31st December 2014

2014: A Year in Review

photo2014, like any year, has had its ups and its downs – but if I look back, I will always remember it as the year that our little Wilfred arrived on the scene and that will make me remember it in a very positive way. In fact, I feel a bit emotional that the year he was born is nearly over (in the stupid, irrational way that mothers often feel), but I am also excited about what 2015 may bring. So here is my year in review – and thank you ever so much for reading since I launched this blog back in May.

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JANUARY – The month I learnt that second babies don’t always come early

Wilfred arrived on 29th January 2014, after a long month of waiting. I was convinced he would come early as a second baby as the old wives tale goes. He was due on the 28th, so he didnt keep me waiting long – but heaving a 21 month old toddler in and out the car, his cot, and soft play areas was interesting with a humungous 9-month bump. He was induced after my waters started leaking – and just a few hours after the drip went in, he arrived in just a few pushes. Completely different to his bald older brother, he had a full head of hair and loved sleeping from the beginning (since forgotten, sadly). I was in love all over again.

FEBRUARY – The month I learnt that it’s bloody hard work when the grandparents leave

We were lucky enough to have my inlaws with us for a month when Wilfred was born, closely followed by my Mum. And when they left, I had a baptism of fire in juggling two children in a foreign country, with no family nearby. We managed – and bizarrely, I look back on that exhausting time with very fond memories. In fact, I’d trade a couple of nights sleep to go back in time and enjoy a long newborn Wilfred cuddle – aren’t mothers strange beings?

MARCH – The month I learnt toddlers can be harder work than newborns

To be honest, I have been very lucky with the boys, as there hasn’t been much sibling rivalry and they generally like each other a lot. But during those early days in March, Stanley definitely tested my patience in a bid to highlight his own position as the precious first born. There were plenty of tantrums and a bit of behaviour regression – but thankfully, it didn’t last long. And when the worst tantrums happened, I grabbed my camera to add a bit of comedy to the situation. If I hadn’t laughed, I would probably have been on the floor with him.

APRIL – The month I leant that the expensive birthday presents are the ones they ignore

Stanley turned two in April – and we bought him an IKEA Kitchen, filled with utensils, play food, and wrapped in a giant ribbon for him to discover in the morning. I went to bed filled with excitement about him discovering it in the lounge when we got up the next day – only for him to glance at it, then squeal in excitement about a balloon on the other side of the room. He then spent the morning colouring. So next year, Ill probably just buy him a balloon and pack of crayons. In other news, we went away for a few days to break up the long stint in Dubai – and we soon realised that you need to pack as much for two days in a hotel with two children, as you do for two months. We ignored the horrified looks from staff as we unloaded the car and had a very lovely two days away.

MAY – The month I leant not to try entertaining a toddler by taking him through a carwash.

Oh May, how I dread you. I hate it when the weather turns hot in Dubai – and with two children now to entertain, we began our annual retreat to indoor air-conditioned spaces. Soft play became our savour again (if I can even bring myself to include the words ‘soft play’ and ‘saviour’ in the same sentence) and we began counting down the days to our annual escape to the UK for summer the following month. There was one high point to the month though; the launch of this blog, which kept me busy when the boys were napping and every evening. It turned out to be a very good decision indeed.

JUNE – The month I learnt that sleep is overrated

We flew back to the UK for three months on June 11th for three whole months – longer than the usual two months we usually do, as my husband had work in London in late June. After getting home, our amazing little sleeper (now 4 months old) decided to stop sleeping through the night. So long, lovely days with family and friends in the UK sunshine were straddled by pretty awful nights; all with my husband in Dubai so he couldn’t share the pain. It was worth it though and Stanley lapped up all the attention from family and friends. He also enjoyed seeing and feeling rain for the first time – the true mark of a Dubai child!

