26th January 2017

Is it time for us to get a dog?

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 16.21.13We have a dog in the UK – and the boys love her. In fact, since our holiday home at Christmas, Stanley has mentioned his dog Lily about 30 times a day. He’s even woken up crying her name and has taken to bringing a fluffy dog that closely resembles Lily to bed every night. We miss her too – so this is all a bit heartbreaking.

And next week, we move to a house with a garden – and whenever I mention to the boys that they are getting their very own garden at last, Stanley replies “So now we can get a dog?” I’d love to say yes – especially as there are so many dogs here in Dubai in shelters needing homes, but there are so many other things for us to consider. So when is the right time? And what questions do we need to ask first?

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 16.22.43

How much will the dog cost?

It isn’t going to be cheap to add a fluffy family member to our brood – and with mouths to feed, and school fees to pay, and rent to conjur up, we probably don’t need the extra financial commitment. In fact, a recent study conducted by Voucherbox revealed that a dog can cost over £15,000 over a lifetime (that’s nearly 70,000 AED if you are reading this in Dubai). Wowsers. And that doesn’t even count the cost of getting the dog in the first place either (which is nothing if you rehome, of course), but just the day to day cost of food, snacks, bedding, toys, collars, tags, insurance and vet treatments… The list goes on.

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 16.23.56

Who will walk the dog?

I keep telling Stanley that somebody has to walk the dog – and whilst he enthusiastically volunteers, obviously we aren’t going to allow a 4-year-old to head off on his own, which means one of us will be waking that dog at least twice a day too. As if we didn’t have enough to do already. And when the weather heats up in Dubai during the summer, I can see us falling out over this. In fact, I recently read that in a study by the insurance company esure, the average family dog causes 2,000 family arguments during their lifetime – and yep, I can believe that.

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 16.23.29

How much does it cost to fly the dog back to the UK?

I don’t know how long we are going to be in Dubai – so factoring in the fact that we would have to fly that dog back to the UK if we repatriated is also really important (after all, we definitely wouldn’t be leaving a furry friend behind). And how much would it cost? In a recent feature by The Guardian, Nick Foden-Ellis, Airpets managing director, says it is “rarely less than a business-class ticket for the same route”. And a business class ticket from Dubai to London? Not cheap. And if we did fork out that kind of money, it’d be me riding up the front of the plane…

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 16.47.53

Is it the right time?

And of course, the biggie – is it actually the right time to add another demanding small thing to our family? And with a 4-month old baby in the house, I am pretty certain the answer is no. But when is the right time? I don’t know – but I think when she’s out of the toddler tantrum stage, possibly even at school, I may begin to consider it. I’ve had a puppy before – and they don’t wear nappies, they bite, and they can move (fast) – so yep, not yet. Definitely not yet.

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 16.48.48

I jest – but the thing is, I am keen for them grow up around animals. I think having pets teaches so much to a child – about responsibility, about love, and ultimately, about loss. We aren’t cat people, so I want my children to have a dog to love, to walk, and to cuddle. But it’s pretty obvious that it’s not happening yet – so Stanley is going to have to enjoy his cuddly dog for a bit longer, at least.

 

 



7th January 2017

We try: Babies & Beyond Baby Care Service

15934803_10158079257840607_983223524_nWhat do you do when you work from home in Dubai and your nanny decides to take a well-deserved holiday? Well after sobbing into your pillow for a few nights (and that’s not far off the truth), you look for alternatives – and that’s exactly why Babies & Beyond have come into my life this January.

The Dubai company offer a pay-by-hour nanny service for little ones – right from the early newborn days to pre-schooler years. And with every nurse fully qualified and licensed by Dubai Health Authority, with paediatric first aid and life support qualifications, I was already impressed by what they were offering on paper, so I decided to go ahead and book for 5 x mornings a week for the first fortnight of the year.

