Monthly Archives: November 2015

27th November 2015

Dear Stanley and Wilfred, I am typing this in a hotel room…

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 20.59.49Dear Stanley and Wilfred.

I am typing this in a hotel room. It is lunchtime and you are both sleeping. I can hear the sweet, reassuring sound of each breath as your little chests rise and fall in sleep. It is the best sound in the world.

We have been surrounded by couples without children this weekend, doing the things that Mummy and Daddy used to do in the days before you two came along. Lying on sun loungers, swimming slowly around the pool, taking hours over lunch, strolling across the beach collecting shells, and sat at the beach bar with a cocktail, waiting for the sun to set.

We are your parents – and therefore, we have been doing the opposite. We have been on our feet the entire time, chasing you around the pool in your inflatable rings, mopping ice cream spills off the iPad at lunch, running after you on the beach, and missing the sunset as it happened at the exact time we were dressing you in your pyjamas back in our hotel room.

If we need a reminder of how much our lives have changed in the last 4 years, it is weekends like this.

But I wouldn’t trade places.

Not for a second.

Of course there have been times as a mother when I have missed the pace of pre-kids days. The chance to focus entirely on myself and my need to sleep or rejuvenate. The freedom to get up from a sun lounger when it’s getting too hot and plunge into the pool without checking if a small person is following. The chance to lie in a hotel bed in the morning and make the entirely selfish decision to trade breakfast for another hour’s sleep.

I miss these things sometimes. I miss sleep, I miss laziness, and I miss having to only think about myself.

I missed them especially in the beginning, when doing these things really did feel like yesterday.

But as the years ticked by, you two became our normal.

And it became obvious that you never took those things away from me.

You just made me appreciate them so much more when I get the chance to indulge. And you helped me to appreciate the memories.

One day, we will be back on those sun loungers – and in the meantime, I get to enjoy you.

Your company, your laughter, your sandy faces, your sleepy breaths in a hotel room on a Friday afternoon. And most importantly, the fact that you are better than any of these things. Better by far.

I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

I really wouldn’t.

Not for a single second.

Mummy x



25th November 2015

Things that are bound to happen during the festive season if you have a toddler in the house…

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The tree will be decorated beautifully. But within a few hours, the bottom half will be nearly naked as you move decorations higher up to stop grabby hands.

You are already having nightmares about walking into the lounge and finding the tree lying on the floor, straddled by a toddler.

If you had the brainwave to buy some chocolate decorations, you are definitely regretting that stroke of genius too.

And however hard you try to hide where the fairy lights are plugged into the wall, they will find it. And they will make it their mission to keep finding it.

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You start the Christmas countdown on 1st December – but regret it on 2nd December when they are bouncing around with excitement at 5am and asking when Santa is coming.

And if you bought a chocolate advent calendar, it will be moved to a high shelf by 8am on December 1st – and you are already considering hiding it in a drawer and hoping they forget.

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If they are in any kind of Christmas show at nursery, you will have something in your eye from the moment you spot them in their elf/star/sheep/shepherd outfit. It might be tears.

And you will struggle between the urge to shout “I’M OVER HERE” and the need to sink deeper into your seat in case you are spotted mid-performance.

And even though you always swore you would never become ‘one of those Mums’, you won’t be able to resist sharing pictures of their big moment on social media.

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When it comes to their presents, you will spend hours researching, shopping and buying – so you will inevitably feel a little bit disappointed when 3 minutes after opening it, they are still playing with the wrapping paper.

Or the box. Especially if it’s a giant one.

And if they have a sibling, just give up now and buy them exactly the same. Seriously, EXACTLY the same.

4c5bbd0333438a7cae05bf451863e35fFor Christmas lunch, you will carefully add a piece of each component of the lunch on their plate for the full, toddler-friendly experience. They will eat two bits of turkey and one bite of potato – and then ask for some cheese. 

They will like the crackers though and demand everyone’s gifts from around the table are passed round and added to their own stash.

The cake will be a highlight. You’ll watch them nibble off the icing, leaving a slab of cake on their plate, before declaring they are finished and need another slice.

And the hat? You will have approximately 1.3 seconds to get a photo of them in it before it is detected, ripped off and thrown on the floor in a fit of anger.

It’ll be fun though, honest.

