19th January 2017

“What’s the best thing about being a blogger?” and other questions I am frequently asked about Mummy Blogging…

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 21.32.451. “Should I start a blog?” If you are thinking about it, my advice would be to go ahead and just do it. It isn’t for everyone, but the fact that the idea is in your mind shows that you have probably already have something to say or share. And what have you got to lose? If you choose to do it on a small scale as a hobby, you have a way to share what has been happening recently with family and friends (and if you live far away from most of them like I do, that’s quite lovely). On the other hand, if you want to start a blog with the aim to it becoming professional one day, why not give it a go? It isn’t going to happen if you sit on the idea for years.

2. “What do I write about?” Remember that your family and friends will probably be the first people to read your words – so how about a post introducing your new blog and explaining why you have decided to write it? Talk directly to them and the words should come naturally. With so many parenting blogs around these days, however, I do think that finding a niche is a good idea – an angle that will set you apart from every other blog out there. It worked well for me to start a blog for mums of boys in the early days, for example, as it hasn’t really been done before. Find your own niche – and make it something you will find easy and enjoyable to blog about it. If you like cooking, for example, you could perhaps start a recipe blog for busy mums. If you have a unique hobby, you could blog about that. If you travel a lot, you could start a blog with tips for other parents. Or (and I really like this idea), why not start a blog about being a parent in your local town or village?

3. “How about the technical stuff?” I am asked this a lot – and the truth is that I am not remotely technical when it comes to things like this and have luckily always had friends to help me with the set-up bit (paying “mates rates”)! If you know someone, ask them! Bear in mind that these things are time-consuming, so offering to pay “mates rates” is a better tactic than asking for a favour – especially if you want them to help with any hiccups / updates in the future too. If you are more technically minded, I recommend setting up your blog through WordPress.  But if it’s all Greek to you  and you don’t have mates to help you out, why not just start blogging via Instagram and Facebook? It’s a great way to build an audience and following – and the blog itself can always come later.

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4. “Do you ever regret starting a blog?” I wouldn’t say that I ever regret it, but I definitely have moments of doubt and spend time wondering whether I should continue. This is mainly because I worry whether I should be putting my kids in the spotlight when they didn’t choose it. It makes me feel uncomfortable when I think about it, as my kids are my number one priority (just like any mummy). However, I do take steps to protect my children with what I choose to post (or not to post, as the case may be) – I won’t divulge those details, but each blogger has their own rules.  I also strongly believe that the benefits my children are getting from this blog means that the positives currently far outweigh the negatives. And let’s face it; this is the first generation that has grown up online / on social media – and there are no rules or manuals on how we should do it.  And anyone that takes time to read my posts will realise pretty quickly that I do it all out of love for them. I hope this will be obvious to them too, as they grow up – and if they still hate it, I’ll stop blogging about them immediately.

5. “How long will you keep blogging?” This is a really hard question and pretty impossible to answer – but I can’t see myself stopping any time soon. I can definitely see my blog evolving as time goes on, though – perhaps if we ended up moving back to the UK at any point (no imminent plans, but you never know) or if the kids didn’t want to be involved in the blog as they grew up. The beauty of a blog for me is that it grows with you – so I guess when I no longer have babies anymore, my blog will change with it. But I hope you lot will stay with me, as I guess your babies will be growing up too. We’ll all be in it together (and I am personally DREADING the teenage years!)

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6. “Is blogging competitive?” Yes, at times I think it is – but that’s just like any industry so I don’t think there’s anything too unusual or dramatic about that. However, I do have moments of self-doubt  at times when I bother to compare my blog and social media posts to others. The problem I think is there’s a fine line where the ‘me’ finishes and the ‘blog’ starts – we seem to be one and the same – so it can feel very personal if someone criticises it or if a brand chooses to work with someone else. But I have learnt along the line that there is very little point in worrying about all this – my blog is my voice – and just like people read more than one magazine and shop from more than one store, there is plenty of space for blogs to co-exist with the same gang of readers. That’s why it pays to support each other, promote blogging in general, and try not to get too caught up in the competitiveness of it all. It’s nothing compared to the world of fashion journalism anyway (been there, done that, worn the over-priced T-Shirt).

7. “Can you make lots of money from a blog?” Well yes – you definitely can. Not that I’d even begin to count myself in that gang yet, although things are definitely moving in the right direction. But if you take one blog that makes serious money, there will be hundreds more that make very little. It definitely isn’t a quick fix to riches – it took me a good year of solid blogging to get offered my first sponsored campaign. You have to really love blogging foremost – and if you start making money, that’s a bonus. And even with over 80,000 social media followers and 2.5 years of blogging under my belt, I don’t make enough for it to be my main revenue source and I need to keep up my freelance journalism. One day I hope the balance will shift to my blog – that would definitely be the dream for me, as it’s the bit of ‘work’ I enjoy most.

