The End

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Dubai Butterfly Garden

The Dubai Butterfly Garden opened in March. It was a hugely anticipated event, mostly because it's a great combination of nature and air-conditioning. Last week, the kids and I visited along with some friends. Entrance is 50AED for anyone over 3 years of age (which in my opinion is on the high side for the amount of time you spend inside the garden).

The main problem, however, was that Adam was terrified of the butterflies. And after initially finding it all very beautiful, a butterfly brushed against Emily's face and scared the hell out of her, so I ended up with two terrified children in a garden full of what are essentially creepy crawlies.

We weren't in there very long.

However, it's a beautiful place, and very restful (if you ignore certain crying children). There are so many stunning butterflies in amazing colours. If you love butterflies and don't mind the fact that they are everywhere, and they are pretty huge, it's a good place to visit. There are also enclosed pagodas where you can sit and have butterflies rest on you. Staff is very helpful with this. One friend's daughter loved the butterflies so it was a completely different experience for her.

There is also a (rather morbid) gallery at the entrance, displaying framed patterns made out of preserved butterflies. The contrast with the live butterflies was somewhat shocking, and I can't say that room was my favourite of the lot.

A small cafe serves drinks, some snacks, ice cream and cake.

Get me out of here!


Bubbles... Big Ones!

David has changed the fun of bubbles forever for our kids.

At bath time, we sometimes add to the fun by blowing bubbles. David knows how to blow really big bubbles out of regular bubble bottles. Me, not so much.

So now, when David isn't around, my bubbles aren't quite good enough. I am met with unimpressed faces, and Adam demanding "BIG ones!" while I try to explain that he will need to wait until his Daddy is around for those to happen. In one ear, out the other...

Now there's a playgroup I've started taking him to. It's brilliant fun and he loves it. We do singing, sensory play, messy play, and story time. And towards the end, the leader brings out her bubble bottle.

The first time we were there, I could see that Adam wasn't impressed with the regular sized bubbles. The other children were all thrilled to be chasing and popping bubbles, but my son stood back and watched, with a somewhat horrified look on his face.

Imagine my embarrassment when he then strutted up to leader and shouted "BIG ONES PLEASE!"

She looked my way with a puzzled look on her face, probably hoping for an explanation of sorts. But it's hard to explain over the music and excited laughter of half a dozen children, so she is unfortunately none the wiser and he asks again every week.

Sometime I'll send David in to demonstrate...


Dear Adam (As you recover)

Dear Adam

Close to two months have passed since your second birthday and here I am finally writing you this letter. Two months ago, this letter may have sounded different. You were my baby, just turned two, I would have told you how much I love you and how happy you make me and how much you love cars. Now, with everything that's happened since your birthday, I'll be telling you the same things, but with a lump in my throat. The same things, with extra appreciation. The same things, with an extra large topping of "I love you."And yes, of course, you still love cars.

We've gotten closer, you and me. We spent an intense five days living together, cooped up in a tiny room. I was everything to you, I was your protector from the White Coats. You were my every thought. I watched you sleep for hours. I willed you to get better. I begged God to make me sick instead of you.

And then you got better and you couldn't go to nursery because we couldn't risk you getting sick until your treatment ended, so we got to spend more time together. And that's when you discovered Mother Goose Club. And you learnt all the nursery rhymes by heart, and you learnt the alphabet and your speech became so much clearer, and you call yourself Superman (which of course, you are) and you walk the way you think Superman should walk. And you got tall. Taller than you already were.

And you call things "cute" in the sweetest of ways. And you love animals passionately. And your sister too. And yet you fight like cats and dogs. And you climb all over her, and you hit her, not recognizing your own strength. But you are good at apologizing, and you give the best hugs. And the best head ruffles. But only on your own terms.

You're a cheeky monkey, and you know it. You have a wicked sense of humour and you love making people laugh. You're very much like your uncle in that way. And you're strong willed and hard headed and you can throw a tantrum like no other.

Right now, you're frustrated, you're even angry sometimes and you say so. We know you need more, you were so ready for nursery, and yet we have had to hold you back. The summer heat is crippling and you only have the house to run around in. I suspect these four walls are closing in on you. It will get better soon, I promise. I'm not sorry - I can't be sorry when the risks feel so high. I'd rather have you frustrated for a few months than risk losing you. You are my cheeky sunshine, I can't imagine life without you.

So bear with us, please. We love you and we are trying to keep you safe. We are so terrified of ever having to see you (or your sister) go through what you went through again. But we'll come out the other side and one day soon, all this will be a distant memory.