So what happened next? Once I’d got in touch with the company to ask about availability, I received a phone call from staff member Hazel. We chatted on the phone for a good 20 minutes, talking through the ages of the children, what I needed help with, where I lived, and what timings would suit us. And within 24 hours, I was emailed with details of the nurses the company could provide for me – Candie in the first week and Lhean in the second.

The CV’s of both nurses was attached to have a read through and was offered the chance for myself and the children to meet them before my booking began. As I was in the UK until a few days before the booking commenced, I declined the offer of a meeting, but I thought it was a lovely touch for mums feeling a bit anxious about leaving their little ones for the first time. I did enjoy looking through the CVs and was very reassured by both the nurse’s experience and qualifications. A few forms to fill out and sign were also attached, which gave me the chance to give further details about both Mabel and Wilfred so that the nurses would be fully aware of our situation before they knocked on my door. So far, so good – I was impressed.

Fast forward to Monday 2nd January 2016 – and it was Candie’s first day with us. I had both Mabel and Wilfred at home with me that morning and so much work to do after the crazy Christmas period, which was making me feel pretty stressed. I expected to spend at least the first hour or so with Candie, explaining and showing her the ropes – but when she came, I realised I had nothing to worry about.

15909527_10158079258020607_2070195743_n

Candie was exceptionally good with Mabel from the moment she met her. I talked her through Mabel’s current routine and feeding schedule and she nodded with understanding. I went to show her how to turn on Mabel’s snazzy rocking chair and she told me she’d used one lots before. I then told her about how Mabel likes to lie in her baby gym and how she enjoyed sitting up in her bumbo chair and she nodded along. She told me not to worry about anything and I felt very reassured – so I got to work at my desk.

And it wasn’t just Mabel she was good with, but Wilfred too. She managed to entertain and care for both children that morning so perfectly. At one point I glanced over and she was lying on the floor with Wilfred playing with his Octonauts, while keeping a careful eye on Mabel in her baby gym alongside. Wilfred loved her – and just before I took him out on his scooter in the fresh air for a while, he turned to her and said: “Don’t worry Candie, I’ll be back to play with you again later!”

15910108_10158079258640607_674259975_n

A few days later and Candie had Mabel’s routine down to a fine art. In fact, after the craziness of the Christmas holidays, she wasn’t really in any kind of fixed routine – but Candie managed to change that in just 5 days. I was really impressed with her knowledge of newborn babies and their needs. Take one morning, for example, when I heard Mabel grumbling in the bedroom after her nap. I looked up from my desk, wondering where Candie was, only to see them both leave the bedroom together with Candie explaining: “Mabel was just doing some tummy time!”

15934750_10158079259110607_230044245_n

I must confess that I am sad that Candie is leaving us, but I can see why she is in demand and had prior bookings – and I already know that Lhean will be just as professional when she arrives for the second week of care. And guess what? I’m no longer stressed about work and I know I will meet my deadlines over the next week, whilst Mabel and Wilfred will be expertly cared for. And you can’t really put a price on that kind of reassurance!

I’ll report back at the end of week two with my overall impression of Babies & Beyond – but in the meantime, keep an eye on my social media for details of how we are getting on!

If you’d like to book a Babies & Beyond Newborn Nurse or Childcare Nurse, simply visit www.babiesandbeyond.ae, call +971 (0)4 278 9832 or email info@babiesandbeyond.ae

In collaboration with Babies & Beyond.

 



20th November 2016

When Super Granny made a return visit…

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-22-48-15If you haven’t read my blog post about the time that Andalene Salvesen (aka Super Granny) spent an afternoon with my family last year, you can read the post here. To summarise, she transformed life in my house for the better. Behaviour improved, dummies were thrown away, bottles of milk were no longer relied on, and both children started sleeping through the night the very same night.  Inviting her into our home was, quite simply, one of the best parenting decisions we ever made.