 



23rd November 2015

The 10 smells that will always remind me of the baby and toddler days

1. Eau de Newborn

That warm, sweet smell of a new baby is something I am struggling to even describe – but every time I have held a newborn baby since I had my own, memories come back of exhausting, wonderful days with a brand new person in the house. I remember their necks and hair smelt especially good – I could just sit there and sniff them for hours.

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2. Baby Shampoo

The smell of the shampoo that I use every night on my boys will always remind me of that perfect time after their bath, when they are looking their cutest in pyjamas, drinking milk, and enjoying cuddles and stories before bed. I am sure that when I am old and grey, I will only need to pop the lid off a bottle, sniff, and I will be taken straight back to the time they were small.

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3. Nappy explosions

How could I ever forget? (especially when it was in public / at 3am).  Enough on that subject already.

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4. Baby Wipes

The scent of baby wipes will always take me back to this time in my life. I can easily use half a pack of baby wipes a day for wiping bums, cleaning dinner off faces, and even mopping up the floor.  In fact, I have no idea how I ever coped without them.

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5. Milk spills

From tipped bottles, thrown cups, expressing machines, leaking boobs, and dropped formula cartons. I will never forget the sweet smell of spilt milk  – especially when the spillage happens in the car, on favourite comforters, or over home furnishings to give me a real challenge.

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6. Sicky muslins

I had a stash of muslins and kept them on the back of every chair, in every room. My failsafe way to work out whether it was clean or needed to thrown in the laundry basket was a quick sniff. More often than not, it smelt of milky sick – so was thrown across the room in disgust, before I hunted for a new one.

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7. Vegetable puree

If you weaned your baby with vegetable puree, you won’t forget the sweet, earthy smell of steamed and pureed vegetables (mostly because you spent more time cleaning it up than your baby did eating it).

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8. Scented nappy bags

I don’t even have to smell the offending item inside it – the cheap perfume of a scented nappy bag will remind me of nappy changes with one quick sniff.  In fact, it’s enough to turn my stomach.

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9. Calpol

The sugary sweet smell of purple Calpol will take me back to sleepless nights when my children screamed with pain thanks to teething or random temperature spikes. More often that not, it was rejected in anger in the early days, dripping down their necks and into their hair. They smelt like strawberries for days.

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10. Playdoh

For a long time, the scent of play-doh reminded me of my own childhood – but now I only need to open a pot and I think of my own children. Not just in the moments they play with it. But also in the moments I have had to remove half-sucked blobs from their mouths, pluck it out of the living room rug, and sweep up half-dried bits from the floor of the entire apartment

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22nd November 2015

How do you get two crazy boys to pose for photos? Book a shoot at The Studio!

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I don’t often put myself in front of the camera – so when I am asked for publicity shots for the features I write or campaigns that I am invited to work on, I always feel embarrassed as I attach a couple of selfies to the email and click send…

I decided it was about time to get some professional pictures taken – so having seen some great shots of friends taken at The Studio in Al Quoz, I decided to book a shoot.

The Location

The Studio is located right opposite the entrance to Bounce and around the corner from Tom & Serg in Al Quoz, with lots of parking on the road. You need to walk through the front doors of The Courtyard and out the building again in the doors opposite – and you will find the entrance to The Studio on the right hand side as you enter the garden area.

How it works

Each shoot lasts an hour – and you can change outfits if you want to. You can have pictures taken alone for promotional reasons, with your kids, or with the whole family (or a combination of all of the above). The choice is yours. You can see their various packages here – and scroll down to the bottom of this post for an amazing special offer for Mum of Boys readers.

I’ve spent a lot of time in studios in the past, as I used to work in fashion styling for magazines and papers in London – so for me, this place was a home from home. For my boys, however, it was a big, white, exciting play area – and seeing them run riot on arrival didn’t give me high hopes for getting any decent pictures. What I hadn’t taken into consideration was how talented and brilliantly family-friendly our photographer Nikka would be!

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The shoot

We had an hour booked in the studio – but after 20 minutes, we had all the shots we needed. Nikka was simply amazing, using tactics of tickling, making funny faces, flicking on a bubble machine, and being super quick with her camera.

Thank goodness too – as after 20 minutes, my boys were going a bit nuts and running around the studio and tripping over wires. She was confident she’d got some lovely shots, so my husband scooped a boy under each arm and we left the building before they caused any damage!

