Ode to a Car Seat

I’m afraid I’m no poet, but I must express my feelings about this toughened plastic baby essential.

To begin with, a vessel to carry a tiny and vulnerable baby home from hospital. Little O looked so small and crumpled, barely filling a quarter of the seat, awkwardly supported by a head cushion which looked more uncomfortable than helpful.

Placed on the floor when we got home at midnight two days after her birth, the seat containing our little treasure was a thing of beauty.

The subject of this tale...

The subject of this tale…

 

Mr O and I stared at Little O asleep in her car seat and wondered ‘what now?’.

‘What now?’ indeed.

Over the coming few months, the the car seat became a thing of dread. Little O decided that being restrained in this instrument of torture was too much for any reasonable baby to bear. Every journey, even just a five minute trip to the local food emporium, became a mission of epic proportions.

My new mum friends became accustomed to me arriving to coffee mornings late, red-faced and flustered, with a screaming ball of fury in tow. Yes, I tried all the tricks: travelling at nap time, dangling toys to distract her, music, singing and on and on. To no avail.

On Abu Dhabi highways, usually at least 5 lanes wide with no place to pull over, a purple-faced hysterical baby is not an easy travelling partner. The mirror allowing me to see Little O in her rear-facing seat made me feel worse, as I could actually witness rather than just hear the screaming whilst trying to avoid the tailgating, non-indicating drivers all around me. Of course, if she’s unhappy, I’m unhappy.

For anybody reading this and identifying with the scenario, I can provide reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Well, sort of.

Suddenly, at around 8 months old, Little O became fond of her car seat. We’ll never know how or why this happened but I’m not going to question it. Slowly but surely I’ve lengthened my journeys and can manage a half hour journey without any drama. It seems the car seat is the new place to sleep rather than scream.

Which brings me to our new relationship hitch. Little O now only wants to sleep in the car seat.

Currently I am to be found thrice daily making aimless car journeys around the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, to get Little O to sleep. Where bouncing on the exercise ball and singing ‘The Wheels on The Bus’ have failed, the car seat has now become our new sleeping hero. I type this blog post having just completed an afternoon loop of our favourite route. I say ‘our’ favourite route, to be fair Little O was non-the-wiser as she was away with the dream fairies.

Always something interesting to see on a drive around here

Always something interesting to see on a drive around here

 

I have mixed feelings about this new development. We can cover a lot of driving ground in half an hour. It gets quite tedious and uses a fair amount of petrol. Then we have the issue of the transfer. Not easy when it involves a basement car park and long journey in a lift followed by navigating a very loud-clicking front door. Then into the cot, at which point she sometimes wakes. But, today it worked well and therefore Mr. Car Seat, I salute you. I may get to the end of this blog post and even finish my cup of tea before Little O wakes up. I know this is likely to be a short phase, but whilst I have a fail-safe tool to get the baby to sleep, I’m happy.

Our relationship has been a rocky one, but for now, the car seat and I have made our peace. Until the next phase.

O Car Seat how I love thee so. I think we still have a long way to go.

 

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Weird Things My Baby Loves

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that most parents secretly (or even not-so-secretly) crave just a few minutes each day to take a breath, drink a cup of tea whilst it’s hot and maybe even read half a page of a trashy magazine. You know, the ones with pictures of whippersnapper celebrities you don’t recognize, as they rose to fame after the baby arrived. It’s way too energy-taxing to read a ‘proper’ book on a diet of snack food sprinkled with sleep deprivation (or is that just me?).

Anyway, in an effort to achieve these few moments of peace, many parents invest a fair amount of time and money finding ways to entertain their little ones. Little O has a massive pile of ‘nearly new’ toys which, until recently, kept her urge to chew brightly coloured plastic objects reasonably well satisfied. But, as she gets older, Little O seems to gravitate towards non-toys for finding amusement. I seem to spend my days following her around the living room taking things out of her hands and steering her away from perilous household objects.

There are a few things she seems to adore, in particular:

1. Wooden Coasters 

Such a simple and inexpensive item, but for Little O the humble drinks coaster is like a precious jewel. In particular, coasters made from wood. Once she has one in her possession, wrangling it back is nigh on impossible. For throwing, banging, chewing and all round general enjoyment, the coaster is second to none.

Well-loved coasters

Well-loved coasters

 

At least these are non-dangerous objects, unlike…..

