30th June 2016

Our flight back to the UK (booked with Air Miles Middle East)

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 10.55.57We made it! We are currently in the UK with two small boys – and we have 5 weeks ahead to enjoy cooler weather, rainy days, family fun, and reunions with friends! We’ve literally been counting down the days since there was about 30 sleeps, so it feels like it’s been a long time coming, but we are really enjoying being back in Blighty…

So how did we book that flight? A while ago, I told you about how my family was saving with Air Miles Middle East so that our biannual flights home. You can read the post here if you didn’t catch it. Well after saving thousands of dirhams by simply shopping where we usually do, we have now taken that flight – and I just wanted to tell you about how easy it was to book and travel.

Booking

Once we had collected all the miles we could, we simply logged onto the Air Miles Middle East website and browsed for flights on the days we wanted. Every flight qualifies – so it’s not like we had to scrawl through lots of flights until we found one that allowed us to redeem miles. A little like booking on an airline website or somewhere like Expedia.com, you get a run down of the flights available and what they cost in miles – and when you have chosen the one you want, you simply click ‘Select Departure’.

You need a minimum of 30,000 Air Miles in your account to book a flight – and if you don’t have enough to cover the full cost of your flight (which we didn’t), the online system will work out what you need to pay in cash to make it up. Simples.

On the day that we booked, the online system was having a hitch – so I rang up and we did it all on the phone. This is always an option if you prefer talking to a human!

Within 30 minutes of booking the flight, I received confirmation from Air Miles Middle East and got an email from British Airways too, with our booking reference. From that point onwards, I did everything online on the British Airways website – it was as simple as if I’d booked directly on their site.

The Flight

Let’s be honest; flying with children is never as easy as those blissful, easy days of flitting across the globe with just a small rollalong case as company (in hindsight, of course, as it never felt too easy at the time).

But it was a really smooth flight, the boys behaved impeccably, and we were seriously impressed with both British Airways and Air Miles Middle East.

If you are interested in our journey, check out my latest Vlog here.

To find out more about Air Miles Middle East, visit www.airmilesme.com



27th June 2016

Vlog – Hello UK!

This week’s vlog is a shorter one – and it’s all about heading back to the green, green grass of home!

Music:

I Won’t Cry by Monarques
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Mon…
Needle Drop Co. - http://www.needledrop.co/artists/mona…

Sandbox Jingle by Scott Holmes
http://www.freemusicarchive.org/music…
http://www.facebook.com/ScottHolmesMusic

Airline: British Airways - http://www.britishairways.com/travel/…



18th June 2016

A letter to my husband, on the eve of Father’s Day…

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 16.28.40Right from the beginning, it was all about me.

I could feel the waves of nausea in the early days, the kicks under my ribs, the bouncing on my bladder in the middle of the night.

For you, it was just about watching my tummy grow, staring at grainy scan pictures stuck to the fridge, and occasionally raising your eyebrows in shock when I announced how many weeks there were to go.

And then it was time to go to hospital, driving me in the middle of the night to be induced, feeling helpless when the contractions took hold, holding my hands while an epidural was inserted, and then running around the ward trying to find a midwife when nausea ripped through my body near the end.

You felt just as scared, just as daunted, just as helpless as I did.

But when they came, every eye in the room was on me, rather than the man stood by my side.

And when he was born, he was given to me first. After all, I had carried him for 9 long months and I had just birthed him for 12 long hours.  But as I glanced into your eyes as I held him for the first time, I could see the reality of the moment was finally dawning on you. Tears pricked your eyes as you stared at the human we had made.

And finally, I passed him to you – and as you pulled this tiny, wriggling human to your chest, a smile spread across your face.

That was the moment that you became a Daddy.

That was the moment that it became about you too – 4 years ago in that hospital room, with the sun streaming through the window, our music playlist filling the room, and feelings of disbelief, relief, and pure happiness coursing through our veins.

That was the moment that you became a Daddy.

So much has happened since that day 4 years ago. Another baby joined us – just as beautiful, but without the disbelief. We were already parents and we moved through the baby stage with a newfound confidence, knowing how to change nappies, how to sterilise, and what to do when his little body was wracked with sobs.

