Monthly Archives: May 2015

31st May 2015

It’s the end of an era – and I don’t think I like it

523578_10152089325715607_1472237348_nI never really understood why people got upset when their children started school. As a working mother, it seemed like the perfect childcare solution. And as the mother of a little boy that loves learning, I knew he’d enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the guilt-free time to work.

I used to laugh with my friends about dropping him off on his first day and tap dancing back to the car – and I was only half-joking.

But with only a few months to go until Stanley walks through the school gates for the first time, the realisation has hit me hard.

And I finally get it.

I totally get it.

Because, even though little doubts are starting to creep into my mind about how he will settle, the fact he may struggle with tiredness, and the possibility of him not making any friends, my sadness isn’t really about that.

It’s about the fact it’s the end of an era.

And it’s the first milestone I really don’t want to hurry up.

It’s a cliché, but time has gone too quickly. It only seems like yesterday that I held him on my chest for the first time, staring at an angry baby I’d been growing for 9 months with a mixture of utter fascination, elation and exhaustion. And those early days at home, when we survived on a mix of sweet-smelling formula made through bleary eyes at 4am, early morning caffeine fixes, and long afternoons waiting for the clock to tick around to Daddy getting home – I remember them so clearly that I can still smell that formula, taste that coffee, and hear that clock so vividly in my mind.

I remember thinking that we had all the time in the world. School didn’t feature in my thoughts at all – and if someone had mentioned it, I would have thought they were bonkers.

I didn’t need to worry about school yet! That was miles off! That was for older parents, not for new mothers hibernating with a tiny little person!

One minute he was falling asleep on my chest as we watched re-runs of Keeping Up With The Kardashians – and the next, we were moving him into a toddler bed and hearing him get up to go for a wee all by himself.

How did it happen so quickly?

I have a boy now – and I love the fact we can have whole conversations about the colour orange, a little kingdom of elves and fairies, and the fact he believes a lion fish is hiding upstairs at Granny and Grandad’s house. I have more than a son; I have a little friend, who I genuinely enjoy hanging out with. I no longer have to interpret his cries with a poorly-designed app on the iPad – he will (and does frequently) tell me exactly what isn’t right with the world.

I wouldn’t wish us back to those early days for a second.

But I am still not ready to have a school age child.

I’m not ready to admit to myself that he is no longer a toddler.

I am not ready to watch him graduate from nursery in a few weeks with the friends he’s had since he was 18 months old. I’m not ready to walk out of that warm, friendly, nurturing place for the last time. I’m not ready to fold up his nursery polo shirt for the last time and store it away in a box, nor to buy his first school uniform.

And I definitely won’t be tap dancing back to the car on his first day in September.

Because I finally get it.

I totally get it.

It’s the end of an era – and I don’t think I like it.



29th May 2015

Enter At Your Own Risk – The 8 Hazards Of Soft Play Areas For Adults

IMG_1858If I owned a soft play, here are the warnings I would display on reception for accompanying parents…

1.    Slide Related Bum Injuries. There’s no doubt about it – our slide looks tempting, But make the mistake of throwing yourself down it and you risk friction burns, bruised hips, and the embarrassment of having to do a bum shuffle as you creep down at a tenth of the speed of those alongside you.

2.    Heat Exhaustion. We do have Air Conditioning in our establishment, but it’s nowhere near efficient enough to compete with the body heat of 50 overexcited small people. And it definitely doesn’t reach the highest parts of our jungle gym – so if you venture up with your child, we suggest you bring a towel to mop your brow throughout the exertions.

3.    Sore Heads. We thought it would be funny to create different ceiling heights throughout our jungle gym – so just when you think it’s safe to stand up straight, a poorly padded bar will thwack you over the head. Bring an ice pack.

4.    The Inevitable Moment Of Panic. With advanced security measures on the door, no child can escape our super safe play area. But you will still experience a terrifying moment of panic when you can’t place eyes on your child for a few minutes – and this will happen every single time you visit.

5.    The Shame of Getting Stuck. Here’s the thing; we designed our soft play area for small people. Not for big people. So if you accompany your child, you will find you don’t fit through certain tunnels, past certain obstacles, and across certain bridges. You will also discover that it’s much harder to get out of a ball pit than it looks.

6.    Bruised Limbs. We call it ‘soft play’, but that’s only when the mats stay together. If you dive to save your precariously balanced child, the speed and weight of your rescue mission will inevitably mean that one of the mats slides away beneath you. And your landing will inevitably not be soft. That ice pack should come in handy again.

