20th February 2017

We test: Anti Grabbity Balcony Safety Strips

16831632_10158303930435607_303171762_nWhat’s our biggest priority as parents? Our children’s safety, of course – and that’s why living on the 21st floor with an accessible balcony has been a big worry for me for the past 5 years. In fact, I was so terrified that the boys would somehow topple over the balcony, that I completely blocked it off – quite literally, with a large plank of wood that made it impossible to slide open the door. The door stayed locked and they simply weren’t allowed out there, which meant we never got to enjoy the balcony either – and whilst that was well worth it for peace of mind, I often wondered if there was another way.

And in November last year, I found it.

Let me introduce Anti Grabbity; a prickly, textured strip that fits along the top of your balcony railing to prevent hands from grabbing hold.

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Totally ingenious.

After ordering the strips and receiving them to my door a week or so later (the company use a courier company), I tested them by trying to put my whole weight on them. It’s pretty much impossible – it doesn’t hurt when you touch them lightly (so no little hands will be damaged if they reach up to investigate), but they will dig painfully into hands if any weight is applied, meaning they would find it very, very hard to heave themselves up. This – as you can imagine – is very, very reassuring.

For so many families in Dubai living in apartments, they offer the perfect solution to making a balcony safe. The transparent strips are virtually invisible to the eye, meaning your view is never obstructed and the aesthetics of the building aren’t altered – yet the ingenious spikey design will mean little people stay firmly behind the rails.

In fact, the strips are so effective that the company recommend them to hotels too, to prevent accidents on balconies, and to cruise liners, to prevent anyone going overboard – and also recommend them for use inside the home, placing on the top of chest of drawers to prevent little climbers. Now I’m living in a villa, I have quite a dangerous shelf that the boys could climb on over the stairs, so I am going to put a strip on there to stop them pulling themselves up.

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The strips come in three types – curved, semi-curved, and flat, so they will work on any type balcony. And the clever inter-locking design means it will fit any size of balcony (you simply measure the length before ordering) and fixed by either ties (if you have space under the rail to loop it through) or through glue dots (if there is no space underneath). When you receive the strips, instructions to affix them onto the balcony are included – and it’s very, very easy.

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Balconies terrify me – and whilst the boys still weren’t allowed out on the balcony without me, having these strips gave me peace of mind that if they did work out how to open the door to get out there, they wouldn’t come to harm.  And wow – you really can’t put a price on that.

Special Offer – Free Delivery to the UAE for a limited time, for orders over $100.

Head to www.antigrabbity.com to buy online (prices are in Australian Dollars, with prices starting at just $19.95 (about 56 AED).



15th February 2017

Dear Mabel. Time is passing so quickly…

16780004_10158275668270607_337425883_nDear Mabel,

Time is passing so quickly.

I was lying in a hospital bed one moment, running on pure adrenaline with the most delicious newborn curled on my chest. And the next? I am listening to you shriek with laughter, watching you roll over, and communicating with kisses, songs, tickles, and smiles.

You have changed – but caught up in a fog of sleeplessness, endless nappy changes, and everyday life, I just didn’t notice.

Until that is, I was queuing at the supermarket check-out this morning and somebody sneezed in front of me – and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a newborn baby jump out of his skin in his pram.  The kind of jolt where the baby’s entire body moves, before their fingers twitch in shock. “Ah look”, I thought, “Another newborn!”

I made eye contact with the mother and smiled, glancing down at you in your pram as if to say ‘Look! Me too!’ But as my eyes met you – now 4 months old and dribbling as you chewed your own foot – the truth hit me like a ton of bricks. Because you aren’t a newborn anymore.

You no longer jump out of your skin at loud noises. You no longer curl on my chest and sleep peacefully between feeds. You no longer gaze at me with cross eyes as you try to focus. And devastatingly, I can’t even remember the last time I breathed in the scent of your skin and smelt that familiar, milky newborn scent.

Time has passed – and you are a baby now.

A wonderful little baby.

A baby that has started to burrow into me with the sweetest shyness when you don’t know the person you are meeting. A baby that adores her brothers, giggling at the funny dances and songs they perform just for you. A baby that rewards us with long chunks of sleep through the night, but enjoys sqwarking loudly at the crack of dawn to wake everyone up in the house. A baby is that is becoming a little girl.

