The best of both worlds

When summer arrives in Dubai, expat thoughts turn to cooler climes, fresh air and sometimes even the possibility of a few drops of rain.  We look forward to the things we miss from back home – family, friends, foods, shops, the familiar.  Today, as I crossed what is usually an insanely busy roundabout which requires one to take one’s life as well as the lives of the other passengers in the car in one’s hands to safely cross it, I was taken aback at how quiet the it was.   It was ‘early Friday morning’ quiet.  Crossing the roundabout was a breeze, and as welcome as the fresh breeze to which I am looking forward in the Emerald Isle.  The relaxing roundabout crossing got me thinking about what I will and won’t miss about my adopted home when we take our summer break.

I won’t miss burning off my fingerprints when I touch the steering wheel of my car that has been sitting in the desert’s blazing sun.

I won’t miss the ‘sand facial’ phenomenon.  Unlike luxury salon facials, the ‘sand special’ is a natural occurring facial that generally happens at pick up time.  Gusts of wind whip up mini sand whirlwind that has a magnetic like attraction to sweat and/or sun block glistening faces.

I won’t miss the amount of product my hair needs to avoid the 1980’s backcomb look.

I won’t miss the fact that my kids are cooped up indoors in air conditioned environments, growing paler by the day.

I won’t miss the sweating/drying loop that by lunchtime makes me feel like I have been working up a sweat in the gym all morning.

But,

I will miss our friends.

I will miss the relaxed pace of summer life in Dubai.

I will miss the adventurous array of indoor activities for kids wanting to beat the heat.

I will miss the beach with crystal clear, refreshing waters.

I will miss the temperature controlled pool a 2 minute walk from our house.

As expats we have the best of both worlds.

 

 

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When I grow up

As a 7 year old, I dreamed of becoming a teacher.  I remember lining up my dolls (and sometimes my reluctant younger brother) in old school style classroom parallel rows, and scrawling sums and spellings on my easel blackboard whilst lecturing my very attentive pupils.  By the time I was 12, and the TV series Fame hit our screens, I dreamt of being a professional dancer.  I would prance around my carpeted sitting room in my shocking pink legwarmers and my plaited towelling sweatband, believing I could dance as gracefully and look as cool as Coco and her co-dancers.  Dazzled by thoughts of actually being part of the Fame dance troupe, I persisted with my self imposed practice and continued to dance through the discomfort of the carpet burns.

Then somewhere around my later teen years, when school and exams swallowed up most of my time, my creative streak turned to more practical thoughts; thoughts about the future, about a steady career, about a profession.  And so to university I went.

Today as my kiddos grow, I watch their passions change and evolve.  I have watched my DD gravitate from a love of arts and crafts when she would happily spend hours elbow deep in finger paints and sticky glue to playing sports at every opportunity.  I have watched DS1’s love of rugby be replaced with a love of go kart racing.  I have watched DS2 overcome his dislike of swimming to be thrilled to represent the school’s development swim team.  DD dreams of becoming an international netball player with hopes of playing for England.  DS1 dreams of becoming a F1 driver or a footballer and DS2 dreams of replacing Johnny Sexton (even though he doesn’t play rugby!) as well as playing for the Irish football team.

Sometimes I find myself wishing I had listened to my wise 7 year old self (I retired my legwarmers and sweatband as soon as the next teen craze came along!).  When it is time for my kiddos’ to choose their paths, my advice will be to do something you love.  It’s not a job if you do something you love.

 

 

 

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The ‘P’ Word

Since last week the letter ‘P‘ has taken over my life.  The bouncy arrival of Teddy the Pup has also heralded the arrival of puddles of pee and poop and not to mention sleepless nights.  We had planned to adopt a rescue dog, but after attending an open adoption day it was clear we needed to be prepared to welcome a new addition, so we decided to first stock up on doggie paraphenalia.  What is it they say about best laid plans?

24 hours after our decision I agreed to adopt an adorable little chap we met at the adoption day because his previously agreed adoption had fallen through.  Not having had time to make it to the pet store, Teddy arrived to a pretty bare house.  He excitedly skipped through the door, his tail wagging at breakneck speed. Excitedly he zipped from one spot to another, sniffing everything on the way.  I was dizzy watching him explore his new home.  Cuteness overload. The kids were besotted and were even entertained by his lack of bladder control.

