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.



3rd July 2017

Eight years ago today, my boyfriend left

I waved him goodbye, walked up the stairs, and sobbed big heavy tears into my pillow.

We were 26 and 28 years old then – and we had been living in Blackheath in London with our 10-month old puppy. Our weekends consisted of walking across the heath to the farmer’s market with our dog on a lead, stocking up on food from the various stalls, nipping into the village store for the papers on our way home, and then sitting in front of a roaring fire as the hours passed slowly and lazily. In the evenings, we travelled into London and met friends, laughing, chatting, and drinking wine and cocktails early into the next morning.

We were happy – and I was sure my soul belonged in London.

But he worked in finance – and with the ‘credit crunch’ paralysing the financial industries in the UK, we both decided it was a sensible decision to accept a job he had been offered in Dubai.

It was a mutual decision – and in hindsight, it was the right decision. But I still felt like the world had been ripped out from under my feet on that warm July day back in 2009.

He told me he would give it 6 months and we’d see where we were. I moved in with my parents – furniture in the top of their garage, dog running a-mock in their house, and clothes crumpled in several suitcases. I flew out to Dubai to visit him every other month – and he returned the favour on the ones in between. That six months passed slowly and difficultly – but he didn’t return. I forgave him when he proposed on a sunny day in Greenwich Park with the sparkliest diamond and a view over London that will forever be etched in my mind.

That 6 months turned into 18 months – and we got married on a December day, with our beloved London blanketed in snow. And as January ticked around, I packed those belongings in a suitcase once again, kissed goodbye to our dog on my parent’s doorstep with tears pricking my eyes, and made my own way to Dubai to begin our life as husband and wife.

That was 6 and a half years ago now – and 3 kids and 6 homes later, we are still here.

I often think about our life in London – and my heart aches. But I don’t think it’s aching for ‘home’ – I think it’s aching for the simplicity of life before kids, when my skin was glowing with the benefits of regular sleep, when friends answered pleas to meet up within minutes, and the buzz of London living perked me up far quicker than a mug of strong coffee.

I adored that city and I adored that life – and if you had told me that I’d be living in the Middle East as a mother-of-three in eight years time, I’d have laughed until I was on the floor, then thrown a bowl of cold water over your head to sober you up.

I never had wanderlust. I never travelled the world after I finished university. I never wanted to live anywhere else in the world. Each to their own, but the idea of being an expat just wasn’t appealing to me – so I am as surprised as anyone that I am still here in the desert, bringing up my kids in a 45’C eternal summer and barely stepping out of my flip-flops in nearly a decade.

But I don’t regret the move we made for a second – and whilst my love from London has never waned, my love for Dubai has grown strongly and steadily alongside it as the years have passed. The city that embraced me as I grew three children in my belly, that has given me friends as close as family, that has offered us opportunity after opportunity, and that truly is ‘home’.

The pang in my heart I feel for the London skyline is still there – but now I feel the same for burnt orange desert dunes, for palm trees swaying the breeze, for silver skyscrapers jutting into a flawless blue sky, for starfish and pale pink shells on the shore, for the smell of jasmine in the air on a warm evening, for the sound of crickets when I head outside to my car. And for the people, every colour and every nationality, living shoulder-to-shoulder alongside us. Two cities and two homes.

Eight years ago today, my boyfriend left.

And I will never regret letting him go.



26th June 2017

Currently Loving… June 2017

So here we are in June… I am the mother of a 9-month-old baby girl crawling around the house, a 3-year-old little boy who has finished nursery and about to start school, and a 5-year-old little boy who has graduated from Foundation stage and is soon to start Primary School. It’s nuts – where has the time gone exactly?! And throughout all these changes, life has been as busy as usual, which gives me lots of opportunity to tell you what we have been doing, seeing, eating and buying… I’ll probably pause these round-ups until after summer now (as I fancy a bit of break, just like everyone) – so have a wonderful summer and I promise to be back on schedule in September…

