Monthly Archives: May 2015

16th May 2015

How To Successfully Manage Your Big People – by Wilfred, aged 15 months

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 21.46.101 – The highchair is not your friend. It is a tool used by big people to minimise mess and mischief. When you are first placed into it, eat peacefully for a few minutes – but as soon as their backs are turned, throw every other mouthful onto the floor. You should also throw your water bottle onto the floor at least twice.  These tactics will ensure the big people leave you in this restraint device no longer than necessary. Repeat every mealtime.

2 – The buggy is another device that should not be encouraged. When placed into it, make every attempt to fight your way out of the straps until you are either carried or allowed to walk. Be wary of big people giving you snacks to distract you. Those rice cakes may taste good, but freedom feels a lot better. Keep up the fight and your big people will eventually start leaving the buggy at home.

3 – If your big people are distracted trying to cook, do laundry, or clean the house, you should do everything in your power to bring their attention back to you. Toddle straight to a glass of water, plug socket, or tall standing lamp – and then alert the big people to your current location with a squeal. Repeat as many times as necessary until they give up.

4 – If your big people have just made themselves a cup of tea or coffee, repeat the steps above until it goes cold.

5 – If one of your big people takes you into the bathroom with them when they need to use the toilet, bang on the door repeatedly and scream to get out. If one of your big people goes into the bathroom without you, bang on the door repeatedly and scream to get in.

6 – If your big people make and attempt to eat food in front of you, immediately join them and demand to be fed at least half. This will discourage selfish behaviour.

7 – Horizontal nappy changes are an inconvenience and should not be encouraged. Whilst your legs are in the air, try to roll repeatedly. You should also scream. Your big people will eventually teach themselves to complete a nappy change whilst you are standing up. This is in everyone’s best interests.

8 – Hiding things around the house is a game that the whole family will enjoy. For maximum participation, hide important items, such as the TV remote or  car keys. Keep the game interesting by ignoring questions and loitering in a completely different area to your hiding place.

9 – Your big people may try and put you to bed late one evening in the hope of a later start the next morning. Do not stand for this behavior. Make sure that you wake up at the same time as usual  with enough noise to wake them up immediately. Feel free to throw in a few extra wake-ups during the night too. They will soon learn their lesson.

10 – Your big people will tell you that their mobile phone is not a toy. Do not be deceived. It is the best toy ever invented. Make every attempt to find it and take it to a quiet place.



15th May 2015

5 Reasons Why Fairmont The Palm is Probably The Most Family Friendly Hotel In Dubai

Here’s 5 reasons why I think Fairmont The Palm is probably the most family-friendly hotel in Dubai. And if you want to experience it for yourself, scroll to the bottom of this post to find out how to win a 2-night stay at the hotel for a family of 4!

1 – The Kids Club

I can’t even remember the last time I got to relax by a hotel pool without children in tow – but this hotel gives you the rare and very precious chance to do it, as it has a truly outstanding kids club.

Managed by a team of qualified teachers, Fairmont Falcon’s Junior Club accepts children between 18 months and 15 years. The 6000 square foot facility boasts a toddlers playhouse, splash park, climbing walls, arts and crafts, and a chill-out zone with Xbox, Wii and PlayStation.

Stanley absolutely loved this kids club – we barely got a chance to say goodbye before he’d run off to explore. I was so impressed with the facility and the staff – and I could relax knowing he was happy and very well looked after.

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2 – The Kids Pool

I’ve been to a fair few family pools iin Dubai, but I have to say that this is one of the very best for smaller children. The large, knee-high pool and shallow steps mean that children can toddle through the water (take a few water toys for them to tip, pour, and play), whilst the shaded sunbeds under large umbrellas mean that you can dry off and enjoy snacks or drinks in comfort.

We spent a few very happy hours by this pool with both boys and I can’t wait to go back.

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3 – The Food

I know first hand that feeding children can be expensive and stressful – so the fact that Fairmont The Palm is so child-friendly on the food front is very welcome indeed.

Not only does the kids menu include healthy dishes from renowned UK parenting author and nutritionist Annabel Karmel (such as Hidden Vegetable Spaghetti Bolognese) – but better still, kids under the age of five eat for free throughout your stay!

When we dined with our boys at the hotel, I really appreciated the child-sized cutlery and colourful plates too – not something I’ve seen anywhere else in Dubai.

