On losing it over homework (and why they won’t cooperate)

Saturday morning (the last day of the weekend here in the UAE) saw me feeling determined: my kids were going to get their homework done early, rather than leaving it until last thing on Saturday night when we’re all tired and would rather stick pins under our nails.

So I sat down at the table, drumming my fingers while the boys shouted out various excuses, from needing to land an airplane on whatever computer game they were playing to being hungry/needing to run an urgent errand/feeling ill etc.

I heard my youngest son chasing the dog. “Bella … Bella. EAT it.”

I finally got them to the table, where it quickly became obvious we might still be sitting there hours later with my boys yawning and feigning snoring over small heaps of crumpled paper.

“I’m not going to do it for you,” I told my eldest. “I’ll sit here doing some work of my own, BUT YOU HAVE TO DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK.” I emphasised the words with a raise of the eyebrows.

Son2: "Mum, can I have a hacking device for Christmas?"

Son2: “Mum, can I have a hacking device for Christmas?”

Son1 shot me a look, and even the plants on the windowsill looked as though they were seeking an escape from within.

Fifteen minutes later, Son1 was still struggling, complaining that he couldn’t find a good website to answer the question he’d been set. I heard the flicking sound of the rubber he was fiddling with – then he dropped his pen on the floor, which always sets my teeth on edge after the third time. At one point, he nearly slid off his chair.

A stare passed between us. I might have felt my face flash hot with annoyance.

It’s at this point that I try to remember what Clive Power, managing director of Dubai-based Power Tutoring, told me:

“It’s usually difficult for parents to help with their own children’s homework. Children like to keep their work/life balance just as much as adults. We don’t like bringing work home and it interfering with our family life, the same is true for children. It would be just as strange for children to have their parents in the classroom as it would be for the teacher to have a meal with the family in the home. So when the parent takes on the role of the educator as well, there’s confusion. Children can even question whether the emotional support and unconditional love will still be there if they get the answers wrong or don’t understand things fully.

“We’ve had qualified teachers who’ve come in and said that they can work with all the children in the school, but not their own children,” Clive continues. “It’s the blind spot on the car, the part of your back that you can’t quite reach to scratch.”

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-23-23-45So today, as my son continued to whine that not one of the websites he was looking at told him the answer, I tried to bear Clive’s words in mind – then felt the small hairs on the back of my neck rise and lost it with my son anyway.

“You know, your father and I – we had to do this WITHOUT GOOGLE! We couldn’t just type a question into the internet and get the answer, a thousand times over on the screen in front of us. We had to look in BOOKS, ENCYCLOPAEDIAS to do our homework! There was no Wikipedia, no search engines. No internet!

“Can you even imagine that?” I finished, beetroot red in the face. “Do you even know how lucky you are?”

Son1 gave a small nod, his alarmed eyes as wide as saucers.

Posted in Children, Dubai, Expat, Family, Parenting, School | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday: Stuck in the sand


Well a trip to the desert wouldn’t be the same without the car getting stuck in soft sand. While our pup chills, DH starts pushing

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FREE e-book for readers!

PSSST, my little e-book is free! It’s up for grabs for the next 24 hours at:

In the UK: Click here
In the US and worldwide: Click here
Alternatively, please search for Cupcakes & Heels in your local Amazon online store.

And because I’m feeling super generous (and thrilled that it’s reached the number two spot in the Amazon 45-minute reads fiction section), I’ll email it to you if you don’t have a Kindle or iPad (with the Kindle app). Just leave a message for me below, or on the Circles Facebook page here.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]Here comes the blurb:

Workaholic mum Julie Wainscote becomes an overnight Twitter sensation when her live TV gaffe goes viral. Fired from her job, she takes up the challenge of becoming a stay-at-home mum to her son, Jacob.

But when she realises the school run is a catwalk, the coffee mornings involve competitive catering and the class bear has been to Lapland, she has to admit the adjustment required may be beyond her. Does she have what it takes to join Dubai’s ranks of immaculately groomed school mothers?

Someone was even kind enough to say:

An uplifting and candid story about one of the most difficult decisions any mother has to make. A truly funny, insightful and beautifully written slice of parenting life.”