And now we are waiting for a third baby; a little girl – and I have no fear. I know you will stand next to that hospital bed, no matter how the birth pans out. I know you will be my rock. And I know that when we get home, we will make it work. We always do. We always make it work, together.

And since the day in that hospital room, life has changed. On the surface, it may seem like it’s still all about me – as I am the one at home with the kids, I am the one picking them up from school, I am the one cooking their tea and often putting them down to bed on my own. But that just isn’t true.

You are such an important part of our world. You are our provider – but it’s so much more than that.

So much more.

You are the one that makes us smile, the one that protects us, the one that arrives home to a house full of smiles every evening, the one that our world revolves around every weekend. The boys echo you in so many ways – their mannerisms, their funny little sayings, even the way they sleep on their side and snore every night. As much as they are like me, they are like you too.

You have made me proud in so many ways; not always the perfect husband (as I am not the perfect wife) – but without exception, always the perfect Daddy.

In a world where not every child has the privilege, I know we are lucky to have you.

So lucky.

And on Father’s Day, I want you to know that.

Because at the beginning, it was all about me.

But that changed the very moment you became a Daddy.



Vlog Week 2 – Turtles, Lobsters and Water Fights

Here’s my second Vlog!

After the fun of last weekend in the desert, this is what real life looks like for us in Dubai!

Credits:

Tuesday:
Sheraton JBR – http://www.sheratonjumeirahbeach.com/
Swimming Lessons by Ultra Sports Solutions UAE – http://www.ultrasportsuae.com/

Wednesday:
Dinner at Bystro, off Al Thanya Street – http://bystrodubai.com/

Thursday:
Turtle Release at Burj al Arab – https://www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/dubai/burj-al-arab/

Friday:
Cinema at VOX, Mall of the Emirates – http://uae.voxcinemas.com
Dinner at Lobster and Burger DIFC – http://www.burgerandlobster.com/

We now only have 3 sleeps until we fly back to the UK for 5 weeks, so next week will all be about flying and arriving home! I’ll vlog again then!



15th June 2016

5 of the best ways to save money in Dubai…

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 09.26.21There’s an assumption to those outside the UAE that expats living here are stinking rich – but when it comes to my family, I can assure you that after we’ve paid our rent, school and nursery fees, and done a few weekly shops, we certainly aren’t driving around in a gold-plated rolls or dining in Dubai’s version of The Ivy every night. We have to save money wherever we can, which is why I’ve become quite savvy at finding ways to stretch the cash.

Here’s my list of ways to do it – and if you have  ideas, I’d love you to list them in the comments!

1. Air Miles Middle East. I told you about this company in a recent blog post here – and I genuinely think it’s one of the best ways for families in the city to save money. To put it simply, you download the app (search “Air Miles ME” in the UAE store or click here), collect miles when you shop in certain places, and then use those miles to pay for things. We build ours up to help pay for biannual or annual flights home (we saved thousands this summer), but you could use them for grocery shopping, cinema trips, staycations, family dinners and much more. It’s easy to build them up if you regularly shop in participating outlets, such as Spinneys, The Toy Store, and Booking.com – and if you have a HSBC Credit Card, you can get double the points every time you use it at those outlets. Have a browse at www.airmilesme.com for all the info.

2. Guzzle App. If you enjoy the odd night out, but don’t generally have the funds – let me share a little secret… Download an app called “Guzzle” for free – and you will have access to a plethora of 2-for-1 drinks offers around the city. No need to pay for a package – all you have to do is download and register. Then click redeem when you want to save on a number of offers, such as ‘2 for 1 glasses or bottle of grape’, ‘2 for 1 bottle of hops’, and ‘2 for 1 mixed drinks’. Venues include the likes of Mahiki, Belgian Beer Café, The Balcony Bar, The Gramercy and much more.

3. Baby Bazaar.  Most of us have heard about this bi-monthly baby and kids market, where other parents sell their unwanted items – but have you attended yet? Everything costs money in Dubai – and inflated prices in Dubai stores have made the whole ‘buying for number three’ process a little daunting. I’ve considered dressing her head-to-foot in her brother’s outfits (and she will definitely wear a large chunk of it), but I do want a few girly things too. Step forward Baby Bazaar, where you can shop until you drop at a fraction of the price of the shops. And as a Mummy myself, I know that babies wear outfits very few times before they move up a size – so most of my buys are nearly new. Details here.