8. “What’s the best bit about blogging?” For me, this is definitely the support network I have created with my followers and readers. I love nothing more than posting something on social media and getting streams of comments underneath. It keeps me sane on the hardest days of motherhood – and I genuinely hope it helps all you too! Of course there are other big highlights – like getting invited to do cool stuff (getting an email inviting me to a 5-day review of a hotel in the Maldives, for example, was a real highlight – sadly we couldn’t afford the airfare at the time, but just imagine if we’d taken the plunge!), placing a big advertising campaign, and being sent lovely gifts to my door on a daily basis. I also love it when people recognise me, which is happening more and more (both in the UAE and UK). I don’t love this in a ‘wow, I’m totally famous!” way (as I’m actually quite shy and can easily clam up in these situations) – but I love it because it means my words are clearly being heard, my blog is growing, and all that hard work is paying off.



16th January 2017

Things I loved about Babies & Beyond!

16117967_10158126095900607_1248774804_nWe’ve come to the end of our two week booking with Babies & Beyond, so now is the perfect time to tell you about the things that I really loved about the company.

To recap, Babies & Beyond is a Dubai company that offers a pay-by-hour nanny service for little ones – right from the early newborn days to pre-schooler years. You book the nurses per hour, with a five-hour minimum booking – and the company will aim for you to have the same nurse every time to make sure your little one is settled and happy. And if you need a long-term booking? Babies & Beyond will offer you a discount to make it affordable too.

So without further ado, here are the things I loved about the company…

1. You can trust the nurses

Just like every mother, I find it very difficult to leave my children with someone I don’t know – but without the luxury of family around to help, what choice did I have when my nanny was away for two weeks and I had work deadlines nipping at my heels? Step forward Babies & Beyond with their fully qualified nurses, all licensed by Dubai Health Authority, with paediatric first aid and life support qualifications. It all reads well on paper – and my experience over the past 2 weeks proves it too. I barely had to give instructions with the two nurses we used – they were baby whispers and that was obvious from the very first day they stepped through my door.

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2. The company matches a nurse to your child

I loved the fact the company match the perfect nurse to your child, based on their previous experience. Babies & Beyond called me for a chat when I first enquired before Christmas and then followed with a questionnaire sent to my email address to get further information. For this reason, they knew Mabel’s age, how she was fed, whether she had a routine, and whether I needed any help with my elder boys too – and once they had the information, they could match me to a nurse that was perfectly suited experience-wise to my baby.  They have nurses with experience in NICU and maternity wards in hospitals, for example, which suit the smallest babies – and they also have nurses with previous experience in nurseries across the region, meaning they are much better suited for toddlers. Thanks to this groundwork before your nurse arrives, you get someone that knows what they are doing before they have even arrived.

3. You can be flexible with your booking

You can book the hours that suit YOU – whether that’s first thing in the morning until lunchtime, a full day when you are at work, or even during the night.  Even if you have a regular booking, you can enquire about changing it / adding hours to suit your schedule and the company will do their best to accommodate. I did this twice during my booking when I realised I needed a few extra hours for a meeting – and the booking was extended by two hours and confirmed via email. Life is unpredictable – and the company really seems to understand this.

4. The nurses are totally focused on your child

This isn’t a maid service – and the nurses won’t spend time cleaning your house during your booking. They are solely dedicated to childcare – and if that seems like an inconvenience, this isn’t the service for you. The company caters to parents who want a qualified nanny to give 100% of their attention to their child – and for me, this was hugely reassuring when I walked out the door. I didn’t have to worry about the nurse missing Mabel’s cries because she was hanging up washing, nor that she’d be too focused on finishing chores to play with her. I knew she would her only priority for the length of the booking – and there is something wonderfully reassuring about that. It’s well worth the money that you pay.

Babies & Beyond Nurses cost 75 AED per hour, with a minimum booking of 5 hours (discounts offered to long-term bookings). Visit www.babiesandbeyond.ae or call 04 278 9832.

In collaboration with Babies & Beyond

 



13th January 2017

Yesterday, I decided to sell my maternity clothes…

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 20.04.41With another house move in the next few weeks (finally a family home that we can settle in for the next few years), we need to declutter – and I decided the maternity clothes had to go. So I photographed each item, carefully wrote down the brand and size details, decided on a price for each item, and listed it all on community Facebook pages.

And then I waited.

But nothing.

Not a single message.

Nobody wanted my beautiful maternity dresses.

I felt a bit deflated, but joked with a few friends that maybe the universe had other plans. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be selling them at all. Maybe I would need them again. Funnily enough, the husband didn’t find it quite as funny when he got home from work and I relayed the story.

Still, as I went to bed that night, I must admit I felt quite relieved those dresses were still in my wardrobe. I knew I would never wear them again, but maybe I wasn’t ready to part with them either.

But the next morning, I woke up to a message. A mum-to-be who lived nearby had seen my advert and wanted to come and look at the dresses. This is it, I thought. This is it. She’ll come to my apartment, try them on, and take them all off my hands. That will be it. Done and dusted. Finished.

