Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

So 2013 is almost over and it is time for a summary post. 2013 was the year The Grumpy Egyptian and I decided enough was enough and made the difficult decision of the Mini Grumpy Egyptian and I to return to the UK without him. It wasn't an easy choice to make, but we made it for our daughter because being selfish was not an option now we have her. We miss him horribly, but know 2014 is the year our little family will be reunited and we can get on building our future.

2013 was the year we stayed in a dodgy roadside motel in Oman that looked as though it came out of a horror film, got turned away from the Dubai/Oman border TWICE and ended up eating burgers for 3 meals in a row as it was all we could find. We went shopping to buy what we thought were essentials for Bump as she was known then, but later discovered you don't really need 400 babygrows. I continued to suffer awful morning sickness and that combined with 5am wake up calls due to building works alongside our apartment, led to me crying in our landlord's office and swiftly moving to a better place 200m along from our old flat. I struggled to keep up with work as was heavily pregnant and very tired. Bump gave us a scare and got me admitted to hospital before jumping into our lives with an emergency c-sect a couple of days later.

We had a visit from my mum who arrived laden with infacol and oreo cookie brownies when the Mini Grumpy Egyptian was 3 weeks old. She keeps telling me about things I said or that we did, but I have very little memory of those early days as it all seemed to go in an exhaustive blur. We celebrated the Mini Grumpy Egyptian's first Christmas and she was thoroughly spoilt as princesses should be.

Resolution wise, 2014 will be the year I get my fitness on track and lose some weight. I have always put this as a resolution, but this year I am going to really get stuck in as I don't want to be that chubby parent at the school gates! It will also be the year I find the time to sit down and start writing the two books I have had in my mind for the past couple of years. One is a children's book and both are inspired by my time in the Middle East.

So here is to 2014. I hope you all manage to achieve everything you want to this year and don't be too hard on yourself if you don't. Here is to the next big adventure for my little family of three xx

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas

Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I hope you are having a fantastic day. If things have gone to plan, I will have ploughed my way through at least one box of chocolates by now, the Mini Grumpy Egyptian will be in a ball pit playing with wrapping paper and dinner will be on the go.

I'm sure there will be a tear in my eye as we open presents because The Grumpy Egyptian won't be with us, but I will be taking lots of photos and videos for him. Much love to anyone else facing Christmas without a loved one.

Merry Christmas from The Egyptian Mummy and family x

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

First Christmas: Baby Gifts

Let's start this post with a little confession. I initially planned to keep things low key, cheap and cheerful for the Mini Grumpy Egyptian because at 7 months old she doesn't really know what's going on. I decided on a couple of books, teething toys and some new clothes. Well that was until I started hitting the shops!

Now all wrapped up and ready for Santa to pop under the tree is a ball pit, numerous books, clothes, 3+ teething toys, The Hungry Caterpillar money box, some baby cookies for her stocking and a couple of wooden/rocking toys. And that's just what I can remember off the top of my head! I know the family will be spoiling her rotten too, but I just couldn't resist!

I'm hoping a stairgate will appear from family members and I've tried to choose things that are functional rather than frivolous, but it is so hard given all the amazing stuff available. Though in my defence the ball pit was £4 in Tesco and the Mamas & Papas rocking cow was just £6 at a merely new sale and looks brand new!

What did you get for your little one's first Christmas? What will they be finding under the tree this year? Any cheesy outfits making their way onto your children? The Mini Grumpy Egyptian has been rocking the Christmas Tree tights shown above plus a sparkly tutu, Christmas pudding jumper and full-on Christmas dress for a couple of weeks now!


Monday, 16 December 2013

Shopping Local: Part One

Bunting by Noah's Ark & Crafts
One of the things I missed while living abroad was the ability to buy good quality, local items. Products would either falsely claim to be local, be of poor quality or really expensive. While things did begin to pick up a year or so before I left, I still loved the farmer's market, craft fairs and art shows that fill up Sundays in Winchester, Hampshire. As it is Christmas, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourite local companies (plus a few from nearby counties) with you as you get a couple of last minute present ideas. Here's part one of my best picks.

