Wednesday 28 November 2012

Just to keep you on your toes

Life certainly likes to keep you on your toes, doesn't it? Often the routine day-to-day can become so routine that you could do it with your eyes shut.

Every morning in our house is pretty much the same. Breakfast, make lunches, yell at kids to get dressed, get dressed myself, yell some more at the kids "pack your bag, put your shoes on, brush your teeth, OK time for hair". We rush out the door at 7.10am and make our way to the car. It's ground hog day stuff. Except for today.

This morning went along as usual, we were almost at school, I was breathing a sigh of relief and Goosey was whining about having to go to school when all of a sudden there was a strange noise. Hsssssssssssss. The car was filling with a strange cloudy substance. Lil started screaming: "We're all going to DIE!"

I look down and see the fire extinguisher on the floor of the car had rolled and was now letting its contents go. I pulled over, started to get out of the car and realised that the handbreak wasn't on and the car was moving. Jumped back in, put on hand break. Got out. By the time I got around to the other side it had stopped. It was empty. The contents all through the car. A coverage of pink powder on EVERYTHING.

Lil and Darbs were crying. Goose was saying: "It's like snow!"

What to do? I kept going to school, assured the kids we weren't going to die.  Dusted them off and sent them on their way. Now I have a car filled with pink powder. This should make for an interesting conversation at the car wash.

Monday 26 November 2012

Turn, turn, turn

By accident, I read some of my old posts this morning, just clicked on something I couldn't remember writing and was suddenly lost for 20 minutes in the past. It's funny because I don't often read old posts, I should do it more often.

Reading things from earlier this year made me realise how much my life has changed, how much the kids have changed, how much I have changed.

At the beginning of the year, we'd just finished a beach holiday, Lil was starting school and the year lay out fresh ahead of us. Little did I know where the year would end!

We're living in the Middle East. Lil is onto her second school. Goose started big school. We've got a life here – a home, friends, a routine. Bloody hell, we're going to Austria at the end of the week. It's all pretty sweet.

I look at the girls and they have grown up years in the past four months. They're so much more worldly and mature. I know my mum will see a huge change in them when she visits at Christmas.

The past few months have changed me a great deal. My view of the world is so much broader. I'm more happy to throw caution to the wind. I feel like I've packed a huge amount of life into a really short amount of time. I've learnt that you can stop time slipping through your fingers if you want to. That there's so much life to live out there if you look. I've realised that I'm more of an optimist than I thought I was, I can be cynical but most of the time I think that things will be OK and I trust people.

I've learnt that opening yourself up and throwing yourself in the deep end is scary, exhausting and the best thing that you can ever do.

This is one of my all-time favourite photos that I took in January.
We were so ready for big things this year.  I'm so glad we took the risk. 

Sunday 25 November 2012

Centre of the world

One of many reasons we moved to Dubai was to travel. Moving to the centre of the world with Europe, Asia and Africa just a few short hours away was very tempting.

In Sydney, traveling overseas with 3 kids requires a lot of planning and a lot of saving. Tickets alone are thousands of dollars, plus living in a city as expensive as Sydney makes saving all the harder. It would be impossible to flit off somewhere for a week's break.

Skip and I have travelled a lot throughout Australia, both by ourselves and with the kids. There are few places we haven't been on the southern continent. So now we feel pretty blessed to have the world at our feet.

We're taking our first trip later this week and to say I'm excited is an understatement. We only decided to go 10 days ago so it all feels a little like a dream. By week's end we'll be somewhere that is as different to Dubai as you can get.

We're going to Austria! There will historic buildings and pork schnitzels and beer. There will be cold weather and mountains. There will be Christmas markets and chocolate cake and choirs. There will be Mozart and the Sound of Music.

So tell me, have you been to Austria? What are the must dos?

Saturday 24 November 2012

Noise and mess

When we're out and about with the kids, I often get told that I "must be busy" or "have my hands full".

Having three young children to me at the moment is noise and mess. The noise and the mess is constant.

As I write this, the three of them are sitting on the living room floor surrounded by toys "sailing on a boat". There is crap scattered everywhere. They must have hearing difficulties because they seem to need to yell at each other, even Darbs who can't really converse yet. I'm not stopping them even though the noise and the mess is getting louder and bigger because they're not hassling me.

