11th October 2017

We try: Slumbertots Sleep Training

Rewind to the day I stopped breastfeeding Mabel to sleep, when she was 7 months old. The very moment that the milk stopped coming and she started flailing around on the boob and we both decided we were done – that was the very moment she stopped falling asleep in my arms.

As the months ticked on, I came up with other ways to get her to sleep. I’d lay her in her bedside cot and feed her to sleep with a bottle as I lay in the bed alongside, creeping outside when she was snoring away. When she got older, I’d lie her next to me in the big double bed to feed her. And when she stopped falling asleep doing that, I’d lie next to her and cuddle her until she finally dropped off.

This all worked well and I loved those bedtime cuddles – but as the months ticked on, it was taking longer and longer for her to fall asleep. She’d try to stand up, she’d try to roll, she’d laugh hysterically, she’d whip me in the face with her cuddly elephant, and she’d cry with frustration. A few weeks ago, with my husband in Dubai and my boys downstairs with their grandparents in their pyjamas, it took over two hours to get her to sleep. And as much as I enjoyed that sleepy time with her, that was the moment I knew that something had to be done. It wasn’t fair on either of us – I was frustrated and Mabel was over-tired. We both needed to come up with a better plan.

Step forward Katy from the sleep consultancy Slumbertots.

Katy is a Certified Baby and Child Sleep Consultant – and she’s also a mum-of-two, meaning she understood exactly what sleep deprivation feels like and how we feel as mums when bedtime isn’t going well. She’s also lovely – like really, really lovely. Warm, relatable, gentle, and helpful. She can work with you anywhere in the world, as the consultations are by phone/skype, whilst a lot of the support is by email. I highly recommend reaching out.

But back to my story. After a consultation (Katy offers 15-minutes free consultation to all parents), Katy came up with a 10-day plan to help me get Mabel to sleep happily in her cot. Katy works with parents that want all kinds of different things for their babies – and I made it very clear from the beginning that I didn’t want to simply leave the room and let her cry. With that knowledge, Katy came up with a very gentle 10-day plan, where I would gradually retreat from the cot.

Over 10 days I would move from sitting right by the cot and comforting her – to being able to walk straight out the room by the end of day 10. It sounded amazing, but I have to be honest, I didn’t have high hopes that it would work – I just couldn’t imagine Mabel ever settling herself to sleep.

I don’t want to go into exact details, because it isn’t really fair on Katy to give away the tricks of her trade, but let’s just say that I followed the plan to the letter – and I was amazed by how quickly it worked. Katy offers a couple of Skype calls throughout the plan too, alongside email support, which means that you can check in regularly, ask questions, and be reassured that it’s all working OK.

Night one was the hardest, but I was still pretty amazed by how quickly she settled down and went to sleep (it genuinely wasn’t that hard at all). The middle of the night wake-ups were also tricky for the first few nights, because whilst Mabel didn’t always wake up during the night, she wanted to come into the bed for milk when she did and I always obliged. However, after a few nights of staying in her cot (with me comforting her and laying her back down to sleep), she understood that she would be staying in her cot and learnt to settle herself back to sleep.

So now I’m at the end of the plan, how does bedtime go now? After her milk and her bath, I kiss and cuddle Mabel to say goodnight – and then I place her in her cot. I say ‘Sleepy Time now, Night Night. I love you!’ and I walk out of the room. And she goes to sleep! I’m still in shock.

The first night that I walked straight out, I went downstairs and put the monitor on and heard silence. I sat with the boys in their pyjamas, cuddled them as they watched the CBBC Bedroom Story – and I got to read them a story when they went up to bed. I hadn’t been able to do this for a long time, as I’d been with Mabel on the bed – and I was so, so thankful that Katy and Slumbertots had come into my life.

Highly, highly recommended!

www.slumbertots.com/



9th October 2017

One to download: Yo Neighbor

If you live in the UAE, I recommend that you grab your phone and download the app Yo Neighbor immediately – because honestly, I think this is one of the best app launches I’ve seen come to the UAE in a long time.