Pitfield Winchester
This is a pop-up shop/cafe that needs to stay up! Located in The Brooks Centre, Winchester, this collaboration between a group of friends (a designer + the couple behind The Chesil Rectory), combines some of my favourite things - funky products for your home and cake by Little Bee Bakery! They really channel local products in the cafe and include a Hampshire Larder where you can buy locally made food items such as chocolate from the New Forest and tomato ketchup from the Isle of Wight.

Noah's Ark and Crafts
It is no secret that I love reading and since the birth of the Mini Grumpy Egyptian, I want to surround us with fantastic children's books. Not content with just having the books themselves, I came across this clever lady on Etsy who makes bunting out of the books themselves. Priced at just £8.50, which I think is a bargain, this beautiful paper bunting comes in a variety of themes including The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Cat in The Hat, Guess How Much I Love You and The Gruffalo. It looks beautiful in real life and I can't wait to see the Oh The Places You'll Go bunting.

Hawthorn Leaf Necklace by Glover & Smith

Glover & Smith
Located in Wiltshire, I best know this company for their gorgeous nature-inspired jewellery that is made from lead free pewter and silver. I'm hoping a couple of items from their The Forest Floor collection end up under my tree! They can also be found at Winchester Christmas Market until December 22.

TRex necklace by DesignosaurYEAH
Josephine Chisholm - Artist
I LOVE this artist's work. While living in Oman, my family would buy her Winchester-themed Christmas cards for me and my parents bought my husband and I one of her paintings a couple of years ago. She doesn't just paint Winchester though and her new collection includes some designs inspired by her travels.

Ok so I might be pushing the local angle with this one as these guys are in Brighton, but I had to share this company with you that make dinosaur inspired jewellery from plexiglass and wood. I saw their designs at another pop-up shop in Winchester and am REALLY hoping Santa drops a T-Rex design in my stocking. These won't be for everyone, but I think they are pretty great!

What do you think of my top picks? Do you make an effort to find out interesting local designers and products? Will I be bumping into you in our matching dinosaur necklaces any time soon?

The Egyptian Mummy x

Note: I did not receive any payment or products in return for writing about these companies, I just like what they are doing and wanted to share it with you

Monday, 9 December 2013

Ten things I want to teach my daughter

I love Pinterest (search for Emma Abdulaal and seen as you're there why not follow) and while browsing earlier came across a board entitled "100 Things I Want To Teach My Daughter". It got me thinking about all the things that I hope to teach the Mini Grumpy Egyptian in order to best prepare her for the big bad world. Here is my list of the Top Ten things I hope to teach my daughter.

  1. Don't try to be like everyone else. That would make for a boring life. It's much more fun to make your own way. Van Gogh said it best, "Normality is a paved road. It's comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it."
  2. No man is worth your tears and the one that is, won't make you cry. Or at least that is how the saying goes. I've always believed something slightly different in that love can be intense and intensity can make you cry. Don't be ashamed to cry. It doesn't mean you are weak.
  3. Never stop jumping in puddles, kicking fallen leaves, feeding the ducks, dipping your feet in the river, listening to music and walking barefoot on warm grass. A life without these things is a sad one.
  4. If things ever start to feel too much, never feel ashamed to ask for help. There is nothing to be ashamed of in admitting you can't do it alone.
  5. Fall in love with books and don't get stuck on one particular genre. Get acquainted with your local library and try new authors.
  6. "Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively" - Dalai Lama. Very true!
  7. What other people call impossible, you should call something that hasn't been done yet.
  8. Education can save you from almost any situation. Whether education for you is going to university or digging a well in Africa. Never stop learning or think you know enough.
  9. Every woman needs a chocolate drawer. Whether it's at work, at home, in the car or under the floorboards.
  10. When you're confused and nothing makes sense, there is one person whose wisdom is always right (aside from your mother!). "Today me will live in the moment. Unless it's unpleasant in which case me will eat a cookie." - The Cookie Monster

What do you think of my list? What would you include on yours?