She was on her way, so I made my way into the spare room and hung each dress on the front of the wardrobe so she could see them all clearly. Most of these dresses had seen me through three pregnancies – and after the first two babies I’d stashed them away, hoping that I would get a chance to wear them again. After Mabel was born, I moved them to the spare bedroom knowing that I’d probably never move them back again. I wasn’t sad about it – how could I be, when the bump they’d dressed was now sleeping peacefully next door – but it did make me stop in my tracks and think. And now I was about to say goodbye to them.

I stood back and looked at them. So many memories right there on the wardrobe. I always loved having a bump. I loved the way I felt and I loved the way I looked – but most importantly, I loved the anticipation and pure excitement I felt when I looked in the mirror and stroked my bump. These dresses were part of those memories and I felt strangely attached to them. Just like the feelings I had when I stashed tiny newborn sleepsuits away in boxes, I felt stabs of emotion when I realised I’d never set eyes on them again.

My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the doorbell. And within a few minutes, a stranger was trying on my maternity dresses in the spare bedroom.

She came out of the room 10 minutes later, clutching just one of the dresses. “I’ll take this one,” she said, “I just love it!” She handed me a few notes and we said our goodbyes – and I laughed to myself that the dress she’d taken was the only one I’d rarely worn during my pregnancies. It just hadn’t suited me when I’d got it home from the shop – and it was sod’s law that it was the only one she wanted.

Before I went to pick up the boys from school and nursery, I hung the remaining dresses back in the wardrobe. All still mine – for now, at least.

But just as I started to wonder whether the universe really was sending me a message, my kids stepped in. It is no exaggeration to say that I had one of the most difficult afternoons I have ever had as a mother. Nothing dramatic happened, but the boys fought, I screamed at them, Mabel cried, dinner had to be taken off the hob three times while she demanded more milk, dinner was ruined, boys refused to eat what I knocked up instead, I screamed again, they cried – and to top it all off, the 4-year-old told me he only loved me “some of the time”.  Nice crescendo Stanley, nice crescendo.

So that evening, with a glass of wine in my hands to recover, I decided I needed to give myself a pep talk. I might be sad that those dresses won’t ever wrap around a bump again – but my goodness, three children was quite enough. I admire those mothers that keep having babies, but I had definitely reached the point of coping. The point of staying sane.

So I heaved myself off the sofa, walked to my desk, scrolled ‘WE ARE DONE!” on a post-it note in thick black letters, and marched to the spare bedroom to stick it on the label of my favourite maternity maxi dress as a reminder of that afternoon.

Because we are done. I am sure of it.

WE ARE DONE!

I think we are, at least.



10th January 2017

My top 10 ultimate buys for new babies…

Third baby in – and I think I’ve finally nailed the mum kit. And by that, I mean that I’ve gathered together the things that really do make motherhood easier. Those clever inventions that cut corners so you can spend more time enjoying your baby. And whilst these aren’t necessarily budget buys (I see another post in that), I can promise you won’t regret investing in any of them. So without further ado, here are my top 10 buys for new mums and mums-to-be – and I’ve included a UK and UAE link for shopping for all of them, so mummies in both countries can make use of my list….

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1. Sleepyhead

In a nutshell: A portable bed for your baby, which you place inside their cot.  

I reviewed this incredible invention here – but it’s essentially a snug bed that you place inside a cot, bed, or other flat surface for your baby to sleep. I don’t know how exactly it works, but babies just seem to love it. It’s like they are being hugged I guess, but whatever the science behind it, Mabel happily self-settles and sleeps like a dream.

UK – John Lewis – http://bit.ly/2j0o0ok #aff

UAE – Sleepyhead GCC –  http://sleepyheadgcc.com

2. Snuzpod

In a nutshell: A bedside cot that allows you to sleep safely next to your baby.

We ended up co-sleeping a lot with Wilfred, as he was just one of those babies that didn’t settle well – so I knew from the beginning of my pregnancy with Mabel that I wanted a bedside cot. I enjoyed co-sleeping with Wilfred, but I always worried about the safety of it – so this would allow me to sleep alongside my baby and get to them quickly when they woke in the night, but they’d have their own space too. Out of all the cots on the market, this was my favourite as it’s big (it should last Mabel until at least 6 months) and it looks really lovely as a piece of furniture. Expensive yes, but I’m pretty sure they will sell on well second hand.

UK – John Lewis – http://bit.ly/2j0m13k #aff

UAE – Mumzworld – www.mumzworld.com

3. Mamaroo

In a nutshell – A baby chair that bounces and sways, just like parents

This chair is quite simply amazing. You plug it in, choose the setting (including car ride, tree swing, kangaroo, rock-a-bye and ocean), and choose the speed. It isn’t cheap admittedly, but I would have palpitations if anyone took it away from me (my babies have never been able to resist sleep when on ‘car ride’ on the fastest setting, which I’ve resorted to more than few times). We used a voucher given to us by work colleagues to buys ours when Wilfred was born and have passed it onto friends when they have had little ones. It’s definitely one of my top baby buys.