Let me explain. Yo Neigbor is all about renting out your belongings to your neighbours – so you can list all those items lying around the house that you don’t use very often to people that may need them for a few hours or a few days. You make some extra cash  – and your neighbours get the things they need much more affordably than buying them new.

So how does it work?

Firstly, you download the app and input the area where you live (Arabian Ranches or Jumeirah, for example) – and then you simply take pictures of the items you would like to hire out, upload them to the app, and name your price. People will soon start to see your items pop up in their feed – and they can contact you to arrange pick-up when they want to hire your item.

If you’re the one that wants to hire something from a neighbour, it works exactly the same way. Input your location, pick the category (such as Baby Stuff, Enjoying The Outdoors, or Let’s Get Fit!, for example) and start browsing what is on offer. The app is arranged so that the items closest to you are first in your feed, moving to those further away as you keep scrolling.

I think it’s a fantastic way to make a bit of extra cash when hiring out your belongings or to save cash when hiring things you need yourself, whilst also meeting new people in your community. I also love the fact the app offers UAE residents the opportunity to be more sustainable, given that they can share items, rather than always buying new.

It also works really well if you are in the UAE but don’t know how long you’ll be staying, so don’t want to buy everything new – or if you have just arrived and are waiting for your shipment to arrive.

 

What kind of things can I hire / hire out?

There are hundreds of different things you can hire / hire out, but I’ve listed below some of the categories I think the app works especially well for – those items you don’t need often enough to buy new, but that you need occasionally and wish you had a neighbour to borrow from…

  • Camping Equipment
  • Ladders and DIY tools
  • Baby equipment like cots and toys, for when friends are visiting
  • Barbecues and Outdoor Entertaining Items
  • Kid’s Costumes for dress-up days at school / nursery
  • Sporting Equipment like tennis rackets or golf clubs
  • Musical Instruments for lessons at school

There’s lots more too – so I highly recommend you download the app and have a browse!

Download on iTunes here.

Download on Google Play here.



6th October 2017

Love used to be about kisses at the station in the morning…

Love used to be about kisses at the station in the morning when you said goodbye, lazy weekends together on the sofa, booking last minute trips to Paris on a Friday afternoon, taking selfies where only two of you had to fit into a frame, date nights that lasted until the morning, wearing lipstick and pretty underwear and still thinking it mattered, holding hands as you strolled through villages, and feeling flutters of butterflies before they got home.

Love was new, exciting, passionate, and romantic. And you thought it would always be that way.

But then you became parents and it changed.

Slowly at first; feeling a fuzzy warmth when you realise the baby has her eyes and his feet, seeing each other at your least glamorous and most vulnerable, watching them cradle a newborn and wanting to capture it in your mind forever, saying ‘no, I don’t mind!’ when it definitely isn’t your turn to do the nappy, trying to squeeze more faces into those selfies and suddenly realising they are the best selfies in the world.

And as the years ticked on, love became different again.

It was about going on family adventures, about sandy trips to the beach and muddy trips to the park, about waking up early at the weekend and heading downstairs with sleep still in your eyes, about doing things together that might not be new, exciting, passionate or romantic, but that something made your heart sing with joy.

It became about knowing somebody so well that you could can tell in one glance how they are feeling, about booking date nights weeks in advance because it all got so complicated, about getting excited about buying furniture or upgrading the family car, about seeing the best bits of them in your children and knowing you made the right choice all those years ago.

And it became about making decisions that might not be best for the two of you, but are best for those little people – and knowing hand on heart, that those decisions were still right.

Love changes.

It isn’t always better – and there are arguments spat with sleep-deprived anger in the kitchen and glares shot across restaurant tables when one of you knew eating out with kids would be a bad idea .

It isn’t as pretty, or as spontaneous, or as passionate, or as exciting.

But it’s just right.

And if you’re lucky – if you’re very, very lucky – you still feel flutters of butterflies before they get home.



27th September 2017

Currently Loving – September 2017

So here’s my first ‘Currently Loving’ blog post-summer – and as usual, it blends companies that are in the UK and companies that in the UAE (with 8 of the picks available in both countries). I hope you enjoy reading it – and Ill be back next month with more things I have been buying, trying, loving, or coveting! See you then!