Saturday, 7 December 2013

First Christmas: New Family Traditions

 Some rights reserved by ThomasSoerenes

I love Christmas and all the trimmings that go along with it. The food, the music, the TV Christmas specials, the students singing carols on the High Street, the tackier the better decorations, the ability to spend time with those you love and even the increasing waistband and permission to eat chocolate at 8am. This year we will be celebrating the Mini Grumpy Egyptian's first Christmas, but while I am excited to see her face when she sees her new toys, it is also going to be a bit sad because The Grumpy Egyptian won't be here with us. The ever-changing goalposts of the UK spouse visa has meant we won't get him here with us in time for turkey and carols. So it is up to me to make sure the family traditions we want to start are done well.

When The Grumpy Egyptian and I got our first tree together a number of years back, we decided to buy a new decoration every year - something we have decided to continue with the mini one. We also want to try and have one decoration a year added to our collection that has been made by the mini one (+ any future kids!). This year we are going to either make a small Christmas wreath using her fingerprints or some hanging footprints. I think these could be lovely to look back at one day. The odd Christmas tree card made using her footprints might also be cute.

Secondly, when it comes to presents I am a big fan of quality over quantity and would rather buy her things that have meaning/will last than a load of big plastic things she will get bored of quickly. We have decided that every year we will buy at least one lovely book for the mini one and write a little note inside of it. This present will come from Mummy and Daddy rather than Santa.

Next comes pyjamas. I adore a nice pair of pjs so will buy a new pair for the mini one, the big grumpy one and myself every Christmas. We haven't decided whether these should be dolled out on Christmas Eve to be worn that night or saved until Christmas Day.

I'm hoping that Christmas Day will (from next year) start with the 3 of us opening stockings in bed, followed by getting dressed and going downstairs to open the presents under the tree. Then breakfast while the grumpy one puts together (and swears a lot about) whatever new toy Santa delivered. My folks would then come round for Christmas lunch, more presents for the mini one and we all pass out in a food coma in front of the TV or argue over a board game - Monopoly is a dirty word in our house! Boxing Day would be round the parents so I hope they are prepared :p

Last year, while pregnant, I had awful flu on Christmas Day and ended up in hospital on Boxing Day so we didn't really get to have a proper Christmas Day. We'd planned to have a nice photo in front of our tree and eat Christmas dinner on the terrace (it was 23c that day if I remember right), but I felt so crappy that after struggling through making dinner, stretched out on the sofa and just slept. This year I want to take a snap of the mini one and I in front of the tree and either hold a photo of hubby or have him on video chat next to us. 

I am sad that this is our first Christmas as a family and we aren't together, but I know this distance between us won't be forever. And next year we can be arguing over where to put the decorations (don't tempt me!) and what embarrassing outfit I can dress the mini one in. What traditions do you have in your family? Are you celebrating your little one's first Christmas?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Top Ten Children's Books

I love reading. I cannot stress enough how important it is for children to not just read and be read to, but to enjoy it as well. When I've heard friends remark that their children don't like books, I can't help but feel that perhaps they just haven't found books that they like. When I was little, my mum used to take me to the library at the weekends and I would roam around the children's section, finding things that for one reason or another appealed to me. The end result is that a couple of decades later and prior to the birth of the Mini Grumpy Egyptian, I was thinking about the books from my childhood that I wanted to share with her.

Already the Mini One has a large collection of books and I try to sit down with her at least a couple of times a week to read with her. The aim is that we will start to introduce sitting down for a story as a part of her bedtime routine in the next couple of months.

With Christmas fast approaching (how did THAT happen by the way?) I thought it might be nice to share my top ten favourite children's books.

(Images: From top to bottom)

The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
Can't You Sleep Little Bear? by Martin Waddell
The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch by Ronda and David Armitage
Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr Seuss
On The Way Home by Jill Murphy
The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr
We're Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
Whatever Next! by Jill Murphy

What's your favourite children's books? Are their stories from your childhood that you hope to share with your children one day?

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Being good enough

When I found out that I was expecting our first child, I remember promising The Grumpy Egyptian that I would be the best mum ever. I had these dreams of my little one never feeling sad, never getting sick and never wanting. That hasn't quite worked out and now I find myself having to deal with the realisation that sometimes just being good enough is as best as I can do.