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4 – The Little Touches

Along with the cutlery and plates I mentioned above, this hotel has lots of other family-friendly touches to make your stay relaxing – from child-sized robes in the room, to child-friendly toiletries in the bathrooms, to connecting rooms available, to family DVD’s available on request.

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5 – The Staff

Last but not least, the staff really are exceptionally family friendly at this hotel. I noticed the difference as soon as we arrived, with warm greetings, offers of help, and engagement with the children wherever we turned.

This last point is so important on a family holiday, as it makes you feel comfortable and relaxed as a family when those around you are friendly supportive.

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For details, visit www.fairmont.com/palm-dubai

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Want to win a two-night stay for a family of four to Fairmont The Palm? 

Head over to the Mum of Boys Facebook page and scroll down to find the competition post.

To enter:

1)   “Like” and “Share” this post

2)   “Like” Mum of Boys

3)   “Like” Fairmont The Palm

The prize includes a 2-night weekend stay at Fairmont The Palm for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children), inclusive of breakfast at Flow Kitchen. It includes access to Fairmont Falcon Junior’s Club for 2 children (aged 18 months to 15 years) for 2 days. Finally, it includes a BreakSlow brunch experience for 4 people (2 adults and 2 children).

Families larger than 4 can take the prize, but must book an interconnecting room as maximum occupancy per room is 4. Standard room rate starts at Dhs1,799 per night.

The stay must be taken between June 1 and September 30 2015.

(BreakSlow will not take place between June 12 and July 24 for Ramadan, so stays during this period will not include the brunch).

The competition is open to residents of the UAE and UK, but no flights are included.

The winner will be drawn at random and notified on May 29 2015.



14th May 2015

Oh how the weekends have changed!

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 20.08.37When I was pregnant with my first baby, my husband and I started attending antenatal classes at a local Dubai clinic. I loved going to these classes as it meant we were so close to meeting our baby – but my husband moaned the whole way there and the whole way back.

In hindsight, we probably didn’t need to go, but I loved those evenings sat amongst other pregnant ladies rubbing their bumps, their bored husbands sneakily looking at their phones, and our enthusiastic midwife teacher shoving a doll through rather intimidating models of anatomy.

At the end of every class, we were set some homework for the week ahead (I think this is partly why my husband moaned the whole way home) – and the one exercise that sticks in my mind was to draw a wheel on a piece of paper and divide it up into segments of time to represent what we did over the course of a weekend.

Our wheel was mainly blue, which signified sleep. There was also quite a lot of red, which signified eating. And quite a lot of green, which signified socialising. And a fair bit of purple, which signified watching TV. It was a nice wheel. I remember looking at it and feeling quite proud.

The second exercise was to draw a new wheel that signified life after the baby. We weren’t parents yet, but had been warned by enough people that our sleep would be disturbed – so that circle didn’t feature much blue at all, which signified sleep. And there definitely wasn’t a lot of red, green, or purple either.

We all laughed nervously when we held them up at the next class. We weren’t going to be getting much sleep! But our swollen tummies were a stark reminder that there was no turning back – and we were all so fed up of waddling by then, that we didn’t care about the impeding sleep deprivation. We just wanted our babies.

So I was prepared for my life to change when the baby arrived. I was prepared to get very little sleep. I knew it was coming and I couldn’t wait.

What no one told me was that once life settled a few months later, once the husband was back at work and we were in a routine, weekends would never return to the ‘normality’ of before kids.

Of course, this is logical. This is to be expected.

But it was a still a shock, because I’d never really thought about it.

And at first, we tried to resist the demise of lazy weekends. We still tried to have lie-ins, bringing baby toys into the bed. We still tried to watch films, distracting the baby with musical chairs and colourful ball pits. We still had the odd big night out, thanks to babysitters. And we still went for long lunches, where the baby slept alongside us in his buggy.

We felt like we’d won at parenthood.

But then he started trying to throw himself off the bed in the morning, screamed during our favourite films in the afternoons, always sensed when we’d been out partying and punished us with sleepless nights, and decided the buggy was the devil and certainly wasn’t a makeshift cot.

So we gave up.

And a funny thing happened.

Because once we accepted that our life had changed and embraced it, we realised that we liked our new weekends quite a lot indeed. We enjoyed our nights on the sofa watching Netflix. We enjoyed waking up earlier and making pancakes together in the kitchen. We even enjoyed changing our weekend movies to Disney classics, enjoyed in several sittings with handfuls of microwave popcorn. And we realised that long lunches with a toddler and baby in tow are totally overrated.