Darbs isn't pulling at my dress and screaming at me. Lil isn't asking is she can paint, why can't she paint, it's just not fair. And Goose isn't asking for something to eat. This usually happens similataneously.

This non-hassling of me will probably be lucky to last five minutes. Then I will have to nag them to tidy up the mess for half an hour before I crack and tidy it up myself. But for those five minutes it's worth it. Kind of.

In the game they're playing Goose is playing the mum and I almost feel sorry for her, Lil is whining "Muuuuuummmmmm, the crocodile is going to eat me. Muuuuuummmmmmmm I'm scared. Muuuummmmmm."

This stage of parenting is intense. The drama, the fights, the neediness. Darbs is into everything - he "hides" things, it took me two days to find my shoes in the bottom kitchen drawer; he drags the garbage bin around the house and in a moment of silence I found him eating mouldy bread out of it (it's good for his immune system, right?). For Lil is everything is drama – "Oh no! My pencil is broken, my pencil is broken! What am I going to do?" she wails. For Goose everything is physical, she runs and jumps and tackles and falls and yells and rants.

There are two moments in the day, one when the girls are at school and Darbs is asleep. It's quiet and peaceful and I tidy up the mess, sweep up the sand. Then before long the whirlwinds arrive home and the mess returns along with the noise. Then that night they're finally asleep and it's peaceful again and I'm too exhausted to tidy up the mess or talk to Skip and nod off on the couch instead.

The boat has now been abandoned and they're a gang of vampires, chasing each other around the lounge room squealing. Darbs is pulling on my dress again.

They tell me I will miss the noise and mess one day, I'm not so sure.

They just spent five minutes on a leaky boat. I'm lucky just to keep afloat. 

Thursday 22 November 2012

It's raining in the desert

For the past few days there has been forecast of rain - will it? Won't it? It hasn't rained since the beginning of the year in Dubai.

Ominous clouds have passed over and I've thought "ooh it just might!". Then the blue sky has returned.

This morning as we stepped outside everything seemed a little fresher. The ground was wet! It had rained!

There was much excitement at the school park. "Did you see the ground? It rained!" The kids were moaning about how cold it was, you know being just 26 degrees and all.

The traffic reported giggled as she said traffic was slow on a major arterial due to a puddle. Is there anywhere else in the world where a puddle would be a traffic hotspot?

I didn't actually see any rain fall from the sky, but it is nice to see some clouds. The cloudless sunny blue gets a little tiresome.

Who knows when we'll see rain again.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

It's time to celebrate

You would be hard pressed to find a more multicultural city than Dubai. With so many cultures and religions in the one place, there are a plethora of celebrations and festivals. Wonderfully, Dubai seems to embrace them all. Since we arrived, there's barely been a week where there hasn't been some kind of holiday.

While the UAE is an Islamic country, people are free to practice their religion of choice. Islamic holidays are the official holidays and recently we've been given days off for Eid and this weekend for Hirji, which is Islamic new year. I must admit, I was fairly ignorant about Islam before moving here, I knew about Ramadan but that was about it. 

Whilst other holidays aren't officially celebrated, they are nonetheless celebrated with gusto. 

A few weeks ago, Halloween took over the stores here, there were decorations and displays. If you didn't know better you'd have thought  you were in the good old US of A. Last week, people were celebrating Guy Fawkes Night. On the weekend, the supermarket had displays for Diwali (the biggest Hindu festival of the year) as well as American Thanksgiving. This week, I popped into IKEA and it looked like Rudolph has vomited all over the place – there were trees, wreaths and baubles galore. 

For every holiday, the kids' school decorate their entrance way and incorporate the holiday into their learning. Yesterday there were flowers and lights for Diwali, a few weeks ago there was a massive display for Eid. I love that the girls are getting such a broad insight into other cultures and religions. Hell, I love that I'm getting this insight too. 

It's not just the schools, yesterday even Skip's work brought in a feast of Indian food served by waiters for all the staff to celebrate Diwali. Last night, feeling a little poorly, I went to bed early, but I could hear the Diwali fireworks and could smell the heady scent of incense and smiled. 

