27th May 2016

Reasons why the ‘terrible twos’ are nothing compared to the ‘frightening fours’

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 21.39.001. Dealing with a two year old mid-tantrum is nothing compared to negotiating with a four-year-old that doesn’t agree with the plan. Tantrums eventually end. Negotiations, however, can still be going on three weeks later.

2. Keeping your cool when a two-year-old responds to everything with ‘NO!’ is far easier than keeping your cool when a four-year-old responds to everything with ‘NO” and then adds “POO POO HEAD!”

3. They do not nap. That is all.

4. There is an unwritten rule of being a four-year-old that the very moment of bedtime is the very best moment to sit on the toilet for 20 minutes and do a poo. While commentating loudly through the process.

5. Two year olds like to run away when you need to get them dressed. Four year olds like to do exactly the same – but when you catch them, they flatly refuse to wear your outfit choice and spend the next 20 minutes demanding to dress as Batman instead.

6. You get away with nothing. Thought you could slip that scribbled masterpiece from school into the bin? Think again. They’ll suddenly remember a few days later and fruitlessly search the entire house for evidence.

7. They are no longer trapped in a cot or confined to a sleeping bag, which means they can join you in bed whenever they want to. And they will – especially at 5am.

8. They can’t drive. But they think they can. And they’ll bark instructions from the back seat to ensure you do it properly.

9. Just when you didn’t think life could get more complicated, they make their own plans. From birthday party guest lists, to friends coming for play dates, you’ll be informed of their decisions roughly 3 minutes before they are supposed to take place.

10. The noise. You were so proud when your two-year-old started stringing words together. It couldn’t be more adorable! But two years later, they just won’t stop. In fact, if someone invented a volume switch for children, you’d be the first to invest.

 



26th May 2016

How we saved thousands of dirhams on our summer flights with Air Miles Middle East

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All expat families know that the cost of flying overseas to see family and friends regularly is pretty crippling at times. Especially as more children are added to the mix, the number of seats goes up, and the fact that you want to fly at peak times around the school holidays.

This is definitely the case for my family. We like to get home twice a year during the summer and at Christmas – but for the same price, we could be enjoying a two-week all-inclusive holiday in a 5-star resort twice a year. We have to make sacrifices to be able to fly regularly – and I feel like I have the skills of a fully-fledged travel agent as I scour flight comparison websites and study the calendar.

This year, however, we managed to slash the price of our summer flights in half simply by shopping in the right places. I’m not exaggerating when I say that we literally saved thousands of dirhams by collecting air miles with a company called Air Miles Middle East - and as few people in the UAE seem to know about the benefits, I wanted to tell you how we did it.

When I first found out about Air Miles Middle East last year by picking up my card one day in The Toy Store, I logged onto the website to discover where else I could collect the miles. Once I knew where I could collect miles, I just made sure I showed the card to the shop assistant every time I made a purchase over the months that followed – and the miles quickly started clocking up.

Where to collect miles

All the stores are listed on the Air Miles Middle East website, but the main stores I shopped in included Spinneys, The Toy Store, Hallmark, African + Eastern, Damas, and Sharaf DG.

You can also collect air miles while travelling, with partners including Hilton Hotels and Resorts, Budget Car Rental, Careem, and Booking.com.

And if you have an HSBC Credit Card (which we do), you get double the miles when you shop at these places, which is how we started to build them up so quickly.

How to collect

This is the best bit, as the company has just launched an App in the UAE, available in both the Apple Store and Android.

Search “Air Miles ME”, download the app, create an account (or add existing account details) and simply show your phone to the cashier when you make a purchase and they will scan it to add your points. It’s really easy to keep track of how many miles you have saved so far – and no need to remember your card (I’ve often forgot my card, which is seriously annoying!) Download the app here.

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How to spend

We decided to save up all our Air Miles throughout the year so we could cut the cost of our summer flights. You log onto the website, search for dates and locations (like any flight booking system) and then see how many air miles you need / how much cash you’ll need to top up.