4. Free Play Areas. The absolute best way to save money on entertaining your kids during the hot summer months is to “like” every Facebook page for play areas in the city to keep in the loop when they run promotional free play sessions for kids and tots. For example, Kids HQ in Umm Suqeim (where Stanley recently had a brilliant 4th birthday party, see here) runs a free play session every Sunday between 11am and 3pm (call 04 379 4233 for details). There are also a number of indoor play areas in the city that offer completely free access, including IKEA Festival City; a small area for tots in Hamleys, The Dubai Mall; Pan Emirates on Umm Suqeim Street; Elevation Burger on Al Wasl; and Fat Burger on Beach Road. And don’t forget the free fun to be had in malls – we love visiting The Dubai Mall for a cheap morning of entertainment – a visit to DubaiDino, gazing at the fish in The Dubai Aquarium, watching the skaters at Dubai Ice Rink, and finishing with a frozen yoghurt. The boys feel like they’ve had a brilliant morning out and it cost us no more than 50 AED.

5. Shop the sales. This sounds obvious, but simply timing when you make big purchases can save you hundreds (if not thousands) of dirhams. For example, if you need to make a big purchase now (such as furniture), you should wait a few weeks, when the DSS festival kicks off (Dubai Summer Surprises). Taking place every year, this 43 day festival promises huge savings in almost every store in the city – and this year it’s taking place between 9th July to 20th August (details here). If you don’t need it right now, wait! There will be some huge savings announced soon! Meanwhile if you need a new car (like my family, with a third baby, gulp), now is an excellent time to buy with all the Ramadan offers on. You’ll find a round-up of deals here. Being savvy is the best way to shop in the UAE – there are savings to be made, but you just need to know when to be patient.



12th June 2016

Vlog 1 – My first ever Mum of Boys Video Vlog!

I’ve been meaning to start vlogging for a while – and with this weekend planned at a hotel in the desert, I thought it may be the perfect time. I’m primarily making these videos as memories for my family – but if you enjoy them, I’ll keep sharing!

So please subscribe to my channel – mumofboysblog – and let me know what you think in the comments!

Credits: Hotel, Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Ras Al Khaimah -www.banyantree.com



9th June 2016

The best club in Dubai! Why we love our Privilee Membership

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 22.05.55If you follow me on social media, you will have seen me raving about the club Privilee. Every weekend. Without fail…

So I thought it was time to write a post explaining how it works and telling you a bit more about why we love it!

Privilee is a membership club where you get access to 12 luxury beach clubs across Dubai, alongside gyms, spas, and tennis and squash courts. Plus, the card gets you great discounts in restaurants and bars in most venues, free or discounted entry to kids clubs, and the option to buy temporary weekly memberships when you have visitors in town.

So how does it work? You simply sign up, pay a monthly charge, and flash your card when you fancy a beach or pool day. It’s as easy as that.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 22.06.14

And the best bit is that each adult member can take in up to three kids, making it the ideal club for families in Dubai to join to entertain the kids every weekend!

There is a limit per venue on numbers of Privilee members allowed to enter every day – but we have been members for three months now and never been turned away.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 22.06.55

And when I say luxury beach clubs, I do mean luxury. Venues you can visit include Le Royal Meridien (our favourite!) , Westin, Le Meridien, Riva, Conrad, Fairmont The Palm, Double Tree Jumeirah Beach Residence, Habtoor, Grand Hyatt, Shangri-La Sheikh Zayed Road, Sofitel Palm Jumeirah, and Waldorf Palm Jumeirah.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 22.07.30

It’s amazing to be able to walk into a 5* hotel and have full access for the whole day without having to part with any cash. You do pay a membership fee, of course, but it’s great value – much cheaper than paying for daily access (and to be honest, much cheaper than paying for the kids to get into soft play, visit aquariums, or even trek round the malls with demanding small people in tow!