 

2. Plug Sockets

The lure of the plug socket is too great for Little O to resist. Even with a socket guard to prevent her little fingers getting stuck in the plug holes, the little switch next to the socket is still the best thing in the world.

Temptation in a nutshell

Temptation in a nutshell

 

Little O can spot an un-guarded socket from 100 paces and either immediately commando crawl or scoot at 40 miles per hour in her walker towards it, with a look of glee on her face. That is, until mummy or daddy ninja-jumps in front of her to stop her in her tracks. Cue very angry baby, only to be distracted from shrieking by…

 

3. The Remote Control

Ok, so this one isn’t so weird, I can see that a remote control has interesting buttons and the power to switch on Little O’s favourite cartoons. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t want to press the buttons, or switch on the TV. She just wants to chew it.

 

4. Wires

Following on from the theme of plug sockets, Little O is also partial to electrical wires. She tries many creative strategies to get near to the wires at the back of the TV, floor lamps and even the hairdryer. We don’t let her, of course, to her absolute disgust. Once she realises she is not going to be able to grab a handful of wires, generally she heads for….

 

5. My Ears

Little O loves to play a game of ‘lets try to pull mummy’s ear off’. Occasionally she will grace Daddy with this game too. Somehow the humble human ear is a source of great amusement, to be examined, poked and pulled. Woe betide any innocent person daring to wear a dangly earring within arms-reach of Little O. Like the saying about a swan being able to take your arm off, Little O could surely take an ear off. I have therefore perfected the art of holding her and being able to dance-move my head away, the moment I see a hand reaching towards my lobes. I’m looking forward to this phase swiftly jogging on, hopefully soon. Until then, I’m in the market for a massive pair of protective ear muffs. Is anyone selling?

 

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Summer Spectacular

I’ll soon be making the classic expatriate voyage home for the summer. This year I’m in the fortunate position of being on a maternity ‘sabbatical’ and able to take Little O with me on a great big adventure. We’ll be heading to the UK for a month and it will be the longest period of time I’ll have spent there since 2012, so it feels like a pretty big deal.

In addition to seeing our loved ones, I have a long list of other ‘homely’ things I’m counting down to…..

The ‘four seasons in one day’ weather. If nothing else, there’s always something for us Brits to talk about.

Feeling rain on my skin and being outside for longer than 5 minutes without melting (I may of course, swiftly take back the part about the rain, if it lasts longer than a few minutes. My nostalgia for rain does normally wear off fairly quickly).

DSC_0077

Sun, rain and wind, all at once!

 

The smell of the pavements after it has rained. Fresh, familiar, and laden with years of memories.

Splashing about in puddles and being able to wear my stripy wellies again!

My favourite footwear

My favourite footwear

 

Trips to the seaside, walking along wooden piers to the arcades always found at the end, where I’ll no doubt lose hundreds of two pence coins to coin-eating machines.

A fine example of a Pier

A fine example of a Pier

 

Picnics in the park, eating scones with cream and jam, sitting on a tartan blanket and swatting wasps away.

Long walks around glorious National Trust properties with acres of green space, historic houses and scenic views.

Splendid countryside

Splendid countryside

 

Being able to walk around without navigating 8-inch-high kerbs.

The Soaps.

’99’ ice cream cones with raspberry sauce, sprinkles and a chocolate flake

Photo: foodsofengland.co.uk

Photo: foodsofengland.co.uk

 

Strawberries that don’t cost £6 per punnet.

Proper Cadburys chocolate made in Bournville.

The great British fish and chips with mushy peas.

Last but not least, I’m looking forward to wandering around the sanctuary that is John Lewis!

I must say, I’m sure there are also loads of things I’ll miss about Abu Dhabi whilst I’m away. Four weeks seems such a long time. I imagine all the babies from our various mum & baby groups will be virtually off to college by the time we get back.

However, I’m predicting it will pass in the blink of an eye.

Journeying home

Journeying home

 

Soon we’ll be back here, in our other ‘home’, making new desert memories and fondly reminiscing about the wellies…

 

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10 Fathering Quotes to Make Your Heart Melt

Father’s Day is fast approaching and I’m stumped.

Little O was too busy mastering the art of crawling to take part in putting a ‘Dear Daddy’ post together.