You are wonderful – but you are not a newborn any more.

And today, I realised that.

I am not sad about you growing up –  how could I be? But this morning’s supermarket sneeze was a stark reminder that time is set to fast-forward. Because as a Mummy of three, I know that I will blink and you will suddenly be a little girl, ready to go to school, asking 300 questions a minute, and getting to grips with the joy of phonics (oh lord, I have just realised I am going to have to deal with phonics three times over…) And when that happens, I know I will look at pictures of you as a 4-month old and wish I could go back for just one cuddle.

So Mabel, you may not jump at loud noises anymore – but you are still so very little.

And I fully intend to slow down and soak up every second.

Mummy x



14th February 2017

My Top 10 Travel Essentials – an entry for the Mark Warner Holidays Family Ambassador Scheme

I don’t usually enter blogger competitions, but when I found out about the Mark Warner Holiday Ambassador programme today, my ears pricked up. Let me explain… The company are going to pick 5 bloggers to work with in 2017 – and the winners will get to pick a sunshine or snow holiday to review. Yep, snow. The white stuff my boys have never seen, but so desperately want to. So I decided I would enter and hope for the best.

The first part of the entry process is to create a mood board with my Top 10 Travel Essentials – and as I’ve been meaning to do this for my blog for a long time, I thought you may all enjoy it too. I’ve not gone for swimsuits and wide-brimmed hats (as for us, these things are part of day-to-day life) but I’ve gone for the things that make the actual travelling bit easier. The flights, the car journeys, the waiting around – essentially, the tough bits of traveling. And as a mum who has flown 30 long-haul flights with her kids since becoming a mother 4 and a half years ago, I talk from experience. These things work.

So here goes; my top 10 travel essentials – and please keep your fingers and toes crossed that my boys may eventually get to see snow thanks to Mark Warner (eek!)

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1. Ergo Baby Carrier. I love this carrier, as the weight is taken around your hips (making it much easier to carry heavier babies and toddlers). I couldn’t fly without it – and it comes in very handy for getting around on holiday too, for those times when a buggy just won’t work (and I am imagining a bundled up Mabel in the snow here!) £89.90 at Amazon – shop here

2. YoYo Stroller. This stroller collapses down to overhead locker size with one flick of the wrist. We take it on every flight – and I have used for it for entire summers back in the UK as my only buggy, so it’s pretty efficient when you reach your destination too. It’s not cheap, but Ive had mine for over three years and used it nearly daily – and it’s still going strong, so I recommend it as an investment if you travel a lot. £402 at Smallable – shop here

3. Griffin Headphones. As soon as my boys get onto the flight, I hand over their headphones and they plug them into the inflight entertainment system (if there is one) or their iPads (if there isn’t). These earphones are designed to protect little ears – and the fun design encourages the littlest travellers to wear them. £13.37 at Amazon – shop here

4. iPad. We limit use of iPads at home – but on days we are flying, they have free reign. I make sure that I download lots of educational apps and a few of their favourite TV shows before we fly – and  we have kiddie-safe covers too, just in case they get dropped. Case is £12.99 at Amazon – shop here.

5. Snacks. You can never have too many snacks! And I really mean that, as kids have a tendency to mistake boredom for hunger, so I get asked roughly every three minutes throughout a flight. Having healthy things to hand over like raisins, apples, and dried fruit means that hungry tummies can be kept full and happy when meals are missed or messed up due to time differences too. Oh and if you are flying, sugar-free lollies are great for handing over to little ones just before take off, with the sucking stopping their little ears from popping as you take to the skies

6. Wipes. From plane meals dropped down jumpers, to sticky snacks making sticky hands, to toilet stops when there is no loo roll, I would never travel without plenty of baby wipes stashed in my hand luggage. You simply never know when you are going to need them (and believe me, you always do).

7. Activity Books. I always throw a few sticker and activities books in for the journey – and it usually keeps my 4-year old busy for at least an hour. They are an inexpensive way to pull out a new treat from my bag when they are getting bored – and being lightweight, they are great for stashing in suitcases for the holiday itself too.