UK – John Lewis – http://bit.ly/2j0liis #aff

UAE –  The Baby Boutique – www.thebabyboutique.com

4. The Ergo

In a nutshell – A baby carrier that can be used comfortably as your baby grows

I’m not really a baby wearer as I like pushing my babies in buggies, but a carrier is a necessity when you fly as often as we do – and after trial and error, the Ergo is definitely my favourite. The weight is carried around the hips (rather than shoulders), which means you can use it for longer as baby gets heavier. We had a different carrier when Stanley was a baby and I couldn’t carry him past 4 months without pain in my shoulders – but I carried Wilfred very happily in the Ergo until he was 18 months. Highly recommended.

UK – www.ergobaby.co.uk

UAE – Mumzworld – www.mumzworld.com/en/ergo-baby/

5. Snuza Hero

In a nutshell – A breathing monitor that clips to your baby’s nappy when they are sleeping

I know there is some controversy about breathing monitors, as they can make mothers even more anxious – but the peace of mind I feel when I clip this little monitor onto Mabel’s nappy is definitely worth it. Without it, I’m one of those mothers that wakes up in a cold sweat to check their baby is breathing every 10 minutes – but with it, I can go to sleep knowing this little device is monitoring that she’s breathing at least 8 times in a minute. If she doesn’t, it vibrates gently to rouse her. And if there is still no movement, an alarm would go off to wake us. I’ve used one with all three of my babies from the moment they are born, right up until them being old enough to yank it off (I’ve stopped at around 8 months in the past).

UK – Amazon  - http://amzn.to/2jcv925 #aff

UAE – Just Kidding – www.justkidding-me.com

6. Milkies Milk Saver

In a nutshell – A silicon device you pop in your bra to catch milk when you are feeding the other side.

What exactly is a milk saver? Well it’s a simple silicone device that you pop on the other boob when feeding and it collects all the milk that would usually be wasted in your breast-pad (it’s amazing how much you get, which can then be saved in the fridge or freezer for when you need to do a bottle feed). I’ve used it with Mabel since she was born – and this simple thing has saved me pumping and has therefore been a lifesaver (I hate pumping). Midwives and lactation consultants have all been amazed by it – and I never knew I could love a strange milk catcher thing quite so much.

UK – Amazon – http://amzn.to/2id7Oiq #aff

UAE – Order via Amazon and Shop & Ship (as above).

7. Boppy Pillow

In a nutshell – A cushion to help support your baby during breastfeeding

Talking of breastfeeding, I have been totally reliant on my Boppy Pillow with all my babies. I’ve tried smaller, more compact cushions, but none of them have compared to the Boppy – and I’ve even carried it onto flights (great way to comfortably cuddle a small baby on a long-haul by the way!) I got a really gorgeous cover for mine at Pottery Barn Kids in Dubai, but that’s just a luxury extra that you don’t really need if you are on a budget.

UK – Argos – www.argos.co.uk

UAE – Pottery Barn Kids

8. Aden & Anais Swaddle Blankets

In a nutshell – Giant muslin cloths that can be used for all kinds of different things at home and when you head out.

My first two babies loved to be swaddled as newborns, but not Mabel – oh no, she wasn’t having any of it. She cried and struggled and fought her arms out – and when we finally gave up, boom, she started sleeping through the night at a week old. So as great as these swaddles are for actually swaddling (and they are the best), that’s not actually why I’m recommending them. I’m recommending them as giant muslin cloths, which have so many different uses with newborn babies around the house. Lightweight blankets for warm weather, sick moppers, bottom sheets for the pram basinet, window drapes to block the sun in the car… The list goes on. Basically they are brilliant – and worth the extra money to get the big ones!

UK – John Lewis – http://bit.ly/2j2AdbX  #aff

UAE – Baby Souk – www.babysouk.com/

9. Cuddle Dry Apron Towel

In a nutshell – The best towel for newborns, allowing you to scoop them out the bath and cuddle them without getting soaked.

When I was first sent this to try (thanks Cuddle Dry!) I must admit that I thought it was a bit pointless – but then I started using it, and wow! It’s amazing. You pop it over your head, scoop your newborn out of the bath, and pull them into you in a cuddle. There’s a pocket at the bottom that you fit over their head as a hood to keep them warm – and the towel between you stops your clothes getting soaked (and having two boys that splash a lot in the bath, anything that stops it happening with the baby too is a real bonus!) Highly recommended!

UK – Amazon – http://amzn.to/2idn0vZ #aff

UAE – Baby Souk – www.babysouk.com/

10. Water Wipes

In a nutshell – Baby wipes made from 99.9% purified water for easy nappy changes and healthy bottoms! 

