A working mother’s typical evening – in 10 phrases

“Right, to the table, please.”

“NOW.”

“It’s not YouTube time, it’s homework time. Well, how many more minutes are left? 20! No way, too many. Turn it off!

“Please don’t throw your pencil.”

[Thinks to myself: Why is it so hard to get my son to just sit upright at the table, with his pencil poised and his books open in front of him. Why, oh why, does he insist on half sliding off his chair, and resting his forehead on the table, as if he were ill, then running off on unexplained missions as they occur to him?]

Cheers to mums everywhere, who put in much longer hours than 9-5 and end their days half-asleep on the sofa!

Cheers to mums everywhere, who put in much longer hours than 9-5 and end their days half-asleep on the sofa!

“Pyjamas on. Stop messing around! Just put them on.

“Clothes in the bin please. NOT ON THE FLOOR! How many times do I have to tell you?

”Nooo! Be careful with the toothpaste. And brush them well. Longer than that.”

“Just one chapter tonight. No, you read it to me. Okay, deal – we’ll do one page each.”

“Are you sure you don’t need the toilet? Really? You must need to. C’mon, just try.”

“Right, lights out. I’ll stay for two minutes. That’s all. No, I can’t stay all night. Mummy’s tired [and needs to get downstairs for some Mummy juice]. Mwah. Night, night kiddos!”

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On refereeing competitive siblings

I touched on this the other day, but there’s something you can’t fail to notice about boys: their competitive streak.

Eager to one-up each other the WHOLE TIME, my sons compare everything, from who gets to sit next to whom the most, to the football teams their footie shirts belong to.

And sometimes this relentless rivalry gets quite exhausting, especially when it’s over something really silly you can’t believe they’re arguing about. Like toothbrushing. (“I’m going to win!” said in a light, humorous tone, but with a fine thread of steel running through the centre of it.) Or which one of them loves their grandparents the most.

Best friends (even if they don't always know it. Or show it)

Best friends (even if YouTube would suggest otherwise)

I’m sure this chronic competitiveness is getting more pronounced, too. It was easier when they were really small and had an active fantasy life. At age 3, if they wanted to be the fastest kid in the world, they just had to imagine they were. Now, at ages 8 and 6, they realise it’s not good enough just to think they’re the fastest – they have to prove it.

At other times, my sons are the best of friends and keep each other entertained for hours – and when it’s the two of them pitted against the world, they stand up for each other with a brotherly empathy that knows no bounds.

But, at home, it can feel like I’m continually being driven crazy by petty squabbles that border on grievous bodily harm.

“You.Are.The.Worst.Brother.In.The.World,” I heard Son1 telling Son2 the other night, after yet another argument over I can’t remember what. “Mum …blah, blah, blah, blah … he started it.” Can you tell I had my fingers in my ears?

“Look, it’s even on YouTube,” continued Son1, bringing me the iPad. He’s really into making movies at the moment and has worked out how to upload them. I glanced at the screen. And, to my alarm, there it was: his latest home movie – a biography of sorts, entitled The Worst Brother in the World.

(While I had some success in teaching Son1 that this isn’t a nice thing to tell the world, I’m still attempting to figure out how to delete this production!)

It’s a good job I know they love each other really. <3

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How many days until … Halloween?

Look who it is! My friend's teenage daughter carved Elsa from Frozen into her pumpkin. Amazing!

Look who it is! My friend’s teenage daughter carved Elsa from Frozen into her pumpkin. Amazing!

It started on 1st October. “Mum, how many days until Halloween?” Son2 was pointing at the small, orange, smiley pumpkin that marks 31st October on our calendar on the fridge.

I warned him that it was still some way off. After all, when you’re 6 and waiting for a candy windfall, a month must feel like an eternity, and I really wasn’t ready to put Halloween decorations up yet.

By the second week of October, his impatience was growing. “Is it Halloween tomorrow? If it’s not tomorrow, is it the next day? Or the day after that?” In the middle of chatting about something completely different, he’d suddenly take me down a conversational dogleg:

“Can we put Halloween decorations up, pleeeeeaaasseeeee. Mum, MUM, MUM!

