Monthly Archives: December 2014

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!

30th December 2014

Advice for Mothers in 1878

UnknownI bought the book Don’ts for Mothers – 1878 for a couple of my friends who are celebrating their first Christmas as mothers this year. They unwrapped the book at dinner last night and we howled with laughter at some of the advice handed out to mothers in 1878 – and in has to be said, we gasped in shock at some of the points too.

I thought I’d share some of the best bits from the book – and if you want to buy the book, I really recommend it, at this link Don’ts for Mothers – 1878.

“Don’t put boys in trousers too young, but keep them in petticoats until they are four years old.”

“Don’t forget to be sure that cow’s milk is of good quality, if it must be given as a substitute. If you have not a cow of your own, have the milk from a respectable cow keeper.”

“Don’t cram a wet nurse with food, give her a strong ale to drink”.

“Don’t neglect the washing of creases made by the flesh of very fat children as the skin of these parts becomes sore and inflamed.”

“Don’t hold children’s parties. They are one of the great follies of the present age; where children are dressed up like grown-up women, stuck out in petticoats, and encouraged to eat rich cake and to drink wine, and to sit up late at night! Their pure minds are blighted by it!”

“Don’t lie. If a question is asked that is beyond experience, refer the child to his father.”

“Mothers of England, let me entreat you, rescue your girls from the bondage of fashion and folly.”

“Don’t neglect to be sure a child eats salt with his dinner. Let a mother see that this advice is followed, or evil consequences will inevitably ensue.”

“Don’t treat the mind of a babe like that of a mature and rational being.”

29th December 2014

Things my toddler has shouted “NO” at in the last week

photo1. The question: “Would you like to open some Christmas presents?

2. The satnav lady, who told us to turn left at the next junction

3. Father Christmas in his grotto

4. The instruction: “Please take that cupcake off your brother’s head.

5. A robin, who dared to land on our car

6. The question: “Would you like to play outside?

7. The question: “Would you like to stay inside?

8. A member of staff in Sainsburys with antler ears and tinsel around her neck

9. His favourite bedtime story

10. The question: “Are you having a fun Christmas?

27th December 2014

Family Update: Our Wintery Family Photo Shoot

Despite living in Dubai and spending most of our times in flip-flops, we have always loved winter as a family. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s my favourite time of the year in the UK. I love wrapping up warm, seeing frost painted on the lawn in the morning, hiding underneath blankets in front of log fires in the evening, and soaking up every second of the lead-up to Christmas to get into the festive spirit. So having three weeks in the UK at this time of year has been a real treat – and I wanted to do something to remember this time; seeing the boys in their winter warmers, splashing in puddles, and enjoying the festivities.

A family photo shoot was the perfect way to remember our trip home. And when I saw the beautiful  images from a recent photo shoot by Brian at Focused Images of a friend Emma’s family (and hearing that the price was just £80 for 2 hours, plus all the images on a CD) it sealed the deal, I quickly booked him in for a weekend just before Christmas.

Now my husband hates photo shoots. I would have to drag him kicking and screaming into a studio  to get some family shots – so a natural shoot in the park was the perfect way to do it. We had a really fun morning at Dunorlan Park in Tunbridge Wells taking the pictures (in fact, the boys weren’t really aware of the camera, it was just a morning in the park for them). The service afterwards was amazing – Brian ran around delivering my CD, getting the prints done that we had chosen as Christmas presents in the most impressive time (you don’t have to order through him, but they are great prices if you do). I really do recommend him if you want to capture some memories in 2015 – and at just £80 per shoot, I don’t think it comes much cheaper. I think the images speak for themselves, so without further ado, here are the pictures he captured. Scroll to the end for contact details.

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Book Focused Images through their Facebook page here

Photo shoots are £80 for 2 hours of photography. Brian will travel around the Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells area (you can choose the location). He will also travel further afield for a travel fee, so get in touch to discuss with him.

23rd December 2014

Family Update: Our trip on the Santa Special, Spa Valley Railway

We’ve been back in the UK for a week now, basing ourselves at my parents house in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and have been filling our time with lots of festive days out with the boys. My favourite adventure so far has been our trip on the Spa Valley Railway’s Santa Special. This old train line dates back to 1866 – and it really feels like you have stepped back in time when you arrive at the stations along the route.

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We arrived at Eridge Station for the first train on Sunday morning – and spent some time taking in the festive feel of the station before we boarded the train. This is a really, really lovely thing to do to get into the festive spirit; there was an open fire roaring in the waiting room, the smell of chestnuts roasting in the air, Christmas music playing as you wait to board, the sound of the steam engine chugging into the station and engulfing families with steam as they howled with laughter. There was also festive face painting for children – Stanley could choose between a snowman, holly or Christmas tree. After much deliberation (he wanted a tiger), he plumped for a snowman.

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After boarding and finding our seats (and excitingly catching sight of Santa and his elf boarding further along the train), we set off through the Kent countryside, keeping our eyes peeled for reindeers out the window. It wasn’t long before there was a ‘ho ho ho‘ and Santa had arrived at the doors to our carriage. The boys were captivated as they were handed gifts (a pretty decent fire engine for Stanley and stuffed elephant for Wilfred).