I think Skip is hoping that there'll be schooners and 2-up on ANZAC Day, somehow I think that will be pushing it! 

In any case, I can't wait to discover what we'll be celebrating next week!

Goosey's Diwali creation.

Tuesday 13 November 2012


The past week, the cracks of a long school term, moving to a new country and the lack of support are starting to become very present. 

I feel very, very tired. I feel like I've been "on" for months, no time just to sit back. 

I have had the hardest week I've ever had with Goosey this week. Every. single. thing. is an argument. Whether it's getting dressed, eating dinner, going to the park, choosing a book, whatever, it turns into a monumental argument. I know that she's tired – at school five days a week is a lot for such a little person. I know that she's had massive change. I know that she's utterly exhausted and needs a break. It doesn't make the crying and arguing and the defiance any easier to cope with. The defiance, oh the defiance! She's so stubborn. I know that part of it is breaking free of the rules of school too. But my artillery is run dry. 

I think we're all looking forward to Christmas, to having some time off from school, to having some grandmothers visit. 

It's been constant with the kids since we've been here and there have been a lot of nightime shenanighans too. As much as I love them, they're doing my head in at the moment. To be honest, I think I'm doing their head in too. At home, when things got like this they could visit their grandmothers, be spoilt for an afternoon or even a night. Skip and I could have some peace. The kids could have a break from cranky parents. We'd all be refreshed. 

Skip, feeling the tension, came home and surprised me with a restaurant and a babysitter booked for tomorrow night. I can't wait. It's so needed. Just not to be 'Mum' for a few hours. 

If you're a mum, what do you do to have a break?

Saturday 10 November 2012

When you take a wrong turn and end up in another country

We've been in Dubai for three months now and starting to transition from the moving/setting up stage to the exploration stage (as a good friend of mine put it). Yesterday, we decided it was well time we got out of town and started exploring our surroundings.

After getting some advice and pouring over maps, we decided that just a short trip up the coast was what we needed. Not too far and we could get our bearings. We packed for a day out and set off early.
We headed north through Dubai and Sharjah and then we missed our turn off and then we missed our plan B and found ourselves headed in completely the wrong direction. We saw a sigh for Hatta and we remembered that Carly from Confessions of a 30-something Woman had said it was a nice place to visit.

So we turned the steering wheel in that direction and soon we're driving through peachy-red sand dunes, cascading across the horizon. Dotted with campsite and dirt bikes, quad bikes and dune buggies going up and over the dunes.

Before long we arrived at a border checkpoint, we were going into Oman! Thankfully we had our passports, although the yellow-toothed border soldier was happy to just shake the kids' hands. Amazed that we'd taken a wrong turn and ended up in another country, we headed on our way and soon enough we were at another checkpoint and back in the UAE.

The scenery suddenly changed, the soft, silky dunes became rugged mountains and jagged rocked spilled along the side of the road. We arrived in Hatta, the temperature noticeably cooler and lovely breeze blew. The biggest attraction in town – the Heritage Village was shut until afternoon, so we set off for a local resort, where the kids ran and climbed hills. We soaked in the countryside, it was so nice to be away from the traffic and the skyscrapers. We found an old fort tower and Goosey was convinced Rapunzel lived and she yelled out "Let down your hair!" until her voice was hoarse.

Ready for lunch, the only place open was a greasy chicken joint, so we quickly ate and decided to head for home. Back through the mountains, a quick 20kms through Oman, through the sand dunes. The girls shrieked when they saw camels on the side of the road. The got even more excited when we christened our 4WD and took it for a slippy drive on the hot sand.

Soon we could see the towering Burj Khalifa in the distance and we were back on busy Sheik Zayed Rd.

It was so nice to experience something more of this country than just Dubai and has gotten us excited to experience more. As an Australian, it's still so amazing to take a short drive, take a wrong turn and unexpectedly end up in another country!

Lawrence of Arabia-type country

The changing landscape, rocky and sparse.

The sunny view from the top of hill.

The town of Hatta

"Rapunzel! Let down your hair!"