My Twitter followers would have read this week about my struggles with lack of sleep because the Mini Grumpy Egyptian is suffering her first cold. In the past four days I have visited Boots everyday and left with some form of medicine or device aimed at easing the little ones symptoms. Today when I visited, the sales assistant who was also a mum, and I found ourselves talking about how despite not knowing whether an item would work, we would still pay any amount if there was a chance it would make the mini one feel better. I can't magic away her illness or wave a sleepy wand, but I can keep getting up during the night to hold her, comfort her and suck the snot out of her nose with a creepy tube that is as gross as it sounds.

Often I hear stories from fellow mums about how great their child sleeps or how they are ahead of others in their milestones. And let's face it, those who think they are an expert when it comes to raising children are often the ones that do things in a way that is drastically different to how you would do things. While new mums may often be described as being overly sensitive, the best thing I've leant since becoming a mum was to ignore 99% of people's advice! Sure some of it is great and I know most just mean well. But often it ends up making me feel like I'm failing in some way or not being as good as the other mums because I don't make playdough from scratch or buy organic cotton babygrows from sustainable sources. And don't get me started on washable nappies. Life is just too short.

A babygrow that I saw for sale at a recent Little Pickles Christmas Market

I read to my daughter. I play music and dance around the bedroom like an eejit with her. I make sure to choose healthy foods for her so hopefully she doesn't grow up with my ferocious sweet tooth. I play with her and point things out to her when we are out walking and embarrass myself by singing "Teddy Plays on the Swing" in the middle of the high street. I might not be supermum and sometimes I do get frustrated when she cries or sad when I'm sleep deprived. But then that smile when she wakes up and sees my face or laughs because I've blown raspberries on her tummy makes all the nasty bits of motherhood seem so insignificant. So for now I am going to try my hardest to not beat myself up about the things I don't do or can't do and concentrate on the thing I can do better than anyone else - love her. With everything else, I will just have to settle with being good enough, for now.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Review: Boots Nappy Rash Spray

We've always been quite lucky when it comes to the Mini Grumpy Egyptian's bottom in that nappy rash had never really affected her. And then she began teething. So it was perfect timing when Boots sent me through their Nappy Rash Spray to try out.

Basically it does what it says on the tin and is a spray treatment rather than a cream-based one. The idea is that you don't have to rub it in, just spray and pop a new nappy on. However I had a problem with the nozzle as each time I sprayed it shot out in a stream rather than the mist that I thought would have been more appropriate. I did leave a small review on the Boots site and having read what others wrote, wonder whether or not I had a dodgy nozzle. 

It does say on the bottle that you don't need to rub the spray in as the movement of the nappy will ensure even coverage, but I didn't find that to be the case. The areas that the spray did cover seemed ok, but the parts that weren't sprayed were easily identified and a bit sore. The Mini Grumpy Egyptian didn't however seem to mind it being applied and I assume that is down to the cooling effect the spray claims to offer.

I found this to be an interesting product on paper, but not one that really worked so well in reality. I may be tempted to try it again, but will be sticking with our usual barrier cream for now. What do you use to keep the dreaded nappy rash at bay?

Disclaimer. I was send this product free of charge to review, but all opinions are my own

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Charitable Initiatives: Operation Christmas Child

Image from Operation Christmas Child website

Given that this will be the Mini Grumpy Egyptian's Christmas, we have decided to keep things low key, but I'm still looking forward to seeing her excited face when she gets a couple of new toys. Even with money being tight and such I couldn't imagine her not having something to open and that is where this charity comes in. This is the second in a little series detailing the charitable initiatives you can get involved with this year starting off with Operation Christmas Child.

Operation Christmas Child started some years ago (I remember filling a box when I was at school) and basically consists of decorating a shoe box before filling it with toys, books, hygiene products and sweets that are aimed at a particular gender and age group. The boxes are then collected at numerous locations across the country and dispatched to children across the world that without your box may not have received anything for Christmas. The deadline for dropping your box off is NOVEMBER 18. Click here to find your nearest drop off point.