We usually visit Le Royal Meridien as it’s close to home, but we’ve had great days at the other beach clubs too. Grand Hyatt gets a special mention for kids too – with two brilliant water slides through the rocks for bigger kids (my 4 year old loves it) and a splash play area and mini slide for tots.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 22.05.13

Privilee membership costs 499 AED per month when paying annually or 599 AED per month when paying monthly. Each adult can take up to 3 kids in with them (up to aged 15). For more information or to join Privilee, visit www.privilee.ae



4th June 2016

Tonight, I am exhausted…

e871fec77c32f2fd6c4ca32089e88071I like to think I have a fair bit of energy as a mother. And a good chunk of patience too. It’s the only way when you have two small boys in the house.

But tonight readers, I am exhausted.

I’m exhausted of being on my feet all day, as I have a two-year old that can get into trouble within a second of taking my eyes off him.

I’m exhausted of disturbed nights, as my ever-growing bump means I have a bladder the size of a pea. And of not being able to fall asleep again for hours afterwards, battling with sciatica, heartburn and a snoring husband.

I’m exhausted of being woken up again at 6am every single day to the sound of my oldest son dragging his duvet into our bed. And then my alarm going off 15 minutes later during the week, reminding me of the painfully early start times of schools in Dubai.

I’m exhausted of the school drop-off and pick-up in 40’C. And of my two-year old refusing to walk. And of him falling asleep before we get home, so he’s a dead weight to lift. And then having a 4-year old bouncing around the house every lunchtime when all I want him to do is nap.

I’m exhausted with work. With the emails, the meetings, the deadlines, the phone calls, and of the chasing money at the other end.

I’m exhausted of trying to work out what to cook the boys every night. And of standing in the kitchen lovingly cooking it, before they pick through it, screw up their faces, and demand something sweet instead.

I’m exhausted of the grocery shopping, making sure that the fridge is always stocked with what we need for packed lunches the next day. And opening lunch boxes the very next afternoon to discover half of it left inside.

I’m exhausted of bath times, of bedtimes, and of threatening to shut bedroom doors to keep them quiet so that they fall asleep. And of the clock ticking round to ‘late’ every night, before I’m even had a chance to enjoy the peace and quiet.

I’m exhausted of planning my life around flights, trips back to the UK, slotting people into a ever-complicated calendar, around school terms, around nursery holidays, around due dates, around visitor timetables.

I’m just exhausted.

So exhausted.

And I’m not telling you this tonight for sympathy, as I definitely don’t want or deserve that. I couldn’t be happier with my lot and I wouldn’t swap for the world.

I am telling you this because I think it’s important to be honest. Because despite the smiley Instagram photos in the sun, the blog posts about gratitude, the reviews of exciting things I have done, places I have been, and things I have tried, I have moments when I want to curl up in my bed and hide away from the world.

Hide away from life.

Just like every parent.

And so tonight, I am going to run a hot bath, paint on a face mask, watch my bump jump around in the bubbles, and climb into my pyjamas for an early night with my pregnancy pillow.

And tomorrow, I will be OK again.

I will be OK.

Just like always.



2nd June 2016

The afternoon that my two-year-old taught me a lesson…

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 11.41.41I rarely get a chance to sit down when I am with the boys.

If I’m not building train tracks, I’m picking up escaped peas from the floor, or trying to stop a small child from drawing over his brother’s school uniform with a red pen.

The boys are mostly old enough to amuse themselves in the afternoons now – either doing something together or playing on their own. It means I can head into the kitchen and cook them something for dinner without a child attached to my leg. It means I can tidy up toys or rearrange books in the bookshelf. It means I can run a bath without the contents of the toy box being thrown inside. I guess it gives me the excuse to be even busier.

But usually, at around 5.30pm, I finally get a chance to plonk down on the sofa with a cup of coffee while they eat their tea.

And invariably, a thought pops into my head. Maybe I should check my emails. Or check on my social media pages. Or respond to a message from a friend. Or book a haircut for the boys. Or arrange a play date for next week.

My mind is always busy, wondering how I can milk every second for all its worth.

One afternoon last week, I was doing exactly that; tapping away on my laptop while the boys tucked into a bowl of chicken noodles. Responding to something important that I didn’t feel could wait. Occasionally taking a swig of coffee or glancing up to check that the boys weren’t picking the vegetables out of their noodles.

Wilfred finished and got up from the table. He took a book from his bookshelf and walked over to me on the sofa. As he snuggled into me, I kissed him on the head, but continued tapping away.

“No Mummy,” he said. “Read dis book.”