And for the first time since, well, probably our school days, we woke up excited about what the weekend had in store.

So it’s true.

Our weekends have changed beyond recognition from those lovely, lazy days before we had children.

But I can honestly say that it’s for the better.

And believe me, I never thought I’d say that about lack of sleep.



13th May 2015

On the subject of being judged….

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 19.45.32I’ve read nasty comments about myself twice recently. The first occasion was work related, when I received a pretty unprofessional email from someone. But do you know what? He was clearly having a bad day and needed a hug. So after replying, I closed my laptop, and that was that. I didn’t give it another moment’s thought.

The second, however, was when I wrote a blog post about wanting to spend more time with the boys – and somebody wrote a comment saying: “How about you stop blogging and spend the time with them instead LOL!

LOL!

Or not – because, to be honest, that one did upset me.

You can slag me off all you like for a magazine feature I chose to write, or the clothes I picked to wear that morning, or the fact I am pretty hopeless at cooking. I won’t think you are the nicest person, but I’ll get over it in about three seconds.

But judge my mothering skills, and I immediately feel affronted.

It’s a bit comical actually, that anyone could think I would have time to blog while my boys played at my feet. If I even glanced at my laptop while I am with them, one child would immediately start throwing himself across my lap to reclaim the space, while the baby would toddle straight towards a reachable glass of water / standing lamp / plug socket.

But I am not writing this blog post to defend myself. I’m writing it because it isn’t the first time I have felt judged as a mother. I’ve felt it so many times in the last three years.

When I was feeding my newborn baby a bottle as he stopped latching and I didn’t want him to starve – and I noticed people on the next table whispering and raising their eyebrows.

When I was dealing with a tantrum in public and my toddler was kicking me and screaming – and I made the decision to scoop him under my arm and keep walking, trying to ignore the shocked looks from passers by.

When I was in a café and my toddler was in the queue at a coffee shop proudly holding his money and a lollipop and I heard tuts from the queue behind.

When I gave my two-year-old son his dummy on a flight as he was screaming and disturbing other passengers – and a mother in the row alongside mouthed ‘dummy’ to her husband, whilst pointing to her mouth and raising her eyebrows.

Why can’t we all be a bit kinder to each other?

None of us know what we are doing in the motherhood lark. The job comes with no rulebook, no weekly appraisals, and no mentor services. We are all doing the best we can, working with colleagues that are less than compliant and very rarely offer to do the tea run.

It’s not easy.

And sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we do things we regret, and sometimes our whole day can be ruined by a raised eyebrow or whispered comment.

It’s just so unnecessary.

The saving grace is that this job comes with rewards.

The very best rewards.

And at the end of the day, when I am crawling through a homemade den in the lounge with two boys in pyjamas and everyone is howling with laughter, I know that is all that matters.

So next time I hear a tut, I am going to try and remember that.

That is all that matters.



11th May 2015

Family Update: Our Weekend at Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat al Beri, Abu Dhabi

Photo 09-05-2015 12 29 23You know how it is when you have children. Weekend hotel stays just aren’t the same. Gone are  lazy days by the pool, romantic dinners, and evenings enjoying the  surroundings of a plush hotel room. And in its place, a weekend trying to stop the kids screeching in packed dining rooms, running  after small people intent on eating sand, and calling it a night as soon as they nod off in fear of waking them up with a smidgen of light or noise. And sometimes, despite the lovely surroundings, I just wish we had stayed at home.

Give me an apartment with several bedrooms, a ridiculously child-friendly pool, and the option to order food to our room so we don’t put honeymooners off kids for life with our performance at dinner, however, and I’m sold – which is why I loved the sound of The Residences at Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat al Beri.

These apartments are attached to the main Shangr-La Hotel, offering all the facilities of a luxury five-star hotel but with benefit of apartment living. Each has its own kitchen, lounge, dining area, and outside terrace – and these places are giant (I enjoyed swanning about the place pretending it was my own apartment). We went away with my friend Simone and her family, so opted for the 4-bed apartment – and each of the bedrooms was a huge, swanky en-suite.

One of the nicest things, however, was that The Residences have their own pools downstairs – and there was no-one around. We had a private beach and kiddie pool for the weekend – and it was a great kiddie pool that even the baby could crawl and toddle through confidently. I kid you not – I haven’t been that relaxed around a pool since I was pregnant with my first and blissfully unaware of what was in store.