This year I decided to create 2 boxes. The first for a girl and the second for a boy, both for ages 2-4. I gave myself a budget of around £12 per box and you will be surprised how much you can get for that. You also pay £3 for each box to cover delivery costs, so this was on top of my budget for the boxes. Here is a list of the items it is suggested you choose from along with what you are not allowed to include.


Here is a list of what I put in the boxes (shown above and about to be decorated):

Colouring pencils
Wax crayons
Writing pencils
Pencil sharpener
Mini hairbrush and hair clips (girl)
Individually wrapped sweets (lollypops and chewy ones)
Teddy bear
Colouring books
Plain paper notebooks
Toy cars (boy)
Toothbrushes and toothpaste
Tambourine and plastic recorder (girl)
Pencil case

I'm also writing a little notecard to go in each box to say we hope the kids like their presents.

Operation Christmas Child is ran by a religious group, which I know from talking to people in the past may put some off taking part. However I couldn't give a damn what religion someone is. If they are doing good and helping those in need, then you can't argue with that. Click here to find out more.

Charitable Initiatives: Christmas at the NSPCC

It is very easy to get swept up in the commercialism surrounding Christmas, and brushing all religious aspects to one side, forget it should be 'for the kids'. Watching all those adverts that appear on the TV at this time of the year always struck a chord with me, but since becoming a Mummy, I find myself hugging the mini one a little tighter - something I bet many mums can relate with. So what can you do to help? This is the first in a little series detailing the charitable initiatives you can get involved with this year starting off with Christmas at the NSPCC.

Image from the NSPCC site showing an example of one of the designs available

The National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children is offering parents the chance to arrange a personalised letter from Santa. Each letter can be personalised with the child's name and age as well as details like their favourite activity. There are seven different designs to choose from including one for baby's first Christmas and even one for grown ups. The letters are available in English and Welsh.

The letters can be sent not just inside the UK but abroad as well with the last date to request a letter for international delivery being November 29. A suggested donation of £5 is given for each letter, but it can be increased if you wish. You can find out more about where your donation goes by clicking here.

I have already requested one for the Mini Grumpy Egyptian's first Christmas as I think not only are the proceeds going to a good cause, but the letter itself will make a nice keepsake. What do you think about this kind of initiative? Does getting something in return make you more likely to donate?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Review: Ewan the Dream Sheep

Sleep is like the Holy Grail for all new mums and given that I remember breaking down in tears at least once a day due to exhaustion when the Mini Grumpy Egyptian was just a couple of weeks old, it was something that I and I'm sure most mums would give almost anything for. I've always struggled to get the Mini Grumpy Egyptian to sleep well because she believes that being help by her mummy (boob in mouth preferable) is the only way a Princess should rest. Unfortunately for the little Princess in this story, mummy is going to have to go back to work and needs to have a bit of time during the day to do things other than hold a sleeping baby. Just in time, I met Ewan.

I had seen Ewan the Dream Sheep on numerous parenting sites and forums, but it seemed like a bit of a gimmick. I didn't understand how a cuddly sheep would help my baby sleep so despite umming and ahhing about it, I didn't buy it. When the Mini Grumpy Egyptian reached six months last week, I popped into my local jojo maman bebe store and they had a lucky dip going where you could get 10%, 20% or 50% off your purchases. I got 20% and after a particularly rough nights sleep decided to bring Ewan home.

Oh. My. God. I don't know what possessed me to put it off for so long. The Mini Grumpy Egyptian fell asleep while feeding as normal and as I put her into her cot, I turned Ewan on (if you will excuse the expression!) and she stayed asleep! I stood frozen for a couple of minutes expecting her to start wailing at being put down, but she just cuddled up to Ewan and slept for 3 hours. A major accomplishment.

When she woke during the night, I initially tried activating Ewan and patting her gently, but if that didn't work, a feed followed by being put back in her cot with Ewan did. Ewan plays four different sounds that all have mum's heartbeat playing in the background. The Mini Grumpy Egyptian reacts well to three of the sounds, but hates the harp one so I have to remember not to press that at 3am! Ewan also emits a red glow that admittedly I found a bit creepy at first (especially when combined with a heartbeat going on in the background), but the mini one likes it so for a good nights sleep I can suck it up! The only problem I have with Ewan is that the sounds only play for 20 minutes and sometimes the mini one needs a little longer.

