Surviving Toddler Tantrums

I have been feeling so uninspired to write lately, and have gone to do so many times but have felt like I’ve been straining for every word. This is why my many attempts at writing books never quite get finished – as soon as I hit a writing block, I find it really hard to break through it. I’m also really, really tired this week. Whoever said growing a human while caring for two others was easy!?

This post is inspired by a few days of Walt being sick and hence exhibiting some Typical Toddler Behaviours aka the odd tantrum. I have to start this post by reliving my toddler experience with child number one. I can honestly say that I survived hundreds of tantrums with Heike, who used to have a tantrum every single day because she didn’t want to wear clothes. Every day. For 45 minutes. And that was before we’d even stepped outside. My google search history for her entire 18 months – 3 years would read something like:

“Does my toddler have autism?”

“Early signs of autism”

“Toddler tantrums abnormal”

“Toddler tantrums Sensory Processing Disorder”

“When do terrible twos end?”

“Why won’t my child nap?”

“Same day alcohol delivery Sydney” (except I was sadly pregnant for 9 months of that time)

It’s not one of those things where you look back and it doesn’t seem so bad. I look back and wonder how the hell I survived it! I always knew there was nothing really wrong with her, because on top of the excessive tantrum-ing and bossy-ness and occasional aggressive outbursts she was also clever and kind and extremely social. But I definitely had my moments and we ended up getting professional advice. The long and short of it is that she is incredibly headstrong and always will be. At almost five she is exceptionally gorgeous and still exceptionally headstrong. And that sometimes needs to be handled with a firm hand, which mine most definitely isn’t, so we’ve had to work on that.

There are two things that have completely saved me with Walter (let’s forget the fact that he is a very easygoing kid) – one is having gone through it all before and come out the other side. So there’s always that ability to sigh and look to the heavens and decide that tonight you are having wine (unless you are pregnant, in which case wine=ice cream). The other is discovering Janet Lansbury and adopting her strategies from fairly early on.

Janet Lansbury offers a perfect solution for modern parents – her basic philosophy is to love and respect your children but take absolutely none of their crap. Okay, there is way more to it than that, but if you haven’t yet I’d suggest you read her books, follow her Facebook page and start following her blog. She is a lifesaver.

Here are my top tips for surviving toddler tantrums, a mixture of my own experience and Janet’s awesome advice:

Avoid triggering situations

This is so simple but for some reason I feel like all Mums have to learn the hard way time after time. Why, just yesterday I took a sick Walter to IKEA. Was this a well thought out decision? Um, no.  The supermarket is another obvious one. A toy shop, just to quickly pick up a gift for a party. Restaurants. And so on. Obviously these places can’t be avoided all the time but sometimes you need to ask yourself if you really have to go right now or can you possibly avoid it? If only the toddler years could be spent solely at home, the beach or the park (though leaving the park is often another trigger!).

Realistic expectations

Your child is two. Or one. Or three. They have only been on this earth for such a short time and they are still figuring it all out. They are going to get disappointed, a lot. And frustrated. And because they are still ego-centric at this age, it all seems like a really big deal. I find that reminding myself of this and really focusing on it in the midst of a tantrum makes everything more bearable. It also helps me to avoid triggers as mentioned above, as I’m normally pretty realistic about what my kids can handle. ALSO my pet peeve, kids at this age have very little experience with social interaction – so why do we expect them to say please and thank you and Hi and Bye and behave perfectly nicely to one another? Accept that this generally won’t happen without patience and guidance.

Create a yes space

This is so simple – make your home child friendly. Make all your child’s favourite toys accessible and if you have any valuables left, hide them in a far off cupboard for 8 years. If your child can move freely about their own home you will find far less cause for tantrums, as you never really have to say “no”. Obviously they do need to learn these boundaries but why at home, where they could be peaceful and learning to play independently?

Ask yourself why

Whenever Walt is in the throes of a tantrum I find it’s helpful just for my own mental state to say, okay, why is he behaving this way? What has caused it? And once I’ve identified that I find I am a little more calm and accepting, and can also sportscast more effectively (see below).