This arrangement is so rare in the UAE, where you usually have to choose between a hotel room or an eye waveringly expensive pool villa. At the Residences, you get all the benefits of a five-star hotel (reachable by a hotel buggy, an abra, or your own car), but you also get space, privacy, and the option to stay awake later than the kids. Winner!

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As with any trip away, there are a few small things to mention. Firstly, the transport links to the main hotel were a bit hit and miss, which is a bit tricky in summer temperatures when you are waiting outside for your pick-up. I recommend you jump in the car and valet park at the main hotel – it takes 2 minutes to drive down the road and (bonus) you’ll get to sit in AC on the way. Secondly, you  need to expect the service to be one step down from being in the main resort. You can still get room service, drinks at the pool, and a porter service – but you need to allow at least an hour to get these things. If you go into your weekend expecting these things to happen, they won’t bother you. Think of it as a posh self-catering holiday, rather than a luxe hotel stay with all the trimmings.

We did head down to the main hotel for breakfast each morning, so we got to nose around the  hotel and enjoy a grand feast (think brunch standards, but in the AM.) But apart from that, we were  happy to base ourselves at The Residences and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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My friend Simone has made a vlog of our weekend too, which I have shared below. Happy watching!



8th May 2015

A few questions for my boys…

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 20.14.44Why do you feel the need to wrestle each other to the floor? Like “Oh hi! Nice to see you! Shall we wrestle now?” Even when you reach Daddy’s age, you will slap your friends across the back and pull them into a bear hug, so this isn’t going to stop any time soon. Do you see Mummy doing this? Do you see her greeting her friends or her sister with: “Hi, how are you today? Shall we wrestle now while the kids watch TV?”

Why do you find it so funny to wee standing up? It’s not a water gun. It’s not target practice. I just don’t get  it. And it’s me that has to clear up the mess.

Why are your legs always covered in bruises? I watch you like a hawk when you are at home and I don’t think you bang your legs as much as the damage reveals – so why are they dotted with purple, blue and brown splodges? Are you having secret discos where you slide across the dance floor on your knees?

Ditto to the dirt – why do you always have dirt on your knees? And why are the knees of every pair of trousers looking worn out? I am confused by these things!

Why are burps and farts so funny? It only takes one of you – and I include your father in this – to burp or fart and you are all rolling around laughing on the floor. And the baby is included – in fact, he probably finds it the funniest of the lot of you. Do you catch Mummy farting at a play date and all the mums spitting out their tea in unified hilarity? No. They’d be laughing alright, but not with her.

Where did you learn to wipe your nose with your sleeve? It goes like this: “My nose is dripping! Oh,  here’s a sleeve.” So instead of asking me to help you blow your nose – or even attempting to do it yourself from the various boxes of tissues on every surface – you brush your sleeve across your face and wear the grotty evidence proudly for the rest of the day. Who taught you to do that?

The thing is boys, I know these things will remain a mystery to me as you grow up. New questions will crop up on all too regular a basis. And that’s OK. I can deal with that. I always wanted little boys, after all. But let’s just come to an agreement on lifting the loo seat up every time you wee. At least that. Please.



5th May 2015

Motherhood would be easy if I had four hands…

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 20.03.15You know those days when everything goes wrong? I had one of those last week. Dismal.

And afterwards, when the toys were back on the shelves, the boys were quietly snoring in their beds, and I finally had the chance to sit on the sofa, I thought about what had gone wrong.

Wilfred is teething at the moment – those awful fat molars that steal sleep and smiles sometime after their first birthday. So I was in the kitchen cooking him a puree from scratch so that he ate something for once, while the boys played in eyesight. Things were going OK.

And then Wilfred bit into a toy, pain seared through his little body, and he dissolved in tears. The kind of deep, wracking, sobbing tears that get right into a mother’s mind until they can’t think, see or hear anything else. Those. I was sautéing tomatoes in a pan at the time and I thought: ‘No, it’s OK, I can manage this! Wilfred can help me sautee tomatoes”.

So he sat on my hip while I flipped tomatoes around with a spatula in the other hand. He was grumbling and unhappy, but the deep sobs had stopped. So peace was kind of restored.

And then Stanley ran into the kitchen shouting “Mummy! I need a poo! I need a poo!”