  1. EcoToys.ae (UAE)

I was so happy to hear about new toy store EcoToys.ae, which is the first toy distributor in the GCC committed to selling safe toys to kids, whilst also preserving the planet. Every toy is made from 100% natural hardwood (mainly beech and maple wood) sourced from sustainable, eco-friendly forests. They never use plastic or toxic paints, colorants, phosphates, or any other harmful substances – and the non-toxic water-based colours are perfectly safe and healthy for kids aged 0-6 years (even if they get sucked – and believe me, Mabel likes to suck a toy!) There’s tons to choose from at every different price point too. A wonderful new option for Dubai Mummies. Shop at www.ecotoys.ae

 

  1. Cath Kidston (UK and UAE)

I’ve fallen in love with the new Initial Mugs by Cath Kidston – and I’m planning on buying one for each member of the family. And at just £7.50 each, they are affordable too. Click here to buy on the UK website (or head in stores in the UAE, as they should arrive very soon!)

 

  1. HOTBUNZ (UK and UAE)

Regular readers will know I am a big fan of HOTBUNZ baby pants, which are made from the softest organic cotton. They have wide bands over the tummy, to stop them pinching baby bellies, and come in a range of beautiful colours and designs. In fact, this swan design (along with a stunning twinkle design in beige and black) are new to the collection and I am seriously coveting all three for Mabel! You can shop from anywhere in the world, with a flat rate $7 for shipping – and 10% off orders when you register on the site. Click here to shop

 

  1. Cissy Wears (UK)

While our worldly belongings sail across from the UAE (which will apparently take 6-8 weeks), I am dreaming about a new UK abode for my family and all the things that may fill it. This will be the first time Mabel has had her own bedroom – and I want the shelves filled with beautiful things. This bunny snow globe is top of my wishlist to pop on a shelf, at just £9.99. Click here to shop

 

  1. Love Roo (UK)

I have fallen head over heels for the bonnets and shoes made by the talented mum behind Love Roo – and I ordered a bunny bonnet for Mabel a few months ago thinking we’d be back in Dubai. Mabel looks adorable in it – and it really is beautifully made. Now that it’s getting chilly, I am coveting the fleece-lined range of bonnets, which includes this beautiful fox cub hat, plus a teddy bear version. Equally gorgeous for girls and boys, they cost £19,99 each and are made to order. Order yours here

 

  1. H&M (UK and UAE)

How adorable are these fur-lined slippers by H&M. They are available from the teeniest size 0 to kids size 5 – and they cost just £7.99 in the UK (click here to shop) and coming to stores in the UAE very soon.

 

  1. H&M Home (UK and UAE)

Another pick from H&M, but this time the home store, where these Christmas tree branch cushions have caught my eye. Such a stylish nod to the festive season, without being too full-on (in fact, I’d be tempted to keep them on the sofa all year). Just £6.99 in the UK (click here to shop) – and in Dubai stores a little closer to Christmas.

 

  1. Scamp & Dude (UK and UAE)

I can’t get enough of this fantastic UK-based brand (which ships overseas) for its stylish kids and adultwear. Wilfred has this cat sweatshirt and it looks simply adorable – and I am currently carrying out my laptop in this gorgeous leopard print canvas bag. I’ve got a pink leopard print sweatshirt on my Christmas list already. Click here to shop

 

  1. T-RQ Multi Vitamins (UAE).

I’ve always been a bit jealous of the kids and their gummy multivitamins, which is why I was very happy to get my hands on a bottle of Adult Gummy Multivitamins by the brand T-RQ (especially given my kids have been bringing colds, coughs, and sneezes home from school every day). I keep my bottle next to the kids to remind me to take them – and it’s reassuring to know that they are made with the highest quality ingredients. I’ll be telling you more about these vitamins over coming months – and you’ll soon be able to get your hands on bottles at most pharmacies across Dubai. Click here for more information

 