We found it incredibly easy to browse the cheapest flights and then book the flights – and within a hour, everything had been confirmed and we had a booking reference for the British Airways website so we could log in and manage our booking directly. I’ve got to be honest – I was expecting it to be harder, but I was impressed.

However, if we didn’t need flights, there are lots of other ways we could have spent our miles. I could have booked hotels, treated myself to a new iPhone, spent the miles on shopping at Spinneys, Hallmark or The Toy Store, or saved them to dine out with the family or treat myself in a spa. The app allows you to easily redeem e-vouchers for all these places.

There is also a new feature on the app where you can unlock a selection of new deals around Dubai every Monday – and you only need 100 Air Miles to be able to unlock them. Air Miles Monday offers will include 2-for-1 deals with The Entertainer and those with new partners, such as Costa Coffee.

All the options on how to spend miles are listed on the Air Miles Middle East website.

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Our flight back to the UK is now booked and confirmed for the end of June – and I literally can’t wait to spend a month in the UK over the summer months.

Stanley is excitedly counting down the days until we board our flight – 27 today, for those interested! And I’m looking forward to getting out of this heat for a while with my ever-growing bump! So see you soon UK; we can’t wait to see you!



24th May 2016

Pregnancy Update: 24 Weeks

13292827_10156990514160607_1017881221_nHow many weeks? I am now 24 weeks and it’s been a whole 4 weeks since I last did a pregnancy update (bad blogger). I know everyone says this about second, third and ongoing pregnancies, but my bump feels so much bigger and more uncomfortable earlier on this time. I feel huge – even though I am fully aware of how much bigger the bump is going to get over the next 16 weeks!

How big is the baby? As big as an ear of corn. So why is this bump so big?

How do you feel? Apart from feeling huge and slow, I am getting familiar painful twinges when I walk in the bottom of my bump. I wore a bump support belt in my last few pregnancies for the last trimester, but with the heat in Dubai now pushing 40’C every day, I don’t want to resort to that just yet. My husband had the brilliant idea of using kinesiology tape (the kind of the physios use to support muscles) and it’s amazing. I’ve only done it a few times so far, but it makes a huge difference and I’ll definitely be stocking up for the rest of the pregnancy (I checked this with my osteopath by the way and she also said it’s a great idea for pregnant ladies – you can read more information and tips here).

Anything else? Night times are getting so uncomfy. I bought a giant pregnancy pillow, but I am comfier just using two big pillows either side of me so I have just been doing that.  But I still wake up every morning with the achiest hips. I just want to lie on my back!

And the kicks? She’s so active now and also appears to be a little madam already. She hates it when I lean forward to eat, so I get a couple of thumps for having the audacity to do it. Also just like all babies, she wakes up when I want to go to sleep and keeps me awake for ages kicking away. I’m past the ‘this feels weird’ stage and I love the reassurance of feeling her. Stanley loves feeling her kick too – she even gave him a thump last week when he sat on my lap for a story. Possessive already… It doesn’t bode well, does it?

Cravings? My latest craving is packs of prawn cracker crisps from Waitrose. They are so stinky and I probably smell like a big prawn after devouring the whole pack in one go, but I can’t help it – they are just so yummy.

What’s planned? We have 4 weeks left in the UAE before heading back to the UK for the end of June and the whole of July. I’ll need to get a doctor’s note for flying at both 28 weeks and 33 weeks, which doesn’t bother me in the slightest as I flew at 35 weeks with Wilfred. I just have to wear flight socks and move as much as I can during the flight (8 hours). Once we’re home, I can’t wait to escape the heat and spend some time at home in cooler climes, but I know it’s going to be exhausting with school out for summer and trying to complete my work too. We’ll head back to Dubai for August to sweat it out and wait for the baby – I have visions of watching the Olympics while fully reclined on the sofa… Who am I kidding?