7.    Wasted Food. We have a lovely café on site, but it’s really just for show. You can buy food and drink by all means, but you will be interrupted by your child roughly every 3 minutes – and cold coffee / soggy chips don’t quite have the same appeal.

8.    Protective Instinct. If you have a small person, we suggest you stay in the café and try to zone out with calming music or meditation. Accompany them into our play area and you will want to wrap them in bubble wrap and/or round up groups of larger children (especially those high on sugar).

 



27th May 2015

Things That Totally Baffle Me About Small Children

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 21.11.291 – When you are trying to keep them awake, they will sleep through any noise. The roar of a hoover, loud music in the car, their name being called at the top of your voice. When you want them to sleep, however, they will wake up to the sound of you slumping into the sofa after making yourself a cup of coffee.

2 – They don’t want to get in the bath. And 15 minutes later, they don’t want to get out of the bath.

3 – It doesn’t matter how small you chop them, they will always find vegetables in pasta sauce.

4 – They can expertly climb to the top of furniture, balancing on one foot and smiling as you run to catch them. But when back on firm land, they will trip over a raisin.

5 – No toy compares to the toy held by another child.

6 – Ask them to find their shoes, tidy up, or finish their dinner and you may as well be invisible.  Disappear for a quick wee and they will find you in seconds.

7 – When at play dates, they will surprise you by trying new food. “Ooh I love carrots!” they will say, as you watch in absolute amazement. When you attempt to dish them out at home afterwards, however, they will give you a look of horror and gag at the sight of them.

8 – The day you pull out a new outfit from the wardrobe and think ‘yeah, I’m wearing that today’ and emerge from your bedroom feeling good is the same day that the baby will sneeze porridge over your outfit and the toddler will face plant your legs with a face full of peanut butter.

9 – The time you forget to put baby wipes or a change of clothes in your bag is the time they will fall in a puddle / dive into their red pasta sauce / have a nappy explosion or accident.

10 – If you plan a journey to coincide with a time they should really be sleeping, their eyes will stay wide open until you are pulling into the driveway of your destination. And then they will scream for the next few hours at the injustice of having to be awake.



26th May 2015

10 of the coolest T-Shirts for boys

I haven’t shared a style post for a while – mainly because my readers are spread across the UK and the UAE, so I’ve found it tricky knowing whether to list items in one or both countries. Problem over, as I’ve decided to list both in all future shopping posts. You’ll find the UK prices and stockists listed first  – and the UAE stockists listed in grey below them (where possible).

So here goes with my pick of the coolest T-Shirts for little boys for summer…

T-SHIRTS COLLAGE

1. Batman T-Shirt, £5.99, H&M, click here  
UAE – Dhs59, available in store at H&M

2. Number T-Shirt, £20, Nor-Folk at Scandi Mini, click here
UAE – company ships internationally

3. Wild One T-Shirt, from £4, Next, click here
UAE – from Dhs20, buy online here

4. Star T-Shirt, £7.99, Zara, click here
UAE – Dhs55, available in store

5. Glow in the Dark Jar T-Shirt, £9.95, GAP, click here
UAE – available in store at GAP

6. Palm Tree T-Shirt, £3, Mothercare, click here 
UAE – Dhs55, available in larger Mothercare stores

7. Neon Bolt T-Shirt, £21, Gardner & The Gang at Scandi Mini, click here 
UAE – company ships internationally

8. High Five Me T-Shirt, from £10 (included in pack of two), Next, click here
UAE – from Dhs50, available to buy online here

9. Super Hero T-Shirt, £27, Beau Loves, click here
UAE – company ships internationally

10. Yeah Yeah Yeah T-Shirt, £19.50, Young One Apparel at Cissy Wears, click here 
UAE – company ships internationally



25th May 2015

What Advice Would I Give To Couples Expecting Their First Child?

image1-2When I was pregnant with my first baby, my husband and I flew to Thailand for a belated honeymoon. Our first honeymoon had been cancelled as there was so much snow on the runway at Heathrow (beautiful backdrop to our wedding photos, but a bit of a hiccup in our plans to escape as husband and wife) – so there we were, nearly a whole year later, surrounded by giant vases of purple orchids as we checked into a hotel on the island of Phuket.

We ate exotic fruit for breakfast and then spent our mornings on sun loungers – and it was on one of those sun loungers that I felt a baby kick inside me for the first time in my life. I took pictures of my just-showing bump with a stunning turquoise vista behind it. And when the clock ticked round to lunchtime, we made our way over to the pool bar and ate bowls of Thai soup and noodles, washed down by mocktails and flowering cups of tea.