All day long fur baby owning friends had been advising me on how to get the newest member of our family settled.  Oh how things seemed to have changed……..a.crate to provide a secure place, ferberizing (wasn’t that a technique used to sleep train babies???), strict feeding and walking schedules…..but first I needed to buy puppy essentials!

A dash to the local pet store and AED2,000 later, I was sure pup’s comfy red bed and shiny playpen would make him feel welcome in his new home. I was even more convinced that an exciting day would have tired pup out…..oh I have so much to learn…..At bedtime we tucked the little mite into his oversized crate and I settled on the couch in the next room.  Within a matter of hours the crying and yelping increased to a crescendo of howling that could have woken up the entire neighbourhood, let alone the entire household.  My first attempt to let him cry it out was successful ( and a lot less challenging than when I tried this method with DS1!).   Alas, peace did not reign for long, and when DS2 appeared in front of me at 1:30am begging me to make the noise stop, I knew I had no option.

Cradling the scamp in my arms, I began pacing…..pacing and rocking the 2 month old pup to calm him.  Every so often I would gently place him on his welcoming bed whilst I collapsed on my lumpy couch beside his pen.  With every wimper, I stumbled to his side to soothe him before he began howling.  Dizzy with tiredness I prayed for the day shift to relieve me.

People say having a puppy is like having a baby.  After my first night shift with Teddy, I thought that too.  However, after a week of a minding a teething, nipping puppy who pees and poops everywhere yet who has insane energy levels, and who cannot be left alone for fear of using the couch as a chew toy…..I think having a puppy is more like having a mischievious toddler!

 

it-wasnt-me

 

 

 

 

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Doggie Adoption

For quite some time now DD has been obsessed with all things dog related.  I can’t quite pinpoint what triggered her obsession but I do know she has been relentless in her pursuit of pestering me to get a dog as a family pet.  Growing up I had dogs, and as much work as it can be, I always felt the rewards far outweighed the before-school-walk-in-the-Irish-winter-rain, the poop scooping and the shedding (did I mention my pet was a German Shepherd who required up to 10 miles of walking a day, enough food to feed a rhino, and a shovel to scoop the poop?!).

Almost 4 years ago when DD began nagging I found it relatively easy to respond to her volley of ‘when can we get a dog?’ questions.  I am actually riddled with ‘Mummy guilt’ at some of the early excuses I offered, but in my defence, I didn’t want to dash my daughter’s hopes of one day having a dog.  When DD first asked for a dog, my response was a blase ‘sure, we can get one when you are 27’!  To a 7 year old oblivious to the concept of time, her response was an excited ‘OK’ and a merry skip on her way believing she would be getting a dog in 27 weeks…..Needless to say, for a clever little girl, it didn’t take DD long to figure out 20+ years was a very loooonnnngg time to wait for a puppy!  Thinking quickly on my feet my next excuse was enviroment – ‘Dogs need space.  Our garden is not large enough.  The desert is a very tough place for fur babies.   Perhaps when we move to Canada (a one time pipe dream of mine and DH’s) we would have the space and the seasons.’

As she grew older it became easier for her to understand the true reasons for not having a dog in the desert, and as much as she still wanted a dog, she understood our busy schedules didn’t leave much time for a pet, and how that would not be fair to a poor pooch.  Even so, that didn’t deter her attempts to break me down and win me over.  When she discovered K9 Friends online…..she began bombarding me with photos of the cutest, most lovable looking dogs who have been kindly rescued by this wonderful organisation. Before long it got to a point where we would sit together and scroll through K9 Friend’s site choosing which dog we would adopt if we were in a position to do so, and always concluding we wanted to adopt them all.

Before the summer when I finished up work, I realised we were in a position to adopt a doggie….afterall, I now have time to walk, feed, scoop poop……and announced to the bambinos that I thought we should think about getting a dog.

The munchkins were beyond excited.  They have already named the latest addition…..well each has got suggestions….picked out a leash, bed and chew toys….they have practically drawn up the walking schedule!  They are full of promises regarding caring for their little buddy.

Most people who have/have had dogs have warned against it, particularly on the basis of our busy schedules and expat obligations of returning home for weeks at a time each summer.  When I asked a friend the name of her recently adopted dog, her reply was  ‘complete-pain-in-the-a$$-will-bleed-you-dry-you’ll-never-have-a-clean-house-again-or-a-lie-in’.  A very succint description of life with a young dog……but she was also quick to add how adorable he is and how much the kids (and even she!) love him.  That is a feeling I want the kids to experience.

