The bank of back to school

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The internet is alive and buzzing with back to school chat, where the best place to find lunch boxes, what size bag should I buy my darling Tarquin, endless articles appearing in your time line beat the back to school blues, depression free drop off, 5 things you should do to prepare for back to school.……Not one of them mentioned wine!

This time last year, I would have read them all, this year not so much as I learnt I’ve learnt through experience. When I was at home in Ireland I was watching the news on RTE the average cost of a child return to primary school is close to €300, granted these non fee paying schools so parents responsible for buying books etc but WOW that’s just for one child.

Can you imagine the cost here in Dubai if we had to buy books etc?  The fee’s are increasing each year with the less expensive schools still averaging between 11-13,000 per term, this is without the costs of ridiculous medical fees and diaries for school nurses that do……….in my opinion, not a great deal. This is without new uniforms that schools change at the drop of a hat, prices have been cranked up this year for what I feel is less than mediocre quality clothing adding school emblems everywhere so parents can not even take advantage of supermarket uniforms back home. New bags, shoes, socks, football boots, lunch boxes the list goes on and on.

When your child starts school for the first time it’s so exciting, you buy brand new everything down to the underpants and I’m sure when Miss C starts FS1 next year it will be the same, although I’m trying not to think about that. This year however I’m taking the attitude if it not broke then don’t fix it.

I have brought him two new shirts for school as the others we’re ruined and I do want him to have some of the new uniform, we are lucky that we have the rest of the year to purchase the new design so that’s gives parents a helping hand with the costs. My son has a metabolism that most people would die for so everything pretty much still fits…..when I say pretty much I mean it’s still to big and his shorts will continue to fall down this term.

I am lucky that every summer I go back my mam likes to buy the kids shoes, I think they feel like they get to join in the excitement of school prep as they’re so far away. So this year LPV has had new school shoes fitted properly in Clarks in the UK and new football boots too (in spiderman colours may I add). Yes I am a bad mother and forgot to buy new socks at home………HELP MAM & KELLY However the new shirts and hats are probably my limit this month.

LPV doesn’t have a brand new lunch box this year, why? because he doesn’t need one he has two fully functional in perfect condition lunch boxes already. There’s not a mark on them, they’re labeled so that’s it. He doesn’t need a school bag as he still only needs a book bag, again nothing wrong with so it stays. Some mothers may be reading this and think I being a tight arse and mean, maybe I am but why do we have to waste money and end up with a cupboard full of unused lunch boxes. We would all go this nuts buying new stuff at home? Probably but then we are at an advantage in the UK, schooling in free and the cost of living is lower, not much these days but lower. Here in Dubai as the same all over the world there are families from every type of class system going to schools, some can afford it and drop the fee’s like they’re paying for lunch, some are fortunate to be on company debentures and some struggle to make ends meet and save all year round for school. So why should we put extra pressure on ourselves by increasing the costs of new everything?

LPV is at the age of ECA…The dreaded extracurricular activities, last year he took part in football which I know he is keen on doing again. I will not begrudge him this he loves it helps with his coordination and I’m all for exercise. Again though we are looking at the best part of £15-200 this term for this. I would also like him to take up an instrument, which can be around £20 per lesson and most like an upfront term payment. Money for this money for that it really doesn’t end.

I’ve compiled a wee list of thing I think could help cut cost of going back to school……

  1. If you need stationary, buy it in your home country if possible and buy in bulk
  2. If something can be recycled from last year, then re-use it
  3. Labels- don’t make the mistake I made last year and put your child’s year group on, that way they’ll last another term or so
  4. Look on groupon and voucher sites for deals (pick up yourself a cheap spa treat too, you’ll need it ;-)
  5. Wait!! If you can wait until school begins chances are it will go down in the sale, if it does buy two!!
  6. If possible shop for school alone, however this is easier said than done for shoes & clothing etc
  7. It’s OK to say no, if you can’t afford then don’t buy it
  8. If Tarqy really wants the Gucci back pack then make him earn it, with small jobs around the house he can save and learn the value of working for something he wants
  9. Search for deals, super markets, ikea, outlet stores, hit up Baby Bazaar!!
  10. Pick your favourite and only send them to school………….JOKE!!!!!!!!