‘You promised!” [said plaintively, looking me squarely in the eye]

So we buckled a few days ago, and in our front garden, where pink bougainvillea climbs frothily up the wall, there’s now a few creepy additions. We planted a skull in the flowerbed, dangled a one-armed skeleton in the porch, propped a gravestone up and draped cobwebs over the bushes – ready for our community’s collective descent into trick-or-treatery at the end of the month. (DH, while on a trip to New York, even sorted the ‘big reveal’ by buying Son2 a new alien costume at a Halloween store.)

But then, I was caught off-guard again today. On a different topic. It wasn’t so much the question: What are you doing for Christmas? Rather, the snippet of information my hair stylist passed on next: “Some of the big brunches are sold out already!”

A fact I can well believe, having also just discovered that the take-away roast turkeys from my local golf club are all booked up – and they’re taking names for 2015!

I’m surely not the only person who hasn’t thought this far ahead? Oh well, at least we’ve nearly nailed Halloween.

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On hanging up the ice skates (for good)

It’s a little known fact that I’d love to be an ice dancer. Years ago, I wanted nothing more than to be Jayne Torvill – the trouble was, I was a terrible ice skater.

Then, we moved to Minnesota – which, for at least four months of the year, turned into a magical, winter wonderland. Fresh, fluffy snow would burst through the clouds, and the lakes would freeze so deeply that you could even drive cars on them. The sky was nearly always sailor blue, and when a blizzard started, the snowflakes would lightly touch your face, attaching to your lashes and tickling your nose. (Sigh, I still miss it – or am I forgetting shovelling my way out of a six-foot snowdrift?)

I finally learnt to skate in Minnesota. I had lessons at our local ice rink, and practised outdoors whenever I could – even on a huge frozen puddle outside our home. I loved it, but before you start thinking I was any good, I should add that, despite learning to swizzle and being able to get round the ponds and canals at Centennial Lakes Park, I wasn’t a natural, by any means. Then I got pregnant, and that was pretty much it.

Fast forward nearly 10 years, and I find myself looking at my ice skates longingly. “Let’s go skating at the Dubai Mall,” I tell my family, admiring the gleaming silver blades on my still new-looking, lace-up, white skates. (“Let’s take gloves,” I add, imagining the serrated toe pick going over someone’s little fingers.)

My boots, my dream. Lovely, but eye-wateringly painful.

My boots, my dream. Lovely, but eye-wateringly painful.

So, on Friday morning, we head to Dubai’s Olympic-size arena, before the mall gets too busy and the rink becomes like Sheikh Zayed Road on ice. We get the children booted up, lug two huge Penguin Pals onto the ice (utterly wonderful, sturdy inventions that kids can cling onto to learn to skate), and we’re off …

Except it wasn’t as easy as that (what was I thinking?). It felt nerve-wracking, and slippy; my feet skidded unsteadily in different directions, and just balancing was tricky. While the boys shuffled off with their penguins, DH took my hand and guided me round (he’s pretty good, having grown up in Kuwait, where he ice skated during the hot summers). Until finally I got my confidence back, and could glide – cautiously – by myself.

A few laps later, and I realised I couldn’t feel my feet. Not because of the cold (the rink felt pretty warm). But because they’d started tingling. My boots, which fit perfectly well a decade ago, were clearly too tight, and as pins and needles started spreading from my toes to my heels, I had to concede (sniff) that it was time to hang up my skates. (Darn it! How is it that 10 years and two children can not only make your hips, waist and tummy expand, but also cause your feet to get bigger?)

I’ll be back though – the hired boots felt much better, and while I’ll never be able to spin or jump like Jayne Torvill, I’m actually really pleased I was able to stay upright. One-two-three-gliiiiide.

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Overheard in the car

For the past two years, we’ve been car-pooling with a French family to get Son2 home from school. Our son, and their son – let’s call him M – quickly became firm friends, and despite not being in the same class anymore, the boys’ friendship remains as strong as ever.

This makes for some loud banter in the car – which I tune in and out of, depending on what the subject matter is, like you would when listening to incessant chatter on the radio. Today, the boys were discussing their dads, who both fly the same aircraft (the A380 superjumbo), and I noticed some rather competitive one-upmanship going on.

Son2 picks up a toy plane lying on the back seat. “My daddy flies a big airplane, “ he says, proudly.

“My daddy’s airplane’s bigger,” counters M, raising the stakes considerably.

