Monthly Archives: March 2015

12th March 2015

What I expected from motherhood, versus the reality

10724181_931637813532572_1010663779_n1. Evening Engagements

What I thought: That we’d take the kids along too! We’d rock up, the children would behave beautifully and the other party-goers would be delighted by their company. Then at some point in the evening, the little ones would fall asleep and we’d continue to have fun until the small hours. The adults would say ‘it’s so cool that you bring them along too!’ and we’d feel like we were winning at parenthood.

The reality: I have an addiction to the sofa and Netflix. And on the rare occasions I have the energy to leave them, we have a babysitter.

2. Exercise

What I thought: That the baby weight would fall off as soon as our first baby arrived. I had visions of parking his pram at the end of the swimming pool while I swam laps, cooing and waving as I got to the end of the lane. He would give me a big smile as if to say ‘carry on as you are Mummy! I am quite happy here! That mummy tummy is my fault, after all!’ and in no time, I would have the physique of a swimwear model.

The reality: In last 3 years, I have been on 2 runs and completed 6 days of the 30-day shred. I have every intention of climbing back on the exercise bandwagon. I even bought some new leggings and a pair of snazzy trainers after a few too many glasses of wine one evening. After two children, however, I will never have the physique of a swimwear model.

3. Our Home

What I thought: That the living room would remain an adult space, with furniture and décor in pale, neutral shades. The floor would be visible at all times and surfaces tidy. Yes, the children could come in and play, but toys would be returned to the nursery after they had finished playing. I would share pictures on social media of my children in this perfectly styled space and people would think ‘oh yes, I can tell she reads interior magazines. Her house is beautiful!’

The reality: I’ve styled my living room rather successfully in ‘brightly coloured plastic tat’.  On the rare occasions you can see the beige rug underneath the piles of toys and half-ripped/half-eaten books, you would notice a blue handprint and section of matted dried play-doh that I tried to cut out (but failed).

4. Sleep

What I thought: That it might be a bit of an ordeal in the early days. I’d arrive for meet-ups with my mummy friends wearing big sunglasses, exclaiming: ‘LAST NIGHT WAS AWFUL! ORDER ME A DOUBLE ESPRESSO!” But a few weeks later, baby would be sleeping through the night in his nursery – and on the weekends, he’d treat us to a lie-in.

The reality:  For the first year of motherhood, I woke up from three-hour stretches of sleep, looked at the time, and thought ‘Wow! Three hours! That wasn’t so bad!” And just when those three-hour stretches extended to four, then five, then six hours, we decided to do it all over again. Three years later, I’ve started ordering triple espressos.

5. Holidays

What I thought: That we’d still get to go on relaxing beach holidays, reading novels on sun-loungers as our little darlings played at our feet. Between chapters, we’d join them for a spot of sandcastle making or dip in the sea, before returning to our base. And in the evenings, we’d say ‘Oh let them stay up late! We’re on holiday!” and we’d stroll through Mediterranean towns with our sun-kissed children, enjoying long dinners and good chat, with a bottle of wine – while our children sat quietly at the end of the table colouring with wax crayons.

The reality: We researched far-flung holidays abroad, trying to find the perfect combination of kids club, pool safety gates, baby-proofed accommodation, and evening babysitting services – before picking up the phone and inviting ourselves to stay at the grandparents. 



10th March 2015

I feel happy every day since having children (but sometimes only for a second)

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 19.13.00When I was pregnant with my first baby, I spent a long time browsing the web on the subject of babies. In the manner of a lot of first time mums, I genuinely believed that the more information I absorbed on those long, quiet afternoons on my own would equip me to deal with the little terrorist that was soon to enter my life.

It didn’t, of course. And neither was the tip about drinking raspberry leaf tea when nine-months-pregnant very useful – I just felt a bit queasy and needed a wee 32 times in one single morning.

But one thing that has stuck in my mind for the last three years was a post I read on a forum. A mum wrote:

Before I had children, I felt genuinely happy perhaps once a month, sometimes it was longer. Since I’ve had them in my life, I feel waves of true happiness every single day.

It’s stuck in my mind, because it’s true. I do have moments every single day where I look at my boys and feel pretty pleased with my lot. A warm feeling that spreads from my chest throughout my body and ends up with a few tears pricking my eyes.

It doesn’t always last long, admittedly. And it usually happens in the moments when I have time to sit and reflect. Like when I’ve just tucked them up in bed for the night and I creep in to check them, watching their little chests rising and eyelids flickering as they drift off to sleep in their pale blue, sheep-print pyjamas. And I think to myself ‘hooray, got through another day with everyone in one piece!’ Or when I am on my way to work in the morning after the nursery drop-off – and I think about the boys as I stroll in the sunshine; remembering something funny Stanley has said or the little dance that Wilfred did to the opening credits of Peppa Pig that morning (he has sadly picked up his dancing prowess from his mum, but it has strong comedic value).

The point is that I agree with the lady that wrote that back in 2012.