1 – Zipadeedoodah Babies – I love sleepsuits for babies and use them for years as pyjamas – but one thing I do not love is dealing with the poppers! It can take me a good 10 minutes to get Mabel in an outfit with poppers as she’s such a wriggler – so imagine my delight when I discovered the amazing UK-based company Zipadeedoodah Babies, which make the most perfect zip-up baby grows. Each babygrow is only £11.99 each – and they do up in a matter of seconds, fit so perfectly, and feel so beautifully soft. But that’s not all, as this company have a real heart too. In fact, if you buy a baby grow from the company, a portion of money will be donated to feeding a family of six in the poorest parts of South Africa. Watch out for pictures of Mabel wearing her Zipadeedoodah baby grow soon – and in the meantime, get ordering with the code NewBabies01 to snap up 10% off the already very affordable price tag! Shop here (shipping available worldwide).

2 – Done by Deer. I have fallen head over heels for this cool Scandinavian brand for kids – and pretty much want everything they make, as it’s so much more stylish than the brightly coloured plates and cutlery I’ve had for years! I started my collection with the elephant place mats, which I love so much I’ve decided they live permanently on the table and I’ll be adding to it soon! I purchased from UAE store Giggles & Dimples. Shop here.

3 – My Unicorn Life – I discovered this UK-based company through the UAE blog Stella & The Stars – and needing some new prints for the walls of my new villa, I quickly clicked online to have a look. I was amazed by the prices (starting at £4) and quickly ordered three different large prints for my walls. I used my Shop & Ship account, but they do ship all over the world. There is everything from beautiful photography, to gorgeous illustrations, to motivational quotes – and delivery is super fast too. Visit website here.

4 – James and the Amazing Gift by Nicola J. Rowley. I’ve really enjoyed reading this book to the boys over the past few weeks. With beautiful illustrations and a wonderful story about a little boy who only has to smile to brighten up the lady of an old lady he meets at the garden centre, I think it’s got a lovely message too. If you’re looking for an addition to your book shelf for the kiddie , this is a really lovely choice.  Shop at Amazon here.

5 – Elli Junior. Talking of Scandinavian brands, lots of people have asked where I got the bibs for Mabel that she has been wearing every meal time – and the answer is via the company Elli Junior here in Dubai, who distribute Swedish brands in the UAE. I love these bibs as they not only look gorgeous, but the big frills around her neck mean that food never, ever reaches her clothing – and when you have a little girl determined to feed herself exactly what her brothers are eating, that’s a godsend! Shop here .

6 – ClevaMama. I’m using the Apron Towel by ClevaMama every night at Mabel’s bath time and it’s one of my very best buys for her! Not only does it keep me dry while she splashes her way through her bath (and I’ve had to have full changes in the past as she’s totally drowned me) – but it means I can stay dry while scooping her out of the bath too. And once you have them cuddled up to you, simply fold the towel up, hook it over their head, and they are snug and warm too. It’s one of those things that you wonder ‘how did I ever cope without this?’ and can be used from their very first newborn bath, right up to the toddler years. Shop here.

7 – H&M. We’re getting ready for our summer trip back to the UK –and then onto Italy for a two-week holiday, so I am doing my usual shop before we fly for everything we need for the next few months. I usually head straight over to H&M as I love the choice, the affordability and the style – and these swimming shorts have definitely caught my attention for the boys. At only £7.99 (and available in UAE stores too), I don’t think I can go wrong. Shop here.

8 – ALLEGRO Baby & Child. As soon as I spotted the beautiful range of shoes for little girls and boys at UAE-company ALLEGRO Baby & Child, I knew I had to have them for Mabel. The range of pretty shoes in the softest leather are so perfectly for little feet, with a range of styles that are classic, stylish, and very, very beautiful. I went for the silver ballet pumps (called Lily) and the baby pink Mary Janes (called Poppy) – and I know it’s going to be an addiction as she grows and takes to her feet! I warn you – one look and you’ll want the lot! Shop here.