Ride it out

I find one of the worst things to do in a tantrum is to “shh shh” or offer water, cuddles, treats etc. Your child is angry – let them express it. Unless obviously you are in public in which case the first thing I always do is just remove both of us from the situation and then…ride it out.

Remain calm

If you can! Many of the above techniques help to keep you calm. Getting worked up and angry doesn’t help anyone (and makes you feel SO FRIGGING GUILTY for the rest of the day).

Sportscasting

This is a very Janet technique and one that sounds a bit new age and out there until you actually try it and discover…it works!!! So sportscasting is basically saying aloud what is making the child angry and why and that you understand – kind of holding a verbal mirror up to what they are going through. For example: “You are so angry because Mummy won’t let you have xyz. That is making you so mad, I know.” And then you just kind of calmly sit there and repeat variations of that until the child calms down. Okay, Janet explains it a LOT better than me. But it is so weird, it really works. I literally just did this today with Walter (he just woke up really grumpy from his nap) and after a few minutes he looked at me and just walked over and collapsed in my lap. I didn’t get angry and it ended with a positive interaction. Win!

Remove the child

As I said above if I am in public I always just get out of the situation – neither you or your child needs judging eyes on top of a full blown tantrum and it makes it easier to deal with the tantrum the way you want to. But this also works if you are at home and your child is aggressive (particularly towards siblings). Janet’s advice is to calmly say “I won’t let you hurt xyz. It’s dangerous. I’m going to sit in your room with you where you can be safe.” So it focuses on the fact that a behaviour is “dangerous” rather than bad and gives a reason why they need to be removed, to be “safe”. This saved me a lot with Heike who could be very aggressive at times, and I never felt I really knew how to deal with it. This is a very no-tolerance approach that is still gentle and kind. Janet even recommends holding their arms while saying it to physically prevent the aggression – I definitely recommend reading up more on her approach if your child can be physical.

Set Firm Boundaries

Overall Janet’s approach is very firm – behaviours like throwing toys, hitting, kicking and being destructive just aren’t allowed, even if the child is allowed to let their anger out. I think this is another thing that makes her approach so successful as it actually teaches them what’s acceptable. If a child exhibits these behaviours they should simply be removed from the situation as above.

As I’ve said there is a lot more to it but if you are going through this too I would definitely recommend reading all of Janet’s advice. I sometimes find even a visit to her blog after a hard day makes me a much better Mum for days after – firm and loving, much as I remember my own Mum being! As opposed to slightly bipolar (one minute sunshine and rainbows, the next “GET OFF YOUR SISTER RIGHT NOOOOOWWW!”).

Z x

Sick Day

After a busy weekend with guests staying and lots of time spent at the pool and beach, it was no surprise when Heike woke up on Monday morning with a runny nose. I sent her off to school but she came back exhausted, and by 6pm was in bed crying because of a sore throat and ears. SIGH. Life with small people.

Yesterday morning, after climbing into our bed with a fever in the middle of the night, the first words that came out of her mouth were “I’m too sick to go to school”. Because let’s face it, she’s a clever girl and not one to miss an opportunity. J and I debated the extent of her sickness but at the end of the day, she is FOUR and I am a full time Mum. So she stayed home, which I secretly loved because it meant I didn’t have to change out of my pyjamas.

But by about, oh, one hour after the school bus would have left, madame was suggesting we go to the playground or the shops! At this point I was beginning to feel conned.

I suspect I’m a bit of a soft touch with sick days. I guess because I am a bit of a soft touch in general, plus I don’t work so I don’t have that need for her to go to school. I think I am also extremely lazy and love the idea of all of us just hanging out in our trackies reading and playing and possibly making scones. Until about 2pm, when I desperately wish I’d packed her off, sick or not.

Anyway, feeling like I’d been had I decided to put my school teacher/primary school tutor cap on and actually do something educational with the kids. Every now and then I do scold myself a little for not teaching the kids more, given it is what I get paid to do with other people’s children. I feel like I could definitely do more phonics with Heike, but that is SO boring and let’s face it, they learn that at school.

I did a quick scan of our collection of educational books, and put together three little piles that the kids could choose from. The themes were space, insects or dinosaurs (I was really hoping for dinosaurs). Of course Heike chose space, the one topic she already knows everything about.