  1. Stuck on You (UK and UAE).

Let’s just say that individually sewing name stickers onto pairs of socks is not my thing – and that’s exactly why I am such a big fan of these name stickers by the company Stuck on You. You can stick them to the labels of clothes, onto pots and lunch boxes, and even into shoes. I’m so impressed with them, that I’ve ordered in bulk this year for all three children. Head over to www.stuckonyou.ae to order (UAE) or www.stuckonyou.uk (UK)

 

  1. Black & Beech (UK and UAE).

I’m proud to be a Mum – but I’m more than that too. And that’s why I love this “More than a Mum” pin badge by Black & Beech. I love the brand’s new ‘Mama Merch’ sweatshirts and tees too, which can all be shipped worldwide. Click here to shop.

 

  1. Charlotte Tilsbury (UK and UAE)

So I am going to start by saying that I know Charlotte Tilsbury Magic Cream Moisturiser is expensive – but I started my pot back in June and I don’t think I’m even half way through it, so it does last a long time (and I’ve used it every single morning). And let’s just say that if you are sleep deprived and looking for a little glow back in your life, this will give it to you. I will definitely be restocking when this pot runs out. It’s liquid, well cream, gold. Click here to shop.

 

 

Written in collaboration with EcoToys.ae, T-RQ, HOTBUNZ and Stuck on You.

 

 



17th September 2017

Dear Mabel, today is your first birthday…

Dear Mabel,

Your story started on a warm September day, a week after my due date. Just like your brothers, you were far too comfy to make your entrance on your own accord – but 15 hours after Daddy and I had walked through the hospital doors, you were screaming loudly in my arms.

I remember staring down at you on that hospital bed, taking in every inch of you. Here was the little girl I’d been trying to imagine all that time. Your button nose, chubby cheeks, and red bow lips. Your dark hair, dark eyelashes, and milky white skin. Not exactly how I’d imagined you – but so very perfect.

I lapped up those first few days in hospital. Just the two of us, quietly bonding in our room. Your brothers visited a few times and stared down at you with smiling eyes, barely able to fathom that they’d got the sister we promised.

We went home when you were two days old – but not before we had to swing by school to collect your eldest brother. And so began the life of a third child; always having to fit around your siblings, not even getting the honour of going home for the first time without your brother piling into the car seat next to you and talking nonsense the whole way home.

I knew that you were more than likely to be my last baby – and I didn’t want to rush it. So those first few weeks together were lazy. With Granny and Grandad there to help with your brothers, we spent a lot of time in bed. Feeding, cuddling, and sleeping – and then doing it all over again. I knew only too well how quickly it would pass. You’d wake up from your sleepiness, uncurl, and start to focus – and it’d happen in the blink of an eye. And when it happened – and of course it happened – I was ready.

I was ready to find out exactly who you were.

You were such a quiet little baby, watching the craziness of two older brothers around you with inquisitive eyes. You slept like a dream, rarely cried, and fed well. Everywhere we went, you came along too, without a single complaint.

I loved our family as a foursome – and when I was pregnant, I worried it was all going to change. And it did Mabel, but only for the better. You fit into our family so perfectly and neatly that we could hardly remember a time when you weren’t with us. We never even knew you were missing, but it all made sense as soon as you were here. Our final puzzle piece, the final pea in the pod. You were always meant to come along and complete us.

Yes, you were a quiet baby – but you eventually found your voice. And my goodness Mabel, you made sure that we heard it. You have become a gregarious, cheeky, determined little girl. Still so much calmer than your brothers ever were, rarely venturing too far from my feet, but intent on making your own mark. Intent on being your own person, with your own personality and your own demands, and not just the little sister!

Your determined little character saw you say your first words at 10 months and walk at 11 months. You are always in the shadow of your brothers, laughing with them, playing with them, and following them. Seeing your relationship and bond grow with them is one of the best feelings in the world.

A little girl born in Dubai, but now growing up in the English countryside – so much change in your life, but you couldn’t care less as long as you are with your family. Our cheerful, smiling, sweet, cuddly, gregarious, funny little girl with dimpled cheeks, big blue eyes, and strawberry blonde curls.