 



19th May 2016

Things that make me irrationally angry as a parent…

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 21.22.591. People that get lifts when they don’t need to… 

In my mind, lifts (or elevators, if you like) are for people that can not use stairs or escalators. This is namely people with buggies and people with disabilities. Anyone else can hop on the escalator and have a little daydream while they climb a few floors – unless they are feeling lazy, that is. Waiting in a queue with these people makes me irrationally angry. And the main thing is that I just don’t understand why they want to be in a queue with my children? If I was them, I’d be on that escalator in a second, laughing at the queue or poor people that have to squeeze into a tiny lift with a two-year-old having a tantrum as he wants to ride the escalator. He belongs to me, of course, which is part of my anger issue.

2. People that glare at you when your child has a meltdown…

Talking of tantrums, I find it very hard to keep my cool when somebody in the vicinity expresses annoyance when my child is screaming. However annoyed they are by my child’s presence, it is guaranteed that I am even more annoyed by it. If they’d like to swap, I’d happily sit and listen while they wrestle an angry, red-faced, sweaty toddler. In fact, it would be my absolute pleasure.

3. Children that reject a perfectly yummy home-cooked meal…

“Oh Mummy, you spent an hour in the kitchen cooking, peeling, and chopping? I honestly don’t care as this mashed potato isn’t to my taste. My mouth is on strike until you produce something sweet. That is all for now” *Mummy explodes*

4. People that park in Parent Parking Spaces when they have no children / have teenage children…

This is a UK gripe, as we don’t have parent spaces in Dubai (sadly I think I’d be even more irritated if we did, as they’d be the most convenient spaces and therefore the first ones that would be taken, every time). But when I am back in the UK, I just don’t understand why these people can’t get to grips with the premise that getting children out of car seats, pulling buggies out of boots, and getting toddlers safely through a dangerous area full of moving vehicles requires a little more work than it does for the general population to pull up, climb out, and reach the supermarket. If they’d like to swap places and take my children around the supermarket for the pleasure of a short walk from their car, I would definitely be prepared to hire them out for an hour.

5. Children that rip books…

Books are precious. Books are sacred. Books only work when they are in one piece. So when I hear the awful, gut-wrenching sound of a page of a book ripping in two, I feel blood rush into my ears and my anger explode. I don’t care if my son is two and hasn’t yet appreciated the role of books in the world. It’s the Gruffalo – and now it’s missing the bit about the snake.

6. Any noises that wake up my children from a nap…

Cars that beep when people lock them (who designed that?), people that ring on the doorbell at inconvenient times (I mean, the cheek of them), random things that fall off chairs in bedrooms (inconsiderate ghosts clearly pushing them), air hostesses that knock arms on long-haul flights with trollies (stupid trollies). Anything that causes my child’s eyes to pop wide open after I’ve tried so hard to send them off into a peaceful slumber is worthy of my wrath…



17th May 2016

Dear third baby, I dreamt about you last night…

7b7e61e9d03ff24bf17612853a6d63beDear third baby,

I dreamt about you last night. You were born and placed on my chest. I looked down at you; those beautiful first moments where a mother meets eyes with the person she has been growing for nine long months. Moments filled with emotion, happiness and relief. Moments where you know how much you love each other, haven’t yet had the chance to experience it.

You were dark, like Wilfred. You had lots of hair and the dazed, shocked look of a brand new newborn baby. I could smell that sweet, familiar newborn scent and I could feel the wrinkles on your skin and the warmth of your body.

The dream was short as my alarm woke me from it – but I loved every second. Because to be honest, I have barely had a chance to think about you in the last 5 months. To imagine you. To look forward to you.

I think my dream was telling me it is time.

With just 17 weeks until you arrive in the world (or thereabouts) and I am allowed to get excited. It is time to believe that you are real. To believe that you are coming to join us.

I’ve bought one outfit since I’ve been growing you – a pink romper covered in rainbows. I have lots more to buy, to wash, and to sort – but it’s felt too early.

I am going to make a start.

A third pregnancy is so different to a first – and in fact, even to a second. I have been running around at 300 miles an hour after your brothers. Squeezing work in between play dates. Trying to nap on the sofa without anyone noticing. Furiously researching the effects of caffeine on unborn children, so desperate for a shot of energy to get me through the day.