I have tried using Ewan to get daytime naps a bit more organised and much to my shock the Mini Grumpy Egyptian has fallen to sleep by herself (no boob or rocking) two or three times so I'm hopeful he will help her in learning to self-sooth.

Have any of you used Ewan or do you have other sleep aids you swear by?

Disclaimer: I paid for this product myself, but found it so good I wanted to offer another positive review

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Christmas presents for children- offers & online codes

So I waited as long as I couldn't but the time has come to bring up the dreaded C word. No! Not THAT C word... Christmas. Whether it's your first or your thirteenth Christmas with children, we all want it to be special. And while special doesn't mean expensive, there is no hiding from the fact it can have a serious effect on our finances. Luckily lots of retailers are holding offers that if used right could save you a pretty penny. Here's my round up of the offers I know about.

The 3-for-2 at Boots is legendary for smellies and stocking fillers in my house, but I was pleased to find out it also includes toys. Another good offer is their 3-for-2 on kid's clothing from the Mini Club range - well worth it if you have to buy coats for a couple of kids. It is worth joining its loyalty card scheme and parenting club as you get extra points when buying kids stuff, which soon add up and can be spent online or instore. I've got about £55 on my card that I'm saving for the sales.

Currently offering 20% off Mothercare furniture and mattresses, as well as 25% off selected baby entertainment so good for new mums/those thinking of moving their little one to a big bed. There's also 20% off if you buy 3 items of clothing. Plus free delivery on all orders over £50. The Mini Grumpy Egyptian has some pyjamas coming her way from here.

I love these guys and they are offering a 3-for-2 on 100s of Kiddicare toys from November 5 to December 2. They are also offering 3-for-2 on all branded toys but this ends midnight Monday November 11. The customer service and delivery from Kiddicare is fantastic so great if you need a present fast! Also I have found that their prices are always really good and we ended up buying a lot of the Mini Grumpy Egyptian's big stuff - car seat, etc - from here as it was significantly cheaper.

The Book People
My mum introduced me to these guys and after signing up to its newsletter I've had some great offers through. They do some fantastic book bundles and sets such as the Winnie the Witch Collection and Satchel for £15. I'm planning to get the Beatrix Potter collection, which was around £35 last time I looked.

Toys R Us and Babies R Us
They are offering 20% off on November 9 and 10. You just need to use the code: ESAVE20NOV or download the voucher online. Free delivery is also offered when you spend £29.99+. They also have a membership scheme where you get emailed random offers throughout the year.

JoJo Maman Bebe
If you have a branch near you and need to get some presents or essentials it is worth popping by this weekend. From November 7 to November 10 stores are holding a Christmas shopping party with lucky dip where you could win 10%, 20% or 50% off your purchases. There's also free gifts and chocolate for those buying. I bagged a 50% discount the other day and got some great stuff! If you sign up for their newsletter they also do a monthly offer where you can get a discount or free item when spending a certain amount.

I'm sure I've missed some, so please post any offers you know about in the comments section.

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Monday, 4 November 2013

Splish splash I was takin’ a bath

Sometimes when people tell me that the Mini Grumpy Egyptian is small for her age, I look at them like they are crazy. To me she feels huge, but I have to remind myself that this is only because she was so tiny at birth. The Mini Grumpy Egyptian weighed just 2.7kg when she was born and now is slightly over double her birth weight as she approaches six months. The past month has seen some major changes in her that I wish The Grumpy Egyptian was here to see (visa issues – ARGH), but there are so many more milestones for her to cross that he can be there for.

Firstly, the time came to pack away her tiny baby and newborn clothes. Then in the same week I had to admit her 0-3 month stuff just wasn’t fitting anymore so that pile found its way into storage too. Now she is in her 3-6 month clothes and I just adore dressing her in clashing colours and prints, much to my mother’s horror. Well if you can’t colour clash as a child when can you get away with it?
Secondly, the baby bath got too big. This one crept up on me! I swear it was only yesterday we moved her from the *ahem* sink to the baby bath and now that is too small. Now baths take place in the big girl bath aka the bath! She loves being able to kick and stretch and swallow as many bubbles as humanly possible.