9 – Kiddiewinkles. My boys needed some new bed linen recently so I ordered from the UK online store Kiddiewinkles – and wow, what arrived is very, very lovely indeed! I went . quality is beautiful. I also added the Bedside Pocket Organiser for both the boys to my online basket – and this has gone down really well. The boys love storing their torches, books and bottles of water in their organisers – and with them knowing exactly where things are, it’s made my life easier too! Highly recommended! Shop here.

10 – Jumeirah Beach Hotel – If you are looking for a staycation hotel in Dubai for the coming summer months, look no further than Jumeirah Beach Hotel. We had an amazing weekend there last weekend (see my vlog here) – and because of the ongoing renovation work at the hotel, there are some seriously good rates to be had over coming months for UAE Residents (see details here). I highly recommend a visit – even though we were so close to home for the weekend, I really felt like I’d escaped normal life and it was such a tonic. Definitely my new favourite staycation hotel! Visit website here.

 



13th June 2017

On the subject of sharing photos of my children online…

19190877_10158867362955607_782359639_nIt happened this morning. I had five minutes to sit down on the sofa with a mug of coffee before the school drop – and I clicked onto Instagram to have a scroll. The fact that I was browsing social media while my kids watched a cartoon before school will have the judgy mums spluttering into their homemade oatmeal – but bear with me, because I’m only just getting started.

Because then I noticed something that stopped me in my tracks. A post from a fellow writer  here in the UAE telling other mothers why she never shows photos of her children on social media. I won’t be sharing the name of the writer, nor the website as this isn’t supposed to be a ‘name and shame’ – but I will say that the piece was titled “I know where your children are and what they are up to.” Woah. But it certainly made me click, which I guess was the intention.

So I did click – and I started reading. Apparently by sharing photos of my children online, I preventing them from living ‘virtually freely’. I won’t go into the rest of the article, but it follows a very similar tone. And the line that really threw me was: “You may choose otherwise and there is nothing wrong with that as long as you are fully aware of the consequences.”

And that’s the bit that made me stop in my tracks.

Because we are the very first generation of mothers that has raised children in the world of social media. It didn’t happen when I was a child in the 80’s, nor when my parents were growing up in the 60’s. It wasn’t something that my grandparents or my parents had to worry about.

A little like deciding how your baby will be fed, whether you use a dummy or not, how you will discipline, whether you will allow screen time, where your kids will go to nursery or go to school (and the list goes on), choosing whether we share the faces of our children online is now a decision that every parent has to make for themselves.

And the truth is that nobody knows the consequences of choosing to share our children online. Nobody has ever stepped down these virtual cobblestones before.

We are all feeling our way in parenting as best we can – I’m a true believer that there are very few ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers – and criticising or scaring those that choose a different path is only going to make other mothers feel incredibly judged and filled with self-doubt. And I don’t think this is remotely helpful

But I digress.

So why do I share photos of my children online? For me it isn’t a blogging thing, as I only started this blog when my second child came into the world – and his brother had already been starring on my social media accounts for two years. For me, social media is a way of sharing my life with the world. And if my children didn’t feature, it honestly wouldn’t be my world. It would be an edited version.

And I’m not the only person that chooses to share their children online. Millions of other parents choose to do it too – mothers and fathers around the world, bloggers, photographers, celebrities, politicians, even royalty. I personally take steps to protect my children, such as never revealing their schools, nurseries, where we live, or the location of our regular activities. That makes me feel more comfortable with my decision – but I wouldn’t dream of judging anyone who didn’t follow the same steps.

Of course I have had moments when I’ve wondered ‘is this the right thing to do?” –  but for me, that moment of doubt is what makes me a mother. I had the same thoughts about breastfeeding, the same thoughts about giving my child a dummy, when choosing a car seat or a stroller, when wondering whether it was too early for my child to start school. We are natural born worriers – and I think that’s pretty much the definition of motherhood.

I am pretty sure that when my children are older and they look back at their life through the pictures and videos I have shared online, they are going to realise I made the decision purely through my love for them. I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to judge me for not being able to live ‘virtually freely’ (whatever that means).