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]COMING SOON: Have you ever just popped into IKEA? In my next book (due out in the next couple of weeks), you’ll meet all sorts of characters you’ll recognise. Helicopter Mum. The Atlantis Tooth Fairy. Shopaholic Katie, who disappears down the Karama rabbit hole while buying handbags. There’s also school teacher Hilary (will she get to keep the Range Rover gifted to her by the royal family?); little Amir, a historical character who wants nothing more than to do his first, dangerous pearl dive; and horrified, overworked Marcie, whose husband gets overexcited at the Expo 2020 and swaps their housemaid for a robot.

Watch this space for: Circles in the Sand: Stories about life in the Big D

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Rescued: From Rags to Riches

There’s a new addition to the Circles family: Meet Bella, our seven-month-old rescue pup.


She was born on a labour camp in Umm al-Quwain – the little ’un of a litter of mixed-breed pups (Saluki/Lab, I’m told, and being a complete novice at this, I knew a Lab meant Labrador but thought a Saluki was a type of car).

There were some 500 men living in the camp and, despite having so little themselves, they shared their food with the pups (how heart-warming is that?). The kind-hearted labourers also called a rescue home, the wonderful Stray Dogs Centre UAQ, who came along and collected the litter along with the mum.

Fast forward a few weeks and I see a photo on Facebook. I’m not even looking for a dog. I’m a cat person. But my youngest son has been asking for a dog … for five years.

I’m not quite sure what happened. I think it was her eyes – those deep pools of melted brown chocolate staring out the photo – and the caption saying she’d been rescued from an industrial area, was incredibly affectionate, and needed a furr-ever home.

Check out those smiles!

Unconditional love: Check out those smiles!

My fingers started typing. I’m not sure they were even connected to my brain (which was screaming: It’s summer! We’re leaving Dubai for six weeks then moving house. We’re CAT PEOPLE! We know nothing about dogs! She might as well be an elephant for all we know about dogcare).

They say that where there’s a will there’s a way, and this rang so true in this case. Bella (who also went by the name Vanilla – her siblings were Cupcake and Biscuit) was destined to be ours. Thanks to a combination of the most amazing foster carers, who looked after her all summer while we were away, and my sons’ unquashable excitement about finally becoming dog owners, we reached the end of August and found ourselves welcoming Bella into our home.

And what a welcome.

She’s stolen our hearts. Bella has lolloped into our lives, wagging her tail, snoozing on the sofa, stealing pyjamas (even when Son2’s wearing them), demanding tummy rubs. She loves the boys’ toys, especially the fluffy, stuffed animals which she playfully carries around with her, and she’s such good fun with my boys they can’t get enough of her mischievous ways. Bedtime just got even crazier (if that was even possible). The kids and I adore her, and the ear-flapping and jumping that goes on when we return home suggests it’s mutual.

My little boy and his best friend

My little boy and his new best friend

Our lives have been reorganised to include early-morning dog walks, trips to an air-conditioned dog park, and endless cleaning up of puddles indoors due to not-quite-there-yet toilet training. Our home had to be puppy-proofed, in much the same way you’d do for a small child. Woe betide anyone who leaves shoes or flip-flops lying round! They make wonderful chew toys.

I think I’ve made every rookie mistake in the book, spending the first night on the sofa with her (omg, this is like having a baby. ALL OVER AGAIN!). The second night, letting her onto our bed. The third bleary-eyed night, paying the consequences. Yes, we did enjoy the 3am leap onto the space in between my husband and I, and the protest pee right there at being banished to a lovely, futon-like doggy bed.

The war that’s been going on between Bella and our cat of 13 years’ seniority is a blog post in itself.

But the love we’re getting in return, the licks and the devotion mean I wouldn’t change a thing. She might be a wee bit spoilt just now, but as a born-again, totally besotted dog person, it’s safe to say she’s found her forever home with us.

COMING SOON: Where to take dogs in Dubai

COMING SOON: Where to take dogs in Dubai

Posted in Dubai, Expat | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dubai Mermaids: Catching the synchronised swimming wave

INFO POST: One of the best things about our sparkling emirate is the range of water sports available. From surfing to shark safaris, paddleboarding to scuba diving, the blue stuff offers something for everyone. For guest writer Kristin Lewis, it was her daughter’s new-found interest in synchronised swimming that led to a bedazzling foray into a watery world of sequins and hair gelatin. Over to Kristin …

We are a pretty active family, so one of my initial fears about moving to Dubai was having to adopt a heat-induced passive lifestyle. Not that it would necessarily trickle down to my kids – who I imagined would be scaling the ceiling, inventing new hairstyles for the dog, Jackson Pollock-ing the walls with toothpaste and building epic forts in every room. But parental sanity would definitely be affected.