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Arriving at Tunbridge Wells, we wrapped up warm and got off the train, joining a queue of our fellow passengers to have our photo taken with Santa on his sleigh. The queue moved quickly, taking us into a room decorated with a giant tree, twinkly lights, and festive music playing. We were handed coins to play the old penny slot machines in the room – and Stanley enjoyed playing them so much, that he wasn’t exactly thrilled to meet FC when he was dragged away from the machine. After a big photo fail, my sister jumped into the shot to save the day.

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After that fun, we boarded the train again for our return journey – and this time, praise be, the refreshment trolley made its way to us and we all warmed up with a festive tipple (mulled wine for the adults, apple juice for Stanley). Just as we had our first taste, Santa was back with a tray of warm mince pies and shortbread biscuits.

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It’s a really lovely thing to do – and if you are free today or tomorrow (23 or 24th) there still seems to be tickets left – book here.

For more information, visit The Spa Valley Railway (they do specials throughout the year, including Thomas The Tank Engine, if you have a fan!)

19th December 2014

Dolls, Buggies, and Kitchens – Not Just For Girls

IMG_6495Like lots of little boys, Stanley has a scooter. But some days, he likes to push his buggy instead.

At home, he likes to push around cars, build towers, and play with toy diggers. But he also likes to cook at his play kitchen and watch films about princesses in a frozen land.

He wears the colour blue a lot, but if you asked his favourite colour, he would probably say pink. He doesn’t have a doll as he hasn’t shown any interest in playing with one, but I wouldn’t hesitate to add it to his toy stash if he did.

So why am I telling you this? A friend posted a picture on Facebook yesterday of a doll that she had just bought her son for Christmas and received a private message within minutes from a long-time friend saying she was encouraging him to be gay.

Hearing this made steam come out of my ears for several reasons. Firstly, of course, the ridiculous misconception that you can make a child gay by the toys you choose to buy for them, rather than be born as gay – and the fact that this is immediately viewed as a negative thing, the end of the world for that child and their parents. And secondly the silly notion that boys playing with these things somehow makes them less of a boy, negatively influencing the way they grow up and the kind of men that they will become.

This is crap.

IMG_8035You see there’s another man in our life that spends a lot of his time pushing buggies, cuddling babies, and standing over the kitchen stove.

That man is his Dad.

The single biggest male influence in his life.

And whilst his dad loves rugby, football, and beer-swigging as much as any man, he is also one of the gentlest and most caring men I know when it comes to his children and his family.

He is the kind of man and the kind of father that we should be encouraging all little boys to become. He cooks for us every night, he does the night shift with the baby (sometimes reluctantly, admittedly), and he pushes that buggy whenever we go out.

So when we head out for the afternoon and we ask Stanley whether he wants to take his scooter or his buggy and he choose so the buggy, I get a warm, happy feeling when I see him push it  alongside his dad.

He’s a little boy, yes, but he won’t be defined by gender-stereotyped toys that society has decided he should play with. He can play with what he wants – and without wanting to wish away the years, which I really don’t want to happen, I can’t wait to see what kind of man he decides to become.

And on that note, we’re just off to watch a film about princesses in a frozen land. Again.

18th December 2014

Things I Do When The Kids Are Not Around

photoToday is our 4th Wedding Anniversary and we have two days in a beautiful hotel in the Cotswolds on our own without the kids. This never happens. So it’s kind of a big deal.

I’m enjoying every single second. However, it has to be noted that since leaving the boys, I have done the following:

1 – Woke up at 5am this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. Took me several minutes to realise that it was a pillow between us and not the baby.

2 –  Thought about the boys 3,000 times. Thought about calling the grandparents 3,000 times. Actually called them 3 times.

3 –  Parked the car and immediately went to open to the back doors and get the boys out. Turned it into a ‘oh yes, I needed this empty crisp packet from the back seat’ move, with several members of the public in the vicinity.

4 – Walked out the hotel and experienced a sudden moment of panic when I realised we did not have the children, nor the baby monitor. Did a little hop, skip and jump at the realisation, before immediately feeling guilty and adopting a poker face.

5 – Looked at photos and videos on my phone of the boys at least every 5 minutes. Had full conversations with the husband about how squishy the baby’s thighs are and how funny the toddler’s chat is, before realising ourselves and changing the conversation to the weather (it’s cold, much colder than Dubai).

6 – Looked at my watch and totally ignored the numbers, reading ‘it’s tea time’, ‘it’s bath time’, or ‘it’s bedtime’ instead.

7 – Looked at my glass of wine, and automatically thought ‘this is going to be painful in the morning’.

8 – Went Christmas shopping for family members. Ended up with nothing for the family and everything for the children.

9 – Experienced another moment of panic when I couldn’t see my children in the shop. The children that are over a hundred miles away.

10 –  Heard the baby cry at least 10 times. In my mind.