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I conducted it as I would a typical lesson, first asking questions to establish what the kids already knew about space. Heike proceeded to give me detailed information on all the planets in our solar system plus one pink exoplanet while Walter screamed “MOON! MOON!” repeatedly.

Then we read a story about space which was a bit pointless because, again, Heike had read it fifty times before but I tried to make it a bit more challenging for her by adding on some more challenging concepts like gravity and dead stars and the speed of light. Meanwhile I asked Walty to simply repeat words back to me and identify pictures. He was loving feeling like a big kid!

We then searched online for some worksheets and found a perfect one on the Scholastic UK website. We spent ages colouring in the planets which was just as fun for me as it was for the kids. Okay let’s face it, Walter was not interested by this point and was drawing on the coffee table (I thought I banned textas from the house!? They keep reappearing).

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Then we cut out the planets and I mixed them up and had Heike arrange them in order on a piece of paper. It actually turned out pretty cute and is now hanging on her bedroom door.

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All up this took us over an hour and Heike was really engaged the whole time. While it was kind of redundant except that it taught her about gravity, we could have done the same “lesson” about anything – she has already told me she wants to do bugs next time and we spend a lot less time talking about bugs so that will be more enriching!

This would be a perfect little rainy day activity for a three or four year old who is interested in learning about the solar system.

Happily, Heike was back at school today! Where she managed to split her toe open…never-ending I tell you.

Z x

 

 

Playgroup Fatigue/Hong Kong’s Best

When Heike was born I remember those few friends or acquaintances I had with kids being very vocal regarding their opinions on mother’s group and playgroups. They were either firmly for or against. I remember one friend saying that mother’s group was the worst experience of her life whereas my boss at the time told me it was where she met her closest friends. I think I always secretly knew I’d be a fan – I love a chat, love meeting new people and love drinking tea.

Now I can join my ex-boss in saying that many of my closest friends are ones I’ve met through mother’s groups or playgroups. Sure, I’ve met the odd person who is maybe slightly different to me or has different opinions and obviously you have those you click with and those you don’t but overall most of the women I’ve met have been lovely. I also enjoy being exposed to different ideas and ways of doing things, because there is always something to learn if you keep an open mind.

That said, I’ve recently been experiencing some serious playgroup fatigue. Since Heike was born almost five years ago I’ve been in two mother’s groups and attended an insane number of playgroups and music classes and coffee meet ups and play dates. Then we moved to Hong Kong and I didn’t know anyone so I had to start the whole thing all over again – absolutely worth it as I now have a lovely network of friends here but still pretty exhausting.

Now we’ve moved to the other side of Hong Kong, I know I should really be making the effort to attend the local playgroup. And I really want to, I do. I want to know local people and have local friends (at least one I can call if the baby makes a swift or early arrival!). But I’m just so fatigued. The thought of putting myself out there and going through the somewhat awkward process of making new friends again just makes me feel like a lie down.

At this point I’m hoping for two things. One, that Heike makes a best friend at school with a nice Mum who really enjoys a Friday afternoon drink. Or two, that when the baby is born I can just start fresh with a group of local Mums with new babies like me. I can just pretend like it’s my first baby, until someone asks otherwise. “Oh yeah, I actually have another two at home! But I’ve learnt nothing I swear!”

I’d also like to work and meet some friends in that way – after two, almost three, babies I would just like to form relationships that are completely unrelated to my children! If only I could decide what I want to be when I grow up…

Anyway, just because I am fatigued doesn’t mean I’m not a believer – I love playgroups and think they are absolutely essential for those days when you just need a sympathetic ear. You might have amazing friends and family, but no one will ever really “get” what you’re going through like those going through the same thing. So, here’s some suggestions for playgroups in Hong Kong (see, I told you I’d been to a few…):

Baumhaus Mommy Mondays

I’ve written about Baumhaus a few times, a play room and cafe that also offers music and drama classes for under 5’s. It’s perfect for the 0-3 year old set and now runs “Mommy Mondays” from 9-12 weekly. It’s half price (so just $40HK) and they make great coffee. Still my favourite even though we’re now living South Side.