Let's hope this is how happy they will keep their promises of walking!

In the meantime, DH is sitting on the sidelines quietly praying I suspect, that I will change my mind or just get an indepdendent, low maintenance pet like a cat!   He has washed his hands of the family pet, so I had better make sure our soon-to-be-latest addition doesn’t end up chewing on the furniture or relieving itself on the rugs!

 

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Back to School = Back to Taxi

Aside from my Netflix meltdown, the new school year got off to a relatively calm, civilised start.  Unphased by the early morning wake up call and long school days, my trio have slipped back into their school day routine with ease (and even more surprisingly without complaint!). So far they have been reacquainted with their new class teachers, caught up with old friends and made new ones. Their brains are delicately being coaxed out from their summer hibernation, back to the world of thinking.  So far, so good although, in all fairness the first week is a ‘H’ free week (no homework as such; wouldn’t want to upset the happy apple cart).

At pick up, my bambinos have been full of energy; chatting animatedly about their day.  This week really could not have gotten off to a better start.  As pleased as I am with the seamless settling in, I have been quite surprised just how quickly the school is willing to get back to work, especially when it comes to school sports’ teams.

Day 1 – return to school.  Schedule for school team trials issued by the end fo the day (Seriously???).

Day 2 – Swim squad trials for Y6.  Football trials for Y4.

Day 3 – Football trials for Y6 boys and girls (separately).  Swim trials for Y4. Netball trials for Y6.

Day 4 – Ker-ching…welcome to your new life for the academic year 2016/7……Enjoy (and BTW, organise it!)

I drive, therefore I am.

I drive, therefore I am.

Juggling 3 kids’ schedules is becoming increasingly difficult.  After swim squad trials DD announced ‘I think I made competitive squad’.  My shoulders visibly slumped.  Proud?  Yes.  Happy? Not so much.  I know that means at least one pre-school training sesh which means me getting to school for a 6:45am training session on top of an afternoon session which inevitably will clash with a sibling’s session. DS1 chimed in with his prospects of getting into the development swim squad...another early morning.  Apparently DS1’s footie training will be pre-school hours too…..fab!  Just waiting to hear about DD’s netball and footie…..and I haven’t even thought about the external activities….

I am not qualified to organise all of this…car pools…..here I come!!!

 

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Mummy’s Back to School Blues

Dubai somehow always knows to turn on the humidity for the first day of the new school year.  Yesterday the heat was almost bearable due to the gusty breeze, but today felt like a sauna as kids reluctantly shuffled their shiny new black shoes through the sandy car park to the school gates.  Obligatory photos of perfect looking kiddos in their perfect new uniforms – check.  Obligatory introduction to teachers – check.  Obligatory exchange of summer adventures with other Mums – check.

A sense of calm and relaxation welcomed me as I left the school to walk to my car.  I smiled knowing my munchkins were happy to be catching up with their friends.  Yet opening the door to an empty and eerily silent house I felt something was missing.  As I made a cup of tea, I have to admit I felt a little lost……with no squabbles to umpire and no demands for snacks or entertainment, I wasn’t really sure  what I should do with my post-summer hols’ free time!

It wasn’t long before my mind filled with lists of things I could do: some were chores I had consigned to my ‘after summer, when the kids are back to school’ list; some involved the much promised post summer work out; and the rest fell under the ‘take it easy and relax’ category.

With my freshly made cup of tea in hand, I sat on the sofa to contemplate my options.  Staring right back at me from across the room was the TV screen……the voice of Phineas from the cartoon ‘Phineas and Ferb’ (who, each day of the summer holidays were faced with a similar dilemma to mine re: what to do) rang out in my head ‘Ferb, I know what we are going to do today.’

I am going to watch TV. Uninterrupted TV.  My choice of TV on screen bigger than an iPhone!

Given I would be alone for at least 3 hours with only lunch and toilet breaks to factor into my ‘me’ time, I decided a Netflix binge sesh was in order!  I live in a house of sports’ junkies.  We share one TV.  Our TV package was chosen by DH so he could keep up with the English Premiership football, cricket, F1, rugby etc., etc.  If my bambinos aren’t staring at sports on the ‘gogglebox’ they are looking up sports facts and watching sporting great re-runs on my laptop, their iPods or iPads.  A weekly series is just not something I can factor into my schedule…..I am a Mum to three busy kids….I don’t always remember to tune in at the right time.