8. Spare Clothes. In 30 flights, I have been caught out without spare clothes once – and Stanley had to wear an airplane blanket as a sarong for the rest of the flight (oh the shame). I have never made the mistake again since, as I always make sure I have at least one set of spare clothes per child to make sure we are covered in terms of accidents and mess making. If you have a small baby, it pays to take a spare outfit for yourself too – after all, nappies explode and babies vomit – and it’ll be a miserable journey if you are the chosen one.

9. Spare Nappies. On that note, having far more nappies than you need is a very good idea. Stanley once pooed 4 times on a single flight as a baby (I think it’s something to do with the change in pressure, but I wasn’t impressed). Nappies are lightweight, so stash them in every spare inch of hand luggage space just in case.

10. Cuddly Toys. Finally, I always let each of the kids take their favourite cuddly toy along for the journey. This does mean you need to have your wits about you (leaving their precious comforter on an airplane isn’t the ideal start to a holiday) but it also means they are far more likely to be relaxed on the journey, sleep on route, and feel settled as soon as you arrive. I always pack a few identical ‘spares’ in the main luggage just in case disaster happens – and (touch wood), I’ve only ever left a comforter on a flight once and he was too young to notice the swap.

So there are my top 10 essentials for travelling with little ones – and I hope it comes in really handy for the next time you head away with the family.  For more information on Mark Warner Holidays, visit www.markwarner.co.uk 



12th February 2017

Currently Loving – February 2017

Time for another ‘Currently Loving’ post – with things I have coveting, trying, or enjoying this month…

Currently Loving

1) Scamp & Dude. Top of my wish-list this month is new clothing Scamp & Dude. Not only are the clothes totally gorgeous (I have my eyes on several T-Shirts for the boys), but the collection has a fantastic story behind it too. Scamp & Dude was created by Jo Tutchener-Sharp, a former Fashion and Beauty PR, who saw her life change forever in October 2015 when she suffered a brain haemorrhage. She had to leave her children for a lengthy stay in hospital to undergo life-threatening brain surgery – and it was this moment that inspired Jo to create a brand that helps children feel more secure when apart from their loved ones. From something dark came something light – and Scamp & Dude is the result. Shop here (UK company; ships worldwide).

2) Talking Tables. I’m not really into Valentines Day – but if I was going to celebrate, this ‘Love Balloon’ by Talking Tables (available at ASOS) would be top of my wish list. The balloons would look great hung above the table for a romantic dinner – but would look equally good the next day (and weeks that follow, as they last an impressively long time). And the best bit? It only costs £5. There is also a ‘Happy Birthday’ balloon, which makes a really fun alternative to birthday banners. Shop here (UK company; ships worldwide) #aff

3) Little West Street. I recently discovered this beautiful company, which now ships (for free) to the UAE – and after ordering a few bits for Mabel and her new room, these alphabet cushions are next on my shopping list. I’d love an S, W, and M to pop on each of their beds. And if you are in the UK reading this, the good news is that the company ship to the UK too! $25 dollars each. Shop here. (US company; ships worldwide)

4) Greenheart UAE. I ordered from this UAE company for the first time this week and received a box of amazing organic vegetables to my door. The quality of the vegetables is like I have never seen before in the UAE – and after using the vegetables in meals every evening since, I can vouch for the fact that they taste amazing too. I’m constantly hearing good things about this UAE farm – and the truth is that it’s worth all the buzz and more. Shop here (UAE company; delivery to UAE).

5) ‘Inhale & Exhale’ Prints. We moved house last week and so my mind is on home decor – and I have just ordered these prints by company Lovely Decor at Amazon.co.uk. When they arrive, I’m going to take them to Satwa to get them framed (I’m thinking thin gold frames like these pictured). I can find life at home with two crazy boys stressful at times – and these will remind me to find my zen and take some deep breathes when things hot up. From £13.99. Shop here (UK company; ships worldwide). #aff

6) Fairy Platinum Dishwasher Tablets. It’s not usually my style to recommend household cleaning products (zzzz) but I was sent these dishwasher tablets this week and I’m impressed. The package arrived with an invitation to order a lasagna from a Dubai restaurant – and when I ordered, it arrived in a large glass dish (with instructions to pop the finished dish in the dishwasher with one of these tablets). I didn’t make any attempt to wash it before plonking it in the dishwasher – and in the morning, it was sparkling clean. Not a single mark. It was a clever marketing stunt to show how well the tablets work – and I honestly wouldn’t be bothering to tell you about them if I hadn’t been  impressed. Available at supermarkets (UK and UAE).