“Well, my daddy flies a double-decker airplane, that goes fast. Like this….WHOOOOOOSH,” says Son2, whizzing the toy jet through the air.

The monster-plane – overweight but fast!

The monster-plane – overweight but fast!

“My daddy’s airplane is super-big, and it goes super-fast!” replies M, injecting as much ‘wow’ factor into his voice as possible. “Faster than your daddy’s.”

Remember, they’re talking about the same aircraft here.

I glance in the mirror and see that Son2’s face is a study in not-to-be-outdone affrontedness. It isn’t one of his normal faces; it’s like he’s picked it up from somewhere and is trying it on for size.

Son2’s hand then turns into a blur of motion as he illustrates high speed, and out of his sweet mouth comes an effortless – and blatant – lie. “Well, my daddy flies the Blackbird.”

“WHOOOOOOSH,” he adds, for effect.

Little boys – always comparing!

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The bikini car wash

Here in Dubai, we’re accustomed to things being done slightly differently from what we’re used to at home. Where else in the world can you register to lose weight and win gold if you’re successful? Or see sharks in a mall?

This week, while scanning the local press, I’ve noticed a few more examples of Dubai’s unique streak:

– First, there’s the penchant for supercars among Dubai’s emergency services; the latest additions being Dubai Ambulance’s new Lotus and pair of Ford Mustangs, which will soon be scrambled to meet 999 calls.

"Sports cars to speed up paramedics’ response times to emergencies"

Sports cars to speed up paramedics’ response times to emergencies”

– Then today, I awoke to the news that the Dubai government has a question for us: Are you happy? A ‘Happiness Metre’ has been launched that will measure how satisfied the public is with government services. The initiative involves tapping an electronic device that’s connected to a central network, resulting in daily reports being sent to decision makers.

"Happiness index to provide immediate feedback on user's satisfaction with government services"

“Happiness index to provide immediate feedback on users’ satisfaction with government services”

– As part of the above Smart Dubai initiative, Dubai’s parks and beaches are to get free WiFi.

– But perhaps the most surprising story is the bikini car wash being held tomorrow at the hotel next to my office, to raise awareness for breast cancer. Surprising because I can’t believe it hasn’t crossed their minds that this is rather risqué for Dubai.

A quick poll on the blog’s Facebook page came up with several great suggestions for what it might entail: A burkini car wash. The ladies wearing the bikinis over their normal clothes. The men wearing the bikinis. The cars being washed with the bikinis. I can hardly wait!

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 23.20.01

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Silently stealing luggage space

My DH took the children away last week. I couldn’t go because of work, so I (rather forlornly) waved them off to Beirut, where their grandparents live.

It was the first time I’d had to ‘let the boys go’, and I felt strangely untethered, as though gravity had disappeared – until I rediscovered how much extra time there is when you’re the only person in the house (things stay exactly where you leave them, it’s crazy!)

Our nanny did the children’s packing, but when I got home from work, DH was doing some pruning.

xxxxxx

Don’t forget their toothbrushes – and the class gorilla! (hehe)

Now, when I pack the cases, I’m pretty thorough. If we got stuck on a desert island, we could be self-sufficient thanks to my packing (which is sometimes, I admit, excessive – but then I’ve got nearly nine years’ of experience of travelling with children who create laundry like nobody’s business).

Men, I’ve realised, view packing quite differently. DH had thrown out several T-shirts; when I tried to put baseball caps in, I had to argue their case; and as for taking suntan lotion, you’d think I was attempting to sneak a brick into the suitcase. (“There’ll be some there,” was DH’s viewpoint. “Just take it, in case,” I replied.)

So I did have to secretly smile when DH’s hand-luggage only plans were stymied by the class bear. The mascot is actually a gorilla – at least a foot tall. As Son2 left school clutching the stuffed toy – hardly able to believe his luck that he was the first to take him away – DH must have groaned inwardly at the gorilla’s surprisingly large size.

At the back to school night, another dad had quipped, “If he’s excess baggage, he’s not going.” But, given the jet set life of a travelling toy in an international school, you just know that the class gorilla has probably scuba-dived in the Maldives; made it to Hong Kong Disneyland; not to mention enjoyed weekend trips to Oman and Turkey.

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