be consistent. When you start implementing it- you’ll be AMAZED at how soon you’ll start to see results.
You know those memories that you will forever remember as if it was yesterday?
“WE’RE GONNA HAVE TWINS!”
It felt like we’d won the lottery. However, that feeling faded a little bit along the way…
End of pregnancy, not so great.
Losing the ginormous belly after a 72 hours labor, that was a HUGE relief!
First six months – average night sleep: three hours. You don’t know who you are. You smell bad. Nutella is your new best friend.
Life is not hard, it’s horrible!
And you can’t just take a break from it. You are a lousy partner, an apathetic parent and a numb human being.
I remember one day (or actually my husband reminded me), during my parental leave. Me alone with the twins at home. The usual never-ending loop: whining, breastfeeding, diapers change, poop in the diaper, poop outside the diaper, shower, change everything. Then start all over again with the one who a-l-w-a-y-s falls asleep while breastfeeding, hence never really satisfied. I’m so tired I wanna puke. I can hardly keep my eyes open, and the feeling of inadequacy just keeps rising. I Feel The Blood Pumping Under My Skull and I’m dangerously close to a melt-down. In the middle of it all, the doorbell rings. We are trying out home delivery of groceries for the first time, and they decide to show up right THIS MOMENT! Four massive bags. Two of which containing frozen food that must be taken care of straight away.
It was supposed to make our life easier – but right now I just hate the world!
The whining (that never really stopped) has now reached unbearable levels.
This is too much. I can’t take it anymore.
I leave the boys and run upstairs, I start crying, I bang my head against the wall (literally!). I’m losing it.
It takes A LOT before I reach out for help. I call my husband in tears: “you, home, NOW!”. At “you” he’s already in the car heading home.
Everything is relative when you have small children. Everything gets a new value. Definitions change.
The definition of luxuryfor instance: to indulge in the shower for 5 extra minutes or – God forbid – take a bath! To do the dishes alone in the kitchen. To take a nap. The silence!
“Things will get better eventually. Just give it some time”. People tell you that. And you hate each and every one of those people.
The problem is that the concept of time does not belong to this phase. You are simply unable to see the light at the end of the terror-tunnel. You have no dreams. You have no energy. No empathy. No hope. You just survive in damage control mode and pray for some sleep.
So, how did we survive?
Remember: this is no time for giving. This is time for asking and taking. As much as you possibly can.
This is when you want to:
Go through your phone book and identify 15-20 contacts that you might see fit for the purpose. Friends, family, colleagues, neighbors. Doesn’t matter. The more the merrier. Couples with no kids are your best choice. Ask them gently (but firmly) to come over for dinner, and to bring food!
Order groceries, home delivered pizza or Thai/Chinese dinners. Or just any sort of cooked meal. It will spare you some time better spent resting.
Buy a dishwasher if you don’t have one
Hire a maid if you can afford it
Get a nanny if you can afford it
Stash up everything. Everything! Diapers, food, formula, baby clothes, painkillers (for the hubby), napkins (you’ll tear down half a forest during the first months I’m afraid)
Get half an hour a day of me-time. Doesn’t matter how. Just do it. Recharge!
Now, I don’t want to be one of those people, but you WILL manage to survive this initial period. And you’ll proudly get to the bright side feeling stronger than ever. And, believe it or not, those dark days will all of a sudden be a distant blurry memory.
But that’s a subject for another chapter.
In the meantime, keep fighting!
PS. We thought you might need a little something to keep up the spirit so we turned to our kids for some help… Enjoy!