7) Boden. I always dress my boys in rash vests when we go to the beach as we all have such fair skin – but with so many beautiful little girly swimsuits in the shops, I’ve been so tempted to buy them for Mabel instead. Then I spotted this gorgeous floral rash vest and knickers set at Boden, which will keep her protected without having to sacrifice on the cute factor. I like it so much, I think I’m going to buy it a few different sizes. £25. Shop here (UK company; ships worldwide) #aff

8) Maluco World. I fell in love with the beautiful wooden toys at Dubai company Maluco world at first sight – especially the pastel pretty kitchens, which I’ve snapped up for Mabel’s new bedroom (not that she’s in it yet. I also have my eye on the doll’s buggies, doll’s houses, and gorgeous cloud and star cushions. Worth a look if you like your toys both traditional and well-made. Shop here (UAE company; delivers UAE).

9) Zara Kids. There are some gorgeous things at Zara Kids in the new season collection, including these beautiful unisex dungarees. Seriously tempted for Mabel (I’d team them with a pretty floral vest underneath) – but I’d definitely have dressed the boys in them too. £14.99 / 99 AED Shop here (UK and UAE stores)

10) Transguard Living. We moved house last week, which can be a stressful affair – but discovering the new app by Transguard Living has definitely eased the pressure. You download the app from The App Store or Google Play and then choose ‘Fix’ ‘Clean’ or ‘Move’ to book a service. ‘Fix’ includes services including air conditioning repair or service, appliance installation, handyman, painting and plumbing repair. ‘Clean’ includes regular home cleaning services, deep cleaning services, and window cleaning. And if you choose ‘Move’, a representative will get in touch to discuss your booking with a moving team. Booking a service takes a matter of seconds via the app – and the prices are very competitive (a handyman starts at 140 AED per hour, for example). Best of all, however, I can personally verify that the team are incredibly professional and reliable – and we know how valuable that is in a city like Dubai. I highly recommend downloading the app for whenever you need some help at home (services are available 24 hours a day, which means you’ll never be wondering what to do about  a leak in the middle of the night again). For more information, www.transguardliving.com or 800 845.

 

 



9th February 2017

On My Wishlist: Pumpuli Baby-proofing Magnetic Lock Set

16683289_10158247864445607_451898443_nMabel has learnt to roll – and whilst I know it’s still a while until she’s bombing around the house like her brothers, the step from lying flat on her back when I pop her down to being somewhere else when I return is enough of a reminder about what is to come.

Her brothers were quite good at home as toddlers, but there were always quite inquisitive about the kitchen cupboard. I bought packs of  ‘baby proofing’ sets, but they could still break into the cupboards. I remember fixing one triumphantly one day, before Stanley crawled straight in and yanked it open again. They were ugly, annoying when I needed to get inside, and really not that efficient. So when Wilfred was a baby, we just didn’t bother as we’d already rearranged the cupboards.

And now I have a matter of months before Mabel is into those cupboards soon – and with he boys past the age of exploring, we’ve got a bit complacent with breakables in easy-to-reach places. This is why I absolutely love the sound of Pumpuli Magnetic Lock Sets. Basically, baby proofing has got clever – and they are definitely on my wish-list to make sure she stays out of our kitchen cupboards.

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And here’s why I love the sound of them:

1) They are easy to install. Being a bit of a DIY-phobe, I love the idea that you simply affix the adhesive to the drawers or cupboard – no drilling or holes required.

2) They are very strong. The company promises that the locks will keep even the most curious children out and away from harm. You hear that Stanley? We needed this when you were a baby.

3) There is an off switch. I vividly remember how annoying it was when I wanted to get into a cupboard and I forgot the clasps were on there – so the fact you can instantly change them to unlocked when you want to get inside is a big plus point.

4) They are invisible. Praise be – a big bonus after the ugly white locks that I’ve used in the past.

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So where did the idea come from for Pumpuli Magnetic Lock Sets? Ali and Anko – founders of Pumpuli – and originally from Finland, and the idea for the company was born from the unique approach to family care in the country. The duo seeks out clever products that will ensure a healthy environment for children to grow – and the first is this ingenious baby proofing solution.