I failed to persuade Mr O to write a guest post about his parenting journey so far.

So, instead I’m turning to some wise, funny and heartwarming words from some rather well-known people, to sum up our appreciation of Mr O and to share the magic of fatherhood:

DSC_0340

Daddy will always be there to hold her….

 

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.
Sigmund Freud

It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.
Pope John XXIII

The best way to make children good is to make them happy.
 Oscar Wilde

It was my father who taught me to value myself. He told me that I was uncommonly beautiful and that I was the most precious thing in his life.
Dawn French

Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.
John Wilmot

It is a wise father that knows his own child.
Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (2.2.73)

My father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic.
Spike Milligan

You know how it is with fathers, you never escape the idea that maybe after all they’re right.
 John Updike

When I come home, my daughter will run to the door and give me a big hug, and everything that’s happened that day just melts away.
 Hugh Jackman

Last but not least, I love this one as Mr O may need to demonstrate this quality tomorrow with his gift, lovingly crafted by a 10-month old:

Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.
 Bill Cosby

 

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads!

 

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3 Ways that Holidays Change with a Baby

A little piece of paradise

A little piece of paradise

Last month, Mr O and I braved our first family holiday with Little O. Living in the UAE, we have many wonderful and exotic travel options just a few flying hours away. We decided upon a short break to the Seychelles. Lucky us, I know. Its hard to find the words to describe the beauty of the place. To the right of this paragraph is the scene a ten-second walk from our hotel room. Really, I know.

Anyway, upon our return, when people asked how our holiday was, our response went along the lines of ‘lovely….it was nice to be somewhere different’. It was a fantastic holiday, however we hadn’t bargained on quite how much our usual style of holidaying would change with a baby.

Yes, it becomes your usual daily routine of looking after the baby, just in much lovelier surroundings. No, you don’t get to lie on a sun lounger and read the latest blockbuster, but more of that later…

We were so glad we took this holiday, as it was a gentle introduction to how our holidays will be from now on. We were lucky to learn these parenting lessons in such fabulous surroundings. On reflection, here’s my rundown of the top 3 ways that holidays change when bringing your little bundle of joy along:

1. The Packing

Here’s a tale to illustrate just how much needs to be packed to cover every eventuality…

When we arrived at Seychelles airport our prearranged driver wasn’t there, so we had to find a taxi to transfer us to our hotel. Mr O spent some time selecting a large taxi from the row of cars parked up. The taxi driver actually roared with laughter when he saw our massive pile of belongings. It may have been a nervous laugh in anticipation of us potentially damaging the suspension on his car. He asked how long we were staying and his guess was ‘a few weeks’. No, it was for 4 nights.

A little bit like this....

A little bit like this….

Anyway, this brave man agreed to take us and somehow, with skills that would make any contestant on the Krypton Factor proud, he managed to squeeze all the luggage in. He then drove with one hand whilst holding the luggage piled on the front seat, to make sure it didn’t tumble onto him. The man had excellent skills and got us there safely.

Feeding equipment, baby milk and food, baby clothing for all weathers, a selection of toys, the magical and huge ‘sleepyhead’ cushion to line the travel cot (if you don’t know what this is, look it up, it may change your life!), car seat, swim float… the list goes on. One little 8-month old had more luggage than both of us combined. And to be fair, we used most of the stuff that we took. No more sleek 10kg carry-on luggage to avoid the luggage carousel at the other end (not that I ever managed that anyway, to be honest). I’m a little concerned about how on earth our luggage will fit onto the plane for our 4-week trip to the UK in a few weeks time….

2. The Travelling

Month 9 B2 (465)Pre-baby, I quite enjoyed air travel as an excuse to switch off from reality for a few hours and have nothing else to do except catch up on the latest film releases. Pwah ha ha, I wish I’d appreciated those days a little more. The plane journey simply becomes a matter of surviving being in a confined space for an extended period with a surprisingly strong, wriggly little thing and doing everything humanly possible to avoid screaming episodes and nappy explosions. We did actually get to watch quite a bit of TV. It’s just that the choice of programming was selected based on stop-screaming-ability and this largely fell to the talents of Mickey Mouse.

We learned the importance of taking a baby carrier when, on our return to Abu Dhabi airport, our stroller had decided to take an extended holiday, had not been loaded onto the plane, and stayed at Seychelles airport. As the cub scouts say, Be Prepared.