When we were full, we headed upstairs to our suite so I could have a nap in a king size bed with crisp cotton sheets and feather pillows – and afterwards, we lay on the sofa and watched films back-to-back, flicked through magazines, and ordered drinks decorated with cocktail umbrellas until the sun started to set.

At the time, I felt like we were wasting those afternoons by not exploring the island or heading out on a speedboat. I felt guilty and a bit embarrassed that we had clocked up so many hours sprawled on a sofa. I didn’t mention that part of our holiday to many people enquiring about our trip. It felt like a dirty secret that no one would really understand.

But three years later, I realise it was utterly blissful and possibly the best holiday of my life.

I don’t regret those lazy afternoons one bit. In fact, I would like to give my past self a high-five for clocking up those hours on the sofa. It was a very wise decision indeed.

So with the memories of that lazy holiday in my mind and the gift of hindsight, what advice would I give to couples expecting their first child?

This is it.

Feel no guilt about the time you spend relaxing before your baby arrives.

Sprawl on sofas, watch a marathon of films, go for long, lazy lunches, and watch the sun set from the comfort of a king size bed.

Don’t rush around trying to see things and do things.

Don’t try and cram too much into the time you have left as a two.

As the truth is that you can still go to those places and see those things when you have a baby in tow. The thing you will really miss is the chance to relax.

You will miss the alone time. You will miss the quiet. You will miss the chance to crawl under the duvets for a mid-afternoon nap. You will miss watching films without a small person demanding it’s changed to an episode of Ben & Holly or Peppa Pig.  And you will miss pouring boiling water over coffee granules and knowing you will make it to the bottom of the mug.

Holidays don’t work like that when kids come into the equation.

Life doesn’t work like that when kids come into the equation.

And you will miss these things, you really will.

This advice is more useful than tips about night feeds (they are painful, but they pass), or advice about how to secure the perfect nappy (you will work it out by day two), or advice about what and how to feed your baby (there are people far better qualified than me to give you those tips).

Because as much as I love my boys (and life is so much better with them, it really is!) I am so jealous of myself on that sofa, in an apartment, on an island called Phuket.

And believe me, as much as you will enjoy and love your journey into parenthood with every ounce of your being, you will be jealous of your past self one day too.

So lap it up.

Put your feet up.

And enjoy every second.



24th May 2015

Currently Loving – May

May is almost over, so I’ve just made it with my monthly selection – I have no idea why I leave these picks until the last minute every month, but I hope it’s worth it as it’s given me a little longer to try and buy some amazing things throughout May.

So without further ado, here goes…

currently loving

1 – Dumyé

Oh I just love this company and this initiative! Dumyé are a small Dubai based company (but with stockists all over the world) that make the most beautiful organic rag dolls – and for every doll that is sold, one is gifted to an orphan. I’ve got to be honest, the dolls aren’t cheap – but the craft that goes into them is amazing and I think it is the most beautiful way to give to charity. Owned by Sahar Wehbeh, the company is currently in line for a grant so they can expand and help even more children – so please do vote for by clicking here (it’s free and takes 10 seconds). If you live in Dubai, you can find out more and shop here. And if you live in the UK, you can shop at Alex and Alexa by clicking here.

2 – Tell Kiddo

I discovered this cool Swedish kids interior company through Instagram and have fallen a bit in love with their cool toy sacks and monochrome prints. I’m gradually re-decorating the boy’s bedroom and made an order for 3 x prints last week (they ship to the UK and I used my Shop & Ship to get it to Dubai). Check it out for achingly cool bits and pieces for your children’s rooms! www.tellkiddo.com

3 – Slumbersac with feet

We love sleeping bags in our house and used them for the first three years with Stanley, only upgrading to a duvet in the last few weeks – so Wilfred still has a long time to go in them. When I heard about Slumbersac Sleeping Bags with Feet, I thought it was an inspired idea, as we can put him in the bag before bed so he’s cosy and ready to go down – but he can still walk around freely until bedtime. What is clever about the bag is that they are designed to keep feet inside during the night (so no cold feet) but you can pull them through in a second when they want to walk. The UK company ships all over the world, and you can shop online here.