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried about my kids being bored here. This city has everything imaginable for a kid. And then some.

With the sea generally fairly flat, stand-up paddleboarding has become popular in the UAE

With the sea generally fairly flat, stand-up paddleboarding has become popular in the UAE

Of course, there are the pools and beach clubs. Whether it’s a community pool, a five-star resort or the whole range in between, these are always MUCH nicer than the run-of-the-mill fare you might find in just about any other country. You still need to keep your mind away from thoughts of leaky swim diapers, snotty noses and the occasional floating Band-Aid, but you would find that anywhere.

What you won’t find everywhere is the endless opportunities of paddleboarding, kayaking, surfing, scuba diving, volleyball, jet skiing – even land and water obstacle courses – that you find at Dubai beaches. Additionally, lots of pools offer cool classes, including swimming for all ages, water aerobics for the slightly aged, diving and synchronised swimming.

My 13-year-old daughter just caught the synchronised swimming wave and loves it. She started going once a week, then twice a week and was invited to join a squad. She’s a tall, slender girl who, at times, is sort of the opposite of her given name of Grace. After a year at this sport though, she is really learning the fluid movements and pointed toes of a synchronised swimmer.


Dubai water ballerinas turn the pool into a stage

Not only has it been a learning experience for her, but for me too. I learned how to shop for an almost-impossible-to-find plain black bathing suit AND expand my non-existent sewing repertoire by hand-stitching hundreds of sequins onto the suit. The silver sequins were supposed to create this nice swirly pattern, but as my daughter checked in on my handiwork she asked, “Why did you stitch a question mark on my suit?”

When she first modeled it for me, it was true – the suit seemed to ask, “Why did you let your Mom do this?” Needless to say, we all hope it’s a pre-decorated swim costume next time.

Making a splash

I also learned to gelatin her hair so it would stay neat in the water. After watching several YouTube videos, I thought I had the process down pat. Turns out, I didn’t thin out the solution quite enough, resulting in thousands of tiny glue balls in my daughter’s hair. I allowed myself three hours of prep time which was clearly not enough, as I didn’t have time for a re-do. So, let’s just say that, unless we were up for the Lazy American award, we didn’t represent our country well, because every other nationality looked fastidiously tidy with proper swirls, sleek hair and bold makeup.

Thank goodness my daughter’s a laid-back kid and was okay with the question mark, glue balls and makeup I managed to borrow poolside from another mom. In my defence though, after gliding and somersaulting through the water for several minutes, she had not one hair out of place.

NEXT WEEK: If water activity is not your child’s thing, that’s no problem. Despite the heat, Kristin can truthfully say they are never bored.

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Power games in the left lane

My rearview mirror flashed in blinding strobes as the Land Cruiser behind me almost rammed me at 80 kmph. I was being tailgated and the impatient driver’s trigger-happy finger on his headlights wasn’t about to relax.

But where to move to? There was traffic to my right, and anyway, his huge, ugly car meant I could hardly see if the right lane was clear. Changing lanes didn’t feel safe. I stayed put and gripped the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles showed white. My heart rate sped up.


Another problem with Dubai roads

I was already doing 20-over the speed limit and there was a bend coming up. For a moment, it looked like he might overtake on the hard-shoulder; he zigzagged to the left, then to the right, and finally zipped round me on the inside.

Then he came in front of me, and nearly stopped.

My foot slammed onto the brake, and my heart leapt into my mouth. I’m pretty sure it skipped a few beats. My throat tightened.

Behind me, the next car, thankfully, slowed right down and put his hazard lights on, two beacons of orange flashing urgently.

But what was the urgency? This, dear reader, exemplifies everything that’s wrong with Dubai roads: the road hogs with their blacked-out windows who have zero respect for other people’s lives, who tailgate aggressively, and who, like my one on my way home from work yesterday, was so filled with adrenalin he thought he’d teach me a lesson for not moving over and swerve in front of me and drive like a slug.

If he wasn’t in his car, behind glass and steel, and was instead walking behind me in the mall, would he walk right up to me until he was so close I could feel his hot breath on my neck, and then push me out the way? No he wouldn’t. So why does he think it’s okay to do this in his car?

I didn’t appreciate being bullied like that on my way home from work, MORON.

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Wordless Wednesday: The seafood restaurant 


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