Monday, 31 December 2012

Goodbye 2012

I can't believe 2012 is coming to a close, the fastest year in history! And an incredible year for our family. This morning Darbs woke at 5am, so I threw him in the car and drove around Dubai to let the others sleep in peace. The only people out and about were labourers and passengers in Emirates cars heading for early flights. We drove out to the end of the Palm, back around past the Burj Al Arab, through the streets of Umm Sequeim.

After an hour or so, I saw a golden glow on the horizon - sunrise. The last one of 2012. I took a moment to reflect on the past 12 months.

Last new year's eve we went to the races with really good friends and then spent the evening with the kids. It was the perfect way to bring in the new year. I remember chatting about what the year would bring, but I had no clue of where we would end up. Life's good like that, it's a twisting tale of surprises, better than any film or novel.

I thought 2012 was going to hold a house renovation, Lil-lil starting and finishing her first schooling year. They were going to be the big milestones of 2012. I had a lot of dreams and expectations, but life had other plans.

Who would have thought that I'd spending the next new year's eve in the Middle East, in my new home? Not me, that's for sure. Who would have thought that Lil-lil would be halfway through 1st grade instead of finishing Kindergarten? Who would have thought Goosey would be at big school? Who would have thought that Darbs would have taken his first steps in Dubai? Definitely not me.

I'm ending 2012 feeling very grateful.
I'm so proud of my little family. I'm proud of Skip taking on a mammoth role at work and the goals he's constantly kicking. I'm proud of Lil's bravery starting school not once, but twice. I'm proud of Goosey starting school and doing so extraordinarily well. I'm proud of Darbs becoming the little man he is. I'm proud of myself for living the best life possible.

I'm grateful that I live in a place I love, learning new things every day and living a life I adore. I'm grateful that my little family is closer than ever, we're having adventures and enjoying some of the best days of our lives. I never could have imagined it 12 months ago. So, I'm ending the year feeling pretty damn lucky. Bring on 2013 and whatever it may hold.

My only resolution is to keep jumping in the deep end and making sure I keep out of my comfort zone, because when I do, sink or swim, I discover some amazing things.

A very happy new year to you. I hope it's full of joy, adventure and laughter. Thank you so much for reading and commenting (I do love comments) and sharing this journey with me. See you in 2013!

What did 2012 bring you?

The last sunrise of 2012

The Burj Khalifa in the sunrise over Sheikh Zayed Road

Burj Al Arab after the sun has risen

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

And so that was Christmas

Christmas Day is done and dusted. Boxing Day is just another day here in the mid east. Skip is back at work. No lying on the couch eating leftovers and watching the Test or the yacht race. No backyard barbie with mates. Oh well, what do you do? We have plenty of other perks over here to make up for it, but you do miss those special moments and traditions.

Christmas Day was nice. The kids were up in the fives, wrapping paper flying everywhere. There was a lot of excitement and a couple of tears. The girls cleaned up with their presents, after very lean birthdays this year, we decided to splurge a little. Poor old Darbs didn't do quite as well but he was pretty pleased with his haul and had so much fun playing with his new toys.

I was very spoilt with some new PJs and nightie. A new scarf/wrap which is very handy over here for quick modesty cover ups. I even got a 'Number 1 Mum' badge. I was then completely stunned and thrilled when Skip presented me with some serious bling for my ears (after agreeing not to buy each other anything). Spoilt, indeed.

In Dubai, most of the big hotels will do takeaway Christmas dinners. With Skip just having the one day off, we decided to save time and stress (and let's face it, he does most of the big dinners) and ordered in. There was enormous turkey with all the trimmings, mince pies, pecan pies, pudding, cookies, even bon-bons. We ate all day, reminsiced about Christmas last year and having no idea where we would end up, wondering where we'll be next year. Then worked the turkey through as we watched the kids play on their new scooters. We will now be eating Turkey for the rest of the week, any good leftover ideas?

We chatted to friends and family on Skype and saw them in jumpers shivering in the cool Sydney Christmas weather.

We then collapsed in a food coma on the couch.

It was a nice day, it felt different from Christmas at home, but not in a bad way. It was so nice not to have to cook or traipse all over town.

I hope your Christmas day lived up to your expectations and that it was fun and stress-free.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas in Dubai

It's funny, as I run around the city, going to the mall and showing my mum all our haunts, you wouldn't know you were in an Islamic country. There are Christmas trees and decorations, there are lights and carols, there are countdowns and cheers. There's fake snow and reindeers and there's Santa.

Christmas is well and truly alive in Dubai. The girls sang Christmas songs at school and did Christmas craft. A couple of weeks ago, as I was buying decorations for our tree, I stood at the shelves wondering whether to get the gold or the silver tinsel and I turned to my right and saw a veiled woman buying up baubles and Santas. I turned to my left and saw a sari-clad woman doing the same. It seems that just as we were happy to celebrate Eid and Diwali, everyone else is happy to join in on the Christmas caper.