With my first baby, I used cotton wool and water for weeks – and then gave up and started using pure wipes, which made life so much easier. With my second baby, I decided not to take on the meconium and start with the pure baby wipes – cue a horrible weeping nappy rash that made me sob every nappy change. So I wasn’t going to make that mistake again with Mabel and decided to invest in 12 packs of Water Wipes for my hospital bag and early days at home. They are made with 99.9% purified water and 0.01% fruit extracts, making them the world’s purest baby wipes. I love them so much that I have restocked my supplies and will definitely be continuing to use them for Mabel as long as possible.

UK – 12 packs at Amazon – http://amzn.to/2iXfIuK #aff

UAE – Deliver 2 Mum – www.deliver2mum.com



7th January 2017

We try: Babies & Beyond Baby Care Service

15934803_10158079257840607_983223524_nWhat do you do when you work from home in Dubai and your nanny decides to take a well-deserved holiday? Well after sobbing into your pillow for a few nights (and that’s not far off the truth), you look for alternatives – and that’s exactly why Babies & Beyond have come into my life this January.

The Dubai company offer a pay-by-hour nanny service for little ones – right from the early newborn days to pre-schooler years. And with every nurse fully qualified and licensed by Dubai Health Authority, with paediatric first aid and life support qualifications, I was already impressed by what they were offering on paper, so I decided to go ahead and book for 5 x mornings a week for the first fortnight of the year.

So what happened next? Once I’d got in touch with the company to ask about availability, I received a phone call from staff member Hazel. We chatted on the phone for a good 20 minutes, talking through the ages of the children, what I needed help with, where I lived, and what timings would suit us. And within 24 hours, I was emailed with details of the nurses the company could provide for me – Candie in the first week and Lhean in the second.

The CV’s of both nurses was attached to have a read through and was offered the chance for myself and the children to meet them before my booking began. As I was in the UK until a few days before the booking commenced, I declined the offer of a meeting, but I thought it was a lovely touch for mums feeling a bit anxious about leaving their little ones for the first time. I did enjoy looking through the CVs and was very reassured by both the nurse’s experience and qualifications. A few forms to fill out and sign were also attached, which gave me the chance to give further details about both Mabel and Wilfred so that the nurses would be fully aware of our situation before they knocked on my door. So far, so good – I was impressed.

Fast forward to Monday 2nd January 2016 – and it was Candie’s first day with us. I had both Mabel and Wilfred at home with me that morning and so much work to do after the crazy Christmas period, which was making me feel pretty stressed. I expected to spend at least the first hour or so with Candie, explaining and showing her the ropes – but when she came, I realised I had nothing to worry about.

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Candie was exceptionally good with Mabel from the moment she met her. I talked her through Mabel’s current routine and feeding schedule and she nodded with understanding. I went to show her how to turn on Mabel’s snazzy rocking chair and she told me she’d used one lots before. I then told her about how Mabel likes to lie in her baby gym and how she enjoyed sitting up in her bumbo chair and she nodded along. She told me not to worry about anything and I felt very reassured – so I got to work at my desk.

And it wasn’t just Mabel she was good with, but Wilfred too. She managed to entertain and care for both children that morning so perfectly. At one point I glanced over and she was lying on the floor with Wilfred playing with his Octonauts, while keeping a careful eye on Mabel in her baby gym alongside. Wilfred loved her – and just before I took him out on his scooter in the fresh air for a while, he turned to her and said: “Don’t worry Candie, I’ll be back to play with you again later!”

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A few days later and Candie had Mabel’s routine down to a fine art. In fact, after the craziness of the Christmas holidays, she wasn’t really in any kind of fixed routine – but Candie managed to change that in just 5 days. I was really impressed with her knowledge of newborn babies and their needs. Take one morning, for example, when I heard Mabel grumbling in the bedroom after her nap. I looked up from my desk, wondering where Candie was, only to see them both leave the bedroom together with Candie explaining: “Mabel was just doing some tummy time!”

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I must confess that I am sad that Candie is leaving us, but I can see why she is in demand and had prior bookings – and I already know that Lhean will be just as professional when she arrives for the second week of care. And guess what? I’m no longer stressed about work and I know I will meet my deadlines over the next week, whilst Mabel and Wilfred will be expertly cared for. And you can’t really put a price on that kind of reassurance!

I’ll report back at the end of week two with my overall impression of Babies & Beyond – but in the meantime, keep an eye on my social media for details of how we are getting on!

If you’d like to book a Babies & Beyond Newborn Nurse or Childcare Nurse, simply visit www.babiesandbeyond.ae, call +971 (0)4 278 9832 or email info@babiesandbeyond.ae

In collaboration with Babies & Beyond.

 



2nd January 2017

10 Things To Consider Before You Have Number Three

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-16-21-431. If you thought your pregnancy flew by the second time, you will be shocked by how quickly it goes with your third. After all, you are far too busy refereeing sibling scraps to focus too much on the baby growing inside your tummy. You are unlikely to bother downloading pregnancy apps either – you’ve already maxed out the memory on your phone downloading apps for the kids, after all.