So who is Super Granny? Andalene Salvesen owned a playschool in Cape Town for 8 years and ran a Baby/Toddler workshop for a further 12 years. This exposure to children, along with a passion to help parents (and a ton of self-study) earned her the title ‘Super Granny’. She has now been presenting parenting seminars for the last 16 years, developing a home visit programme to change family dynamics and empower parents.

And it really does work – but fast forward 12 months and things had taken a turn for the worse behaviour wise. Baby Mabel arrived on the scene and Wilfred’s behaviour became challenging almost overnight. Tantrums were frequent, he woke in the night  (for the first time since Super Granny had visited last year) and he relied on his dummy and monkey so much for comfort that he flatly refused to go to nursery if he wasn’t allowed to take them (cue stand offs outside the gates, as that just wasn’t happening). He’s a lovely, sweet natured little boy, who adores his little sister and has never shown her any malice -, but he just felt so unsettled at home. Not only was the behaviour fairly impossible to deal with, but it was pretty heart breaking, as we just didn’t know how to help him.

Added to this was Stanley’s ability to wind his brother up. Cottoning on to how easy it was to make Wilfred flip out (and realising this earnt him ‘the well behaved child’ crown by default), Stanley very rarely helped the situation. It was World War Three at home – and we needed Super Granny back in our life pronto.

Thankfully for us, she is back in Dubai until 15th December – so we made a booking for her to visit us again yesterday.

But as lovely as Andalene is (and she is lovely – don’t expect a stern Nanny McPhee-esque character to walk into your house), I can’t say I was looking forward to her visit yesterday. In fact, I woke up with a bit of a sinking feeling. The truth is that I felt a bit embarrassed that we hadn’t followed her advice to the letter since she had come. She later told me that it always slips after a while, which is why she recommends a refresher every 4-6 months – but as we sat there waiting for her yesterday morning, I was dreading her reaction to seeing how bad the behaviour had got.

But I didn’t need to worry. After a cup of coffee and a chat, she started the same process we followed the first time (post again here) – and to cut a long story short, she worked exactly the same magic.

Or I should say ‘we’ – we worked the magic, as Andalene’s job is to simply show us the tactics to do it. And it’s so easy, resulting in a calmness in the house I hadn’t seen for months. No raised voices, no tantrums, and no arguments. Just two very, very happy children, who have stayed like that since she visited 24 hours ago. Oh and Wilfred’s dummy is gone, without a single tear or tantrum. How amazing is that?!

The best way I can describe it? It’s like someone has come into our house, waved a magic wand, and solved all the problems. I feel like I can breathe again – and there is a permanent smile on Wilfred’s face, which is worth its weight in gold. I highly, highly recommend booking her for a visit if you are finding things tough – you really won’t regret it.

Super Granny is in Dubai until December 15th and she has availability for bookings. She will be back in Dubai again in February. The cost of a home visit on weekdays (9am and 1pm sessions available) is 1,200aed. On weeknights (5pm), weekends and holidays (both 9am, 1pm and 5pm), the cost is 1,500aed. If you live overseas, she also offers home visits via Skype. Book now at www.munchkins.me



17th November 2016

Dear Mabel, you are two months old today…

15058694_10157806426785607_108903357_nYou are two months old today, little one – and it’s all going far too quickly.

A minute ago I had a sleepy newborn – but I blinked and you have turned into a chubby two month old, smiling away and holding your head up on your own. Slow down time, please. I’m not ready for the newborn bit to be over yet. I want to put the brakes on for a while and take time to drink you in.

I want to cuddle after feeds and feel your head loll peacefully onto my shoulder, stare at your  face while you sleep, and watch you lie on your Daddy’s chest every evening as you’re still too young to tuck into bed and leave on your own.

I want it to last longer; the last time with a newborn in the house. I don’t want it to end.