Thirdly, Operation Weanathon has begun and the Mini Grumpy Egyptian is loving trying out new tastes and textures. Favourites so far include carrot, blueberries, sweet potato, broccoli, banana and… Thai Curry Soup. Yep, you did read that last one right. Seems as though we have an adventurous eater on our hands. Lots of Annabel Karmel being called upon to give me ideas of things to make for myself that I can also try with the mini one.

And finally, but potentially most significant is that the Mini Grumpy Egyptian has outgrown her crib. This week I am off to buy her a cot that she can stretch out in. Considering an IKEA one at the moment, but am going to have a look at some before deciding. Any recommendations? The Mini Grumpy Egyptian might not be sleeping through the night yet, but hopefully that will change in the not so distant future.

I am linking this post up with The Oliver’s MadhouseMagic Moments linky so why not head over there and see what other mums are celebrating this week.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Giving birth in Oman: My Story

I wasn't sure whether to write this post or not, but a friend suggested it might be useful for mum-to-be's when it comes to what they can expect in Oman. It is quite a long post so be sure to grab a cup of tea before you begin!

The Grumpy Egyptian and I found out we were expecting a couple of days after my birthday in September 2012. Due to the fact I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome well over a decade ago, we'd been told we would struggle to conceive. The mini 1 is proof that doctors sometimes get it wrong! Despite using contraception, going quad biking in the desert, on a speedboat and having a few drinks on my birthday... We were set to be parents!

My ex-employer didn't cover maternity costs, but it was while visiting the company clinic (I thought I had a bug) that we discovered the truth behind my nausea. In order to keep costs down before the 12wk mark (when Muscat Private Hospital (MPH) - our preferred hospital - starts its antenatal packages) we tried to stick with Badr al Samaa (BAS). It didn't last long.

I developed hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme sickness) and truly have never felt so ill in my life. I was so violently ill that I feared for my baby and after numerous visits to an OB at BAS where my concerns were shrugged off or laughed at, we decided it was time to go to MPH and just pay up. It is also worth noting that my husband wasn't allowed in for scans at BAS to "protect my modesty". Uh... He's the one that got me pregnant!

In January 2012 I'd had surgery in MPH under Dr Vidya and because we had both had a good relationship with her we chose her as our OB. She was so friendly and despite being very much in demand, never rushed me or belittled any concern I had. She was also very good with The Grumpy Egyptian so that helped our decision.

We signed up for the antenatal package that ran from 12+ weeks to birth and included all our doctor visits, booking blood tests for the green card, ultrasound scans and a couple more things. This was a big saving on what paying each visit would have cost. I had spoke with Dr Vidya about my birth plan in that I planned to deliver the baby as quickly and painlessly as possible!

Things seemed to be going to plan until around the 36 week mark I noticed Bump (as she was then known) wasn't moving much and I'd had a bad headache for a couple of days. I went in to see Dr Vidya and we discovered that my blood pressure was dangerously high and Bump's heart rate was high. A quick ultrasound showed the cord seemed to be near Bump's neck and could have been distressing her. The woman that did my ultrasound was the only person at the clinic that I wasn't pleased with as while waiting for my doctor said they'd have to "rip the baby out immediately" and seemed annoyed when I started crying.

Dr Vidya came and assured me there would be no ripping out, but admitted me for observation. Things got worse overnight, before settling in the morning. We were allowed home over the weekend, but had to return on the Sunday (the weekend is Fri-Sat in Oman) for a check-up. On Sunday I woke with another headache. My blood pressure had shot up again.

The decision was made to induce me, but unfortunately it didn’t work. I have to say what an utter failure I felt. Yes, I know it is stupid, but for some reason I felt as though my body was just not willing to make this easy and I blamed myself. Bump was getting more distressed so we decided on an emergency c-sect. This terrified me, but the anaesthetist that was assigned to me was a lovely British guy who put me at ease about the operation and calmed my nerves - sadly I don't remember his name! He also gave me the best advice ever: Don't be a martyr. If it hurts tell someone and they will bring out the nice shiny drugs. That was great advice because boy was I not expecting standing/sitting to hurt quite so much post-surgery! I can only describe it as a searing pain that felt as though it would never go away. It does... in the end!