That’s not to say that I was unhappy before I had them – as I wasn’t. But I certainly don’t remember feeling those waves of happiness so regularly.

Maybe we are handed those moments of happiness because we genuinely need them to get us through the day at times – after all, my pre-parenting days on the 08.27 to Charing Cross every morning, sipping a cappuccino and flicking through a newspaper, before heading to my desk at a magazine, didn’t quite throw the same challenges in my path before 9am. There were challenges, of course, but not the kind that made me consider throwing myself on the floor and wailing as I dealt with the aftermath of the toddler smashing a grape into the rug with his golf club.

It isn’t just the happiness that seems to be amplified either – but every other emotion under the sun. Parenthood unleashes happiness, frustration, desperation, hilarity, boredom, nostalgia, anger, and back to happiness again – sometimes within a 5 minute period. Happiness is the highlight and makes everything else feel so worthwhile.

So that mum on the forum was right. I do feel happy every single day. If only for a second.  And thank goodness for that.



8th March 2015

The art of the family selfie

IMG_6182I love all kinds of photography – and that includes taking family selfies. Whilst the standard of the photographs is never quite as good, they capture a moment in time – a day when it was just the three of you, the four of you, or the more of you. Those moments as a family are special and I find family selfies tend to reflect that happiness (well, until you have unwilling teenagers, I imagine!)

I have been taking family selfies since before we even had kids and I can remember the exact moment and circumstances of every single shot. We were always happy and enjoying the moment, so I grabbed my phone to capture it. Some work better than others, but all bring back happy memories. In fact, I love them so much that I have framed a couple and hung them on the wall.

Keen to improve the standard of my family selfies, I recently chatted to the very talented Dubai-based photographer Chloe Lodge. Seriously readers, if you are in Dubai and need a photographer, this lady is a very wise choice. She also teaches photography, so you can learn the art on a one-to-one basis. This may even convince me to finally purchase the camera and lens that I have always wanted.

Chloe has shared her top tips for taking family selfies below:

1. Shoot with the sun on your faces, but drop the phone down a little so you aren’t all staring at the sun and squinting. If it’s really bright, look at each other instead of the phone. Say to the little ones: ‘where’s Mummy’s nose’ or ‘look at you little brother’.

2. Shooting with the sun behind you is lovely too, back light is always pretty but remember to tap on your faces so the camera exposes for you and not the background.

3. Pass the phone to the person with the longest arm!

4. Avoid buildings or objects coming out the tops of your heads. There is nothing worse than a Burj Khalifa hat! If there is something you want to include try moving to one side so it has its own visual space in the frame.

5. And if all else fails, use a selfie stick. Gulp, did I really suggest that?

I will definitely be taking Chloe’s advice when I pick up my phone in future. And did I mention this post was also a shameless excuse to share a history of my family through family selfies? So here goes.

photo 1 photo 2photo 3photo 4Happy selfie taking!



5th March 2015

8 of the most irritating things you can say to a pregnant lady

IMG_5015

1 – What they say: “Make the most of the sleep while you still can!”

What you think: Oh yes, I’m making the most of it. I usually spend it on the toilet relieving my never-ending urge to wee, propped up on pillows to ease the heartburn, or summoning up the energy to roll over for the seventieth time that night. I will miss that when it’s taken away.

2 – What they say: “You look well!”

What you think: You mean fat?

3 – What they say: “Not long now!”

What you think? “I have another 6 months to go. But thank you.

4 – What they say: “Can I touch your bump?”

What you think: “Go ahead! Do you want a squeeze of my thigh while you’re at it?”

5 – What they say: “You’re bump is tiny! Are you sure there’s a baby in there?

What you think? Let’s hope so or I’m going to look really stupid in the delivery room.

6 – What they say: “You’re glowing!”

What you think? You mean I’m bright red in the face and sweating?

7 – What they say: “Don’t worry, baby will come when he’s ready!”

What you think: My skin can’t stretch any more. I can barely walk. I have to give myself a pep talk before I heave myself off the sofa. If I am not allowed to moan now, when exactly am I allowed to moan?

8 – What they say: “Are you sure it’s not twins?”

What you think: No, there is only one in there. And I am walking away now.

 



4th March 2015

What is the perfect age gap between children?

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.20.41Yesterday, while looking back at some old photographs, it occurred to me that when Stanley was the same age as Wilfred is now (13 months), I was already pregnant with his brother.

My reaction to that was a mixture of shock and horror at my own antics.

He was just a baby! And there I was, expecting another one, totally naïve about the journey ahead of me. My bump growing at the same rate as my stubborn toddler’s insistence on running away, having public tantrums, and refusing to sit in his buggy. The newborn baby arriving before his brother was even out of nappies, still sucking a dummy, and still needing to be watched like a hawk at every waking hour. The journeys out as a threesome in the early days, when we spent longer getting out of the door than we spent enjoying the outside world.