St John’s Playgroup

St John’s saved me when I first moved to Hong Kong and will always hold a special place in my heart! They are a lovely church and the playgroup is run by some lovely women who’ve lived in Hong Kong since forever and have many stories to tell. They run a 0-2’s playgroup on Thursdays from 2.30pm and a playgroup for older toddlers on Tuesdays from 3pm. It’s a $20HK donation to drop in and unlimited cups of tea are provided.

Methodist International Church Playgroup

This playgroup is slightly more formal than St John’s with circle time, snack time and activities, and that’s reflected in the cost at $100 per session. The playgroup runs on Wednesday mornings and always attracts a wide range of Mums from all over HK due to its central location. For under 4’s but generally mostly toddlers attend.

City Kids

City Kids is again a more formal playgroup that runs during the school term and has a fee per term. It is extremely popular and has a wait list, so if you’re moving to Hong Kong or thinking of joining you should get in right away.

Woodlands Montessori Playgroup

This is the playgroup that Walter and I now attend twice per week, and it introduces the basic Montessori learning philosophies (independent work, practical life skills etc) in a playgroup environment. One thing that is hard for me personally is that mostly helpers attend, so it’s not a great opportunity to meet other parents. That said we love it – it is quite formal and more of an introduction into the school setting, and it’s not cheap! Fees are per school term.

St Stephen’s Playgroup

This is my local Stanley Playgroup and is truly lovely, despite my constant reluctance to go. Those interested can try it once for free and will then need to pay a membership fee – the group runs on Monday and Thursday mornings and has a lovely outdoor area which is rare in Hong Kong. For under 3’s.

Any to add? I’d love to hear your experiences! Happy playing.

Z x

Faaaahshun Friday

Clearly online shopping is one of my passions (my main passion? That’s scary) but I wouldn’t really wouldn’t call myself a fashion person. I guess people who have no interest in fashion would think I was quite into it whereas the fashion bloggers of the world would say “But babe, what’s going on with your shoes?!”. I do occasionally splurge on Net-A-Porter and know my Wang from my McQueen but am usually dressed by Zara. I spend a LOT of time reading fashion blogs but never try to be those people – it’s just not me.

That said I have been shopping around for maternity clothes a little of late and was quite disappointed in how not fashion forward they are. I’ve done my time at ASOS and it just doesn’t fit or wear well. I was directed to Topshop which seemed cool although I wondered about the quality/fit, and also to Seraphine which is the favourite of many celebs including HRH Princess Catherine (clutches pearls). I did buy a few things from Seraphine which I have to say are amazing quality but every time I wear them I feel just slightly daggy. A little bit Mumsy. And while Princess Kate always looks amazing I wouldn’t really say princess chic is my every day style.

I did buy a few awesome things on ShopBop – a couple of singlet tops (“vests”) by Monrow and two body con jersey dresses by Ingrid & Isabel. I basically wore the two dresses the entire time I was in Australia so they have already paid for themselves and I’m still only just past halfway. Overall though I wasn’t thrilled with the range on ShopBop – they stock great brands but only a select, curated range. How many different styles of maternity leggings can one possibly need?

Still, it was ShopBop that led me to the Holy Grail of maternity wear – Hatch, a New York based maternity brand that will have you adding to cart dangerously quickly.

While Hatch is expensive, I can honestly say the quality is AMAZING and the fabrics are perfect for Hong Kong summers. Three or four little dresses from here will get you through a whole summer, and you will feel kind of awesome about yourself. I bought three dresses – the super feminine and floaty Picnic Dress and the Lucy Dress in two colours (black and clay). I had a feeling the Lucy Dress would be flattering on my shape (big thighs, bony shoulders) and I actually wish I’d bought another! Definitely compiling a little wish list for when next month’s budget rolls around, including the gorgeous off shoulder Audrey Dress.

The great thing about Hatch is that it’s designed to be worn after baby is born too. Yeah, yeah, you might think, I don’t want to be wearing my maternity clothes then. But I can genuinely see myself getting tonnes of wear out of the dresses post baby, they are just lovely and a flattering fit.

So, here is me attempting to be a fashion blogger:

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Absolute idiot. Pictured here in Hatch Picnic Dress, Tigerlily Leather Jacket
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And I’m done being serious!