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Pumpuli Magnetic Lock Sets are £19.99 each and include 4 locks, 4 catches, 2 keys and 2 key holders. They can be used on cupboards and drawers up to 25mm thick. 

For more information or to buy online, visit www.pumpuli.co.uk

 In collaboration with Pumpuli 



7th February 2017

5 reasons why we loved Global Village (especially during Kid Fest!)

16522865_10158235139285607_1586586341_nI’ve lived in Dubai for 6 years now – but I’ve never set foot inside Global Village. I’m not the only one either, as a quick survey amongst my friends revealed that very few had ever visited. So yesterday, after being told about Kids Fest (which is running every day at Global Village until 25th February), I thought I’d bite the bullet and head over with the boys – and after the best afternoon in a very long time, I just wish we’d done it earlier.

We arrived at 4pm, which is the time the park opens, and stayed until 7pm. This gave us plenty of time to wander around the different areas, watch several shows, enjoy lots of the kid’s activities, and eat their pick of food for their dinner – and we got to watch the sun set (which is amazing by the way – the sky is so beautiful!) If your kids are a little older (or better at staying up past their bedtime), the kid’s events continue until past 9pm. We visited on a week day and it was fairy quiet. I was worried about it being too busy and losing the boys, but it really wasn’t. It was very manageable on my own with two boys and a buggy. It’s a huge place with lots of open spaces, so it has to get very busy before you notice the crowds.

So what is Global Village? Put simply, it’s an entertainment park built around a large central courtyard, with each country from around the world (or a good proportion of them) having their own pavilion to sell traditional goods, food and drink. There are also central stages to watch shows, an area filled with fairground rides for thrill seekers, and plenty of street vendors selling food and drink. And during February, Global Village are running Kid Fest – which means you get all of the above, with the addition of regular kid’s entertainment and activities to keep them busy and happy throughout your visit.

So here goes; here are the five reasons why we loved Global Village… And now is the perfect time to head down!

1. There is lots happening for Kid Fest!

Kids would enjoy a visit to Global Village at any time, but with ‘Kids Fest’ running at the park until 25th February, it’s even more fun. All the extra activities are free of charge, including face painters, balloon benders, meet and greets with ‘Angry Birds’, a brilliant bouncy castle assault course (Stanley’s favourite thing about the afternoon), interactive dance sessions, and plenty of different shows throughout the afternoon and evening to keep them entertained.

Then you have all the kid-friendly things that are always at Global Village – dancing fountains, toddler play areas, a little train ride (Wilfred’s favourite thing about the afternoon), and the shows on the main stage (my boys were stood open-mouthed in amazement at the circus show!)

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2. It’s really cheap to get in 

Global Village costs 15 AED for entry (free for children under 3). I think that makes it one of the cheapest things you can do with the kids in this city – and well worth it for a few hours of fun.

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3. The food is amazing

I loved the street with all the vendors – it was like we were walking through a variety of different cities throughout the world. You can opt for fast food instead if that is your thing (there is an area with eateries like KFC), but we wanted to walk down this street and take our pick from what was on offer. Boys chose German Jumbo Hot Dogs With Fries – and I chose a delicious Canadian Lobster Roll. We sat down by the canal with dhows sailing past and ate it as the sun set. It was a really lovely setting and the boys felt like they were having a treat. It’s all very cheap too – their meals came to 50 AED in total, while my lobster roll was 30 AED.

There are lots of fun things on offer for drinks and snacks too – make sure you head into Afghanistan, where a vendor will make pomegranate juice fresh as you wait. And if you like cotton candy, you must visit the China pavilion. A very skilled man will weave pastel coloured cotton candy into the most beautiful flowers and heart shapes. I had trouble trying not to snatch it out of the boy’s hands.

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4. The shopping is amazing

Walk into any of the pavilions and you will find stores selling authentic items from those countries. My highlight was Africa, where I found an array of the most beautiful weaved baskets and bags. I snapped up a giant woven beach bag with leather handles for 70 AED (and I probably could’ve haggled lower, but I’m rubbish at bargaining) and a multi-coloured fruit bowl for 20 AED. I need to go back soon, as I have my eye on all the baskets for my new home (literally a fraction of the price I’d find them elsewhere in Dubai). I am also tempted by the pots of pure Shea Butter that a lady rubbed into my hand (I walked away but regretted it later).