3. The ‘Relaxing’

Month 9 B2 (150)Ah, the relaxing. Sorry, those days are gone. I had optimistic visions of us lying on the beach with Little O playing happily on the sand next to us. Ha ha ha. And more ha ha ha. We took short walks, we splashed about in the pool, we made a big event of every mealtime and took zillions of photographs in-between stopping Little O from eating handfuls of sand. When ‘chilling out’ in the hotel room, we spent a lot of time stopping Little O from hurtling off the bed and we built towers of stacking cups over and over for her to smash down.

When I look back on the holiday I do remember it very fondly even though there was no downtime. Each of our little activities led to funny family moments and stories that we’ll look back on in a few years’ time with nostalgic smiles.

For me, travelling is all about new experiences and making memories. Somehow with a baby it all becomes much more poignant.

For all those travelling with little ones in the coming months, I wish you the best of luck. It’s challenging but definitely worth it!

 

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Dieting Pitfalls of an Abu Dhabi Mum

This morning I stepped onto the scales to check on my dieting progress and it made for the grimmest of grim reading. The Brothers Grimm have nothing on this.

I did all the usual tricks, holding my breath, positive visualization of myself at my slimmest and hottest (although let’s face it, that was when I was about 19 years old so maybe a tad unrealistic), standing on one foot….to no avail. The scales don’t lie and neither do my hips. Not only did I not lose any of my mass, I actually gained a pound.

This isn’t going to be a self pitying rant about losing baby weight and how my body has changed beyond recognition. Nor will it be a lentil-weaving type debate about whether we should even try to lose weight or just learn to love ourselves and go hug trees. What this will be is a look at some of the reasons why a not-so-yummy mummy like me, living in the fabulous place that is Abu Dhabi, finds dieting just a bit challenging…..

The Coffee Mornings

Ideal with a cup of tea

Ideal with a cup of tea

One of my favourite things about having a baby here is the sheer amount of options available for meeting other mums over a cuppa and a slice of cake. At 10am on any weekday morning, you are likely to see groups of tired-looking but chatty ladies with babies, storming coffee shops in malls all over the city. These events provide a reason to leave the house, a forum for commiserating, sharing joyful stories of sleep deprivation and let’s come back to it….cake. Yes, we could all just drink skinny lattes and avoid eating naughties but where’s the fun in that?

Tea is made for cake. Coffee is made for cake. We all need the sugar just to stay awake (oh that could be a wonderful song, but I digress!)

Even if a coffee morning is hosted at a fellow mum’s home, chances are there’s a star baker amongst the crowd who somehow found time in-between changing nappies to bake a scrumptious cake. After all that effort, it would be rude not to try a piece.

Several coffee mornings per week, combined with my feeble willpower, means that I put away a fair amount of baked goods. Enough said.

 

The Heat

The exact opposite of this...

The exact opposite of this…

Back home in the UK, in the winter time when the weather is cold and frosty, it’s lovely to be indoors in front of a roaring fire, eating hearty and rather stodgy home-cooked food. A lot of people gain a few extra winter pounds from comfort eating and being less active in the great outdoors.

For me, the Middle East in the summer works largely to the same principles, although substitute the roaring fire for a large air conditioning unit and cold weather for scorchingly hot. Like, 50 degrees hot. We spend a lot of time indoors. Stodgy comfort food totally optional.

 

 

The Restaurants

We are ridiculously lucky to have endless options for eating out in Abu Dhabi. So many luxury hotels with several restaurants each, independent eateries, mall restaurants, cafes, street food vendors and the list goes on. My husband and I purchase the Abu Dhabi Entertainer book each year, which is a voucher book containing hundreds of two-for-one meal vouchers. Obviously this means that we must visit as many of the restaurants as possible to use up the vouchers. With Little O in tow, it’s a bit tricky but we can still do daytime mall restaurants and cafes, and the very occasional dinner out when we can find a babysitter. Just to get value from the voucher book, of course.

Dangerously (for my diet) the majority of these restaurants also do online ordering for home delivery, so a 5 star meal is just a few clicks away. As an unwilling cook, these services are priceless to me, especially on those evenings when the baby refuses to go to bed and by 9pm we are exhausted and wondering what we can have for dinner. The delivery guys are starting to become good friends of ours.