He pushed my laptop away with his chubby hand. But mid email, my instinct was to pull it straight back onto my lap and continue tapping away.

“One minute, baby,” I replied. “Mummy is nearly done.”

“NO MUMMY!” he cried. “READ DIS BOOK TO WIFFED!”

I turned to him to repeat my plea for a few more minutes, but his big, pleading eyes quickly gave me second thoughts. I didn’t need to send that email that very second. I could press save, shut the laptop, and give him the time he craved.

So I did it.

And half way through ‘Never Tickle a Tiger”, with my smallest baby happily listening and giggling away, it occurred to me how precious this time was. How much more rewarding it was than sending that email. And that even though it was Wilfred who asked for the story, it was me that was enjoying the moment most.

In just three months, he won’t be my smallest baby anymore. I will have a newborn attached to me feeding and he will suddenly be fighting with two siblings for my attention.

His pot belly won’t seem to babyish anymore. His thighs less chunky. His cute baby talk will suddenly seem so grown up. His nappies will look like they are designed for a giant. I will have even less time for cuddles with my bigger babies – and they will seem even more precious.

It took a two-year old to teach me a lesson that afternoon.

All Mums are busy – but sometimes we have to pause, sit still, and simply soak up our children.

After all, I’m not going to remember that there were escaped peas on the floor or that I had to save an email mid-tap in years to come. Or that I forgot to book a haircut or pick up a book from the living room floor.

But I will always remember that cuddle.

I will always remember the cuddles when they were small.



31st May 2016

If there were Facebook groups for small children…

11295567_842409605795469_213738139259765631_nWilfred: Worried about my Mummy’s face. Not sure whether it’s a rash or something, but it doesn’t look right.
Jacob: Tell her to go to hospital
Thomas: Lots going round.
Betsy: Have you got a photo?
Wilfred: She won’t stay still long enough. I think it’s spreading.
Jacob: Don’t want to worry you, but she should go to hospital.
Primrose: You’re trusting a bunch of babies on the internet for opinions? See a doctor!
Wilfred: Panic over. It was chocolate.

Stanley: Bike. Blue. 50p. Pick up today.
Delilah: Do you have one in pink?
Eddie: I’ll give you 2p?
Joey: Sent a PM
Rosie: Next in line please.
Eddie: Will you take my 2p?
Joey: Did you get my PM?
Stanley: Not for sale anymore. In trouble. Belongs to my brother.

Wilfred: Anyone want my dog?
Emily: What colour is it?
Primrose: This is terrible. You can’t give away your dog!
Frankie: How much?
Wilfred: I will swap it for a cat.
Primrose: You are a bad person!
Emily: Is it pink?
Wilfred: Can make it pink. Do you have a cat?
Primrose: Reporting you to admin.

Stanley: Does anyone know a small boy with yellow hair that lives near here?
Jessica: Why?
Rupert: My hair is yellow. Why?
Stanley: He stole my spade in the play area earlier and I want to tell his Mummy.
Jessica: Same thing happened to me last week. Sent a PM.
Betsy: Have you got a photo?
Jacob: This is bad. Put up posters.
Lily: Going tomorrow. Will look for him.
Wilfred: Thanks.
Rupert: Sorry don’t know him.

Wilfred: What age did they take your dummy?
Emily: Still got it.
Honey: Never had one! So bad for you! You’ll never talk properly! You’ll be stupid!
Emily: Not true. I can count to 10.
Wilfred: Not true. I know 6 colours.

Stanley: Helper needed. 20p an hour. Needs experience with Playdoh.
Rosie: Interested. More details please.
Jonny: Sent a PM.
Emily: I am good with Playdoh. Let me know please. Need pocket money.
Stanley: Thank you for all the messages. Especially interested to hear from anyone that knows how to get blue Playdoh out of a white rug.
Jonny: Ignore my PM. Thanks.

Wilfred: Anyone tried Baby Jogger City Select?
Felicia: Yes. Recommended. Comfy.
Thomas: Tried it. Prefer Bugaboo Bee.
Honey: Baby carriers are so much better for you!
Eddie: You can try mine tomorrow. I’ll push.
Emily: Like it, but doesn’t come in pink.
Wilfred: Anyone selling?
Eddie: Maybe.
Wilfred: How much?
Eddie: Can I have your dog?