The pictures

Just a couple of days later, I was sent a link to an online gallery to pick my pictures. An impossible task, as I was so happy with so many of them – and she had been right, she really had managed to take some amazing photos in just 20 minutes!

I selected one photo of me with the boys, one for promotional things on my own, and one of the boys together as I just loved the shot. If I’d wanted more, I could have upgraded the package.

A few days after that, my perfectly edited pictures were emailed to me – and now I have the high-res images, I can print them, create gifts, print canvases, or create photo books. If I preferred, The Studio could get them printed for me or create the gifts.

I highly, highly recommend heading to The Studio!

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Special Offer

The Studio is offering Mum of Boys readers a studio shoot (including one high resolution image) for just AED195 (instead of AED295). You will also get 100 AED saved on your first order too, making it an amazing deal .

Quote “Mum of Boys” when making a booking – there is still lots of availability in the run-up to Christmas (bar weekends) and you can book online at www.thestudiodubai.com



21st November 2015

The ways you have changed since you started school

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 19.57.051. You call me by your teacher’s name at least once every day, before correcting yourself and getting embarrassed.

2. You are exhausted during the week – so by the time the weekend rolls around, we are convinced we’re going to be treated to a seriously long lie-in. But come 6am, you are bouncing around like an excited puppy that hasn’t been walked all week.

3. You change your mind about who is your new best friend on a near daily basis. I don’t know how you all work it out, but it seems like a bunch of 3 and 4 year olds go into conference every morning to come to a new arrangement.

4. You are full of facts. You know that our apartment is in the shape of a square. You know that we have a skeleton inside our body. You know that the UAE is your “home” and the UK is your “other home”. You especially love spouting out your new facts at bedtime. And half an hour after bedtime. And sometimes even an hour after that.

5. Your imagination is suddenly sparked. You are talking about monsters, dinosaurs, shadows, and ghosts. You come out with stories of things that happened at school, but when I chat to your teacher, they didn’t actually happen. Like the time when you told me you’d done a special show-and-tell and asked them to play a dinosaur film on the projector. I was impressed until I mentioned it to your teacher and she stared at me blankly.

6. Birthday parties are suddenly the most exciting, absolute highlight of your life. And you know  exactly what you want to do when it is your turn – even though you have 6 months to wait.

7. You chat to your brother like you are his teacher. You “read” books to him (and he MUST sit on his bottom and listen) and you fully expect a 21-month-old to have a thorough knowledge of phonics and be well on his way to counting to 100. The fact that he is clearly not is totally and utterly exasperating.

8. You seem suddenly older. Not just because your pyjamas are suddenly too short, but also in the way you talk to us. In the way you explain your day to Daddy when he gets home. In the way that you form friendships. And in the way that you say goodbye in the morning and walk happily into your classroom. In September, you still seemed like a baby – but as we get closer to the end of the first term, you definitely seem like a little boy. In the afternoons though, I get you all to myself again – and I realise that deep down, you haven’t really changed at all.



19th November 2015

All I want for Christmas…

5f9229ac2d14626255648c8985a4ed35Dear Husband, Family, and Santa,

Here is my Christmas Wish List… Thanking you in advance.

1. A lazy weekend lie-in. I want a lie-in – and I mean a proper, uninterrupted lie-in. I don’t want children to bash through the door shouting ‘MUMMY!!!!” before throwing a slice of peanut butter toast at my head. I don’t want to hear my husband shouting loudly “I DON’T KNOW! WE’LL HAVE TO ASK MUMMY WHEN SHE GETS UP!” so that I absolutely, definitely hear the hint. I want to lie in bed, with my legs stretched out, for a whole morning – and when I get up, I want the house to be tidy, my children to be dressed, and everybody to be in a wonderful mood.

2. Sweet treats JUST FOR ME. I don’t actually care what form these delicacies take (chocolate, however, would be a good start). All I care is that I don’t have to share them. Not with little grabbing hands and not with hungry husband post-rugby training.  I want the first and last of these treats to be mine, without feeling a morsel of guilt.

3. Space in the bed. I want my own space in the bed that no one else in the family is allowed to steal from me. NO babies kicking me in the ribs and NO small boys at the end of the bed where my legs are supposed to be. If you have some kind of barrier device for the bed, leave it in my stocking. If not, leave a note that states my territory very clearly and make sure everybody reads it.