And if you choose not to share your children online? I absolutely, wholeheartedly, enthusiastically respect you for that decision. Your life, your children, your decision.

There is no manual for motherhood, after all.



12th June 2017

A day in the life of Mum of Boys & Mabel…

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5.30am – Stanley comes rushing into our bedroom and plonks himself on the end of our bed, saying ‘is it time to go downstairs?’ That’s enough to wake up Mabel, who sleeps in a cot alongside our bed. She starts moaning, because she’s still tired, but eventually rolls over, claps eyes on her big brother, and lets out a shriek of happiness. The day has begun.

6am – Wilfred joins his brother and sister on the bed and we manage to keep them there with the help of books, toys and cartoons on the TV. By 6.30am, we’ve all had enough and my husband heads downstairs with the kids.

6.30am – I shower, while my husband and our nanny start doing breakfast, packed lunches, and getting the boys ready for school. He makes coffee and brings it up to me. At 7.15am, we swap and he goes upstairs for a shower, while I take over downstairs.

7.45am – It’s time to head to school – 30 minutes later than usual, because it’s Ramadan and that means later school hours. We wave goodbye to Mabel, who is staying at home with her nanny for the morning – I usually work from home so I am at least around her as I work, but I have a meeting at Stanley’s school this morning, which means there isn’t time to head home if I want to get any work done. Luckily, the traffic isn’t too bad today. We drop Wilfred at nursery first, then I drop my husband at the metro, and head onto school to drop Stanley. The temperature is already 36’C at 8.30am.

8.45am – After dropping Stanley into his classroom, I head for a meeting in the school hall for parents of children moving up to Year 1 in September. We have the chance to wander around the classrooms, see current Year 1’s taking part in activities, and then listen to a chat about the transition in the school hall. The children look so much older and taller than Stanley and I ponder that for a while, imagining him amongst them in a year’s time. It definitely all goes too quickly, this parenting malarkey.

9.45am – I head back to the car and wince as I climb in, with 40’C hitting me in the face. I crank the AC up to high and head onto Sheikh Zayed Road.

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10.15am – I’d usually work in a café near to school if I was working out for the morning, but it’s Ramadan so most cafes are closed. Instead, I drive a bit further to the Lakes to work in a restaurant called Reform (who are serving food behind frosted windows). I order poached eggs on toast, a cappuccino and an apple juice. I check my emails, respond to a few messages from companies here in Dubai, and start preparing a Facebook and Instagram post for Small & Mighty Babies. This support group are putting together memory boxes for parents going through neonatal death, stillbirth, or miscarriage – and need people to crochet hoods to go inside the boxes. After saving and editing the image to size, I write the text and press enter to upload. An email pings into my inbox within minutes from the founder of the organisation thanking me and saying that she’s already had two messages from families in need, which is great to hear.

10.45am – It’s now time to turn my attention to my freelance writing (‘The Day Job’ as I like to call it). Today I’m working on a beauty feature for an online magazine here in Dubai – and I need a botanical expert to provide a quote. I fire off a few emails in the hope of someone coming back to me – and within a few minutes, one has responded. We discuss over email what I need and the deadline for her quotes. I get started on the copy, between sips of cappuccino. I get up to 800 words (of a 1,500 feature) before it’s time to head back to the car (yuck – it’s hot again) and drive to school for pick-up.

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12.45pm – Back to Stanley’s classroom in 39’C to collect him. I wait outside, urging him to be quick collecting his bags before I melt into a puddle on the floor. We head back to the car, then drive around the corner to nursery – and then we do it all over again. This time I have to get two boys in the car, both who have demands and requests that ensure their mother is a big hot mess by the time I manage to climb inside. Five minutes into the journey home, they both fall asleep.

1.30pm – We arrive home, with both boys still asleep in the back of the car. I pause for a few minutes in the drive to let them sleep for a little bit longer, enjoying a moment of peace. I check my email inbox, see that I have some important blog emails to respond to, and check all my social media account to see whether I need to respond to any comments or messages. After 10 minutes, I shut off the engine, wake up the boys, and head inside.