 

Brunches

Who could resist?

Who could resist?

No, not just a meal somewhere between breakfast and lunch, to ease the headache after a big night out.

Here, ‘brunch’ means something entirely different. Think all-you-can-eat buffet extravaganza with unlimited beverages of the soft or adult variety. The Friday brunch is a legendary phenomenon (our weekends are Friday and Saturday, we don’t just take Friday off work to indulge, for those who were wondering!). These events happen at virtually all hotels and run from around 12noon to 4pm. During this time, one can eat and drink an unlimited amount. The buffets are like nothing you’ve ever seen before, food from all over the globe, presented beautifully. A dieter’s nightmare.

For me, the desserts are the killer. One hotel even has a dessert ROOM, no kidding. Many a time I’ve left at the end of a brunch with a sugar headache after trying pretty much one of everything.

I’m limiting brunches as much as possible at the moment but it would only take one to undo all my ‘good’ work (although I’m not sure putting on a pound actually counts as good work). For those not in UAE, if you ever visit, you must try one. I might even join you, especially if it’s at the hotel with the dessert room.

 

In view of all of the above, I’m actually coming around to the fact that I may just need to learn to love the Mummy Tummy.

Mums should be a bit cuddly, right??

 

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Heavenly Hideout: Spa Review #1

My name is Mrs O and I’m a spa addict. This affliction was placed on hold for a while in the early days of motherhood, when any spare time was spent catching up on valuable sleep or shovelling down bowls of cereal in between baby feeds. Lying down on my front was also very painful making a massage not very enjoyable – any new mothers out there will know exactly what I mean….

But, now we are through those hazy days, on occasion I get to take a few hours off and scurry out to get a hit of pure relaxation. Here begins a series of spa reviews. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. None of these reviews are sponsored, so all my own opinions and all paid for myself.

Relaxing with a chamomile tea

Relaxing with a chamomile tea

I’m a massive fan of the Entertainer Body book, which contains a multitude of buy one get one free vouchers for spas across Abu Dhabi (this is available for many other cities too). The beauty of this is that one person can use a voucher alone and then get their next treatment free. Amazing value.

I recently visited Heavenly Spa at The Westin Abu Dhabi on two separate occasions, using one of these vouchers.  I’m very glad that I did. Here are my findings:

Location and Surroundings:

This little hideout is within The Westin Golf Resort and Spa. This luxurious hotel is surrounded by the greenery of the golf course and there is a grand drive leading up to the hotel entrance. Valet parking is freely available. The spa is easy to find within this large hotel, not far from the reception area. It’s small but perfectly formed, with neutral soothing colours. When I’ve visited it has always been peaceful. There is a pleasant reception area to sit and drink the refreshing complimentary fruit tea provided on arrival. 5/5.

Changing area:

The ladies’ changing room is fairly small and communal, although there is a small private area tucked away in one corner. The changing area includes a steam room and showers. Lockers are provided, although not all are full-length, the smaller ones are not really big enough to hang clothing. A robe and slippers are provided. The robes are made from a lovely soft cloth, I wished I could take one away with me! A good selection of toiletries is provided alongside hairstyling equipment and big fluffy towels. 3/5.

Treatment:

I was looked after by two different therapists on my two recent visits, both were excellent. I opted for the ‘Heavenly Massage’, a full body massage with options for either 60 or 90 minutes. I opted for 60 minutes. After being shown to a treatment room, beautifully lit (dark, but not too dark) the therapist checked the level of pressure I would like and checked whether there were any parts I particularly wanted her to work on or to avoid. Then, a unique touch- I was asked to select one of three engraved pebbles showing ‘love’, ‘hope’ or ‘gratitude’, to be placed under the face hole (not sure of the technical term for this) in the massage bed, to give a focus for the mind during the massage. The treatment itself, as the name suggests, was definitely heavenly. A heat pack is placed across the back to sooth and relax the muscles whilst the therapist works on the lower parts of the body, before moving onto the back. Always a sign of a good treatment, I almost fell asleep both times. 5/5.

The treatment is finished off with a head massage and then off to the relaxation area….