2. You may not notice the weeks ticking past – but by god, you will notice the bump. You will pop earlier, fit into maternity clothes quicker, and master the perfect fake smile for when passers-by ask if it’s twins. And by the end? You probably won’t be able to walk more than a few steps without feeling like the baby is going to fall out, which is ironic considering you have two small people under your feet who expect far more entertainment than just a few steps.

3. You don’t fear birth. Oh no. In fact, you daydream about that bit in the hospital after the baby is born from the moment you see that positive pregnancy test. You may have a demanding newborn to tend to, but they won’t be able to move – and what a luxury that will be!

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-22-21-344. You will have an argument with your other half about to fit all your children into a car. It’s unavoidable. And it will go on for months.

5. You always knew it would be a challenge to leave the house in the early days, but you will still be  shocked by how long it takes to move three small people through a front door. If it isn’t explosive newborn nappies, it’s toddler tantrums and last minute dashes to the loo. And you may as well accept now that you will forget something crucially important every time you leave the house. In fact, if you remember all three children, you should count that as a win.

6. Once in a while, however, you will get to leave the house with just two of your brood and the feeling of freedom will surprise you. One hand for each child? What luxury! You’ll have to stop yourself hop, skipping, and jumping through the streets in celebration. And rare occasions with just one child? That is classed as a holiday.

7. If two children scrambled your mind, wait until your third baby arrives home. From the moment you walk through the door clutching a car seat with a sleepy newborn, your mind will start doing funny things. Lunch boxes will get muddled up, weekly timetables forgotten, birthday parties missed – and, most disturbingly, you will have to run through every name in the house (including the one belonging to the cat) before you strike lucky and match the right name to a child.

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8. If you thought the comments about your ginormous bump from complete strangers were annoying, wait until you venture out with all three children in tow. Despite a good chunk of the adult population coming from families with three or more kids, it will quickly become apparent that 99% of those you pass in the street are shocked at the sight of your brood.. ‘You’ve got your hands full!” they will quip, as you glance up, force a smile, and promptly manage to trip over a child.

9. They do have a point though, as there will be moments in the early days when you stand back, see your other half with three little people, and feel genuinely shocked by how many children are now in your care. And when travelling with those children, you will watch young, single ladies in high heels and perfect lipstick glancing in horror and the general noise and chaos coming from your direction – and you will want to scream ‘I WAS LIKE YOU  A FEW YEARS AGO! JUST WAIT! IT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU TOO!”

10. But despite it all, you will not regret having that third child for a second. Not one single second. You never doubted that you would love this child – after all, you have done it twice before and know that your heart swells with every child you grow – but you did find it hard to imagine how this tiny human would fit into your family. But right from the moment you cradle that warm newborn on your chest, you will see that you had nothing to worry about. And when their older brothers and sisters get the chance to gaze into their baby sibling’s eyes for the first time, your heart will skip a beat. And that is the very moment you will realise it was the best decision you ever made.

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5th December 2016

Why I will not be telling my boys to ‘Man Up!’

15310336_10157893142585607_1873914775_nThis morning was foggy in Dubai. We live on a high floor – and when we opened the curtains, we discovered that we were inside a white cloud. No views of the beach, the ocean, or the tops of skyscrapers jutting into a bright blue sky – just white, foggy nothingness instead.

It’s a bit fishy out there today!” Wilfred said, with his face pressed up against the window – learning the word ‘foggy’ is a bit tricky when you’ve only seen it a couple of times in your life, after all.

These kind of days take you by surprise in Dubai, when we open the curtains to bright sunshine 360 days a year. I’m not sure how I feel about bad weather days, but for the kids, it’s always exciting. “It’s going to rain!” they sung in unison, as they skipped around the lounge. “I need my cosy coat!” Stanley piped up excitedly, grabbing a zip-up sweatshirt he hasn’t worn since February, but apparently today was cold enough to warrant it over his school uniform.

Twenty minutes later, we pulled up to school in the car. Stanley looked up at the sky suspiciously – and as I pulled him out of his car seat, he shivered. “I can’t walk, Mummy! I’m too cold!

Knowing we are flying back to the UK next week, my husband and I stifled giggles as he dragged his heels through the gate. We were going to be late, so I needed to encourage him along – but as I opened my mouth,  I nearly said something that I would’ve later regretted.

Man up!” was what nearly came out of my mouth, watching my 4-year old shivering in 20’C. A line I’d heard a thousand times before (and probably said a few times to my husband during bouts of man flu). A line that has become pretty standard and casual in the English language, batted about between groups of boys (and definitely uttered by girls too – to their brothers, friends, boyfriends, and husbands).

But before it escaped my mouth, I stopped myself. Now a mother of boys, I see that phrase in an entirely different light – and as I drove home in the fog this morning, I started thinking about it.

What does it mean exactly? To me, it means being tough. Not just when you are feeling cold – but when you are feeling pretty down too.  Say that phrase to your boys enough and they will think it’s right to ignore both physical and emotional challenges – because after all, that is what society expects them to do. No crying when they feel down, no spilling their heart out to friends over a pint, no admitting that they don’t really enjoy boxing because it actually hurts.