A year later, this September day isn’t nearly as warm – but we feel just as lucky to have you in our lives.

Happy birthday little girl.

We really do adore you.

Love from Mummy x

 



13th September 2017

Dear nomad children,

Dear nomad children,

It was only a few weeks ago that we told you we were going to stay in the UK. That your lives were changing forever. That you’d never head back to the bedroom you knew, nor the pool we visited every evening as the sun set, nor the school we all loved so much.

We waited until we were in the car, on the way to visit your new school for the first time. Daddy told you in the end, because my voice kept breaking as I spoke. His tone was animated and excited – and as I listened to him announce the news, tears welled in my eyes.

I always knew you’d find it hardest Stanley – and I wasn’t wrong. My sensitive little thinker, with such good friends in Dubai that you were so excited to return to. You were happy at first, exclaiming ‘We’re staying in the UK? Forever? We’re staying here forever?” When Daddy told you that was the case, you smiled broadly. But as the car wound down country roads, the sun flashing through the trees over our heads, I could tell your mind was whirring.

So we’re not going back to Dubai? What about my friends? I don’t want to stay here. I want to go back!

Oh we’ll still see them!” I managed to pipe up, as my heart shattered into a million pieces inside my chest. “We’ll be going out to see Daddy every school holiday. It’s just swapped round, so we’ll live in the UK but we’ll do our holidays in Dubai.”

You didn’t reply, deep in thought. But I could tell the faces of your friends were bright in your mind.

Wilfred, you were silent. You stared out the window as the fields and hedgerows flashed past.  “Are you excited, Wilfred?” I asked, twisting to look at you from the front of the car.

Yeah,” you said, without looking away from the window. I wondered what was going through your mind as you watched the countryside zoom past. I wondered if you were still too young to feel sad about it, whether you were imagining your bedroom in your mind, or your friends at nursery, or the fact that you were about to start school.

We didn’t say much more as we continued that journey. We were all deep in thought – half sad, half excited.  And throughout it all Mabel, you slept peacefully in your car seat, completely oblivious to the news that your life was about to take a completely different turn. That your sun hats and rompers would be packed away in boxes, replaced by knitted cardigans and tights. That your mornings being pushed along in the sunshine in your buggy would be replaced by strolls covered in blankets. That you’d no longer have to sit still while I smothered you in sun cream every morning and instead you’d have to learn to tolerate rain covers, waterproofs, hats and gloves.

Later that morning, we walked around your new school. We listened to stories about lessons deep in the forest. We imagined you climbing in the playground in the rain and the snow. We were told about nativity performances and trips to visit animals on farms. We were shown the swimming pool and I imagined you swimming in it in winter, shivering as you climbed out of the water.

Writing this letter to you today, it seems surreal that morning was only a matter of weeks away. And whilst I still feel pretty shell-shocked by the speed of it all, I could not be prouder of the way the three of you have adapted, accepted, and embraced your new life in the English countryside.

You have had your wobbles – of course you have – but you have walked into new classrooms with a bravery that has made me swell with pride. You have made new friends, played new games, and worn new uniforms – and you have taken it all in your stride. I know that you’ve found it hard at times, because we talk about how you feel every evening, but your courage never fails you the very next morning.

My little nomad children, it will always read ‘Dubai’ on your birth certificates – and I hope you always remember that life in the desert. I hope you remember the burnt orange dunes, the smell of jasmine in the air in our garden, the feeling of pink shells underneath your feet on the shore, the different nationalities that surrounded you in the classroom, and the comforting sound of the call of prayer in the afternoons.

I hope you remember all that.

It’s part of you.

It’s part of us.

But here comes the next chapter – and your courage, your adaptability, and the smiles that have rarely left your faces are just the beginning of the story.

And you have made me so proud.

Love Mummy x



8th September 2017

We’re coming home…

I remember the day that my boyfriend announced he had been offered a job in Dubai so clearly. It was a sunny evening in June 2009 – and I remember sitting there, listening to the excitement in his voice, and wondering whether he realised the world as we knew it was about to end.