I think about you, of course – but I haven’t had time to think for too long. And something holds me back until we get further into the pregnancy, scared to fall in love too soon.

But I do love you.

And that dream last night has filled me with butterflies of pure excitement.

You are coming soon – and it is time to get ready.

And I can’t wait to meet you for real.

Mummy x

 



13th May 2016

The night I decided to bite my tongue…

547707_10151740220860607_1703514481_nIt was Monday night and I was sat on the sofa. Ray Donovan was playing on Netflix in the background, the husband was tapping on his phone next to me, and I was swigging from a mug of steaming ginger tea.

A pretty average night.

When suddenly a message pinged on my phone.

It was from a lady I had met a few times through mutual friends – and now she was selling a few baby things I was keen to buy. Since we’d last met, she had given birth to her first baby, so I tapped back: “How is mummyhood?”

“It’s good,” she typed. “He’s a brilliant sleeper! I never expected to sleep through the night this early! Feel very lucky! He’s just an amazing baby!”

I paused before I bashed back a reply.

I wanted to write back: “Don’t speak too soon! My second baby was like that, but he woke up at 6 months and didn’t sleep for the next few years!”

Or “That’s good news – but wait until he’s teething!”

Or “You’re very lucky! Enjoy it! It won’t last, hee hee!”

But I didn’t, of course.

It took a lot of self-restraint to bite my tongue, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Unless she had asked me for advice, I was in no place to hand it out. I was in no place to burst her bubble. I was in no place to warn her about the up’s and down’s of parenthood. After all, she would find out soon enough.

Those nights when a fever spikes and you wake every hour to check your baby.

Those nights when they have a growth spurt and feed for five hours straight, leaving you to emerge bleary eyed the next morning, wondering what exactly happened the night before.

Those nights when they are teething and wake you up to pained screaming, leaving you with a pounding heart and confused mind at least 4 times during the dark hours.

Those nights when they decide sleep is overrated and you find yourself with a toddler bouncing off the walls at 3am.

It will happen – but it is not my place to warn her.

So I bashed back: “Ah that’s brilliant, lucky you!” and took a swig of ginger tea.

And one day in the future, I’m sure she will do the same.

When someone tells her about their amazing sleeping baby, she will bite her tongue too.

Because you just do.

You have to.

After all, it’s part of parenthood to find it all out on our own.



12th May 2016

Decorating my home with my Instagram photos…

I’m no interiors stylist, but I have enjoyed decorating my home since we moved back in February. It’s a much bigger apartment and the pictures we already have just didn’t fill the walls and it felt a bit bare and echoey. I searched online for prints and scoured local stores, but I couldn’t find anything I really loved – so I decided instead, why not print some of the photos I have taken on Instagram onto canvases?

I didn’t want to go overboard, so I decided on five images I loved – and I scattered them around the apartment. I’ve used the Dubai-based company CanvasJet.com before and been impressed by both the quality and the service – so that’s who I ordered through again. I could connect the website to my Instagram account and scroll through until I found the images I liked, which made it mega quick and easy.

Here’s then canvases that arrived a week or so later and where we’ve put them in the apartment…

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13233310_10156943019845607_930259946_n13219883_10156943019895607_477070882_nThat last one is in the boy’s bathroom – and I know that’s not a natural place to hang a canvas, but that’s what I love about it the most. I love watching the sun set over the ocean from the window as the boys splash about in the bath – and this photo of one of our happy trips on the beach seemed to work perfectly.

Once again, I’m really happy with the quality and the service was brilliant – so if you live in the UAE and love Instagram, I recommend getting creative with your shots!

You can order online at CanvasJet.com 



11th May 2016

10 things to consider before you name a child…

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 21.39.461. Consider keeping it a secret. Nobody has the balls to say ‘I’m not sure I like that name, I once knew a snotty girl at school of that name” to your face when you are holding a beautiful newborn. If the baby is still in utero, however, they will definitely have the balls to say it. And whilst this won’t usually change your mind, it can take all your restraint not to bop them on the nose.

2. Practice saying it out loud. Actually, cancel that. Practice shouting it out loud. At least 30 times a day. If it still feels right, that’s your name.