1.45pm – I make the boys a snack each and sit at my desk to reply to the emails. I manage to get 15 minutes of work done while the boys munch, before I hear Mabel waking up from her nap on the monitor.

2pm – I head upstairs to get Mabel – and as soon as she sees me at the door, she breaks into a ginormous grin. As we walk down the stairs, she shrieks – she always does this and I think it’s her way of saying ‘BROTHERS! I’M COMING! I’M ON MY WAY!” We spend the next few hours together in the lounge. Mabel crawls around investigating everything, the boys play with playdough, colour in their colouring books, and have scraps with pillows (of course). This is my time with the kids and I spend time on the floor playing with Mabel or helping the boys get toys. My nanny is done with childcare for the day, so she moves onto tidying, sorting laundry, or cleaning – this is something I will never take for granted, as it means I can dedicate my time entirely to the kids.

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4.30pm – The boys are full of energy and getting on my nerves, so I throw them outside to play as the sun starts to cool. We don’t spend every afternoon at home – we often head for play dates or go to soft play in the summer, but on a Sunday it tends to be a little more relaxed as they’re all tired from the weekend. As I’m putting their dinner on the table, my husband walks through the door. He’s arriving home earlier than usual as it’s Ramadan – he’d usually make it home just before the boys get to bed at 7pm.

5pm – It’s dinner time and the kids sit up at the table to eat sausages, mashed potato and peas. Mabel is having toast fingers, cheese slices, and strawberries, along with a shop-bought apple puree. They all sit together eating (interrupted by both boys needing the toilet, both boys saying they don’t want their dinner, and Mabel throwing most of her dinner on the floor).

5.30pm – I run a bath for the all the kids. My husband sits by the bath and washes all their hair, while I gather together all the pyjamas on our bed next door. I realise we have no nappies left – so jump in the car and pull up at our community supermarket to buy them. But when I get to the checkout, I realise my purse is still sat at home on the side. As I climb back into my boiling hot car, I want to cry – but I hold it together. 5 minutes later, I get home – and my husband offers to head back to the supermarket to pay for the shopping.

6.30pm – Mabel is asleep in her cot – and the boys are in their pyjamas. I throw down a bowl of pasta waiting in the fridge and kiss the boys goodnight. I am so busy with work at the moment that I am heading out to work for the evening. My husband will put the boys to bed – and I’ll sit in a coffee shop and write a blog post and make some serious headway on my freelance beauty feature. Despite being freelance, I definitely work full-time hours – but I choose to be with the kids in the afternoon, which means I have to sacrifice my evenings. I work at least 6 evenings a week, usually on the sofa – but when work is really intensive, heading out to work means I am less distracted. Tonight is one of those nights where I have to focus. So I climb back in the car.

7pm – I make it to Costa, order a coffee, and open my laptop. I start typing and the hours run away. Occasionally I check my emails or reply to a message on WhatsApp. I also regularly check my social media accounts for comments or messages to reply to.

9.45pm – I get a message from my husband to say Mabel is unsettled and he is heading upstairs with a bottle. It’s not like her to be so unsettled this early in the evening (she usually saves that for 3am) so I decide work is done for the night and head back to the car.

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9.53pm – I get home, check the calendar for tomorrow on the fridge, and realise Wilfred isn’t going to nursery tomorrow so I only need to get one packed lunch ready. Just as I’m about to start getting everything ready for his lunch, Mabel starts crying again. My husband takes over, as I run upstairs.

11pm – Mabel is still awake – and I’ve given up trying to get her back to sleep. We’re on the bed together, with the light on, playing with books and toys. It’s really unlike her so I think it must be teething. My eyes are bleary with tiredness – so when my husband comes to bed, he agrees to swap sides and try and settle her back in her cot as I get some sleep. I think she drops off around midnight – but I’m not entirely sure, because I’m asleep by that point, dreaming of packed lunch boxes, Year 1 classrooms, ethical beauty features, and future blog posts. And by 5.30am, the day will start all over again…