I love the tolerance of this country. It's not going to be like a Christmas at home, there won't be a Boxing Day, there won't be a trail of family to visit, and there are many people we are missing, but it's still Christmas. Santa makes a drop off in Dubai, so the kids don't miss out. We'll eat our turkey and trimmings, we'll open our presents and enjoy being together.

I hope you all do the same, wherever you are and with whoever you share the day. Have a wonderful and joyous Christmas!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A dose of Gangnam Style

Gangnam Style is the most watched video on YouTube. It's approaching a billion hits. I'm sorry to say that our family has contributed greatly to this. In fact, when I heard that Gangnam Style was the most watched video in the UAE for 2012, I knew if was because of us.

You see, I have a 4-year-old and a 15-month-old who just love it. And I mean love. it. (The six-year-old is way to cool to like it).

Goosey has been known to break out in the Gangnam Style dance in the middle of shopping malls, the street, where ever she hears it – much to disgrace of her sister. Darbs on the other hand will hear the opening strains and will run from the other room and stand transfixed on the South Korean pop star and his equestrian dance moves.

Darbs can only say a handful of words but can sing the tune of Gangnam Style, should I be worried? He won't watch anything else on TV, forget Barney and The Wiggles, Psy is it. In fact, I've been known to put Gangnam Style on repeat just so I can make dinner in peace. This morning, Darbs woke at five am and to keep him quiet he watched Gangnam Style on my phone.

Last night, I knew the obsession was getting a little too much when Goosey pleaded with me to go to Korea so she could meet Psy.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past six months, check out Gangnam Style here:

So, are you a fan? Does it drive you mad? What's your favourite dance craze?

Monday, 17 December 2012

Hitting the wall

This time last week I was spent. I can't remember feeling so exhausted or unmotivated in a really long time. We'd just come back from Austria so that definitely contributed, it was a great trip but it was tiring. I also had a bit of a bug, which didn't help matters. I think I was also feeling like the past four or five months had finally caught up with me. There has been so much going on, learning new things, carving out a new life, worrying about the kids, worrying about Skip.

It all culminated with me crashing. So, one day last week when Darbs went for a nap, I lay down and slept too, which I never do. That's how I knew I wasn't myself.

Slowly but surely I'm starting to feel normal again.


It's just a week until Christmas and I'm yet to buy a gift! Eep. It's strange being away from family and home at Christmas time. It will be a very intimate affair this year with just our little family and my mum. Some friends have already journeyed home for the holidays, so it will be a quiet time. Of course, Skip will have to work through it all too. It's just a normal week over here. So I am feeling twinges of missing people. Of missing long BBQs in the sun. Of missing January in Sydney, which is my favourite time of year in Sydney. Of catching up with loved ones.

I am looking forward to showing my mum around our new home and Skip's mum when she arrives just after Christmas.


Despite living in a Muslim country, we had a very festive weekend, starting on Friday with Skip's 'end of year' party. It was for the whole family and the kids got to go on jumping castles and play games and have their faces painted. It was the first Christmas party I've ever been to where there were no drinks!

Then on Saturday we went to a tree trimming party, where we gave and received tree ornaments.

Today, Goosey had her winter concert. She's been rehearsing for months and sang "Rocking around the Palm Tree" and "Jingle Bells" (the quintessential Christmas song that doesn't actually mention Christmas).

I hope the festive season is treating you well.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The right to change

Occasionally there is a news story that shocks you so deeply and stays in your brain, searing it with the details. Hearing the news about the Newton shootings yesterday was one of those.

I read about the terrible details of the poor students who were shot multiple times as they were in their classroom. Just six and seven years old. I then read a twitter stream of many, many people saying gun control won't change anything in the US, that people have a right to have guns, that they need guns, guns had nothing to do with this tragedy, 'don't you dare try to take my guns away'. I felt revolted, sick, putrid.

I saw the front page of the New York Times:

I saw that list of names, mainly girls aged six. I have a six-year-old daughter. I'm sure if Lil ever had the chance to meet them they would have played and giggled together. I'm certain those kids would have been counting the sleeps until Christmas, dreaming about what Santa would leave them under the Christmas tree. Just like my six-year-old. Watching Scooby-Doo and dancing to Katy Perry around the lounge room. Just like my six-year-old. 

Unfortunately, because someone in need of mental health care (that's another blog post) had easy access to a semiautomatic weapon, those kids lost their right to life. Lost their right to be educated without fear. Lost their right to be with their family.

I read a lot on the internet yesterday about 'the right to bear arms'. That the US was the free-est and safest country in the world because of this right. I'm certain those six and seven-year-olds didn't feel free. Or those cinema goers in Aurora. Or the more the 10,000 people in the US who die due to firearms each year. 10,000 people. That's more than three times the amount of people that died on 9/11. I personally believe that the US needs to look at guns as terrorist, because they are doing far more damage to their population and way of life than any terrorist does. 

As Australian citizen, I feel extraordinarily free. I don't fear being shot. I don't live in fear. I don't believe I need a gun to protect myself. In my 36 years, I've never fired a gun. I've never even touched a gun. The only guns I've ever seen are on police officers or military personnel. I believe guns are a privilege not a right. 