JULY – The month I learnt best friends are forever

Before we left Dubai in June, we had some difficult news to swallow, as Stanley’s best buddy Raffy was leaving for UK shores. Regularly losing friends is one of the worst things about being an expat and it took me a few days to get over the news myself, thankfully Stanley was a bit too young to realise what was happening. His mummy Katie had been such a big support when Wilfred was born and the months afterwards, helping me with the children on an almost-daily basis (I’d like to say over glasses of wine, but I was always driving, so it was usually strong coffee), so I was losing a good friend too. With their new UK base not too far from our own, we made a vow to see each other as much as possible over the summer, and made regular trips in July and August to Godstone Park in Surrey for the boys to get together. I have very happy memories of these days out and can’t wait to repeat next summer.

AUGUST – The month I learnt we can’t do it all

My husband joined us back in the UK for two weeks at the end of August, where we packed in as much as humanly possible. We whizzed around seeing friends, getting Wilfred baptised, enjoying day trips, and making the most of family before we flew back to Dubai for autumn. To be honest, these weeks were lovely, but absolutely exhausting – and I made a vow that future trips wouldn’t be quite so crazy. We had to enjoy our stints in the UK too and that sometimes means being selfish with our time. I’m sure any expats reading this will totally understand, I like to call it ‘Expat Exhaustion’ – and we returned to Dubai feeling frazzled, with heavy colds and heavy hearts that we hadn’t managed to catch up with everyone we wanted to.

SEPTEMBER – The month that I learnt to expect the unexpected

Back in the summer, I was nominated for a Time Out Kids Award for Best Parenting Blog in the UAE. With my blog only four months old, I didn’t expect to win it for a second. Having won the award that night, despite experiencing the biggest and nicest surprise of my life when the name of the blog was called out, I am now aware that not many other people expected me to win it either! I kind of don’t blame them (although the manner in which they expressed their surprise could have been a bit kinder, but it’s not as if I wasted any time crying over my award). The truth is that traffic wise, this blog has been doing very, very well. People seem to like it and getting the award was a real highlight of my year and has inspired me and encouraged me no end. So thank you Time Out Kids for the acknowledgement – and well done to everyone else in the category too, I am a long time reader of a couple of them and new time reader to several more.

OCTOBER – The month that I learnt bribery is the only way to get a child into a bumble bee costume

October is Halloween month, which means it’s also my birthday month. But instead of researching pumpkin-themed cocktails on Pinterest, like birthdays of the past, I spent my time hand-stitching a bumble bee costume together for the nursery Halloween party – and having gone to that effort, a lollipop at 7.30am seemed a quite reasonable way to bribe him into it. It worked, parenting win (or fail, depending on how you look at it). At the end of the month, we also enjoyed a return to outdoor life in Dubai, hitting the beaches, outdoor cafes, and play areas once again. This is the month I always fall back in love with Dubai again, after a long summer of sweltering temperatures.

NOVEMBER – The month I leant not to try and get the toddler to pose for photographs

This month, we enjoyed a trip away to Abu Dhabi, where I learnt that dropping a toddler’s nap to enjoy a family brunch was a stupid idea – and the same toddler falling asleep in his spaghetti carbonara at teatime after an almighty tantrum was the punishment. We also failed at a family photo attempt, took the boys swimming as much as possible, had a visit from my sister and her friend Katie to Dubai, and enjoyed regular playdates with the boys’ gang: Lewis, Daniel, Francesca, Sofia, and Ayda. The weather was perfect and we were getting excited about the festive season approaching.

DECEMBER – The month I learnt two-year olds still don’t understand Christmas

We flew back to the UK on 14th December and have enjoyed every second of our trip home so far (we still have 4 days left, before flying back to the desert for a long stint until summer). I put a lot of effort into Christmas this year, starting family traditions that I hope we will follow every year ongoing – but if the truth be told, it was all a bit wasted on my stubborn two-year-old, who has decided ‘no’ is his favourite word and has literally no interest in opening presents. Next year is the big year (I hope!)

Thank you for reading and see you all in 2015!