But for now, hold on to your cars, and your Mother Goose Club, and your Superman act. Keep asking me to chase you around the house. Keep asking me to take you to the pool. Keep twirling your feet the way you did as a little baby. Keep asking me to find your Clothy's "corners." Keep coming to me for snuggles, laying your head on my shoulder, and keep smiling that beautiful, dimpled smile at me.

I still have a lot of your delicious orange juice to drink.

Your Mummy x

Easter in Vienna, from Emily's Travel Diary

Remember when we tried the kids out in the cold? We did go to Vienna, for five days over the Easter holidays. Here is Emily's report of the trip.

[click to enlarge]

When Adam Had Kawasaki Disease

Have you heard of Kawasaki Disease? If you're a Grey's Anatomy fan you may have. There was an episode in Series 9 where Sarah Chalke (Elliot Reid from Scrubs) plays the part of a mum who's son is sick with a mystery illness which eventually turns out to be Kawasaki. I had watched the episode, but I don't watch Grey's Anatomy for educational purposes.

Then a couple of weeks ago, on the plane on our way back from Vienna to be precise, Adam's temperature spiked. He was on fire and very uncomfortable. He had been cranky throughout the entire holiday but we thought it was just down to the cold weather.

I'm not one to rush my kids to the doctor when they have a fever. It's usually a virus which passes within a couple of days and it's not worth the panic. So I gave him Paracetamol and kept an eye on him. Two days later, fever still high (sometimes as high as 41 degrees) we took him to the pediatrician. She checked the usual suspects... ears, chest, throat were OK. It probably was just a virus.

So we went home and started alternating Paracetamol and Ibuprofen to try and control the fever. It sometimes worked, but the fever wouldn't go away. Four days later, Adam woke up with red eyes. (Enlarge image to the left to see clearly.) He was in a much better mood so I put it down to him still being tired, still trying to make up for lost sleep from our holiday and the plane rides, and the first few days of him being unwell. (There's always a reason isn't there?)

His lips were chapped and quite red - but then again, mine were still chapped from the cold weather in Vienna too.

Then in the afternoon, his fingers and feet turned a dark pink and looked a little bit swollen, as if they were hot. I thought this strange so turned to Dr Google and Kawasaki Disease popped up. When I looked at the pictures, however, it all looked SO much worse than Adam's symptoms, and let's face it - Dr Google is usually the last thing you should trust, so I closed the page and carried on. Hours later, his hands and feet were back to normal and the next day even his eyes weren't as red. Obviously Dr Google was making a big fuss of everything yet again.

But by the afternoon he was so not himself, the moaning hadn't stopped all day. Nothing interested him, he didn't want to eat or even drink. I was exhausted and in tears and called on a friend for a hug, and she convinced me to take Adam back to the doctor. By that point, I wasn't quite thinking straight. It had been a long week, and everything seemed to be blurring into a big irritable mess.

The doctor took one look at Adam's eyes and began to check for other Kawasaki symptoms. Having read up on it the day before, I realised what she was looking for. I turned cold. How could I have ignored it?

Kawasaki needs to be treated within ten days or risk of permanent heart damage increases significantly. We were on day seven. She wrote up a report saying that she suspected it was Kawasaki and sent us off to Latifa Hospital. We possibly owe her Adam's life, and she has been thanked. Repeatedly.

Long story short, Adam's wasn't a classic case of Kawasaki in that his symptoms didn't scream Kawasaki, but by the time he was admitted to hospital he had also developed a rash. He was treated with one dose of IVIG by day eight and his recovery after that was fast. I knew he was going to be ok when he woke up the next morning and asked for his cars. My boy was back.

He has had a follow-up ECHO (heart ultrasound) in the meantime which shows that there has been no damage to his heart and his blood results look the way they should for the second week of Kawasaki Disease. He is on a low dose of Aspirin for two months (during which we need to try and keep him as healthy as possible because any virus could cause further problems) to avoid an aneurysm, and he will be monitored throughout. But he is very much himself again, my cheeky car-crazed monkey.

It's been a hard few weeks and I'm not writing this to drag it out any further. I do want to remember the way it unfolded, but I also want to put this story out there for anyone in a similar situation who might one day read it.

These are the signs of Kawasaki Disease:

HOWEVER. Adam's lips looked nothing like that. His lymph nodes were nowhere near that swollen. His hands and feet were nowhere near that red. His eyes were redder, his rash looked like it's pictured above. But symptoms don't always happen at the same time and they are usually gone by day ten.