13th December 2014

5 Reasons I Am Excited To Touch Down At Gatwick Tomorrow…

IMG_4063We fly back to the UK tomorrow for three weeks over Christmas. Apart from the obvious problem of trying to pack everything we need for a baby and toddler into two suitcases (algebra was easy compared to this), we are all bursting with excitement about coming home – and here are the reasons why…

1 – Seeing family, friends, and our dog

We go months and months without seeing our family and friends in the UK – and our dog, who now lives with my Mum and Dad, and is very missed. Stanley made me laugh yesterday when he announced we were ‘going back to our people’. He can’t wait to see his grandparents, his dog, his aunties, and his friends. His best friend Raffy, who left Dubai back in July, is very near the top of that list too. I can’t wait to see them running around being nutters together again.

2.    The Weather

I’ve always loved the seasons. I love it when summer turns into autumn and the leaves lay in carpets on the pavement – and I especially love it when autumn turns into winter and the lawn is painted in frost every morning. I miss feeling the cold on my skin when I step outside, wrapping up warm, and sitting in front of roaring fires. It’s lovely being able to go to the beach every day of the year if we wanted (and I’m sure I will be grateful for it again in January), but for now, I need a dose of cold to remind me of my Britishness. Stanley says that it will be very cold and he will need to wear gloves, scarves, hats, and shorts and T-Shirts, so I think he’s in for a bit of a shock…

3.    The Shopping

Dubai is no let down for shopping, but the truth is that everything is so much more expensive and there is only about a tenth of the choice that we get in the UK. When I first walk into Sainsburys after months away, I feel like a kid in a sweet shop. The choice is amazing, the prices unbelievable, and the baby aisle so packed full of goodies that I immediately start throwing things into the trolley with wanton abandon. I’ll be arranging a date with Sainsburys before I arrange a date with anyone else; I miss it that much.

4.    The Traditional Pubs

First of all, a disclaimer: I very rarely drink these days. A hangover with two small monkeys attached to me just isn’t worth it. But if I did fancy it, alcohol is only served in licensed places in Dubai, which are usually five-star hotels – and drinks are very pricey (for example, a friend recently ordered a whisky and was charged £80 for the glass after a mix up with a premium variety). I am not saying that is wrong; this is a Muslim country and I absolutely agree this should be the case and respect that. But once back in the UK, there is something very lovely and uncomplicated about being able to walk down the road, through the doors of a pub on the same street that you live, and order a glass of something. And if a roaring fire is added into the mix and menu of pub grub; even better!

5.    The Great Outdoors

Dubai has its fair share of places to hang out outdoors – beaches, parks and marinas within the city, the desert and mountain ranges within a short drive. But I miss the green, green grass of home. I can never believe just how colourful everything looks when we arrive at Gatwick and start the drive home – it’s almost as if everything is in HD, suddenly so much crisper and more colourful. This has something to do with all the dust in the air of Dubai I think, where everything seems to have a soft focus. I love taking Stanley to the local park to feed the ducks, to the woods to walk the dog and hunt for Gruffalos, and to the centre of town to look at Christmas lights and wander through an outdoor high street clutching a warm Christmas coffee (not a coffee cooler, rejoice!) Living in an apartment, I am so looking forward to the simple joy of being able to open the back door and let the boys explore the garden while we’re back in the UK. It’s the simple things I miss and this is definitely one of them. Bring on the mud!

10th December 2014

Facebook Competition: Win a £30 Gift Voucher for the Essential One

IMG_1221_1Wow, how did that happen. It only seems like yesterday that I was celebrating Mum of Boys  reaching 4000 followers on Facebook – and here I am again, launching a competition to celebrate reaching 5000!

So to celebrate, I have teamed up with The Essential One to give away a £30 Gift Voucher for the lovely online store to one of my readers.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 13.16.51I love The Essential One. In fact, I wish I knew about it when I was pregnant with Stanley, as I searched high and low for companies that sold a range of simple key items for babies. I didn’t want crazy patterns or colours, I just wanted simple, soft pieces that my newborn could wear – and then grow up with. The Essential One is exactly that, with the added bonus of very affordable prices points.

With its affordability and quality of the pieces, it’s also a great website to browse for Christmas presents. There are even some very cute Christmas baby outfits too!

Enjoy shopping – and good luck!

Enter the competition on Mum of Boys Facebook Page.

Shop The Essential One here.

9th December 2014

A Toddler’s Rules For His Baby Brother

photo copy1 – What’s mine is mine. What’s yours is also mine.

2 – You must not, under any circumstances touch the plug sockets. I will police and protect the plug sockets. I can touch the plug sockets as I am two and therefore invincible.

3 – Mummy can hold you, but when I need to be picked up and cuddled, you must return graciously to the floor and keep quiet.

4 – Get used to being squashed. I like sitting on you.

5 – You can get into the bath with me, but you must not cry when I pour water over your head.

6 – They are my grandparents. You may cuddle them. But they are mine.

7 – You must not touch my food. Or in fact any of the food Mummy has bought for me. You drink milk.

8 – Mummy says I am not strong enough to pick you up. She is wrong.  Do not cry when I do it.

9 – If you do something that makes someone laugh, I will do something funnier. Accept defeat.

10 – You can not, under any circumstances, touch the iPad. This is the most important rule.