3. Don’t claim names. It’s just not the done thing to ‘claim a name’. Especially if your baby isn’t even conceived yet…

4. Don’t use all your favourite names in one go. You love two names equally – so one will be the baby’s name and the other will be the middle name, naturally. But when baby number two comes along and is the same gender, you might well regret using the name you love as a middle name… If it’s your first baby, see if you can resist.

5. Reconsider unique spellings. Think that giving your child a unique spin on a popular name by re-spelling it is cute? Your child probably won’t agree when there’s a mix up with an airline ticket and they are stranded in Outer Mongolia for a week….

6. Think about initials. Olivia Madeleine Graham is a lovely name indeed. Until it’s time to embroider OMG onto her hockey skirt and she wants to change her name by deed poll. This is just an example – as let’s be honest, it could be a lot, lot worse.

7. Make sure there is a long, serious version. Shortening names is lovely – but when your child is naughty for the 17th time that day, you will want a longer, more serious name to bark at them. You should also practice a stern voice for this very purpose.

8. If you go unique, stay unique. It’s fine to go for something ‘different’ – but if you already have a child with a popular name, you are opening yourself up for years of upset. Take, for example, the moment you wander into a souvenir shop with a 5 and 7 year old – and one can find their name on a naff plastic snow-globe, whilst the other can’t. Fun times await.

9. Don’t discount duplicate names. You have a lovely name planned for your baby – and then BAM, three weeks before your due date, a birth announcement arrives of the very same name. As a rule of thumb, you’ll should bite your tongue and move to Plan B if it’s a close family member – but if it’s a friend, ask yourself whether the babies will genuinely see each other regularly. After all, you could discount that name and then your friend will emigrate to the other side of the world. If you love it, stick with it.

10. Avoid reading celebrity news. You will adore your newborn’s name forever – but when a Z-Lister with a questionable reputation decides to name their little cherub the very same name, it will fill you with despair. There’s no avoiding it, so consider cancelling that subscription to OK Magazine and stay in your own, happily oblivious world.



10th May 2016

Why we love Toddler Town British Nursery

I have a rule with my blog that I never talk about where my boys go to school or nursery. It just doesn’t seem fair to them when I am not with them.

This is why I am very excited to tell you about the wonderful nursery that Stanley went to for over 2 years – as now he’s left to go to school (and Wilfred is elsewhere, as we have moved house), I can finally rave about it!

Toddler Town British Nursery has two locations – JBR Amwaj and Jumeirah. Stanley attended the original premises in the JBR, which was ideal as it was just a walk for us then (although we did park underneath during the summer months). The facilities were brilliant – with a beautiful library as you walked in, a role play room that Stanley loved playing in, lovely toys in all the classrooms, and several covered play areas with shade. It was the perfect environment for a little person and we all felt very comfortable from the moment we walked inside.

Toddler Town British Nursery

It’s the warmth of the place that I really wanted to tell you about. Every day, Stanley ran into his teacher’s arms. It was the most reassuring thing as a parent. And before we even reached the classroom, we said hello to managers, receptionists, and TA’s as they walked past – it honestly felt like a big family, which is why we were both so sad to leave last June (we shed more than a few tears on that last day).

Toddler Town British Nursery 2

It gets even better – as since Stanley attended the JBR branch, Toddler Town British Nursery now has a second site in Jumeirah (Safa) – and the facilities are even more impressive. The nursery has the same warm, nurturing feel – but the fact they have more space means there are even more facilities.

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The outside area is giant, with the most amazing playground (Stanley would’ve loved it!), car track area, sandpit with rows of wheelbarrows, and a lovely swimming pool (fully gated off for safety). Inside, there is a beautiful library, role-play rooms, sensory area, and soft play for little ones. You kind of have to see it to believe it – and I really recommend you head in for a tour.

And the good news is that if you do swing by the Jumeirah branch, you could win a seriously amazing prize! I was amazed to see that the nursery are giving away a whopping 50% off a full year’s nursery term fees! And all you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is the following:

  • Visit Toddler Town British Nursery Jumeirah Branch between 1-30 May (Sun-Thurs, 8.30am-5pm).
  • Fill out a raffle coupon
  • Keep your fingers crossed!