 4 – Barney & Wilf

I have been running a competition with the brilliant company Barney & Wilf on my Facebook page (quick, it finishes tomorrow!) – and I am so impressed with their concept. Instead of collecting stacks of artwork or displaying throughout the house, the company will create beautiful prints with mini versions of your little person’s masterpieces.  Stanley will be saying goodbye to nursery at the end of June (sob) so I have decided to order a print that shows off the artwork he created while he was there. The perfect memento that we will treasure forever! The company ships internationally, so prints can be ordered to the UK or Dubai. www.barneyandwilf.com

5 – Phil & Ted’s Discovery Car Seat

Wilfred has grown out of his baby car seat – so rather than buying a second identical second stage, we decided to upgrade Stanley to something that would last him a good few years. As I am an ambassador for online store Baby Souk, I asked the company to recommend the safest and best seat for the job – and they came back with Phil & Ted’s Discovery. With an extendable headrest and removable car seat harness, it is an ultra safe child car seat that converts from a toddler car seat to a child booster as a toddler grows. It will in fact last Stanley until he is 11 years old – and it’s very slim too, so if you are a mother of three, take note that three of these would fit across a back seat! If you are in the UAE, you can buy at Baby Souk here. If you are in the UK, visit www.philandteds.com for your nearest stockist.

6 – Eat Greek

If you live in Dubai, I have a great date night recommendation of Eat Greek at The Beach. My husband and I love this restaurant for seriously tasty and authentic Greek food – the tzatziki and lamb kebabs are making my mouth water even thinking about them. It’s non-licensed and affordable – and it works really well in the summer months as the interior is so lovely with twinkly fairy lights and low-hanging light bulbs that make the setting both cosy and intimate. I promise you wont be disappointed.www.eatgreekkouzina.com



22nd May 2015

15 Foolproof Ways To Get Your Child’s Instant And Undivided Attention

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 21.42.561 – Pick up your phone and attempt to make a call. The more important the call, the faster they will come running.

2 – Sit down on the toilet.

3 – Answer the door.

4 – Stand in the kitchen and begin to prepare dinner. For a quicker success rate, start cutting up raw chicken.

5 – Make yourself a hot drink and have the cheek to sit on the sofa.

6 – Turn on the shower and step inside.

7 – Take a younger sibling to change their nappy. The messier the nappy, the quicker the response.

8 – Book a babysitter and attempt to leave the house.

9 – Attempt to breastfeed a sibling.

10 – Step into a warm bath when they are sleeping peacefully. Your name will be called before you touch the bubbles

11 – Attempt to eat in their presence.

12 – Step within a few feet of a cleaning product or appliance.

13 – Whilst driving, pull onto a busy motorway. If your child was peacefully minding their own business beforehand, they will be shouting demands within seconds.

14 – Invite a friend over to your house and attempt to chat while the children play.

15 – Show even a hint of affection to your husband or partner. They will be there in seconds. Seconds.

 



21st May 2015

The 10 Photos That Make Me Happy

I love looking back at old photos, so I thought I’d share the 10 that make me happy instantly when I see them. These aren’t necessarily the important moments – like the time I first held my baby in my arms or the time one brother met the other. But these are the sometimes spontaneous, sometimes planned moments that bring a smile to my face – usually because I remember the happiness we felt at the time.

So here goes…

2

In Thailand and pregnant with his brother

3

The early days of being a family of 4, all piled into bed in the morning.

4

Happy sunny days in the UK

5

Flying over Dubai Marina – our home

6

And there goes his older brother, in Thailand in October 2013

7

The afternoon before we flew back to the UK for Christmas – excited is an understatement (and a tiger!)

8

We returned to the bench in Greenwich Park where we got engaged – and 5 years later, we had two in tow!

9

My three babies!

 

1

Me and my big baby

 

10

Days on the beach are usually our happiest times

 

You can follow photos of my family by heading over to my Instagram account here



20th May 2015

On the subject of gender disappointment…

29e4bf8e8c93a23b7cb727d7ac85c27dI have always been quite vocal on my blog about how I always wanted boys. And ever since I met my husband 12 years ago and we started talking about our future children, we both desperately wanted at least one little boy. And after we’d got our wish and were expecting our second bundle, we were happy for either gender – but both felt pretty chuffed when we found out he would be getting a little brother.

But after chatting to a friend of mine who didn’t get the balance of genders she had always dreamt about, I became more aware that not every mother felt the same way.

And so I chatted to a few more friends.

And I saw people type things in private online forums.

And as time went on, it became more and more obvious to me that gender disappointment is a very real thing.

Something that so many women have experienced.

Something that so many women don’t want to say out loud.

Of course, we never, ever regret our children. And once we meet our babies, we fall desperately in love. We know we are blessed. We know that we are amongst the lucky ones to have a child to hold in our arms.

We would never, ever wind back the clock and swap them for another child.