Relaxation area:

The relaxation area is fairly small but well laid out with relaxing lounge chairs and footstools, each with it’s own little table, interestingly made from a tree stump. There is also an outdoor area with loungers, but the mid-40’s temperature made it too hot for me to venture out. There is a small selection of snacks including delicious oatmeal cookies, which taste home-made. I enjoyed a cookie alongside my chamomile tea, which was made from real dried chamomile flowers. Magazines are provided, it was a true luxury to read a magazine cover to cover for the first time in months! On a busier day I think this area could be less relaxing due to its size. 3/5.

Overall 16/20

Fabulous treatments, very friendly and professional therapists and a quiet and relaxing environment. If you get chance to visit this place, do go, you won’t regret it.

 

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Always Rinse the Weetabix Bowl

Yes, you read the title correctly, this post is that random. But, stay with me, it might just be useful.

I’ve been reflecting on some of the little things that Mr O and I have learned the hard way when it comes to parenting. There are certain small pearls of wisdom that were not written into the parenting manuals, or in the leaflets thrust into our hands during antenatal classes. Mainly little, practical things that on the surface may seem trivial, but for two tired beings with baby-rice for brains, knowing some of these things in advance would have been terrific.

1. The envelope shoulders on baby vests are not just for decoration.

Really. In the case of Grade A nappy explosions, the neck of the vest can stretch over the shoulders and be rolled down over the body, avoiding spreading you-know-what over the head. This wonderful nugget of design inspiration dawned upon us only after a few such incidents. How is this not taught in parenting classes?!

2. Beware of sneaky number ones.

You think you’ve managed a successful and uneventful nappy change. You have dressed the baby (aka tackled the equivalent of wrestling with a sack full of snakes). You pick the baby up and feel a mysterious wet patch all the way up to the shoulders. How did that get there? Yes, my friend, you’ve been visited by the sneaky number one. Snuck out somewhere, you’ll never know how and when it happened. What you do know is that it’s back to the drawing board, or in this case changing mat, for round two. This time, checking every 4 seconds for further mind-boggling occurrences.

3. Don’t go anywhere without the full kit.

You long for the days when you could leave the house with merely your sunglasses, wallet and car keys. Your baby has been doing really well on trips out recently and there have been no nappy incidents, no need for spare outfits or any of the seventy thousand toys you normally pack just in case. You think you are now ready to take out a slimmed-down version of your baby bag, just a small handbag-sized pouch with one nappy and a few wipes, the ultimate freedom. Steady on Braveheart! For this will be the trip when your little treasure goes wild in the aisles, needs three outfit changes and four new nappies. Don’t do it. Always take everything, forever.

4. Always rinse the weetabix bowl.

Quick, get this under some running water!

Quick, get this under some running water!

This speaks for itself. When it comes to the time for weaning, if you choose this as a breakfast item, be prepared. Somehow an innocent bowl of leftover weetabix becomes the hardest substance known to man and needs to be chiselled off by a titanium instrument. Ok, maybe not quite that hard, but certainly enough to plaster walls or build houses with. Rinse the bowl as soon as possible and while you are at it, wipe the baby’s face and hands quick smart, too.

The end result of eating weetabix, a few hours later…well that’s another story all on it’s own.

 

If you have any similar unwritten pearls of parenting wisdom, please do share!

 

 

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4 Hair and Body Heroes for Mothers in a Hurry

I’m not going to lie, my grooming standards dropped drastically when I became a mother. Far from the ideal ‘yummy mummy’ image, I’m more in the Waynetta Slob camp. For those who don’t know who that is, just think of a quite un-groomed lady, not smelling of sunshine, partial to staying in her pyjamas all day.

Ok, so really it's 5 products...read on to find out why!

Ok, so really it’s 5 products…read on to find out why!

…..that may not have been the most enticing introduction to a blog post about hair and body products, but I’m sure it sets the context pretty well.

In short, with a very active little one, I have very little time and even less energy to invest on my outer shell.

The following four products really are my hair and body heroes. These little beauties keep me looking and feeling fairly human. Here’s how and why:

Batiste Dry Shampoo

Total genius

Total genius

This miracle-in-a-spraycan is a total must have for those who, like me, have approximately 35 seconds to shower each day. This means that more often than not, hair washing is forfeited. This wonderful product provides an instant refresh, stretches the time between washes and keeps hair looking decent. It even comes in a range of shades to avoid the grey haired look that some dry shampoos can give. Can’t say fairer than that! Available at a wide range of supermarkets and pharmacies. I get mine at Boots Pharmacy.