I gave up on my foray into fashion blogging, but if I manage to get a candid pic in one of the other dresses I’ll be sure to update you as they do wear really well.

So, how about you? Fancy yourself a bit of a fashionista? Any maternity fashion tips to share?

Happy Friday!

Z x

 

Montessori Activity: Matching

I woke up this morning after an awful rainy day yesterday to a lovely sight – sun! Birds chirping! “What a lovely day!” I sang to the children despite having had way too little sleep. About ten minutes later an apocalyptic darkness descended on our apartment. We looked out to the beach only to see the biggest, blackest cloud I have ever seen move across the sky. It was black outside and children waiting for their school buses were screaming and carrying on. Obviously it was just a matter of time before apocalyptic rain came to the party. Soon enough we couldn’t hear each other speaking and the streets were flooding and it was all very exciting but, equally, depressing.

I am not going to whine, I swear, but Hong Kong I am just about done with your grey skies and their direct affect on mood. DONE!

Needless to say my disposition soon reflected the cloud. I was tired and cranky and facing the prospect of yet another morning stuck indoors with a two year old. J was equally gloomy and didn’t want to go to work despite looming deadlines. I think it was seeing him moody that kicked me into gear. I gave him a semi-sarcastic pep talk about being a winner that was also directed at myself, dragged myself off the bed where I was having a Mummy tantrum, and got started on my day.

Yesterday we got a big delivery of gorgeous Waldorf toys from my sister in law in Germany. A bit of a hand-me-down/birthday present for Walt. We are SO lucky to have been gifted so many of these toys as they are all hand painted and beautiful and quite expensive. The kids were wrapt and there was a dolphin in the mix that has conspicuously gone missing but I expect has found a home in someone’s doll house full of precious/random objects.

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Cuteness

I decided to set up a little activity with Walt where we would sort through the animals and separate them into groups – farm animals, zoo animals, pets etc. – and then photograph them to set up some matching activities. Walt had a great time playing as we were setting up the activity – I think sometimes just separating a few select toys from all the other crap gets them more engaged, and it inspired me to do a big toy rotation which was very satisfying!

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Animal fun

Now if this were a true Montessori activity the animals would be little Schleich animals or similar, as there is a focus on “reality” rather than imagination, but I’m very flexible with that aspect as I still believe in fostering imagination (how can I not with the craziest little daughter ever) and I’m also part of a very clever and creative Waldorf extended family, so have to see it has so many merits.

This is a really easy activity to set up, all you need is a camera, a printer and a tray of some sort. You can use any materials you like; rocks, leaves, shells, flowers. You can also cater it to something your child is learning or struggling with e.g. colours. I plan to leave one tray on our toy shelf for a week so both the kids can have a play around with it (although Heike is too old for it, I can imagine she will still like it and enjoy showing us all how easily she can do it), then I’ll rotate it out with something similar.

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“Look at all I’ve achieved, and I’m still in my PJs!”

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Right now I’m going to have another fresh pikelet and sit on the window sill with Walt watching the rain. See, rainy days aren’t all bad*.

What are you up to today?

Z x

*GO AWAY RAIN

Happenings

Oh HI guys! Sorry that apparently my domain name has not been working for two weeks – coincidentally the same two weeks I have been blissing out and email free in good old Australia. Thankfully that’s been rectified now, oops. I promise to be more dutiful to my blog in future. Well, I promise to try.

So, what’s been going on? For me, it’s been heaps and nothing. I guess I’ll start at the beginning.

Walter Turned Two!

The little guy rang in his second year in style, with an abundance of chocolate cake and good manners, which pretty much sums him up. He has been such a delightful boy and the perfect addition to our family and we could not feel more lucky.

The party went off without a hitch and was actually such an amazing day, just a small group of friends who ended up staying and having G&T’s and champagne through the afternoon, and two of our close friends even stayed for dinner! It was a warm, lazy, happy day that was just the perfect representation of what Walt has been to us. 10/10!

We Went To Australia!

Just under a week after the party (a week in which my helper was on holidays, which is a first world but nonetheless challenging problem!), we flew out to Australia for Easter. We were lucky to get upgraded to business class for the flight there and have a very relaxing flight with enough sleep to get our holiday off to a good start.