But that doesn’t stop the grief for the child we always dreamt we would have.

As I chatted to friends and asked whether they felt this way, their answers always came back in hushed whispers. Afraid that someone would overhear and assume they didn’t love their children.

Because they do love their children. Desperately. Unequivocally. Fiercely.

And gender disappointment takes nothing away from that love.

But still, the conversations kept coming…

One friend said: “I’ve never told anyone else this, but…”

One friend said: “I’m afraid to have another child, as I can’t bear the disappointment if it’s not the gender I want.”

One friend told me that she was bullied online after admitting the disappointment she felt at her 20-week scan on an online forum. She didn’t go back onto the Internet for a long time after that. She felt genuinely depressed and totally judged.

One friend told me that she still feels pangs of sadness when she imagines the face of the daughter she always thought she would have. The daughter she imagined dressing in pink. The daughter she imagined on her wedding day.

One friend told me that tears prick her eyes whenever she thinks about the little boy her husband always wanted. The little boy he imagined taking to Wembley with him to support England. The son he imagined taking to the pub for a beer on his 18th.

The children never existed. But they lived in dreams.  So vividly.

Everywhere I turned, people admitted they felt the same.

Not everyone, I will add. Just like me, a lot of friends played the gender lottery and won. Others told me that they really had no preference.

But for those that did have a preference, as much as their head told them “it’s 50/50, try not to get your hopes up!’, their heart panged for a certain gender and kept reminding them when they found out the news.

The conversations I had left me feeling sad. Not for the children that were never born, as those mothers told me that the love they feel for their children eclipses that and reminds them they are lucky every single day.

But for the fact that so many mothers feel they can’t say it out loud.

And I understand that. I really do. Because no-one wants people to think they are disappointed with their children and the life that mother nature chose for them.

So I will say it.

There is no shame in gender disappointment. It exists. It is real.

It is a disappointment in what you don’t have. It is not a disappointment in what you do.

And honestly, you are not alone.



18th May 2015

I had big dreams for my boys – but it all changed when I met them…

stanLong before I was even pregnant with our first child, my husband and I sat on the sofa together and debated the future careers of our future children. I always hoped for boys and was dead set on them playing rugby for England. My husband was very happy with that idea, but wanted me to consider them being professional golfers (more money, apparently) or martial arts ninjas (more kudos, apparently).

Our conversations notched up a gear when I was pregnant, especially when it was confirmed that he was a boy. I could imagine him wearing his first little rugby kit (one day, a newspaper would run a photo of him wearing it as a baby, alongside a photo of him running onto the pitch in his England strip). And when we debated names, I made sure that they would work well for every dream future career – for Prime Minister, but also England Number 10.

Oh yes, I had big dreams for our boys before they even made it out of my tummy.

Fast-forward three years and all that is forgotten.

Seriously.

My biggest ambition for them now is to make it to the end of day without a full-blown wrestling match on the living room floor over who gets to play with an Etch a Sketch.

As milestones creep up, my ambitions shift to that for a while. When potty training, I started to dream of a time when we could make it through the day without accidents. And when that happened, a time when we could make it through the night without pull-ups. And after that, a time we could move him into a bed and he would stay in it.

I dream ahead a little bit – but not too far.

I imagine flights where the boys sit quietly, transfixed by the TV screen in front of them. I imagine holidays where I can relax with a cocktail by the pool. I imagine Saturday mornings when the boys actually want to stay in bed. I imagine lazy afternoons without Peppa Pig making an appearance.

The thought of the boys playing rugby only crosses my mind when the small one tackles the big one and I think: ‘Yep, he’ll be a good player”.  But seconds later, I am back to cleaning yoghurt off the floor with a pack of baby wipes, so rarely have have time to give it another moment’s thoughts.

The main thing, of course, is that I don’t want them to be big yet. And the thought of them running out onto a pitch in an England top, whilst admittedly quite cool, is also a bit heartbreaking.

As for now, I just want them to be little boys.

I want them to be healthy.

I want them to feel safe and secure.

And I want them to enjoy a few quiet moments with an Etch a Sketch without their brother trying to take them out.

As at some point quite early on this journey of motherhood – probably around the time my first baby clocked me and gave the biggest, most beautiful smile – I realised that some things are more important than who writes his future pay cheques.

And I realised that it wasn’t my place to decide these things for my boys.

I realised that I really wouldn’t care if they never played rugby or if they sucked at being ninjas.

I realised that I just want them to be themselves.

And most importantly, I realised that I just want them to be happy.

Always happy.

And that is all.