4. A flat tummy. I know it’s pretty unlikely after growing two children (not forgetting the inconvenience of eating being my favourite pastime). But still, if I could wake up on Christmas morning to discover I was now the proud owner of supermodel abs, it would save a lot of hard graft (and the price of a gym membership) when January rolled around.

5. Still cuddles. I want an afternoon watching Christmas movies cuddling my two babies. But listen (this bit is very important) – they must not kick, fidget or struggle. I just want some stillness. Even if it doesn’t last the whole afternoon. Or even a full 10 minutes. Just as long as my cuddle lasts longer than the usual 1.5 seconds before they are off again to study the wheels of a toy car or work out how quickly they can scale the windowsill.  That is all.

6 An orange snack bowl. It should be identical to the one that we already own. The one that causes arguments every single time I hand out snacks, as they both NEED THE ORANGE SNACK BOWL!!! And because they need it, they will play tug or war with the bowl to a soundtrack of high-pitched squeals until one is ultimately victorious and the other collapses on the floor in a heap of tears and rice cakes. It’s a simple thing, I know. I’m pretty sure you will come up trumps with this one.

7. To see the bottom of my mug. During the Christmas period, I’d like to do that thing I used to do before I had children – sit my bum on the sofa (preferably with a big box of Quality Street Chocolates and something festive on the TV) and drink a whole cup of tea or coffee without moving. I’d like to sit and sip slowly, without needing to jump up to prevent a disaster with brown paint and a cream rug, without needing to flip over the smiley face potatoes in the oven, and without needing to stop the smallest child dropping his raisins one by one in the toilet. If I see the bottom of my coffee cup once during the Christmas period, this will be worth celebrating. I’m already excited.

8. An extra two hours in every day. Santa, I am relying on you for this one, as it requires a little magic. I need 26 hours in every day to do all the things I never have time for – the books I don’t read, the baths I never lie in, the emails I never write, the novel I keep promising to start writing. Oh and one last thing,, I do not want these extra hours to be filled with the sound of ‘MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY!” so please make sure these extra hours are post 7pm. Thank you. It’s not all too much to ask, is it?



18th November 2015

10 Things I Am Currently Loving…

CURRENTLY LOVING

1. Hatley.com (UK and UAE)

I have a bit of a thing for cool pyjamas – but it isn’t easy to find ones I love. So I am happy to discover the brand Hatley, who have answered my pyjama prayers with the coolest pairs for my boys. The company is based in the US, but ships anywhere in the world. Shipping to the UK is cheap at £3.90 and only takes 2-3 days (wow) but it’s pricey to UAE so I’d use my Shop + Ship instead. Stanley is currently sporting these cool bear-print pyjamas most nights – and I have my eye on the fabulous Christmas collection too.

Shop: www.hatley.com

2. Petit Bateau (UK and UAE)

Last week, Petit Bateau invited me to join them for breakfast at La Serre Dubai surrounded by other Mummy bloggers and journalists. I got to eat, chat, and browse the brand’s new collections. It’s kick-started a love affair with Petit Bateau’s cool, fashionable pieces (not a brand I knew too well before my introduction at La Serre) and I have been browsing in store ever since. I definitely recommend heading into store or having a shop online if you have little ones – the prices are really good too, and it’s available in the UK and UAE.

Shop:: UK – www.petit-bateau.co.uk UAE – The Dubai Mall, Yas Mall, Mall of the Emirates

3.  Dubai Winter Festival (UAE)

I’m a little bit excited about this one! It might only be November, but things are starting to get festive in Dubai – and tickets have just gone on sale for Dubai Winter Festival (scroll down my Facebook page and you can even win tickets!) Now in its 4th year, Dubai Winter Festival  is moving to Dubai World Trade Centre for 2015 and taking place 17-19 December! Head down with the family to meet Santa, play in the snow zone, watch a traditional pantomime, sing carols, skate on the ice rink, shop the festive market – and lots, lots more!)

Book Tickets: http://dubaiwinterfestival.com/

 4.    Caramel and Sun (UAE)

I’ve fallen a little bit in love with the new Dubai store Caramel and Sun. Located in Mercato Mall (which is my favourite mall in Dubai by the way, as I used to live a few minutes walk away and push Stanley round as a newborn every day), the store is packed with the most stylish children’s pieces. We love our bunny nightlight and I am coveting so many of the gorgeous toys and fun interior pieces for my boys. The perfect place to head for a spot of Christmas shopping – and you will catch them at the markets too, with stalls at Ripe and Marina Souq, amongst others too.