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5. Kids get a chance to see the world (without the airfare!)

But I think one of my favourite things about Global Village is the fact you have all these different cultures mixing together and having fun – and the kids can discover about new countries too. Stanley and I had lots of conversations about the different countries we were visiting, their National Dress (as there are plenty of people in national dress milling about the pavilions offering photo opportunities), what kind of food the people ate, the music they listened to, and even their climates (he asked why Afghanistan sold fur coats, for example, which led up to conversations about how cold it can get).

Obviously nothing can beat jumping on a plane and showing your children the world – but failing that, I really recommend heading to Global Village. We will definitely be heading back soon!

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Kids Fest runs until February 25th. Entry Tickets to Global Village include access to the Kids Fest activities. Global Village is open from 4pm-12am Saturday-Wednesday and 4pm-1am Thursday-Friday and on Public Holidays until the 8th of April 2017. Mondays are family days at Global Village. Visit http://globalvillage.ae/en/

In collaboration with Global Village

 

 



30th January 2017

How my boy pregnancies differed to my girl pregnancy…

GIRL BOY PREGNANCIESI want to start this blog post by saying that there is absolutely no scientific reasoning in what I am about to say… It’s just a comparison of how my personal pregnancies differed – and it might be fun to read if you are trying to guess the sex of your baby or have had different girl/boy bumps too. But if your pregnancy is completely different to mine and it turns out to be the other sex, please don’t blame me… So here goes. This is how my pregnancies differed when I was expecting two little boys and a little girl…

The Early Days

Stanley and Wilfred - With Stanley, I had no sickness at all. Not a jot. I don’t know how I managed to escape it, but I felt amazing from the day I found out I was pregnant. With Wilfred a few years later, I did experience some mild nausea (enough to prompt me to buy some ginger teabags for first thing in the morning) – but by about 10 weeks, it had completely disappeared. I think the nausea I did feel was down to tiredness more than anything (with an active toddler on my hands) and it never lasted for more than 10/20 minutes a day.

Mabel - Bleurrrghhhhhh! I was never physically sick with her, but I pretty much felt sick from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed. And when 12 weeks arrived, I really thought I’d get some relief – but no, it continued until nearly 20 weeks. By that point, I had so many food aversions – and most of those things I still can’t think about without feeling very queasy (I can’t even look at raw ginger, for example, which I chucked into a smoothie one morning thinking it would pick me up – and then felt the most sick of my entire pregnancy).

Cravings

Stanley and Wilfred - The saltier, the better! Marmite toast was my breakfast of choice. I also seriously craved burgers, chips and pretty much any fried food. I felt so unhealthy sat there chomping on packs of chips in food courts when every other pregnant woman around me seems to be treating their bodies as temples – but I needed it. I had no interest in sweet food at all. Savoury all the way.

Mabel - Sweet, sweet, sweet! Crunchy nut cornflakes for breakfast, platters of fresh fruit (especially mango and juicy apple) as snacks, chocolate, pick n mix sweets, stodgy sweet desserts like sticky toffee pudding and custard… I lived for the sweet stuff… In fact, I’m still craving sweet stuff 4 months after her birth (I’m blaming the breastfeeding…)

Feeling the babies

Stanley and Wilfred - Both very, very active – always wiggling around, jabbing at my ribs, and performing somersaults that made my tummy completely contort. And in the early days when I used to find their heartbeats on a home Doppler, they were always on the lower right hand side – always in exactly the same spot – in fact, that spot became so familiar that I can find it in a second with my finger even now.

Mabel - Much quieter, right from the beginning. I felt her later and she just wasn’t as active throughout pregnancy – I still had lots of movement, which occurred regularly throughout the day, but she definitely felt calmer from the beginning. And the home Doppler? She was always on the other side to the boys, meaning it took me ages to find her at the beginning. She was on the left lower side, exactly opposite where the boys had been. I don’t know if this is a total coincidence, but it was my first clue that she may be a girl.

The Bumps

Stanley and Wilfred - Both pretty neat and at the front – people would always comment that it was very definitely ‘a boy bump’.