I'm not proud of some of the things that have and do happen in Australia, it's not a perfect place, and I rarely agree with John Howard, but the gun reform in 1996 was one of the best things to happen in our country. It certainly made it a much safer place. I think it's a fantastic example of what gun control can achieve. 

I'm not an American. I don't have live to in America. I don't presume to tell them how to live their lives. I just know that if six- and seven-year-olds in my community were being slain, I'd want something to change. If mass shootings were occurring regularly in my community, I'd want something to change. 

I just want to tell them, it can change. Use that much more powerful right of free speech. Speak out. Get rid of the guns. It can change. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

National Day

Before we jetted off to Austria we had the pleasure of seeing Dubai come alive with the preparations for National Day. On December 2, 1971 the United Arab Emirates formed to become a country and this day is celebrated with gusto by the nationals and residents.

The whole city became awash in red, black, white and green. Every building had flags, cars were decorated and there was a buzz in the air. It was really lovely and the excitement was contagious. People here are really proud of their country but not in an extreme jingoistic way. Everyone is encouraged to celebrate being a part of this country and there was an inclusive feeling of coming together. In other countries I've been to national celebrations can have an uneasy, almost aggressive patriotism about them, but it wasn't like that in Dubai. Whether you're here for a short-time or a lifetime you're encouraged to feel part of the UAE.

The girls were so excited about National Day, their school began putting up decorations weeks in advance and they learnt about the Emirates, the sheiks and their city. They were encouraged to come to school in national dress or in red, black, green and white. The girls woke early excited to get dressed up and get to school for the performances and activities.

After a school assembly they kids shared a picnic of traditional foods and then they were free to explore the school where there were camel rides, a henna artist painting hands, a falcon trainer and women doing traditional cooking displays. There were Arabic board games and story telling in the library. There were even jumping castles and a fun fair.

I had to scoot the girls off early so we could take our flight to Vienna, but they kept the excitement up at the airport displaying their flags and badges and singing songs.

I can't wait to actually be in Dubai next year to see the full celebrations first hand.

The lights in our complex.

Cooking displays at school

Everyone loves Sheikh Mohammad. 

The girls dressed and ready for National Day celebrations.

The school decorations

Every building had a flag...

Or lots of flags.

It's not every day they have a camel at school. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

An Austrian adventure

We're home! To be honest, it was a wonderful week, but I'm feeling a little sick and a lot exhausted today.

Austria is one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The historic and gorgeous buildings. The palaces and monuments. The picture perfect villages. The scenery that looks like it's come straight off a Christmas card. It's just stunning. Throw in the fact that you can buy juicy sausages with mustard and freshly grated horse raddish on the street and there is a gluhwein stall every few metres and you've got a happy holiday. Not to mention that Austria is the land of schnitzel and beer.

A sight-seeing holiday with three young children is tiring though. There is at least one child at all times who is upset or whining about something. If you're lucky all three will whine at the same time, usually when you're at the most amazing spot you've ever been. I won't lie, there were times when Skip and I saw a gorgeous wine bar or a lovely restaurant or an interesting museum and thought: "If only we hadn't brought the kids...". Or when we were walking through the Salzburg Christmas markets in the most beautiful square on a perfect winter evening with lights twinkling, the choir singing and all three kids crying. But that's life. Perfect moments are never really perfect.

On the flip side, there were magical moments too. Walking through Vienna and it starts snowing, Lil who had never seen snow falling before runs around a gorgeous square amongst the Christmas lights catching snowflakes on her tongue. Or when we chased squirrels around the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace, the kids all squealing with delight. Or when the girls dressed up as princesses in a real palace. Or when we stopped at Mirabell Palace in Salzburg after a snow fall the kids slid down the hill on their backs. Memories which are now burnt into my brain and which I hope that they (or at least the girls) will have snippets of in their minds.

Here are some snaps of our adventure:

I feel in love with the wreaths and decorations at the markets. Real wreaths made of pine, real holly, etc costing about $12. I so wanted to carry some home, but didn't think they'd last the journey. 

It was about now when I realised that as good as Converse are, they're really not made for snow...

We went to Christmas markets every single night we were in Austria. I still didn't buy enough decorations though.

Sitting in a 300-year-old cafe in Salzburg watching Skip and Darbs outside in the snow.

Taken from the 'Do-Re-Mi' steps in Salzburg. So pretty. Too cold for singing though...

Krampos is an old character who captures very naughty children at Christmas time and takes them away in his sack. Unsurprisingly Goose was not afraid and ran up to give him a massive hug!

I don't normally dress them the same, they chose their jackets and hats! 
Darbs sleeping as the snow falls. 

Eating spietzel at the Christmas markets in Vienna.

Eating wild boar at the Christmas markets. Kids LOVED this and you certainly can't get it in Dubai!

Princesses at Schonbrunn Palace.

Creating royal wigs at Schonbrunn Palace kids museum.

Lil catching snowflakes in Vienna.

This was breakfast one morning. Well, it was Sacher torte at the Sacher Hotel in Vienna and we weren't
the only ones indulging! 
It was only a week but we crammed so much in, it felt like much longer. I can't wait to go back one day.
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