Shop: Mercato Mall, Jumeriah Beach Road. Facebook Page – www.facebook.com/caramelandsun

 5.    Miniterior (UK and UAE)

I find it difficult to find fun, but stylish bedding for my boys in Dubai, but then I clapped eyes on Miniterior’s new range of bespoke bedding and I knew I needed it in my life! The prints to pick from include dinosaurs, cactus, and lightning strikes (all with your choice of colour on the other side). I’ve ordered a dinosaur duvet for Stanley and will post pictures when it arrives. Miniterior can ship overseas too – just contact the company through the Facebook page and you can discuss your order and get a quote.

Shop: www.facebook.com/miniterior

 6.    Tiny Trolls of Norway (UK)

On one hand I am bursting with excitement about our trip back to the UK in December for Christmas – and on the other, I am wondering how my Dubai-born and bred children will cope with the cold (especially with the oldest, who frequently tells me he is freezing on the beach). Right on cue, I discovered the band Tiny Trolls of Norway, which have a collection of functional, but incredibly cute outerwear for little ones – including winter suits, coveralls, rain suits, fleece and microfleece. I really recommend a browse online, as little ones will definitely stay warm and dry throughout winter if you live in cooler climes. We have a package waiting for us in the UK – so you will see the boys modeling them a lot over Christmas!

Shop: www.tinytrollsofnorway.com

 7.    I See Me Personalised Books (UK and UAE)

When I was asked if I would like a couple of personalised Christmas story books for the boys, I expected the odd mention of their name every now and again – but I am so impressed by the personal details throughout. The company ships internationally all over the world by FedEx (shipping starts at $8.95 and if you use the code HOLIDAY by 19th November, you will get $7.95 taken off so it’s nearly free). I can’t wait to see the boys’ faces when they open their Christmas Eve boxes and discover them inside!

Shop: www.iseeme.com

 8.    Big on Children Alarm Clocks (UAE)

Talking of personalised presents, the alarm clocks at Big On Children are fantastic and Stanley is getting one in his stocking to wake him for school every morning! Personalised with his name, the alarm clock will sing to him every morning – and I don’t think he’d be able to roll over and go back to sleep! The company also does some very fun DVD, where the child features in their own movie. Shop online – or visit any of their concessions across the UAE.

Shop: www.bigonchildren.com

 9.    Vaniday (UK and UAE)

I enjoyed an amazing lunchtime at the weekend getting pampered – and I arranged it all in the laziest way with the new Vaniday App. Download it, find your nearest or favourite salon (there are hundreds and hundreds), book a convenient time, and then choose to pay through the app or in cash on the day. SO EASY! And my favourite Pastels Salon on Al Wasl Road is on there, which makes life that little bit easier! And UK people, you can do it too with the UK version!

Download: Search ‘Vaniday’ on The App Store or Google Play

10. The Happy Box and The Lucky Dip Club (UK and UAE)

I’ve always been a bit jealous of those of you in the UK who could sign up to The Lucky Dip Club every month (a subscription service for a surprise box of jewellery and stationary every month to take us back to being children again) – so when The Happy Box here in Dubai announced a collaboration with the company for a monthly ‘Happy Go Lucky’ box, I was first in the queue to try it.  And when I unwrapped my necklace, note books, and other goodies, I knew I’d be subscribing every month.

Order: www.thehappybox.ae

 



15th November 2015

A message to my children

Eiffel-Tower-HeartI’ve thought long and hard about what to say in this post. I kept changing my mind. I wanted to say so much, but so little at the same time.

I wanted to talk about the panic when I saw posts online when I woke up on Saturday morning. About how I felt a cold terror spread over my body when I read the words “Oh my God! Paris!” – and the fact that my heart actually ached when I started reading about the events of that night.

I wanted to talk about the fact this is not the Islamic faith I know, having lived in an Islamic country for the past 6 years. A country that I feel safer in than I have felt the rest of my adult life. A country full of people that have welcomed us with warmth and security. A country full of people that value family life, and ultimately love, beyond anything else.

I wanted to talk about the fact that 43 people died and another 239 were wounded in ISIS bombs in Lebanon just the day before Paris – but no one seems to know about it. And those people deserve to be remembered too.