Mabel - Actually pretty similar in shape – but much bigger, right from the beginning. However, I think this is down to it being a third pregnancy and the fact she was much bigger (born at 9Ib 8oz).

The third trimester

Stanley and Wilfred - I didn’t really struggle with either of the boys in the later stages, apart from the obvious aches and pains that you get towards the end. I had no Braxton hicks with Stanley – and only very mild ones with Wilfred. However, I think both of these factors are down to them being a first and second pregnancy, with the gender playing no part.

Mabel - I had so many Braxton hicks that I felt like I was in labour for a good month before she was finally evicted. People said to me ‘It’s girls! They do this!’ but I’m sure it’s down to her being a third baby too. And I really, really struggled – I felt sick again, I ached everywhere, and I felt like she was going to fall out at any second. Because she was a girl? I doubt it, but it was very different to my first two pregnancies.



26th January 2017

Is it time for us to get a dog?

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 16.21.13We have a dog in the UK – and the boys love her. In fact, since our holiday home at Christmas, Stanley has mentioned his dog Lily about 30 times a day. He’s even woken up crying her name and has taken to bringing a fluffy dog that closely resembles Lily to bed every night. We miss her too – so this is all a bit heartbreaking.

And next week, we move to a house with a garden – and whenever I mention to the boys that they are getting their very own garden at last, Stanley replies “So now we can get a dog?” I’d love to say yes – especially as there are so many dogs here in Dubai in shelters needing homes, but there are so many other things for us to consider. So when is the right time? And what questions do we need to ask first?

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How much will the dog cost?

It isn’t going to be cheap to add a fluffy family member to our brood – and with mouths to feed, and school fees to pay, and rent to conjur up, we probably don’t need the extra financial commitment. In fact, a recent study conducted by Voucherbox revealed that a dog can cost over £15,000 over a lifetime (that’s nearly 70,000 AED if you are reading this in Dubai). Wowsers. And that doesn’t even count the cost of getting the dog in the first place either (which is nothing if you rehome, of course), but just the day to day cost of food, snacks, bedding, toys, collars, tags, insurance and vet treatments… The list goes on.

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Who will walk the dog?

I keep telling Stanley that somebody has to walk the dog – and whilst he enthusiastically volunteers, obviously we aren’t going to allow a 4-year-old to head off on his own, which means one of us will be waking that dog at least twice a day too. As if we didn’t have enough to do already. And when the weather heats up in Dubai during the summer, I can see us falling out over this. In fact, I recently read that in a study by the insurance company esure, the average family dog causes 2,000 family arguments during their lifetime – and yep, I can believe that.

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How much does it cost to fly the dog back to the UK?

I don’t know how long we are going to be in Dubai – so factoring in the fact that we would have to fly that dog back to the UK if we repatriated is also really important (after all, we definitely wouldn’t be leaving a furry friend behind). And how much would it cost? In a recent feature by The Guardian, Nick Foden-Ellis, Airpets managing director, says it is “rarely less than a business-class ticket for the same route”. And a business class ticket from Dubai to London? Not cheap. And if we did fork out that kind of money, it’d be me riding up the front of the plane…

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Is it the right time?

And of course, the biggie – is it actually the right time to add another demanding small thing to our family? And with a 4-month old baby in the house, I am pretty certain the answer is no. But when is the right time? I don’t know – but I think when she’s out of the toddler tantrum stage, possibly even at school, I may begin to consider it. I’ve had a puppy before – and they don’t wear nappies, they bite, and they can move (fast) – so yep, not yet. Definitely not yet.

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I jest – but the thing is, I am keen for them grow up around animals. I think having pets teaches so much to a child – about responsibility, about love, and ultimately, about loss. We aren’t cat people, so I want my children to have a dog to love, to walk, and to cuddle. But it’s pretty obvious that it’s not happening yet – so Stanley is going to have to enjoy his cuddly dog for a bit longer, at least.

 

 



19th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



16th January 2017

Things I loved about Babies & Beyond!

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

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

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

1. You can trust the nurses

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

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2. The company matches a nurse to your child

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

3. You can be flexible with your booking

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

4. The nurses are totally focused on your child

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

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

In collaboration with Babies & Beyond