In the end it was a mutual decision that he should take that job. Career wise and financially, he’d have been silly not to. And just a month later, it was time to say goodbye.

I’d had tickets booked for months to see Take That The Circus in concert at Wembley the night before he left – so I decided to still go with my sister and cousins. There was Mark, Gary, Howard and Jason dressed as clowns with their faces painted in their make-shift Big Top – and there was me sat amongst thousands in the crowd with a big lump in my throat, knowing that my world was going to change forever.

But as the boys sung out the lyrics to The Garden as the concert closed “This is the life we’ve been given. So open your mind and start living”, I made a vow to be brave and get on with it.

I haven’t been able to listen to that song or those lyrics without that same lump appearing in my throat ever since. But eight years down the line, I couldn’t be more thankful that I took that leap of faith and gave Dubai a chance.

And now here I am, as a mother of three, doing the move the other way round.

And honestly, this way is much harder.

Back then, my heart belonged in the UK. I was passionate about it. I’d have moved back to the UK at the drop of a hat, with a gigantic smile on my face. For the first few years, I hung a sign in my kitchen that read ‘When you are tired of London, you are tired of life’ – until we moved to a new apartment and I never unpacked it from the box.

My love for Dubai grew slowly, but steadily. I remember one trip home for summer in the early days when I was on a train back to Kent from London late at night. I picked up a magazine that was lying on the seat next to me and flicked through it, coming across a page with a full page glossy advert for holidays to Dubai. Real tears welled in my eyes I realised I felt homesick for a place I never even realised was home.

Over time, I built a home in that city. I grew three babies without ever having to step out of my summer maternity dresses and flip-flops, I decorated apartments and villas with framed pictures of desert dunes, and I filled my work days writing about what a fantastic place it was to bring up a young family.

And it was. It really was – and if I could’ve moved all my family and friends over to the desert and fixed the climate a little, I probably would’ve stayed there forever.

But forever isn’t happening – and we are now home to start a new life in the UK. Not all of us, admittedly – as that boyfriend who was packing his bags back in 2009 is now my husband. And he’ll still be based out there in the desert (for the meantime, at least), flying back and forth when he can.

We always intended to come home soon – but admittedly it happened much quicker than we had planned. As the summer ticked on, a few things made us realise that now was probably the best time. At the beginning of a new school term for Stanley – and before Wilfred had started full-time education and we ended up paying for a new villa contract without wanting to be there. There were hours of discussions, plenty of tears, moments of excitement, and a heavy dose of ‘what the hell have we done?’ as we signed the kids up to a new school. But with that, the deal was done.

On Sunday afternoon, we decided to take the boys for one last treat with their Daddy – before he packed his bags and flew back to Dubai. I had spotted that the circus was in town and hastily booked tickets to the afternoon performance. It didn’t even occur to me that we were going full circle, until I was sat in the audience watching those clowns in the Big Top.

Back to the circus, with a lump in my throat – waiting for my husband to head to Dubai.

All over again.

I know we are going to OK here in the UK, but it’s going to take some adjustment. I’ll miss my husband all the time he’s away, Ill miss my friends in the desert, I’ll miss our nanny who had become part of the family, and Ill miss the weather as it starts to cool down for winter. But seeing my children exploring the countryside, running around in the fresh air, getting to experience the seasons for the first time in their lives, to kick leaves, to feel snow fall on their noses, and to head over to their grandparents houses whenever they are missing them. This will make it all worthwhile.

And the rest? I have high hopes that it’ll fall into place.

After all, this isn’t the first time I’ve left a place that I love.

And this time, we’re coming home.



5th September 2017

Stanley tries: Reading Eggs

At 11 weeks, the summer holidays has been an extra long one for us – and oh my goodness, I’m so ready for both my boys to be out of the house for a while! But that applies to my eldest especially, because he’s always been academic and thrived into the classroom – and entertaining him at home has been really, really hard.

I’ve also worried that with such a long break, he will have forgotten pretty much everything he learnt in the last term – and without the time to sit down and read with him (with his siblings usually sat on my hip or clinging to my legs), I enthusiastically accepted an invitation to sign up for a trial of Reading Eggs.