I wanted to talk about all of that.

But when it comes down to it, like always, my thoughts very quickly turned to my own children. About the world that they are growing up in. And about how, above everything else, their future in such an uncertain world fills me with terror.

It’s a mother’s instinct to protect her cubs.

I buy them the best car seats, drill them with information about road safety, baby-proof my house so the don’t poke their fingers in dangerous places or reach up to grab something they shouldn’t. Every day, I do everything in my power to protect them. It’s instinctive; I don’t even have to think about it.

But the truth is that as they grow up and head out into the big, wide world, we have to let go a little. We have to put our faith in others to keep our cubs safe every single day – other drivers on the road, teachers and caregivers, the teams in charge of the buildings we live in, the malls we shop in, and the aeroplanes that we board.

Every day we put our faith in humanity.

We have to.

And above everything else, I don’t want that to stop.

It can’t stop.

I don’t want what has happened in the last 36 hours to make me think twice about taking my children to crowded places, buckling them into airplane seats, or visiting beautiful cities that enrich their minds.

Because ultimately, good will prevail.

Good has to prevail.

And I want my boys to grow up believing that, without a flicker of doubt in their minds.

I will do everything in my power to protect them.

Always.

But every time something terrifying happens in the world, every time innocent people are hurt, and every time they feel scared, or uncertain, or unsafe.

The world will come together.

Always.

The world will come together – and it will pull them into a tighter hug



12th November 2015

7 things I didn’t expect to be so impossible in motherhood…

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 21.57.391 – Replying to messages

I was always quite an organised person, so replying to messages surely wouldn’t be a problem when kids came along. I’d just pop the baby down, sit down to bash out a reply, and hey presto, the job would be done and friendships would flourish. But what I hadn’t considered is that giving birth to that baby would fry my brain cells. Three years later, I’m still using the same excuse.

 

2 – Getting to the bottom of the laundry basket

This wasn’t something I considered in the days when I only needed to do a couple of washes a week. I didn’t realise that I’d hang a load up to dry, step away from the drier, and then glance down to see that the  basket was already half full again. And I didn’t realise that even if I did get that ‘halleluiah’ moment of spying the bottom every once in a while, I wouldn’t bother to celebrate. Oh no – because I am wise enough after 3 years of this motherhood lark to know it will be overflowing again by lunchtime.

3 – Leaving the house on time

People with children were always late and I had no idea why. It was plain rude. So my newborn baby took it upon himself to teach me why on our very first trip out the house together. By exploding in his nappy, down one leg of his babygrow, and all over the kitchen floor as I picked him up to put him in his car seat.

4 – Styling them

When my first baby was little, I imagined him running around in a superhero costume when he grew up. Actually, he’d probably choose to wear it to the supermarket, which would be really cool. But then he grew up and decided costumes were totally overrated to the point of screaming at the top of his lungs when they came within a few feet of him. In fact, it turned out that he had his own views on pretty much everything in his wardrobe. No he didn’t want to wear the new T-Shirt I had bought him – he wanted to wear the one with a nasty cartoon emblazoned across the front that was a gift and I had carefully hidden at the bottom of the pile. And don’t even get me started on his hatred of hats. Don’t even get me started.

5. Giving them Five-a-Day

I was pretty adamant that my children would eat a super healthy diet. Before I had them, that is. The truth is that vegetables were suddenly considered the epitome of evil at some point after they moved onto solid food. It has been a battle every mealtime since  - and three years later, I still watch them pick up peas, think about it for a second, and then drop them on the floor without a flicker of shame.

6. Losing the baby weight

I didn’t think it would be easy, but I did think it would happen eventually. Probably within a few months. But it was no biggie, I was prepared to wait that long. I thought it would be easy to resist stealing bits of fish fingers off their plates at dinnertime too, but it turns out that wasn’t so easy either.

7. Being angry

I wasn’t going to be a pushover as a mother. No way. I was made of tough stuff – and if my children were disobedient, cheeky, or damn right rude, they would find out who was boss. And if they didn’t sleep or refused to comply, they could cry in their cot until they did. But then they were born, I clapped their big innocent eyes, and I turned to jelly. Oh I can do angry – but they only have to glance at me and I melt. It’s frustratingly inconvenient.