In the way that mothers do when their children have been recently potty trained, I immediately abandoned the tomatoes in a fit of panic, popped Wilfred down back in the lounge, and ran to the toilet to help him.

And that’s when it all went wrong.

Wilfred screamed, the tomatoes burnt, everything escalated (and I mean everything) and to be honest, I really didn’t cope very well for the rest of the afternoon. Wilfred spitting every mouthful of that lovingly made salmon puree down his front was the final straw. I probably should’ve dragged all of us out of the house to try to try and salvage something from the afternoon, but I didn’t. We wallowed in our collective misery, tantrums were  thrown (and I’m not just talking about the kids),  and I breathed a sigh of relief when bedtime came.

I love being a Mum and I love my children.

But I did not love that afternoon.

And when I had a chance to sit on that sofa at 7.30pm, I realised everything was caused by simply not having enough hands.

I can’t be everywhere at the same time.

I can’t sautee tomatoes, jiggle a baby up and down, and rush a toddler to the toilet at the same time.

There is only so much I can do.

There is only so much we can do as parents.

I am all too aware that this won’t be the last miserable afternoon. There will be so many more. I will struggle, my husband will receive a cacophony of messages saying how awful his children are, and my nerves will be shattered by bedtime.

Because I’m not growing any extra hands any time soon.

But the beautiful thing is how quickly everything is forgotten. When their warm bodies lean back into mine for their bedtime stories in their printed pyjamas, their sweet, shampoo-scented hair brushing against my cheeks as I read. When this all happens, I have already forgotten.

And the next day, I make sure we leave the house. We run, we laugh, we throw ourselves down slides in the play area. And we do it over and over again until yesterday is just a memory.

Because those miserable afternoons might be part of motherhood, but they are not the part that I will choose to remember.

How true the quote “Motherhood: The days are long, but the years are short”.

How very, very true.



3rd May 2015

The moment I learnt to stand back and let them be brothers

photoWe were in the car on Saturday afternoon, driving back from the supermarket. The boys were happy in the back. Stanley was chatting away and Wilfred was cooing and pointing out the window. Meanwhile, the husband and I were having the kind of mundane conversation that husbands and wives have in the car. Probably about the drama involving a yoghurt and a cream rug that lunchtime. Or about our Netflix addiction. But I forget…

Then from the back of the car came a squawk from Wilfred, to which Stanley replied with an identical squawk. And within seconds, the squawks were bouncing back and forth and they were howling with laughter.

The husband and I stopped our mundane conversation and smiled, me contorting myself to turn round and watch them and the husband glancing in the rear view mirror. As they howled with laughter, they reached out to hold hands across the back seat.

It was such a sweet moment – and one that perfectly illustrated their bond. A bond that, at the ages of 15 months and 3 years old, we can see growing closer every single day.

Keen to join in on the fun, I let out a squawk from the front. Stanley smiled and laughed, but that single squawk broke the spell. They dropped each other’s hands and returned to chatting and pointing out the window.

The moment was over.

And as we drove along, with the memory of their laughing and hand holding so fresh in my mind, I spent some time thinking about their relationship as brothers. And that squawking match – and how I managed to end it all by trying to get involved – made me realise that it was one relationship I needed to take a step back from.

As it’s their relationship, not mine.

And there’s something a bit sad about that, as I want to be involved in everything that happens in their lives. But there’s also something very wonderful.

Because even though they regularly bonk each other over the head with toy cars, steal each other’s breakfasts, and cry/whinge/wrestle when their brother is getting the chance to sit on Mummy’s lap, they will never be alone in life. They have each other.

And being a sibling myself, I know that they won’t always like each other. I know that they will have days where they argue, fight, or compete with each other. They may even end up living on different continents of the world.

But despite all of this, they will have each other. They probably won’t even remember a time when they didn’t.

And as a mother of two, who has experienced her fair share of hard days over the past 15 months juggling a baby and toddler, this makes everything completely worthwhile.

Every time the baby cried on the way to nursery, every time the toddler demanded my attention when I was glued to the sofa feeding, every time the baby tried to crawl up my leg while I helped the toddler on the toilet during potty training, every time I had four little hands grabbing at me as I cooked dinner.

It’s all been worthwhile to give my children a sibling.

So whilst I will take a step back and let them be brothers, I am going to enjoy watching their bond develop – and I will enjoy every giggle, every hug, and every time their eyes search for the other across the room.

And next time, I’m not going to squawk.