 

 

Botanics Body Soufflé

A well-used tub of loveliness

A well-used tub of loveliness

No matter how stretched for time I am, I always try to apply some body moisturiser after a shower. Even if I only make it as far as my arms! My current body cream of choice is Boots Botanics Relaxing Body Soufflé. Being part of the Botanics range, it contains extracts from plants, including vetiver. These products are developed with scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the UK. This cream smells just amazing and sinks into the skin quickly,  leaving it nice and soft. Being a ‘soufflé’ it is super light. Even if I’m just getting into my usual outfit of ‘lounge wear’ I feel like I’m properly dressed and groomed when I have applied some of this rather wonderful stuff. Next time you’re in Boots, I implore you to smell it.

Available at Boots Pharmacy.

Four Cow Farm Calendula Remedy

A great all-rounder

A great all-rounder

This was a relatively recent find. Four Cow Farm is an Australian organic producer of body products, all natural and free of chemical nasties. The brand packaging states it was developed by ‘a mother, grandmother and midwife’. The products are safe for babies as well as adults.

Baby or no baby, the calendula remedy is just lovely and can be used for many purposes. I tend to use it as lip balm but the possibilities are endless. The texture is smooth and comforting, the smell is very subtle and natural. Potential uses could be for dry skin, eyebrow taming, cuticle moisturiser, intensive hand cream, for eczema or bites….you catch my drift. An excellent all-round addition to any bathroom shelf.

See the Four Cow Farm website or Facebook page for more information about the full range of products available. There is a specific Facebook page for Four Cow Farm UAE.

 

Aromatherapy Associates De-Stress Muscle Gel

Smells fabulous....

Smells fabulous….

After a long day of lifting and carrying Little O, my weary muscles cry out for help. This wonderful muscle gel helps to ease muscle tension and its dreamy smell helps to relax the mind as well as the body. Whether it’s rubbed on the shoulders, or aching legs (from crouching down on the floor to show the baby how to crawl!) this clear gel is easy to apply, light, and not sticky. The smell transports me to a luxury spa. The ingredients include rosemary, black pepper, lavender and ginger.

Note: Due to the aromatherapy oils in this product it is for adults only and not recommended during pregnancy.

Aromatherapy Associates products are stocked at various spas around Abu Dhabi including Heavenly Spa at The Westin and Zen Spa at the Beach Rotana.

 

I know I said four products but I’m going to sneak in a fifth as its a favourite of Little O….

Weleda Baby and Child Calendula Body Lotion

imageThis stuff is wondrous! For months I tried various creams, lotions and oils to try to combat baby’s dry skin. A friend recommended Weleda products and we’ve never looked back. Calendula-based, this lotion is free from synthetic preservatives, fragrances and colours. It smells lovely and Little O has the softest skin ever with no dryness or irritation. I’m sure if Little O could talk, she’d tell you the same!

Available at pharmacies, we got this from Al Manara Pharmacy at Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi

 

I would love to hear about other hair and beauty must-haves so please share your favourite products in the comments below and add to the list!

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9 Things My 9-Month Old Has Taught Me

Random assortment of baby essentials

Random assortment of baby essentials

It doesn’t matter what anybody says, nothing prepares you for how much a baby changes everything. A cute little bundle lands in the middle of your life, throws everything up in the air and it all settles back around you just a little differently.

I do not profess to be any kind of expert in parenting, in fact I don’t think anybody truly is, even the people who write books about it. My biggest observation after many months of spending time with other new parents is that we are all totally making it up as we go along. But, in my first 9 months of parenthood there are some things I have picked up along the way that I think will resonate with others riding the same rollercoaster ride.

Here are 9 things I have learned:

1. I’m not an Earth Mother and that’s ok

When pregnant, it is easy to make plans and decide how things are going to be. For most people there is a very abrupt and rude awakening, generally during the process of giving birth (which never goes to plan as far as I can establish) or very soon afterwards. One of my rude awakenings was that I am not going to be the ethereal Earth Mother I envisaged. Extended breastfeeding, organic only food, no pouches or jar food, all natural body products, no TV or iPad screen time, lovely wooden toys and no brightly coloured plastic littering the home…..epic fail on ALL counts. In fact, I’ll rephrase that, not a fail but just not how we ended up choosing to do things when in full possession of all the facts about how our new life would actually be. After several months of beating myself around the head with a big guilt-stick I’ve come to realise that really, it’s all fine. If you are one of those mothers who smells of sunshine, skips through fields with the wind in your hair and doesn’t own a TV, that’s fine too. We are all just doing our best.