But it will, because you are changing – and whilst that makes me sad in one sense, it is so wonderful to see who you are becoming. You are such a sweet, placid little thing who very rarely cries. You’ve woken up from that sleepy newborn bit now – and you like to sit back and watch the chaos of our family-of-five unfold around you (and with a two year old brother, it has been pretty chaotic at times). You just sit there quietly watching – and whenever you see a face, you break out into a beautiful smile (especially if it’s Mummy, because I am definitely your favourite – let’s keep it that way little one, OK?)

You like car journeys (as long as we don’t stop at traffic lights) and your rocking chair always sends you to sleep at home. We set up your cot mobile last week and you think that’s brilliant! You smile and gurgle and giggle when we switch it on every morning – and your brothers stand over you, jealous that you have your very own toy. You are an amazing sleeper and already sleep right through the night, waking for a feed just before we need to get up. We know how lucky we are, you clever, clever little thing.

You were born at 9Ib8oz on the 97th percentile – but now you are down at the 37th. I was small as a child, so I think that’s probably where you are supposed to be. You are still fed on the boob, but you take the bottle happily. It’s usually breastmilk (which you definitely prefer), but you do get the odd bottle of formula now too (and it always makes you poo!)

You only fit a few of your Newborn size clothes now, but fit perfectly in 0-3 months. I’ve felt sad as I’ve taken the smaller things out of the drawer and stored them away (for what, I don’t know) – but discovering what I have bought you for the next size and getting you dressed in something new always makes up for it.

You look just like your oldest brother as a baby – and at times, it takes my breathe away when I glance at you quickly and see him instead. You have bright blue eyes that seem to get bigger by the day, a dimple when you smile, and dark hair (with just a touch of auburn) that sticks up whenever you have a bath.

You fit right in, our lovely little Mabel Beatrix. I haven’t found it nearly as hard to go from 2 to 3 children, as I did from 1 to 2. Experience makes it all easier, I guess – but I know your calm, patient nature makes a big difference too.

It just seems so right; you being here with us. A calming influence on your two nutty brothers. The last piece of the puzzle, fitting so perfectly in the gap we never knew we had.

 You are two months old today, Mabel Beatrix – and how lucky we are to have you in our life.

Love Mummy x



1st November 2016

7 reasons we loved the 7-seater Chevrolet Captiva…

14494857_1099293233440437_5179997213266301871_nFor the past month, we have been test driving the 7-seater Chevrolet Captiva to see how it works for families with three children (or more). We love this car – so today is a very sad day, as we are handing it back. And that’s not only because life been really easy as a two-car family, but also because we just love the car. It suits us, our lifestyle in Dubai, and our family size so perfectly – and here is why…

1. It fits all our children – and a buggy!

This is the most important thing, of course! There are different ways you can work it, but we chose to put Stanley in the very back (with the seat next to him collapsed down, so that we could fit the buggy alongside him), then Wilfred and Mabel in the middle row. We usually do up Stanley’s car seat by sitting on the boot ledge – but you could access from middle row and lean over if you prefer. When he reaches the age when he can do up his seatbelt, it will be even easier. All the children have plenty of room, lots of leg space, and there is room for buggy, luggage, handbags, and shopping. Impressive stuff!

chevrolet-captiva-automatic_key_7

2. But it’s not too big

It fits all of us – but it’s still quite a small SUV (when measured against the Tahoe, for example). This suits me, as I want to feel high and safe in my car, but I like it being easy to park and swing in/out of spots.

3. It drives really nicely

I know NOTHING about cars – I mean, seriously (my first question is usually ‘what colour is it?’) – but I have to admit that this car is really lovely to drive. It’s smooth, powerful, and accelerates quickly. The power is down to a 2.4L engine – and that’s always a good thing when you are driving on Sheikh Zayed Road at least  twice a day!

14937837_10157723918900607_207422611_n

4. It’s safe

It feels very safe – but more importantly, it is very safe. In fact, it has a 5-star standard in safety tests, with features including Hill Descent Control, Side Blind Zone Alert and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system. Furthermore, there are 6 airbags fitted to protect driver, front and rear passengers in the event of a collision.