11th November 2015

My Birthday Weekend at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa

I’m a big believer in celebrating birthdays. We get very few excuses to celebrate as we get older, so why not embrace that day once a year and milk it for all its worth? For the last few years, I have booked a mini break so I can drag out the celebrations for at least a couple of days – and this year, we decided on Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa.

This was exciting for two reasons. Firstly, it was the same place I had celebrated my 30th half a decade beforehand, from the comfort of a sunlounger (no kids in tow back then) so we’d get to revisit a place with lots of happy memories. And secondly, the idea of swapping Dubai Marina for burnt orange sand dunes, camel rides, falcon shows, and dinners in the desert was very appealing – we’d enjoy a dramatic change of scenery and feel like we’d had a proper break and the boys would finally start to understand that they really do live in a city surrounded by sand!

Our Room

There are two options for families at Bab Al Shams: interconnecting rooms or suites. We went for the latter and although pricier, we found it worked really well with smaller kids as we could put them down to bed in the evening and relax in the lounge next door.

The rooms have a rustic feel, so don’t expect carpets, soft edges, or baby proofing of any kind. But having said that, I think we have one of the hardest combos of children in our two ridiculously active boys (one that has a fondness of throwing himself onto hard floors) and yet we still felt very much at home, so don’t let this put you off visiting. We loved our room, which had a small outside garden and was really close to the pool.

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What we did

We spent most of our time eating, playing in the pool, and riding camels!

The day started with breakfast, which we enjoyed outside with the sound of birds tweeting in the trees around us (still such a novelty to be outside after a long summer indoors!) – and I was impressed with the selection, especially the table for kids (rainbow bread was a big hit!

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We then moved to the kids’ pool, which was without doubt the most relaxing kids pool we’ve ever taken the boys to. With such shallow water, they could play happily with the pots, buckets, and inflatables while we sat on the side of the pool and watched them. It felt very special to have the desert surrounding us as they played happily in the sunshine.

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Then just when the boys were getting a bit bored of filling buckets, we discovered the Kids Club! Such a lovely space, filled to the brim with toys and craft activities to keep them busy. My boys were too young to leave (not that we planned to) as the minimum age is 4 years old, so we spent an hour playing on the first day – and on the second day (my birthday), we booked a resort babysitter (who they knew by this point) to stay and play with them for an hour so we could head back to the sun loungers while they played.

That same babysitter helped us out a couple of other times during the stay. Firstly when they napped that lunchtime and we crept round the corner to the Friday Brunch for an hour. Watching children enjoying rides on camels was such a different background to the usual Dubai brunch and they were all having the time of their lives, so it’s something I’d really recommend if you are staying for the weekend or just want to head over for the day.

When the boys woke up, we took them over to the brunch and they rode their first camel – the highlight of their visit to Bab Al Shams and something they have been talking about ever since!

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After another afternoon by the pool, more camel riding on the sand dunes, and an impressive falcon show (or pigeon show, according to Stanley), we headed back to our room.

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And once they were happily snoring (exhausted from all that splashing, playing, and camel riding) and our lovely babysitter had arrived again, my husband and I made our way through the desert following a path of lanterns to discover an amazing banquet waiting for us at Al Hadeerah Restaurant. If you haven’t tried this night out, you must – imagine a vast buffet of delicious Arabic food, accompanied by constant entertainment and a fireworks display to finish. The perfect way to welcome in my 35th (gulp) birthday.

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The next day, the same routine followed – before we checked out the hotel, jumped in the car, and drove back to Dubai spotting camels out the window on our way. 

Why choose Bab Al Shams for a family staycation?

I knew I was going to enjoy Bab Al Shams having been there before, but I had no idea how good it was for children.

There were so many lovely touches – right from the boys being handed cuddly camels as we checked in, to the kid’s pool of my dreams, to a lovely play area on the grass, to camel riding and falcon shows every day at 5pm to totally enchant them. Not to mention the brilliant family-friendly brunch, a great kids club, some of the best hotel babysitters I have met in this city, and kid’s food on the menu that they actually want to eat.

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I genuinely think we could have stayed for 2 weeks and they’d have enjoyed every second – and we, believe it or not, would’ve actually found it relaxing.

So for that reason, I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the very best choices for a family staycation in the city. If you fancy a break, make a booking – I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

To make a booking online, visit www.meydanhotels.com/babalshams/