Thursday 8 November 2012

Like sands through the hour glass...

Many years ago, before we were married and before we had kids, Skip and I went on a camping holiday to Fraser Island with some friends. For those of you who don't know, Fraser Island is in Queensland, Australia and is the largest sand island in the world.

On our first night, suffering hideous sunburn and feeling queasy from drinking cheap sparkling in the sun, Skip announced that he really hated sand. For the next few years, this became a bit of a joke in our circle of friends - going to the world's largest sand island for a holiday when you hated sand.

Now, we're living in the desert and I have to confess – I hate sand. At first glance, Dubai looks like a city you don't feel like you're in the desert. Then you only have to drive a short distance and there are rolling sand dunes and there is absolutely no doubt that you're in the desert.

Even in the centre of Dubai you'll find a decent amount of sand – vacant blocks of land, car parks, just walking along the street. I've seen two cars get so bogged in our school car park that they've had to be towed out – up the wheel arches bogged in sand. So the prolific 4WD does come in handy here, even if you don't go out dune bashing.

The thing about the sand is, it's everywhere. I sweep and sweep up mounds (and I mean mounds) of sand every day from our apartment (and we're high up). Every surface gets a light dusting of sand in it. Our balcony ends up with a grimy mixture of sand all over it. After I bath the kids there is a substantial amount of sand left in the tub. I'm constantly emptying my and the kids shoes of sand. And it's different sand to Australia, it's fine almost silt-like sand and it sticks like concrete to your skin.

I spend my life feeling like I just got dumped at Manly beach and every crevice of my world is filled with, yes, sand.

Yes, we live in the desert.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Preferential treatment

Before I came to Dubai I was regaled with tales from many people who'd lived here about the rudeness of people, of people pushing in, of a general disregard of others. I prepared myself, I gave myself pep talks about being assertive (which I'm not) and then I arrived and had the exact opposite experience.

I had people hold doors open for me, Emirati ladies let me go ahead of them in queues, Emirati men would tell off people who attempted to push in, I've been pulled out of queues and given preferential treatment, cars stop and let me cross the street, people generally go out of their way for me. So, what made me so special? The kids. The fact that I had a baby or the girls with me. Children are 'it' here and mothers are special.

I must admit some days I feel like I'm pushing around a rock star as Darbs constantly gets waved to, hellos yelled out. I'll be standing somewhere and I'll suddenly look around and all the staff in a shop or restaurant have come out and are pulling faces at Darbs to make him laugh. Even the people who seemingly ignore us will stop and let us go ahead. It's so different to Australia, where generally when you take kids anywhere you're looked upon as being a bit of nuisance or nothing special.

I have to say, it's nice when the baby is screaming and people let you go ahead at the supermarket rather than just tsk and roll their eyes at you. It's lovely when people hold a door open when you're trying to negotiate a pram through instead of letting it slam on you.

I don't think I'm special because I have kids, but it's nice to get a little bit of help while out and about.

This is part of Dubai life that I really do enjoy.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Just say bidet, bidet and how ya going?

Dubai bathrooms are a little different to your average Australian bathroom. For one thing, every bathroom has a bidet or at the very least a hose. From the day we landed this has provided so much entertainment for our Darbs. The second you hear him go quiet or suddenly disappear you know exactly where he is.

At first, he'd just turn it on and splash the water, now he's perfected the art of spraying the whole bathroom and everyone in it. It's at just the right height for him. It's even more entertaining to him if one of his sisters happen to be on the toilet.

Thankfully the girls stay well away from the bidet after a nasty incident involving one girl trying to help the other clean up after using the toilet. Let's just say it wasn't pretty for anyone.

As Goose piped up and said to me the other day: "We don't like the bum wash, do we mum? We like toilet paper."

Here's Darbs in his favourite spot in the house:

"I'm not doing anything, I swear."

"But if I get my thumb just so, I can spray everything."

"Yeah, OK, it's awesome."

Monday 5 November 2012

The race that stops a nation, just not this nation

It's a strange thing, I didn't get home sick when Darbs and Lil had their birthdays recently, but the thought of missing the Melbourne Cup makes me feel far away from home. As the whole of Australia gathers round TVs and radios for the race, life will go on as normal here, I'm sure. Despite Dubai having some strong links to the cup.