At 21 months, it was a small age gap, but certainly not the smallest – after all, people regularly have babies less than a year apart. But according to the Office for National Statistics, the average interval between births is 35 months – so we made the decision to give Stanley a sibling quite a lot quicker than the average family.

I sometimes doubt my own sanity when I think back to the decision to have another baby when my first couldn’t even walk. But despite the struggles in the early days, I don’t regret making that decision for a single second.

How can I? It only takes one glance at Wilfred to be thankful that we did it. His big blue eyes, his squidgy thighs, his hilarious babble talk with the odd intelligible word starting to creep in, his awkward toddling with his walker, his cuddles in the morning in bed, and his unwavering love and admiration for his older brother.

It turns out that it was one of the best decisions we ever made.

Of course, all my friends have different stories. Some had unexpected second pregnancies and even smaller age gaps, still in the exhausting newborn days when a pregnancy test shook their world all over again. Some planned small age gaps and came out of the exhausting early fog to find their children had become inseparable, best friends. Some left a bigger gap and discovered jealously was a big player with an older sibling, whilst others loved the fact their child could enjoy their bump growing as much as they did and that created an early bond. Some tried for a long time and suffered devastating losses, as a stark reminder that none of this is in our control. Some only wanted one child and have never regretted that decision. Some have told me their gap was perfect. Some have told me how much they struggled.

But the one thing that every one of us shares is that we never regret that age gap in the end. It becomes our normal. And we couldn’t imagine life any other way.

So what is the perfect age gap between children?

It’s yours. I promise.



2nd March 2015

Currently Loving… March

Another month – whoa, how did that happen? March is a funny time of year for me. When I lived in the UK, I used to love March arriving as it meant better weather was on the way. But now it means the exact opposite in Dubai, as we only have a month or so until it will be getting too hot to enjoy outside life until the end of October. That’s depressing to say the least, but we will be making the most of it over the coming month with lots of beach trips and park days. I also have family arriving to look forward to over the next month and then a few weeks in the UK in April for Easter, so it’s definitely not all bad.

And without further ado, here are the things we are currently enjoying, ordering, and trying in the Mum of Boys house.

currently loving

1. The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. This beautiful book was a gift to Stanley from his friend Francesca – and we have been reading it non-stop for the last few weeks. A Number One New York Times Bestseller, no less, the book features letters written by different colour crayons to their owner Duncan. The story is so funny and the illustrations make it such a joy to read. I think children from three upwards would all love it added to their book shelves. The paperback is £3.49 from Amazon.co.uk (click here to buy )

2. Magnotabs. If your children are the age of learning to write, these magnetic tabs are genius. Stanley is a bit geeky when it comes to letters and numbers, so when I saw these in a local shop (Read n Enjoy in JBR, for those in Dubai), I immediately picked up the tab with 0-9 and took it home. He loves it so much he is taking it to bed with him every night. The idea is that you draw the little magnetic pen over the numbers / letters – and as you do, little magnet balls are pulled up to complete the outline. It teaches children how to write in a fun way – and whilst they aren’t cheap, I’d much prefer he practiced this way than spend hours tracing letters on the iPad. The Magnotab A-Z is £37 and the 1-9 is £27.55. You can also get lower case, cursive and free form tabs for drawing. Buy online from Amazon.co.uk (click here to buy )

3. Etsy. I’ve gone a bit Etsy crazy this month, treating Wilfred to printed leggings and both the boys to some new T-Shirts and Marquee initial lights for their bedroom. I love Etsy for kids and can’t wait for my haul to arrive (via Shop & Ship, Dubai people!) The leggings are from Fred & Noah here (£12 each), the T-Shirts are from fEeLiNgPrInTy here (£7.99 each) and the lights are from Zoe’s Little Wonder Emporium here (currently out of stock, but will be back soon at £30 each).

4. Afterschool.ae (Dubai). I’m always on the hunt for family-friendly companies in Dubai, both for this blog and for the day job – and Afterschool.ae has stood out from the crowd. This very clever website allows you to log on to find after-school activities for your children in Dubai (and further afield), with an easy search function to find activities as varied as surfing, acting theatre, ballet, football, and gymnastics (to name just a few). Timings, address details, and company contact details are all clearly listed – and you can even book and pay online. Dubai was crying out for something as useful as this for parents and I will definitely be using it. Visit www.afterschool.ae

5. Eats Amazing Bento Boxes. Inspired by My Two Mums on Instagram, I have just bought a set of Bento Box accessories to make the boys’ lunches a lot more fun. We have been doing ‘fun tray’ lunches for a while in our house – with different sections containing different foods to make it nice and varied – and this takes it one step further with bright silicon containers, shaped sandwich cutters, vegetable cutters, and fun, novelty food picks to brighten things up. The possibilities are endless, but the average bento box lunch will feature cheese, fruit, sandwiches, wraps, vegetable shapes, and crackers. I bought all of our accessories from Eats Amazing and there are lots of ideas on the site to inspire creativity. Visit www.eatsamazing.co.uk