So what is Reading Eggs?

Available for children to play on both a laptop and iPad, the programme is designed to teach young children essential early literacy skills in a fun and engaging way. Reading Eggs was developed by a team of primary teachers, with over 30 years experience, and is built on recognised learning principles and solid scientific research on how children most effectively learn.

I simply logged in for Stanley with my username and password (he preferred to play on my laptop as it’s usually totally forbidden!) and chose the programme for children aged 3-7 (there’s also a section for those aged 2-4 years and 7-13 years, along with a maths section for 3-9 year olds). Stanley then took it from there – and I’d occasionally lean over to find him flicking the pages of a book, playing puzzles with words, or (the best bit) dancing along to party music when he completed a level!

You can add more than one child to your trial too, which is a big bonus to those of us with younger or older siblings that fancy having a go too.

Did he enjoy it?

He loved every single second – and literally begged me most mornings this summer to have a go. I’m usually quite reluctant about handing over the iPad at home, but I didn’t mind him playing Reading Eggs at all as I knew how well respected the programme is and that it was really helping with his reading and literacy skills.

One element that I loved was that I got regular reports on his progress emailed through to me too – so even if I was busy with his siblings, washing up bottles, or trying to make a dent in the laundry pile while the baby slept, it meant I knew he was completing the stages. If I wanted more information, I just clicked the link so I could see the reading level he was working at too.

Do I recommend it?

Yes – definitely.

To be honest I didn’t really expect to be so impressed, thinking that it might kill a few hours over the summer so was worth the trial. But Stanley enjoyed it so much and I can see the progress he has made in black and white, meaning it’s a far better alternative to the YouTube Kids videos he’d probably be watching if he asked me for a bit of screen time. If you child enjoys playing on an iPad or clicking on a laptop, this is a very reassuring way to know that they are learning too. And with school back now (hurrah), it’s a great way to get them in the mood for learning again too.

Fancy a free trial? Reading Eggs are offering all of my readers a free 5-week trial by registering at this link – www.readingeggs.co.uk/mobam17/

 

 

In collaboration with Reading Eggs

 



18th August 2017

Spotlight on: Wild Folk Company…

Followers of my Facebook page will know that I am shining the spotlight on a number of small UK businesses while I am back in Blighty this August. It’s been so nice to connect with companies back on home soil for a while and I’ve discovered some real gems – and new startup Wild Folk is up there with my favourites…

The team behind Wild Folk are passionate about Textiles and Homewares. All their collections are exclusive to them and designed in house, with their signature Wild Folk Nursery Collection featuring gorgeous Animal Head Cushions (I am seriously coveting the Elephant for Mabel’s bedroom!), alongside a large choice of textiles, wallcoverings, and accessories.

I love the Wild Folk Pattern, which features in this nursery collection. The neutral colour palette would work really well in every nursery – and there’s a fab choice of cushions, wallpaper, mummy bags, baby sleeping bags, storage baskets, clocks, two-in-one cushion duvets (ideal for sleepovers or travel). And that’s not all, as cot bed and toddler bedding, curtains, and patchwork quilts will be coming soon!

With three little people at home, the Wild Folk Nursery Collection is top of my wish list – but there are lots of other collections that are extremely covetable too.

Take the Woodland Folk collection (pictured below), for example, which is inspired by Woodland (available in wallpaper, cushions and bedding sets). Spring Empress showcases beautiful artwork of flowers and wildlife (available in bedding sets and tote bags). Legacy Isle celebrates British wildlife in vibrant colours (available in cushions and tote bags). And Bijoux features vibrant designs embellished with jewels, crystals, and metal work (available in cushions).

As a dog lover, I also adore the Wild Folk Friendly Paws collection (available in cushions) (pictured below). I think they’d make great presents for fellow dog lovers! Heart & Soul features beloved places from around the world, with the first location features as Lancashire (where the company hail from). This collection will allow commissions for those that want something personal =- for hoteliers, for example (available in cushions, tea towels, tableware, accessories, and wallpaper). Finally Picture Perfect features landscape and nature photography, with a 3D element (available in cushions).