So there we have it, how much do you think I could get for my spleen……

Photo source, google images

Photo source, google images

Parenting around the planet- Parenting in the Sandpit

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This a post I was asked to write a guest post for the lovely Bod for Tea, Parenting around the planet, I would my feelings haven’t changed. If I were to write it again I would put in a friends category I think. Friendships are weird in Dubai, sometimes you feel like you’ve met a life long companion and all the while they are sharpening their knife and drawing out a target on your back. Others are slow to start but long-lasting and after 7 years this is the way to do it and I’m looking forward to spending time with these little gems on Friday (another post awaits). Like anything you can not rush friendship, if you want someone to take you for what you are you need to let them get to know you. Warts and all, I am under NO illusion I’m perfect, its been a tough year for me especially the last few months with my mam being sick. To others “it wasn’t that bad” but I’m a what if person and a worrier and I take things to heart, allow life to pile on top of me, so I need all year round buddies not just fair weather friends. There of course are lots of well established groups of friends you meet, they are friends but you’ll never really be allowed right in. I am very I have some great friends here, some old some new but the one thing they have in common is that I love them dearly

Lub you guys

Lub you guys

 

Being is parent away from my family and Friends is normal for me, it always has and I’m not really sure how I’d cope parenting in the UK or Ireland if I’m honest, Id probably feel like a fish out of water. It’s kind of why I didn’t really like Amsterdam, it looked and felt too normal, too much like home….It makes sense in my head anyway!

Dubai is a strange place for some, you either love it  or hate it. I’ve heard it called a few names, pretentious, over the top, breath-taking, cosmopolitan, money…….To us its home, they say home is where the heart is and our hearts will always be in our home towns but we left a piece of us here too, thats why we returned last year.

Parenting is NEVER easy wherever you are in the world and parenting here is a complete minefield. Parenting with postnatal depression while away from your family and everyone familiar is absolutely hell. However we  have coped and hopefully we’re getting closer to that light at the end of the tunnel.

Here is what I feel is different to parenting in Dubai

The added pressure

Being here has allowed me to have the best full-time job in the whole world, a stay at home mammy. I am at home all day with my two babies, I see them explore new things, I see LPV coming home from nursery with amazing vocabulary , Miss C babbling to herself in the morning sun out on the terrace. Being back here has helped my mood, I’m a happier mammy, I feel everyone in the house feels this too. LPV often comes up to me and tells me “Im his best friend”. That, right there, melts my heart and makes me feel so full of love and warmth that there’s no need to be sad  anymore. I have a long way to go with my depression I know this but I have great support network Dubai  and my friends are awesome. I can answer the door in my Pj’s and its Okay!!

However I do sometimes feel the Dubai pressures, The constant need to look how the glamazons do wandering through the malls,with their Gucci diaper bags and 2inch waist. I find never leaving the house without make up exhausting to be honest.  The women who don’t sweat getting their kids in and out of the car, how do they do this? It occasionally runs away with me but I look at the kids and it bring me back to earth and focus on what really important.

The pressure to be super mum is rife here, who has made best costume for dress up day, is your name closer to the top or bottom of the phone tree? Are you even on the phone tree? probably not. Are you a member of the PTA?  It’s not just pressure on you as a mammy, it’s the pressure on the children that ruffles my feathers. The whole school assessment process is appalling, two sometimes even three assessments on 3 year olds to get a school place. They come to your home, your child’s nursery and then you get called to the school. You as a parent are judged, by your clothes, your relationship with your child and worse of all…..What type of passport you have! When you meet mammy’s in the playground the first questions is what schools have you applied too, have you got a play, did you get an assessment? If you mention you’re applying for a particular school “Oh that’s really academic based” Yes and your point being??? Just what are you implying? I have personally felt a lot of pressure on LPV, for him to be able to write his name etc. I’m told it’s what is expected here….Well I won’t push my child into anything and he develop at his own pace.