So just know that these symptoms showing up within a certain time period may mean danger and ask your doctor. It's rare, but it does happen.

No one knows how anyone gets KD, it's not contagious and it usually affects children below the age of 5, but there have been exceptions.

We are fine. We are surrounded by some awesome friends, and I am so grateful to everyone who helped in whatever way they could... be it babysitting Emily, visiting me in hospital with goodies, talking on the phone, hugs, hugs, hugs, and also putting up with the way my brain has become a sieve since this happened. Thank you. Love you all.

Order in the Car

I'm a slight stickler for organisation. (And all who know me will smirk at my use of "slight"). Ok. I'm an organisational nut. Organising is what I do, and what I love to do. No huge surprise that I like order in the car too. This is the way I do it.

I've introduced a toy box to the car. It sits neatly between the car seats (hasn't yet fallen off either), full of books and little toys and clean drawing equipment. I did this when we started talking about putting a DVD player and screens into the front head rests for the kids to use on long drives. I knew, however, that once we did this, it would never just be for long drives. If the tv was there, they would want it on whether it was a two hour drive or a two minute one.

I don't mind them watching tv at home, because I can justify it with a good balance of outings and outdoor stimulation, so I really didn't want tv following us out of the house.

The plan has worked. They're no longer bored in the car, they have long conversations in the back and share toys back and forth. It seems to work.

There are, of course, seat protectors for dusty, sandy feet, and tucked behind them, they each have a blanket in case the AC gets too cold. Emily recently added a pillow for when she wants to nap in her booster seat, although she never uses it and it inevitably ends up on the floor somewhere.

The car bin has been a huge help in keeping the whole place clean. I have a small stash of plastic bags in the middle console as garbage bags so I can empty it easily whenever it gets full.

Not pictured, but in the back of the car there is a also large plastic box that contains random stuff like reflective covers for the car seats, an emergency potty, baby wipes, a towel, bottle of water, spare pair of flip flops for me, a ball, picnic blanket... and bubbles. Priorities.

Big Messy Playdate

Before the insane sandstorm hit over the weekend, it was getting quite hot here in Dubai. Way hotter than February should be - even in this neck of the woods. So we took advantage of it by having a messy playdate in our garden. I turned into a mad Pinterest mum for a while and came up with all these ideas for the playdate (of which I only ended up using a couple). I knew we'd have a range of ages so I wanted everything to be somewhat edible, just in case. 

To get things started, I asked the older ones to find the grapes and raisins hidden in the jelly!

(The white mess on the table is from a can of whipped cream that we sprayed onto
their hands and told them to go and wash everything with. The edible version of this.)

Can I eat them? Why yes, you can!

There was colourful spaghetti (mad Pinterest mum actually dyed this herself that morning)

That was pure madness FUN to clear up...

We had painting: paintbrushes, stamps, fingerpaints

And we even had oobleck, though I don't think my version was very good. They enjoyed it anyway.

And then they had fun "cleaning" everything up.
(Which roughly translated into us adults having more to clear up than
we otherwise would have had the kids not helped)

We ended it all by having a rain feast (whereby I turn on the water hose and soak everyone), which always goes down well. We are very rain deprived here in Dubai, you see. 

Judging by the feedback that came in after the playdate, the little ones loved it, and some of the kids wanted to move to our house because it's "way more fun there." I know I had a blast! I guess we'll be doing it all again soon.

This is a link that came in very handy when planning this playdate:
Five Messy Sensory Bins for Babies and Toddlers

The End of the Day

I hit Pinterest tonight for the first time in a long time and came across this quote. It got me thinking about how, despite being the slight cleanliness nut that I often can be, I have learnt to let go. The kids get to make a mess and be dirty, roll in the grass, run down footpaths with no shoes on, explore mud and muck, hell - they even get to play in the sand on a regular basis. And I sit back and calmly watch them be.

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve "baking" mud pies and cooking up leaf soups for anyone who would pretend to eat them, and I'm more than happy to be able to do the same for my children. Children should be dirty, messy, and yes, their eyes ablaze from all the adventures they've had, and all the stories they can tell about the amazing things they've done. They should go to bed with huge, tired grins on their faces.

I'd like to think that is what childhood is all about.

An Introduction to the Cold at Ski Dubai

The only time Adam has actually needed to wear a jacket was for a week in January 2014 when we visited the UK. Other than that, he has mostly been a short sleeves baby (even in Maltese winter, he was in cotton long-sleeved tops and a thick gilet-style jacket). But we are thinking about possibly going on holiday somewhere cold soon and wanted to see how it would go down with him before we booked anything.