Thanks to these kind of thought processes, we have too many boys that don’t talk about their feelings and bottle them up until it’s too late. I know what I was like as a teenager – I needed to write a diary and to cry when it all got too much (even if it was in public – sometimes it just had to happen) – but if I had been a boy in the same bubble of emotions, would I have been told to ‘Man up’? And if someone had said that to me, would I have had the courage to voice the way I felt again?

I’m not saying that I want my boys to cry whenever it dips below 20’C in Dubai, nor that I want them to choose a life of writing poetry over running onto a rugby pitch (although to be honest, I don’t mind if they do). What I am saying is that I don’t want them to feel compelled to be society’s version of ‘manly’. They don’t have to ‘man up’ if they are feeling sad, or cold, or uninterested in typically masculine things. They can just be themselves – and that might be strong some days, but  emotionally fragile on others.

That’s being human, after all.

So I’m glad those words never escaped my mouth this morning when my Dubai-born 4-year old was shivering in the desert. And it’s also why I’m glad my husband scooped him up and carried him quickly to the classroom.

Sometimes we all feel a bit chilly – and who cares if we shiver through it.



30th November 2016

Making money from a blog? How very dare you!

15319448_10157871415520607_2044161852_nLast week, I was scrolling through Instagram and a photo popped up in my feed by a small clothing company in the UK. It was a photo of her family - and in the description, she urged her readers to shop with small, independent companies like her own this Christmas. She said that by doing so, we’d be helping to support her family, put her kids in nappies, and keep a small business afloat that she had worked so hard on for the past few years.

I clicked “like”, because I love the idea of supporting small, independent businesses – and I have done a lot of my Christmas shopping in Dubai that way.

But in a way, the post made me feel a bit sad too.

Why? Because when I wrote a similar post a few weeks beforehand on my blog Facebook page, disclosing that I would be posting a few affiliate links in the lead-up to Christmas (where I earn a small percentage if you click the link and make a sale), I received a spate of unfollows and a handful of quite hurtful private messages.

In one of those messages, the reader told me that I had lost my innocence since I started “advertising” companies. She told me she was unfollowing immediately and she thought I’d like to know exactly why. I care about this blog – and I have worked my socks off to grow it – and I’m not ashamed to say that a few tears pricked my eyes when I read her message.

She – and a spate of others who messaged me or unfollowed my social media pages that day – didn’t think it was right that I should make money from blogging.

It seems almost taboo.

Because unlike those crafters, and fashion designers, and book writers, and bakers, and aloe vera sellers – and pretty much every other person out there ‘selling’ a thing – a lot of people think it is wrong that you should be able to make any money having a blog on the internet. To work hard and help to support your family.

And I don’t really understand it, which is why I have decided to write this post.

Because the passion those small, independent company owners have for their business is exactly how I feel about my blog. I started it in 2014, just 4 months after Wilfred was born into this world. And as he grew – learning to sit, and crawl, and walk, and have incredible toddler tantrums – so did my blog. I’ve grown a gang of the loveliest readers and social media followers online. I have made friends through blogging. And I have gone on to win awards.

But the money thing? Still taboo for bloggers like me, it seems.

On a daily basis, we are entertained by newspapers (funded by sales and advertising), television (funded by TV licences and advertising), magazines (funded by sales and advertising), and films (funded by ticket sales and advertising). All of us are OK with this – as it’s always been this way. We know that journalists, film makers, and TV producers aren’t going to rock up to work for free.

But now there are blogs in this world – and I, for one, think the world is better for them. The people that write them can be totally honest, tailoring what they post to their readers in a way that has never been done before. I read lots of blogs myself – from the amazing escapism offered by The Londoner, to the brilliance of The Honest Mum, to hilarity of The Unmumsy Mum. And I would be genuinely gutted if they stopped doing what they were doing – but in a world where we need actual money to buy actual things, I don’t see why they should be entertaining me for free.

So this post is a virtual high-five to bloggers – who just like those small businesses, work incredibly hard to support their families.

And it’s also a note to my readers to assure you that making the odd bit of money from my blog will not change the way I write, what I choose to post, nor the way I wear my heart on my sleeve and share (probably way too much) with you.

If a post is affiliate, you will notice the hashtag #aff after it. If a blog post is sponsored, you will notice the disclosure ’written in collaboration with…” at the end of the blog post. And if a social media post is sponsored, it will have the tag #collab. This will reassure you that 99% of what I do isn’t sponsored – and as time ticks on, I will only ever work with brands that I would want to shop, visit or try myself – as I’m a Mum, just like you. I know what my kids are going to like and what is going to make my own life easier or more enjoyable. For every opportunity that I am offered, I will turn down two more.

And making that odd bit of money will just give me more time to focus on my blog and (hopefully) make it even better.

And failing that? I could just give it all up and sell aloe vera, I guess…



It is quite possible that I am losing my mind

15310327_10157870607945607_1522030981_nIt is very true that our hearts grow bigger with every child we have.