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Let’s do this!

We had amazing weather the entire time – I packed jumpers and trackies but we honestly didn’t wear them once. It was a pretty magical trip, lots of swimming and ice creams and SO much family time because my brother and his girlfriend are in between houses and were also staying with Mum. I’m very lucky to be close to my family and they all have a great relationship with the kids – my Dad had made Walt a dinosaur birthday cake, and I have to say, how many Grandpa’s would do that?!

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Lover lover!
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Where else is the sky THIS blue?
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And the grass this green?

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The kids were spoilt rotten of course and after two weeks of loads of treats and TV were starting to go a bit feral. I also noticed that they were getting really aggressive with each other, well more than usual, which made me realise how nice it is for them to get some time apart normally while Heiks is at school. I think Walt has been really enjoying his playgroup too and maybe missed that stimulation somewhat. It inspired me to start doing some more Montessori activities with him at home (and share them with you guys hopefully too!).

So yes, Australia is awesome and my family are even more awesome and my friends are gorgeous BUT the best thing to come out of the trip for me is how happy I feel to be home. I am honestly on cloud nine today surrounded by my things, Heiks just back from a morning at school and the aircon blasting to counteract the 90% humidity. I DO love it here. Hong Kong may be many annoying things but it is fun and beautiful and full of possibility in a way that Australia isn’t. Hard to explain. But hey – I’m very happy to have reached this place. Particularly when I felt so awful after my last trip home.

I also flew home on my own yesterday with two ratbags, so I’m taking this opportunity to give myself a round of applause.

I’m Having A Baby!

Just sitting having a quiet moment last week and feeling my little one kick about inside, I had an inconvenient revelation – I’m having a baby. As in, it actually has to come out. I have to give birth. Again. In Asia. Very distressing information for my brain to process. Luckily I don’t have to think about it too much for another four months. My current birth plan is “Do not give birth in Hong Kong taxi” and thankfully J is on board with this plan. Boom!

The upside of this realisation is that I’m feeling a little bit inspired to get organised and start buying a few things or thinking about what I need. We have a non stop string of visitors until late May and then in early June I am planning to fly to Singapore to visit my cousin before I hit 34-36 weeks and can’t fly. After that I will be able to pull my finger out a bit more. TOO exciting!

Confetti Wall!

Okay just a light bit of home deco fluff (is there anything better?) but I have had the biggest dramas with wall stickers. I ordered some wall stickers for the kids’ room months ago from an Australian website and they were very cool and artsy and hipster and I was really thinking I was all that. When they failed to arrive after many weeks I trawled through my email to see that yes, they had been shipped, but to an address that didn’t have a street. So, building details and suburb but no street. Can I blame baby brain? Needless to say the company weren’t very understanding (I thought they might have been returned to sender but I received a very curt email informing me it was my mistake, thanks anyway) and I blew almost $100.

Still, I was faced daily with my worst nightmare, a white wall. So I looked all around Hong Kong only to find that nowhere really stocks wall decals and there is a serious hole in the market*. I then had a lot of fun/wasted a lot of time browsing the many, many wall decal companies on Easy before I decided that some bright, fun polka dot stickers would be perfect for a shared boy/girl room. I ordered them from The Lovely Wall, taking great care when entering the address, and HOORAY they were shipped right away.

Yet do you think they arrived?

Well, okay, they DID arrive but it took bloody forever and I had just about given up hope. When I found that I had a package this morning I rushed to the post office at opening time and then waited for 20 minutes while they looked around thinking they had lost it. But they FOUND it and I then rushed home and, despite being literally surrounded by mess that needs to be unpacked, applied them.

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I think the wall looks great and am stoked that we can FINALLY put up the kids shelves and artwork now as I was waiting to have a base to work from. I also just love colour, it makes me so happy!

ANYWAY sorry for the long post, and the long time between posts. I’m excited to get back into it over the next few weeks. I hope you all had a lovely Easter and are enjoying the slow change of seasons, whichever hemisphere you happen to be in.

Z x

* I just discovered that Petit Bazaar have just started stocking these exact wall decals, because that is how my life works.