We decided to treat the kids to the Ski Dubai Snowpark. We'd wanted to go for ages anyway, so it was the perfect excuse.

Entertainer voucher in hand, we marched in, and queued up for our snow gear. Then we found a free bench and a locker and sat down for the long process of getting everyone ready.

They were excited (and Adam quite a bit confused)

The Frozen theme (running until the end of February 2015) was an instant hit. There are craft workshops and sing-along sessions you can pay extra to join, but we didn't feel the need for any of that. The scenery alone - and Olaf - was enough to make our two very happy.

And once Adam let me convince him to keep his mittens on and got over the shock of having a cold nose ("Nose! Cold!"), he had a blast.

They really, really loved it. Even considering the small fortune it cost, and even considering that we actually spent less than two hours in there, it was well worth it. We topped it off with lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in a booth overlooking Ski Dubai which they also loved. 

Some tips if you are planning to go...

- Signage says that children need to be over 3 years of age to enter. This appears on some level to be untrue. When we got to Ski Dubai and asked staff about this, they were happy when we said Adam was 2 (okay, so he's 2 months shy of 2, but he's big enough to be 2 and a half, so who's actually counting?), and let him in. So do ask. 

- Take a small across-body bag. The snow suits do have a small zipped pocket on the sleeve for your phone, but they don't all seem to be the same size. David's iphone fit in his pocket, my iphone didn't fit in mine. When I needed both hands, it had to go in my bra (!!) so a small handy bag would've been useful. 

- Set out early. When we left for lunch around 12:30, the queues at the ticket booths were neverending (and getting your snow gear does take time). 

- Gloves are included in the ticket price but they are very basic gloves and I wasn't convinced they'd keep hands dry. Take your own thick gloves if you have them, and a hat for the adults. Children won't need a hat, they'll need a helmet provided by Ski Dubai and if that's loose, pulling their hood up under the helmet works well. 

Have fun!

This is not a sponsored post. 

Interviewing the Birthday Girl (4)

Her party went off without a hitch. Emily loved it (and was more than pleased with the soundtrack), I think it's safe to say we all loved it. The kids had a blast and that makes the adults happy too. The crowd was fun, the weather perfect, the face painter an absolute hit, the colouring area never empty, the trampoline worked overtime and the cake was divine.

And a few days later, she is today officially four - and even understanding the concept of a difference between her party day and her actual birthday (which I had not expected), so we got to "celebrate" all over again today, and she was thrilled all day long. 

Before dinner, I sat her down for her Birthday Interview, which she loved.

Here are her answers this year. 

What is your name?

How old are you?

What is your favourite thing to do?
Colour and paint

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Lots of things... a nurse, a doctor, and a mummy

What is your favourite food?
Spaghetti, pizza and twirly pasta

Who do you like to spend time with?
Nannus and Nannas, and my aunties and uncles

What do you do really well?
I was really good at doing my orange dinosaur for the library, so painting.

What makes you laugh?

What is the best time of the day?
Singing my bedtime song

What are you afraid of?
Dinosaurs and big spiders

Who is your best friend?
Betsy. And Olivia and Maya.

What do you like to do with your family?
Stickers and dress up for school

What do you love to learn about?
Hippopotamuses and rhinos

Where do you like to go?
To school

What is your favourite book?

If you had one wish, what would it be?
To have Elsa shoes

Do you get that she loves going to school?

But I was especially touched by her mention of Betsy. She hasn't seen or spoken to her since we were in Malta in July of last year, and yet she still considers her to be her best friend. 

My little girl is a sweet, kind, loving and considerate little soul, and I'm proud and honoured to be her Mummy.

Happy Birthday, little cherub. Here's to many, many more. 

Party Planning for a Certain Almost 4-Year-Old!

Now that Christmas and festivities are over, my focus shifts onto Emily's birthday. Her party is a few short weeks away and planning is well under way. I am currently working on a playlist. Emily has a few favourite songs (All About That Bass, Bailando, Wait On Me, Fun Fun Fun, and last but far from least, Boom Clap) that went straight onto the list. I then asked for friends' suggestions and the list is now looking great, and what's best - Emily approves of it.

We've been testing it out in the kitchen.

Luna didn't join in. She just watched us and thought we were mad, as usual.

This is what the list currently looks like:

Oh, yeah!