Safety first

My kids are my life, to keep them safe is my priority, I think this  is why we haven’t moved to the US yet and be honest I’m not sure if I could ever go with so many shootings there. That’s what I love about this city, I feel safe, I feel my kids are safe. I’m not saying there are no threats or unsavoury people here but punishments are harsh with a lot of zero tolerance  is  a  deterrent. However this doesn’t stop me from having a complete and utter nervous breakdown when LPV does one of his “runners” in the supermarket or  doing  his favourite, hiding in clothes rack in sports shops!! So relieved in finding him we of course rip the head of him for running away then hug him when the blood pressure stabilises. 

Haha, they'll never find me here

Haha, they’ll never find me here

Healthy and safety rules can at times be very flippant here, a friend has reported seeing live wires hanging out of wall in a school. The complete lack of common sense of some parents from all walks of life when it comes to car safety is just beyond belief. You have to blink and rub your eyes to believe its true, when you see a child no older than two, hanging out a car window like a dog!! However standards shave improved and lots of changes are being made!

I am a proud mother of two gorgeous children, they’re fair have beautiful blue & green eyes I want to photograph them all day. However  I find it very difficult when strangers are  wanting to touch, hold and photograph my children . No one asks you if its ok and to be honest NO, NO its NOT ok that you’re a perfect stranger and you want  touch my pride and joy. My husband almost threw some guys phone in a fountain when the came right into LPV’s face and took a photo. It’s wrong, some could say I have double standards posting my children on my blog…….The word I offer you here is choice, this is my choice and have control over how much and what goes on here.

Safety issue can swing both ways, on the other side of the coin are the concerns about the bubble they live in. Dubai can be very shut off from the rest of the world. The zero tolerance they have on most things is awesome but is living in this environment making them naive? Being sheltered from the bad world  I worry they’ll be sitting ducks for the horrid people out there. I have a friend whose eldest son wanted to go to the UK to boarding school, he’s grown up here in Dubai but had never been on a bus or train by himself. I feel that the children will find it hard to learn basics life skills that will make them a bit more street wise. At night I lie awake thinking about what they’ll become, have we done enough to turn them into well-rounded individuals what can we do to protect and educate them

Money & the Class system

Every country has them, however I feel it’s to the extreme here. A lot of households have live in maids, a small percentage of maids here practically raise the children. I believe that behaviour mirrors behaviour and when you see small children talking to these grown women like they’re dirt I feel embarrassed to live here. A lot of expats come here earn tax-free salaries and enjoy the high life, why not if you’ve worked hard enough for it. However don’t forget where you have come from and the fact you would NEVER have it at home.  Here in Dubai you don’t pump your own petrol, wash your own car or pack your own groceries, I find it hard when the children are watching this, I purposely try to find a cashier with no help so I can do it myself, then someone rushes over to help. I don’t want my children to feel that this is the norm, A massive fear of ours is ending up with the stereotypical EXPAT BRAT so we’re giving LPV little chores at home, like picking his dirty clothes and taking out his plate, our children need to know that this isn’t normal life to have all these things done for you.  I’m super proud to say I have very well-mannered child, who is pleasant and helpful.

There is money here, lots of it! Unfortunately we’re not up to our knockers in the stuff but we have a great house in a compound with our own pool,  so the wee ones are very lucky! Dubai gives us so many opportunities, how many children do you know that have valet parked for lunch and flown business class? It’s hard not to get sucked in by it all, surrounding yourself and children by others who keep thing real is so important. Activities that are available to children are phenomenal,  So I try to limit their activities to “normal” ones, swimming lessons and a music class. I really don’t think there a need for Miss C to visiting the spa and LPV to go an activity everyday, we actually just love going to playdates in the park. We are just doing the best we can , keeping it real while the rest of the city gets sucked into the lifestyle everyone thinks we lead. We get out of bed each morning, argue as to who’s going to get up with the baby. Feel like the worse parent ever when you forget their library book ,or sent a cereal bar in their packed lunch. We’re just being parents, we just do it in the sunshine!