But the same definitely can’t be said for brains.

In fact, mine seems to be shrinking since the birth of my third child a few months ago – and it’s a sorry state of affairs.

I considered myself a pretty organised person until baby Mabel came along. Having a second baby tested me for a while, for sure, but I still kept the cogs of the family moving pretty smoothly. I felt a bit foggy and stressed at times, but I definitely wasn’t forgetful.

But since she arrived on the scene, I am a forgetful, absent minded wreck of a woman!

Take this week, for example… My eldest – Stanley, aged 4 – is famous for his lack of communication when I pick him up from school.

“How was school today, Stanley?” I ask.

“Woof!” he replies.

“Did you enjoy your lunch today, Stanley?” I ask.

“Miaow!” he replies.

But on Monday, I didn’t get the usual onslaught of animal noises. After enquiring about his day at school, he turned to me with a cross look on his face.

‘You forgot to put my reading books in my bag, Mummy!” he scowled. “And when my group had their turn to read, I couldn’t join in.”

To say that my heart sank is an understatement. I had forgotten. For the first time ever, it hadn’t even crossed my mind to put those books in his bag that morning. I didn’t even have an excuse – it was the same day they always went in his bag. It’s scrolled in massive letters on a weekly calendar pinned by magnets to the fridge. They were even sat on the dining room table, right under my nose.

But still, I’d forgotten.

“I’ll put them in your bag tomorrow!” I stammered, clutching at straws.

“It’s too late. My group has already done the reading. You keep forgetting things, Mummy.”

Tears pricked my eyes – not because I blamed myself, as I know having a 10-week old baby is a pretty good excuse. But at the thought of him sat on his own while the others read. He loves reading! And he couldn’t join in! I wanted to break down in a sobbing heap right there on the sand of the carpark – but I couldn’t, of course, as I had a toddler to pick up from nursery down the road.

It isn’t an isolated case either. I sometimes forget to change Mabel’s nappy and she screams angrily under I work it out. I forget to put a banana in Stanley’s bag for his fruit snack, when I have done it every day for the last year. I even forgot that he had a National Day parade for parents on Sunday – and when my husband enquired “why were there parents on the school field this morning when I dropped him off?” my heart sank once again.

It seems that having a third child hasn’t just fried my brain, but caused it to explode.

An extreme case of baby brain.

And every time my heart sinks, I make a vow to try harder to remember things. I don’t want to let the kids down. I don’t want them to be the kids with the Mummy that always forgets things. The ones at PE classes without their kit. The ones without their sun hats so they aren’t allowed to play outside. The ones hungry at break time as their absent-minded, baby-brained mother forgot to pick up a banana from the fruit bowl and put it in their bag.

And I’m sure that baby brain will eventually subside. I’ll get more sleep and I’ll work out how to juggle three kids with a busy work life a little more effectively.

But until then, can I borrow a brain please?

I could really do with an extra one – for a while, at least.



29th November 2016

Fun at the Festive Fair – at Toddler Town British Nursery…

15281973_10157866078585607_554998808_nI don’t know about you, but we are starting to feel a bit festive. I bought some candles from Bath & Bodyworks (highly recommend ‘Winter’ if you are looking for the perfect scent), we’ve got the decorations out of storage (not up yet, but it’s a start), the diary is starting to fill up with festive things to do over the next few weeks. And it’s all because we went to the beautiful Festive Fair at Toddler Town British Nursery on Saturday, which definitely made me feel in a Christmassy mood.

I was looking forward to visiting the fair, as I know that Toddler Town does things very well – but I was still surprised by just how lovely it was. Imagine Christmas songs playing, children playing in a winter-wonderland snow park, a petting zoo, carnival games, a queue of excited children waiting to visit Santa, and some lovely market stalls (I managed to sneak a few stocking fillers into my bag when the boys weren’t looking!) My boys had a brilliant time (Mabel slept through it, of course), so I wanted to share a few more photos of the event to get you in the mood for festivities too.

But before I do that, I’ll just mention that the nursery is well worth a tour if you haven’t been before. Stanley went to the JBR location of this popular nursery (which is excellent, by the way) – but with more space to play with, the facilities at the Jumeirah branch are really quite amazing. There’s so much space, both inside and out – and what the kids have to play with there (from outdoor play facilities, to sand pits, to sensory rooms, to soft play zones) is impressive. Scroll to the bottom of this post and you will find their website link to click on and contact details.

So without further ado, here are some more photos of the lovely Festive Fair we enjoyed at Toddler Town British Nursery on Saturday… Happy (nearly) December everyone…

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Visit www.toddlertown.ae for more information – or call 04 452 8080 to arrange a tour. The two nurseries are located at Amwaj 5, Plaza Level, JBR, Dubai Marina – and at Villa No. 20, 21st Street, Al Safa (Al Manara), Jumeirah. 

In collaboration with Toddler Town British Nursery