2. This too shall pass

Those mornings when after a total of one hour of broken sleep you wonder how you will ever survive the day…you will. I can’t tell you how, but you just plough on, dragging your eye bags along with you. It gets better, it really does. A good supply of cake and chocolate helps.

3. A nappy explosion can be a beautiful thing

….especially when you’ve waited several days for it! Oh the relief. Who’d have thought?

Seriously, if it means no longer watching your little one in pain and discomfort, that stinky episode is the best thing ever. For a little while, anyway.

4. It is impossible to keep all the germs away

Whilst I still inwardly cringe each time Little O chews a random toy at soft play, I know it’s impossible to make sure everything that touches her mouth is clean. At some point I have to accept that day to day germs will reach her little body. A lot of time is spent cleaning and sterilising baby equipment at home, only for her to head straight for the grubbiest looking toy in the communal playroom as soon as we venture out. I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to stop this happening but unfortunately I’m not Inspector Gadget and I just don’t have long enough arms or superhero powers. I’m sure little O passes on just as many germs when she indiscriminately slobbers on any chewable surface she can find. So for now I’ll stay friends with the hand sanitizer and Dettol wipes but not stress too much when, like today, a fellow baby sneezes in her face.

5. Second hand is cool

Wooden activity cubeI’ve already blogged about this but it really is true that not every toy or item of clothing needs to be brand new. Fabulous bargains can be found on buying and selling sites, in many cases babies get bored of toys quickly which means they are lightly used. All the more reason not to spend a fortune. Before Little O came along I never thought I’d spend so much time hunting a bargain but now I’m a regular buyer of whatever nearly new toy becomes the next big thing.

6. An iPad is the best thing since sliced bread

I was always a person who would pull on my massive judgey pants when I saw parents using iPads to occupy their children. However, I have to admit to succumbing to this, on occasion. It’s a matter of survival. The iPad, with downloaded cartoons and other child friendly delights, has prevented or dampened down many a force 10 meltdown. In particular, the iPad has helped with long haul plane travel, distraction during minor medical procedures and middle of the night hysteria. I’m not saying the iPad is pulled out every time we hit any difficulty, but it certainly is an excellent addition to the parenting toolbox. Back when I was a baby I guess the equivalent would have been jangling a bunch of keys, but somehow that doesn’t work for Little O.

7. My baby has a better social life than I do

Seriously, a whole new social circle opened up the moment the blue line appeared on the pregnancy test. Little O was making friends even whilst in bump form. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed navigating the waters of all the different mum and baby groups around Abu Dhabi. The ones I’ve stuck with have people just like me who are happy for a couple of hours of chatter over some good cake, whilst the little ones happily wreak havoc in a new environment… that said, to fairly distribute the damage I do my share of hosting too. I’d be lost without my mum-mates and I’m pretty sure that Little O will soon realize that she would be lost without her baby chums, too.

8. It’s ok to want time out

imageI could spend 100% of the time gazing adoringly at Little O…or now and again I could find some little place to hide out for some ‘me time’. I choose the latter. It took a while to lose the guilt about leaving Little O for an hour or two with Mr O whilst I go off gallivanting, but I soon got over it. My current hideout of choice is the spa at one of the hotels near to my home. After a massage and a delicious herbal tea and chewy oat biscuit, I’m ready to face the world again. Whether it be yoga, spas, a trip to the supermarket on my own (luxury!) or just a quick walk along the seafront, these solo moments definitely save my sanity.

9. Live in the moment

I’m quite good at navel-gazing and getting lost in worries about the future or wasting time wondering what could have been done differently. What the last 9 months have taught me most of all is that time flies. It doesn’t feel that way when the baby is screaming at 3am, but really, it’s true.

Spend too much time lost in worrying and planning and you’ll miss those tiny wondrous moments, generally found in amongst the mundane. A random cheeky smile in the midst of a food-refusing session can catch me off guard and make it all ok. Playing peekaboo for the 50th time that day is fine because I know someday there will be a last time and I won’t even know it. Soak it up.

 

 

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