Yes, flight attendant I'd like some aptamil please!!

Yes, flight attendant I’d like some aptamil please!!

First plane ride for miss C
First plane ride for miss C

Home for the summer!!

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We were away for six weeks this summer, I personally thought it would drag but times just whizzed past us like it had a rocket up its bum. The summer we had planned was a very different one to what we actually had, a better one in fact. The big extravagant theme parks and long journey’s changed due to family circumstances but it was so much more fun. I decided to give the children “Our summer holidays” from when both me and expat daddy were children, ok we did have to sneak in a few soft plays due to weather but it was back to basics for most of it.

In Bristol, we donned Wellington boots splashed in puddles and went for long walks with the dog, splashing through streams throwing sticks and getting hands so sticky with ice-cream they stuck together. I love my home town, I think I appreciate more now I don’t live there, such a fun vibrant city with rural places that would take your breath away. If you haven’t been yet I suggest theez go me babber!! We brought nets and buckets and went crabbing on Cleavedon sea front, ok the crabs were quite clearly on their vacation as the buckets stayed empty but the children had a magical time. I actually have photographs of me and my sister doing this a s a children, LPV was amazed looking at them that I haven’t always been a grouchy old fart that just shouts “eat your dinner”. Chips, Ice cream and windmills on Weston-Super-Mare sea front was absolutely baltic but It didn’t stop us building castles and seeing if we could dig down ALL the way to Australia. We touched snakes, fed goats, fed ducks, held chickens, got dirty and played in the garden until dinner was ready.

In Ireland, we spent hours watching miniature trains in Clonakilty model village, our Wellington boots filled up with water at Inchydoney beach. At aunty Mary’s farm in Schull West Cork, we met cow’s, Chessy the horse and 5 dogs chased us around the garden. The children picked carrots for dinner from the garden, now believing for themselves that veggies DO NOT come from the supermarket. Got crisps at the pub in Crookhaven and raced the whole beach at Barelycove. West Cork in Ireland is just spectacular, so beautiful I want to live there. When we drive the journey down I just think about all the history buried deep within all the stunning mountains and the fresh air will put you in the deepest sleep imaginable…………We went to the fairground during a mini break to Co.Waterford the children went on their first roller coaster and gave granny a fright when LPV did the bungee trampoline. We went to Fossets circus and seen acrobats, men juggling fire and a very funny not scary clown. I breathed a sigh on relief when they decided they didn’t like candy floss but then ended up finishing off myself!!

We caught up with friends, made brand new ones, strengthen the bonds with our cousins and play fought with granddad in the garden, made ramps out of wood for cars and had endless picnics.

Oh not forgetting to get The Duabi 92 #mugshots in along the way

We have made so many beautiful memories that I hope the children will remember and hopefully pass on to their own children one day. They’ve learned so much like how to drive a tractor, got experience the most beautiful scenery which I know they won’t care about now but maybe in years to come it will trigger a bit of nostalgia for them when they return again.

How was your summer?

Inchydoney beach getting our Dubai 92 mug shot in

Inchydoney beach getting our Dubai 92 mug shot in

Keeping an eye on the Irish railway

Keeping an eye on the Irish railway

Crabbing with Grandma & Grandad

Crabbing with Grandma & Grandad

Thats what wellies were made for

Thats what wellies were made for

Here ducky ducky ducky

Here ducky ducky ducky

Don't look Granny

Don’t look Granny

The mugshot in beautiful Schull

The mugshot in beautiful Schull