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The bebe is cute. Insanely cute. And I’m not even saying that because I’m her mother.

When she wore her homemade bonnet in the Hamptons, people actually crossed the street to see her as we sat outside at cafe having a drink.

But even the bebe isn’t immune to Passport Photo Syndrome. You know, the one where even the most respectable people end up looking like a close cousin of Charles Manson.

What is it about passport photos that makes us look so, if not crazed, then certainly criminal? There’s something about those booths that turn us into frozen, dilated-eyed mug shots, as if we’ve been out for three days straight, partying with Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen.

Of course, when the bebe had her first passport photo taken at around eight weeks, she had no concept of Charlie Sheen (long may that last), yet she still manages to look like a Wayne Rooney lookalike.

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See? She’s really cute. Not like Wayne Rooney at all.

Wayne Rooney. Not cute. Not like the bebe at all (except for on her passport photo)

It’s not her fault. She’d just woken up from a nap. And the photographer made me hold her up, out on an extended palm, in front of a white sheet that had been hung up on the wall. She was sleepy, slumped and drooling – none of which would be top of the tip list for taking a good photo – and most likely a little alarmed because her mother was holding her out, suspended in air, in front of a big white sheet.

Her head had sunk into her shoulders and she looked like she had no bones. And we didn’t have time to take another one because we had to get to the Brooklyn library passport office before it closed.

Then, a few days later, I found out that it’s OK to take your own photo of your baby, as long as it fits within the official guidelines, so for a I did moment consider cancelling the passport and starting again. But that would have been inconvenient. And vain.

So now I’m applying for the bebe’s British passport, we have a second chance of getting it right.

(To apply for a British passport while you are overseas, go here.)

Examples of passport photos - described in text above

As an American baby (because she was born here) with two British parents, the bebe can have dual nationality.

There is no downside to this when it comes to travelling, as:

U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. (Read more here: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1753.html)

The bebe will have to use her US passport when leaving or entering the country. But that’s fine by me, as I’ll be able to go with her in the nationals queue at customs – which is generally shorter than that for international travellers.

Now, I’m off to sharpen up my photography skills. Where’s that birdie?

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Our beautiful bebe is just about to turn one. And, with two sets of friends leaving our neighbourhood and me about to find a killer full-time job, it feels like her birthday party will mark the end of an era.

An era of sleepless nights, afternoon naps, first smiles, first cuddles (even better!), picnics in the park, free Tuesday visits to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and too many episodes of America’s Next Top Model.

So the party will have to be a momentous one. Which, of course, requires a fantastic party dress.

I’ve got quite into sewing since moving to New York. When I was pregnant, I spent the hottest July on record either waddling to the Red Hook Pool or sewing quilts for my nephew and niece, and a wall hanging for the bebe.

Then I made a dress for her first Christmas. Just like when I cook and browse a number of recipes for inspiration, when I sew I tend to use a number of blogs as inspiration and then make up my own pattern.

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For the Christmas dress, I used this bubble dress pattern from Prudent Baby for inspiration but ended up tracing around an existing top and just made the rest up. I don’t necessarily recommend this as I used up way too much fabric getting the shape right.

The fabric was Liberty Tana Lawn print and therefore probably more expensive than most sane people would spend to make a dress that would fit a doll.

It was gorgeous though – the blue and gold reminded me of a Victorian chocolate box, and it’s covered with what I imagined were partridges and pear trees (I think they are actually strawberries, but never mind). And the dress was made to be something of an heirloom.

Strawberry Thief C Tana Lawn

Since then I’ve also made a bonnet from a pattern by one of my favourite sewing blogs Made by Rae. I made it to go with a very sweet dress I bought from the excellent vintage baby clothes shop Lulu’s Then and Now on 5th Avenue in Park Slope. 

The bonnet and dress were for my friend’s wedding in the Hamptons last week, but the bonnet was so useful (and she looked so cute in it), she wore it all weekend.

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Oh, and the roman blind for the bedroom.

Anyway, all this is a very roundabout way of saying that my crafty fingers are starting to itch and I’ve spent all morning looking at fabrics and patterns for the bebe’s first birthday dress.

I haven’t quite found it but I did come across this collection of fabrics on Michael Miller Fabrics, which seemed quite serendipitous. (Let’s ignore what it says about the cliche of nesting mothers turning to craft in Park Slope!)

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Stay tuned to see what dress and fabric I choose…

The bebe is too small for the print on this birthday dress on Made by Rae, but what a gorgeous thing:

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Working Mothers Stop Feeling Guilty

Have a read… and worry about something else instead…

(Reuters) – Children whose mothers work during their early years do as well at school as those with stay-at-home mothers, debunking a common parenting myth that has piled guilt onto career women, according to research released on Tuesday.

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We’ve enrolled the bebe at nursery. Hard to believe that the little thing will be going off to pre-school in the fall. It breaks my heart and fills me with pride at the same time; to imagine her toddling off (she can’t even walk yet), lunchbox in hand.

Which made me think of my lunchbox when I was a kid. It was a Star Wars one. Or was that my brother’s? Mine was blue… oh, that’s right, it was The Muppets.

Either way, I formed quite a close attachment to my lunchbox. It being filled with biscuits, like a small piece of home – like Mum in the kitchen but in a portable box.

That smell of plastic and old sandwiches – very Proustian.

So Young Insulated Kids Lunch Box – Blue Dinosaur:

Envirosax – Robot:

Sugarbooger Classic Lunch Sack:

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Snoopy Metal Box:

Scooby Doo Mystery Machine:

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I love reading. I love books. I was the first to read in my class because my parents (who also love reading, love books…) read to me every night from a young age.

For a small baby, I don’t think there is a more perfect book that The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It has a lovely sing-songy tone to it, has non-Disneyfied illustrations and teaches about (a) good eating habits (‘and he eat a nice, big green leaf and felt much better!’), and (b) existential metamorphose.

Plus it has pages that babies can turn. It’s pretty much the only book I have read the bebe so far (with brief interludes from Goodnight Moon and a book about a shipwrecked circus off the coast of Boston).

I like the bebe’s play to be educational, consistent, warm and nurturing.

The H1B thinks her life should be filled with fun. Stat. This is the book he bought her as a welcome home present: 

He reads it to her at night, sending her to sleep with the concept of melting brains in her little head. 

And she loves it.

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Oh Those Crazy Dutch!

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Back in the UK for a fleeting visit. My sister-in-law showed me this. Hilarious.

I love British TV.

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