I love companies where you can see passion shine through collections – and this company stands out for exactly that. I can’t wait to throw a couple of Wild Folk Animal Head Cushions onto Stanley Wilfred and Mabel’s beds, alongside bed linen and accessories with that stunning print. And what could be better than supporting a new small business in the UK too?

If you love it as much as I do, you can make orders through their Facebook Page here!

In collaboration with Wild Folk Company



25th July 2017

It’s my life – and I’ll pick up my phone if I want to…

I’ve felt the pressure for a while now. People going on Instagram strikes, others blogging about the virtues of a digital detox, the constant reminders that too much screen time is bad for us, the rants about mothers picking up their phones in the park and ‘neglectfully’ ignoring their kids…

The pressure to put down my phone and ‘reconnect’ with the real world has been ever present in my mind for a while now, making me feel like a bit of a crap mother whenever I scroll through my Facebook feed or upload a photo to Instagram during their waking hours.

So this holiday, I had a plan.

I’d have a digital detox.

It would clear my mind, make me feel like a good mother again, and I’d come out the other side feeling much better for it. It would be the digital equivalent of heading to a strict Thai detox resort for a month – and whilst I wouldn’t have the skinny thighs that living on a liquid diet under palm trees would bring, I’d be glowing from the inside like the virtuous, digital-free, totally-present mother I’d become.

I couldn’t wait to feel smug about it.

But when I got here, holed up in this beautiful Umbrian villa for two weeks, do you know what?

I didn’t want to do it.

And the more I thought about it, the more I realised the pressure had got to me. I realised that I’d started to believe that those moments of ‘time out’ scrolling peacefully on my phone when the kids were happy playing, or scoffing their tea, or watching an episode of Peppa Pig made me a bad mother.

Other people’s opinions had got to me – because whilst I knew I wasn’t neglecting the trio at my feet, I couldn’t help feeling like I could be doing something more productive for their wellbeing. Perhaps preparing a craft activity or organising a drawer of clothes. Sitting lazily on the sofa with my phone felt nothing less than naughty – and if anyone had walked into the room unexpectedly, I’d probably have hastily dropped my phone behind a cushion and adjusted my face to a fake smile that said ‘oh look at the little darlings – I’ve been simply sitting here and watching them for hours!

But having given it all some thought out here on this Italian holiday, I have realised it’s all utter nonsense – because when you work a 24-hour shift as a mother (and some days, I really do attend to their needs every hour of the day and night), it’s OK to have some escapism. It’s OK to have a moment to connect with friends, to check what is happening in the world  – or even, god forbid, play a bit of candy crush on your phone.

I’m pretty sure mothers throughout history have had moments of escapism, well before the days of social media. Reading papers, picking up the phone to give Aunt Susie a call while the kids play, watching an episode of Neighbours during nap time, getting stuck into another chapter of that Jilly Cooper novel while their kids ate dinner, or having a good old chin wag with friends over coffee at play dates. There have always been ways to zone out and get through the day – but I bet none attracted the wrath of the sisterhood quite like a mother scrolling on her phone.

So now back to my holiday – and the very nature of two weeks in the sunshine means that I’ve looked at my phone 80% less than I usually do, but I’ve enjoyed those rare moments of solitude. Having a browse when I’m sat in the passenger seat of the car, lying next to Mabel at nap time in a cool, air-conditioned room and picking up my phone for a while, or scrolling through pictures and videos with a glass of wine every evening before dinner and sending to family and friends.

It’s not cool to admit that your hobby is scrolling through social media on your phone, but I am going to say it.

I enjoy it. It helps me to escape for a while. It keeps me in touch with friends. And sometimes it’s the only thing keeping me sane when there is play dough all over the floor, untouched dinners on the kitchen bench, and a baby refusing to sleep unless I’m lying alongside her.

And I’m not going to bow to pressure to stop.

After all, it’s my life – and I’ll pick up my phone and scroll through social media if I want to.