5. It’s easy to park

I loved the fact there is a rear parking camera, with guides to help you swing the middle of a spot. I was driving our car this morning (which doesn’t have them) and I really missed the camera – it’s amazing how quickly you get used to it! The parking sensors are also really useful and make life easier.

6. You can leave the AC on when you lock it

This is a big bonus for me during the school pick-ups – as it means I can leave the engine on, lock the car, head into school, and come back to a cool car. It’s a small thing (and my husband tells me a fair few cars are fitted with this feature) but it’s made a big difference during the warm days of late September and October (especially when you have a newborn baby to put in and out the car).

7. It looks great

OK I know this isn’t hugely important in the grand scheme of things, so I’ve left it until last – but let’s be honest, we all want nice looking cars. And the Captiva is seriously good looking. I often walked back to it in the school carpark and admired it for a while before climbing in.

14877711_10157723918810607_568263152_n

So thank you Chevrolet for letting us be your guinnea pigs for the last month. I’m just off to convince the husband that we do really need another car – and if he agrees, it’s definitely going to be the Chevrolet Captiva…

For more information, visit http://ae-en.chevroletarabia.com



30th June 2016

Our flight back to the UK (booked with Air Miles Middle East)

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 10.55.57We made it! We are currently in the UK with two small boys – and we have 5 weeks ahead to enjoy cooler weather, rainy days, family fun, and reunions with friends! We’ve literally been counting down the days since there was about 30 sleeps, so it feels like it’s been a long time coming, but we are really enjoying being back in Blighty…

So how did we book that flight? A while ago, I told you about how my family was saving with Air Miles Middle East so that our biannual flights home. You can read the post here if you didn’t catch it. Well after saving thousands of dirhams by simply shopping where we usually do, we have now taken that flight – and I just wanted to tell you about how easy it was to book and travel.

Booking

Once we had collected all the miles we could, we simply logged onto the Air Miles Middle East website and browsed for flights on the days we wanted. Every flight qualifies – so it’s not like we had to scrawl through lots of flights until we found one that allowed us to redeem miles. A little like booking on an airline website or somewhere like Expedia.com, you get a run down of the flights available and what they cost in miles – and when you have chosen the one you want, you simply click ‘Select Departure’.

You need a minimum of 30,000 Air Miles in your account to book a flight – and if you don’t have enough to cover the full cost of your flight (which we didn’t), the online system will work out what you need to pay in cash to make it up. Simples.

On the day that we booked, the online system was having a hitch – so I rang up and we did it all on the phone. This is always an option if you prefer talking to a human!

Within 30 minutes of booking the flight, I received confirmation from Air Miles Middle East and got an email from British Airways too, with our booking reference. From that point onwards, I did everything online on the British Airways website – it was as simple as if I’d booked directly on their site.

The Flight

Let’s be honest; flying with children is never as easy as those blissful, easy days of flitting across the globe with just a small rollalong case as company (in hindsight, of course, as it never felt too easy at the time).

But it was a really smooth flight, the boys behaved impeccably, and we were seriously impressed with both British Airways and Air Miles Middle East.

If you are interested in our journey, check out my latest Vlog here.

To find out more about Air Miles Middle East, visit www.airmilesme.com

In collaboration with Air Miles Middle East



27th June 2016

Vlog – Hello UK!

This week’s vlog is a shorter one – and it’s all about heading back to the green, green grass of home!

Music:

I Won’t Cry by Monarques
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Mon…
Needle Drop Co. - http://www.needledrop.co/artists/mona…

Sandbox Jingle by Scott Holmes
http://www.freemusicarchive.org/music…
http://www.facebook.com/ScottHolmesMusic

Airline: British Airways - http://www.britishairways.com/travel/…



18th June 2016

Vlog Week 2 – Turtles, Lobsters and Water Fights

Here’s my second Vlog!