So, Netflix it was……

To date, the kids are the only ones who have accessed Netflix on the TV, whereas I have only ever used it on my iPhone – a simple click on the Netflix icon and choose your preferred series.  Just how different could it be on a TV?

I knew I had to change the mode of the TV to HDMI.  Done.  Turn on XBox. Done.  Sign in.  Done (albeit a lot slower than my kids can do it – sausage fingers are a definite disadvantage in the 21st century!). Faced with a familiar digital photo of Messi from FIFA 16 and a YouTube icon…….I was not quite sure what I should click next. There was no Netflix option.  How is it that when the bambinos watch it, it’s a matter of what seems like a gazillion, fluent clicks in record breaking time and they are happily inhaling another episode of Full House?? I try and am faced with YouTube vlogs about sweet 16 parties in the US???!!!  I panicked.  I now had 2 hours 30 minutes before I needed to move from my couch.  My precious binge minutes were ebbing away…..all because I had gotten used to my kids’ independence!

best-online-collection-of-free-to-use-clipart-contact-us-privacy-emgpg0-clipart

Frustrated, annoyed and feeling like the smart technology world had it in for me personally, I clicked on the up, down, sideways and re-set buttons desperately hoping to find the Netflix icon.  Short of flinging the remote at the screen, I tried everything…..and I only managed the circle timer that is sent by the smart technology world to test human patience……Perhaps I should have listened to my ‘inner Yogi’ and spent my time sweating it out in the gym….that was until the circle timer thingy magically produced Netflix….

To be honest….I am not quite sure what I did to get Netflix and dread another session….but at least I got 2 hours of uninterrupted TV for me!  Bliss!

 

 

 

 

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Vietnam Part 1

To mark the start of the summer holidays we took off on our first family holiday of the year to Ho Chi Minh City, South Vietnam.  Rising at stoopid o’clock we wearily snuck out of the house to meet the taxi that would take us to Abu Dhabi airport.  That balmy Friday morning it seemed as if dawn was having a lie in as, by the time we reached the airport,  light had not yet won the battle against the night’s stars.

Having worked up to the last minute, our usually non existent ‘last-minute-buy-at-the-airport’ list had acquired a few items….all required before check-in.  As frequent departees from Abu Dhabi International, we were sure we could tick these items off our list with ease.  That was until we arrived at a different terminal; a less well-stocked terminal.  ‘Poof’ went the list – we couldn’t even buy a bottle of water, let alone a suitcase lock, hand sanitizer or reading material (read: glossy mags)……

Needless to say, with too much TV/Movie time to catch up on, none of us made any effort to make up for our lack of sleep……in all honesty we just about managed to tear our eyes away to eat airplane food!  Gotta love flying – trapped in a confined space, nothing to do but eat, drink and catch up on non PG movies!  All fun until the interruption of border formalities.

Now, this is DH’s and my third trip to Vietnam.  Granted, our first was almost 15 years ago….but who would have thought things have changed so much??  Ten minutes before landing, we were each issued with a yellow form (thank goodness I carry a pen in my bag…because the airline does not offer one with the form that is compulsory to fill in!).  Skim reading the form, I had to chuckle.  The form related to health.  Another chuckle. As my eyes scanned the form, I looked to the yellowing bruises on both arms – typhoid and Hep A….vaccinations recommended when travelling to Vietnam…administered 3 weeks prior and still showing. How is it that we need to complete medical info for a country where visitors are advised to vaccinate? Paraphrasing the form – ‘Have you vomited, had a temperature, felt unwell?’…..at least one of my kids has these symptoms every other day!  It doesn’t mean they have Ebola or Zika.  Not the warmest of welcomes Vietnam….but then if I had known what lay ahead….I might have laughed this one off.

Then came immigration. Before the Brexit vote, I had joked to my British husband that he would be in the other line at Dublin airport this summer, and for every other European holiday ! Post Brexit vote, one would have thought the UK passport could not pass much….alas when it came to Vietnam I was wrong.  UK – in.  Ireland, a member of the European Union since 1973 (same as the UK) –  not. Apparently the EU is not a recognised  Union, Angela Merkel…..$700 later….I and my kids have been granted 7 day visas.  Angela…how is this possible?  15 years ago, an Irish passport did not need a visa.  And now we do????  Irish Government??? But at the end of the day……how can the EU be broken down to individual countries?  It is a Union….so how is it that an Irish passport is treated differently?

 

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