 Three lucky winners will be chosen on 31st May – so good luck! And better still, every single person that enters will get 15% off their child’s first term at the nursery – so you really can’t lose!

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I’ve copied below a Google map of the nursery’s location so you can swing by easily (lots of parking outside) and fill out your raffle coupon!

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Thank you Toddler Town for the first two years of Stanley’s education – we made a very, very good choice.

For more information, visit www.toddlertown.ae

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4th May 2016

Is your first baby the special one?

292164_10151789769815607_742999426_nI was pregnant with my first child, when I had a work meeting scheduled in a coffee shop one morning. My colleague was pregnant with her second child, so the conversation quickly turned to all things baby.

Her due date was a month before mine and she was getting close – so between sips of decaf cappuccino, I said “It’s so exciting now isn’t it? Not long to go!”

She smiled at me, but her eyes were sad.

“Yes,” she replied. “But your first is special. It’s never the same after that.”

It took me by surprise. I loved being pregnant – and as I got close to my due date, I was already looking forward to doing it all again. I didn’t want to believe that things would be different the second time round. I wanted it to feel this special with every following pregnancy.

I thought about her comment again afterwards, but soon in the fug of newborn craziness and cuddles, it disappeared from my mind.

Until I was pregnant with my second child, that is.

Her comment flashed through my mind several times during that second pregnancy. When I didn’t have time to sit and enjoy the kicks. When I forgot to log onto my app to count the weeks as they ticked past. When I announced my pregnancy to the world and got roughly half the excited comments that I did the first time (and a fair few read ‘are you mad?’). When he was born and I had to divide myself in half to be with both my babies.

He was special.

Just as special.

But the experience of being pregnant, giving birth, and the early days at home – well, it just wasn’t.

I realised with a heavy heart that she was right all along. Nothing could replicate the days at home with my first baby, cocooned together all day long in a never-ending cycle of feeding, watching crap box sets, occasionally plucking up the courage to venture outside, before returning to the sofa for more feeding, box sets, pumping, and attempting to sleep at some point in the 24 hours.

It’s anything but glamorous – but ‘special’ really is the perfect word.

But it’s impossible to replicate the second time. There’s no waking up late when you’ve had a hard night with the baby, because a toddler is prising your eyes open with his fingers. There’s no hanging around in sick-stained pyjamas when you have to get siblings to school or nursery. There’s no crap box sets when Thomas the Tank Engine is the new order of the day.

I noticed less excitement from everyone around us too. After all, I was already a Mummy. This baby was adding to our family – and not the child that made it.

I don’t blame friends and family in the slightest – after all, I have acted exactly the same when second and third babies have come along. There’s less excitement about seeing a bump when you’ve seen it all before. There’s a sense of understanding too – you know they need some space as a family, so you leave them to it. There’s a feeling of ‘they’ve got this!’.

But still, not a single person sent us flowers to the hospital the second time. We left with the ultimate prize and it didn’t even occur to us at the time – but in hindsight, a bunch of roses or a  blue helium balloon might have been nice to carry out the doors of the hospital too.

And what about the third time?

For me, it does feel special – as I am pretty sure it’s the last time. But with two children at home, there is even less time to focus on the kicks in my belly, the boxes of clothes that I need to sort. There’s no nursery to decorate, because she’ll be giving up her room for visitors that come to stay so it needs to stay neutral. There’s no need to rush out and buy a stroller. There’s no need to attend antenatal classes with other excited parents-to-be – or go for blind coffee dates with strangers stroking their bumps.

The specialness of a first baby is something we can ever fully appreciate until it’s a memory.

But now, with the benefit of hindsight, precious memories, and hundreds of photographs that I still need to sort, I know my colleague was right on that morning back in 2012.

Every baby is special.

Just as special.

But the experience will be entirely different (again) to those beautiful, exhausting, but totally wonderful days with my first.