After the fun of last weekend in the desert, this is what real life looks like for us in Dubai!

Credits:

Tuesday:
Sheraton JBR – http://www.sheratonjumeirahbeach.com/
Swimming Lessons by Ultra Sports Solutions UAE – http://www.ultrasportsuae.com/

Wednesday:
Dinner at Bystro, off Al Thanya Street – http://bystrodubai.com/

Thursday:
Turtle Release at Burj al Arab – https://www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/dubai/burj-al-arab/

Friday:
Cinema at VOX, Mall of the Emirates – http://uae.voxcinemas.com
Dinner at Lobster and Burger DIFC – http://www.burgerandlobster.com/

We now only have 3 sleeps until we fly back to the UK for 5 weeks, so next week will all be about flying and arriving home! I’ll vlog again then!



12th June 2016

Vlog 1 – My first ever Mum of Boys Video Vlog!

I’ve been meaning to start vlogging for a while – and with this weekend planned at a hotel in the desert, I thought it may be the perfect time. I’m primarily making these videos as memories for my family – but if you enjoy them, I’ll keep sharing!

So please subscribe to my channel – mumofboysblog – and let me know what you think in the comments!

Credits: Hotel, Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Ras Al Khaimah -www.banyantree.com



24th May 2016

Pregnancy Update: 24 Weeks

13292827_10156990514160607_1017881221_nHow many weeks? I am now 24 weeks and it’s been a whole 4 weeks since I last did a pregnancy update (bad blogger). I know everyone says this about second, third and ongoing pregnancies, but my bump feels so much bigger and more uncomfortable earlier on this time. I feel huge – even though I am fully aware of how much bigger the bump is going to get over the next 16 weeks!

How big is the baby? As big as an ear of corn. So why is this bump so big?

How do you feel? Apart from feeling huge and slow, I am getting familiar painful twinges when I walk in the bottom of my bump. I wore a bump support belt in my last few pregnancies for the last trimester, but with the heat in Dubai now pushing 40’C every day, I don’t want to resort to that just yet. My husband had the brilliant idea of using kinesiology tape (the kind of the physios use to support muscles) and it’s amazing. I’ve only done it a few times so far, but it makes a huge difference and I’ll definitely be stocking up for the rest of the pregnancy (I checked this with my osteopath by the way and she also said it’s a great idea for pregnant ladies – you can read more information and tips here).

Anything else? Night times are getting so uncomfy. I bought a giant pregnancy pillow, but I am comfier just using two big pillows either side of me so I have just been doing that.  But I still wake up every morning with the achiest hips. I just want to lie on my back!

And the kicks? She’s so active now and also appears to be a little madam already. She hates it when I lean forward to eat, so I get a couple of thumps for having the audacity to do it. Also just like all babies, she wakes up when I want to go to sleep and keeps me awake for ages kicking away. I’m past the ‘this feels weird’ stage and I love the reassurance of feeling her. Stanley loves feeling her kick too – she even gave him a thump last week when he sat on my lap for a story. Possessive already… It doesn’t bode well, does it?

Cravings? My latest craving is packs of prawn cracker crisps from Waitrose. They are so stinky and I probably smell like a big prawn after devouring the whole pack in one go, but I can’t help it – they are just so yummy.

What’s planned? We have 4 weeks left in the UAE before heading back to the UK for the end of June and the whole of July. I’ll need to get a doctor’s note for flying at both 28 weeks and 33 weeks, which doesn’t bother me in the slightest as I flew at 35 weeks with Wilfred. I just have to wear flight socks and move as much as I can during the flight (8 hours). Once we’re home, I can’t wait to escape the heat and spend some time at home in cooler climes, but I know it’s going to be exhausting with school out for summer and trying to complete my work too. We’ll head back to Dubai for August to sweat it out and wait for the baby – I have visions of watching the Olympics while fully reclined on the sofa… Who am I kidding?