The only similarity will be the school run interrupting the cup, the difference is it will be the morning run rather than the afternoon. Still, I'll drop the kids off and rush home to watch the race – I believe it's my duty as an Australian and a resident of Dubai, even if I won't be watching over a champagne luncheon and a handful of TAB tickets.

You see, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, (his whole title is always quoted when he's mentioned in the media here) is a horse racing enthusiast. He owns Godolphin stables and will be vying to win the cup tomorrow. I don't know if the Sheik is in town, if he is I'm sure he'll be watching from the palace tomorrow morning. Dubai airline Emirates is the major sponsor of the Melbourne Cup too. This means as an official resident of Dubai my tip for the cup has to be.... Cavalryman. Plus, it's Frankie Dettori's last cup ride for Godolphin.

What are you doing for the cup? What's your hot tip for the race?

Sunday 4 November 2012

Sorry Sunday

As I wrote about yesterday, Sunday is the first day of the working week here. The kids are back at school, Skip at work. Each Sunday, I feel a heaviness, it's the hardest time of the week for me. I'm not sure why, I feel like I should be relishing the peace and quiet, but for some reason Sunday mornings make me feel a bit sad and lonely here. It doesn't help that when I jump online to distract myself, everyone on Facebook and Twitter in Australia are enjoying the last moments of their weekends.

This morning after I dropped the kids at school and Darbs and I had a coffee and play time at the beach, I came home and cleaned up the destruction of the weekend. Brought some order back to the house. Wiped down the benches, mopped the floors, took the rubbish out, put on loads of washing. I made plans with friends to fill up the week. Physically and mentally tidying up.

The kids did not want to go to school today. In fact, I think we'd all have liked another day off. Moving to the other side of the world and starting a new life can be exhausting.

Since we've moved here, everyone has said to us you need to get out of Dubai every three or so months, just to keep sane. I didn't really get it, but I'm starting to now. I think it's time to plan a break away.... now, where to?

Darbs wondering where to go....
(look at those eyelashes, and those dirty windows I can't clean!)

Saturday 3 November 2012

Fridays are the new Sundays

As I've already mentioned, the official weekend in the United Arab Emirates is Friday-Saturday. Friday being the holy day, where people attend mosque and share family meals, etc. Banks and official offices are closed.

Apparently, the weekend used to be Thurday-Friday (and it still is in parts of the Middle East) but trying to run international companies and only being in sync three days a week wasn't efficient.

Anyhoo, this whole weekend caper tends to mix me up a bit. I spend the whole week not really knowing what day it is, often say "see you on Monday" when I mean Sunday, often ask people "do you mean Friday Friday or Saturday Friday?" I know, I'm not making sense even to myself, hence my constant confusion.

We've got our own Friday routine now - coffee at our favourite coffee shop, grocery shopping, then the rest of the day is spent relaxing. There's always some drawing and colouring. There's usually some swimming. We usually play DJ and listen to some tunes. There's a lot of planning of what's for dinner - a BBQ, delivered Indian, Pakistani fish, Lebanese or friends over for a cook up?

Friday is fast becoming my favourite day of the week.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Beautiful one day...

Life is Dubai can be bloody frustrating. Some times doing something that should be simple, like paying a bill or getting some gas for your BBQ, can turn into a full-day project. Hell, it can be a full-week project. You can get asked pointless questions: "Would you like to pay with cash or card? Sorry, we only take cash." You will get cut off every.single.time you go for a drive anywhere. Speaking to someone on the phone can be confusing and maddening. Often things just don't make sense. I have lost my patience so many times since I landed on these shores and I'm a patient person.

Then you get home and you realise that this is your backyard. And there's no way you'd be able to have this as your backyard if we lived in Australia. A morning coffee, a dig in the sand, a warm balmy breezy - just your average Thursday morning. Sitting here washes away every frustration, every 'if we were in Australia...', every hand wring.

Skip reckons there's a lot of pressure having day-after-day of perfect weather. No rain, no cold blustery to keep you inside under your doona. I'm pretty sure I could get used to it.

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