The Grumpy Egyptian was allowed in the operating theatre with me because it was a spinal, however if they'd of needed to do a general anaesthetic he wouldn't have been. In we went and less than 5 minutes after they began, Bump became the Mini Grumpy Egyptian when she screamed into our lives. The cord had been quite tight around her neck so the decision to have a c-sect was a good one. The doctors showed me the mini one before they took her for a check up and embarrassingly I threw up but I blame it on the anaesthesia not new-mum nerves!

The Grumpy Egyptian was allowed to stay with the mini one while they checked her over. I was stitched up and after a bit of time in recovery was wheeled back to my room and reunited with our daughter. We immediately started some skin-to-skin while the midwives and nurses helped me breastfeed her - ah those first weeks of breastfeeding... a story for another time perhaps. The midwives and nurses were fantastic and we made sure to leave them a big box of chocolate when we left.

The rooms at MPH are great and have their own en-suite. There is also a sofa bed in the room so hubby can stay with you and a fridge for snacks. You get a menu twice a day to choose your breakfast, lunch and dinner from and you can specify when you want it delivered. Meals for you and your partner are included in the delivery package rates that are split into normal delivery (+ extra for things like an epidural) and caeserean. We stayed 5 nights before being discharged. Two weeks later the mini one and I had checkups that were included in the delivery package.

I was really happy with my doctor and never felt that I wasn't in control because she always gave me options. When I was pregnant the hospital didn't offer antenatal classes, but I understand they were hoping to introduce them.

Anyway this wasn't meant to be such a long post, but even if it proves useful for 1 person, it will have been worth it. For the view of someone whose wife gave birth in a different hospital in Muscat, click here.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

What’s on Winchester – Autumn half-term

I had to do a post on this as I have been getting so many emails from all the groups and mailing lists I am signed up for. It seems like there is loads going on for children at the moment, so here is my round-up of the best events taking place in Hampshire with a focus on Winchester.

My personal favourite thing on is the Wessex Children’s Book Festival from October 26 to November 2 at the Winchester Discovery Centre. A number of children’s authors will be appearing at the festival including Tony Robinson and Nick Arnold. Local MP Steve Brine will even be getting in on the action by reading to children, while a film tent and craft activities will be taking place every day. There is a charge for some events and booking is recommended. Details on the free events can be found here. A full list of events can be found here. Baby Rhyme time will also be taking place as usual during the festival at 9.45am and 11am on Thursdays.
artSouth is another project going on that features different arts events throughout the region. As part of this, on November 1, a family day workshop will be held at The Great Hall in Winchester and it is free to take part. Visitors will also be able to view Annika Ström’s exhibition, which is being showcased at the hall.
Jay Millers Circus is onsite at the Milestones Museum in Basingstoke from October 22 to November 3 and details on booking can be found here.
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens are getting in on the Halloween fun with pumpkin carving on October 28, 29 and 30. While on October 31 a Halloween party with stories from the Forest Forge Theatre Company will take place. There are also three story around the campfire sessions on October 28, November 1 and 2. Details on these events can be found here.
The 55th Annual Winchester Bonfire and Fireworks 2013 takes place on November 2 and as usual will feature the procession through town and huge bonfire. Details on buying tickets prior to the event can be found here.
Lanterns Children’s Centre in Winchester has a lot going on as well including Messy Play, Garden Time, Bumps & Babies, and Come and Play sessions throughout half-term. There are also Music Time courses beginning on November 11 that need to be booked in advance. Details on these activities can be found here but you will need to scroll down to the flyer at the bottom of the page for information on half-term activities.
I’ve included some of my favourite events, but details on other activities and playgroups taking place can be found on Mums In The Know – a fantastic site. Make sure to sign up for their newsletter! They also have a Twitter profile that posts information about events including the weekly baby-friendly film screening on Tuesdays at the cinema in Winchester.
Let me know if I have missed anything and most importantly, have fun!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Review of The Baby Show 2013 - Kensington Olympia

The MamaBabyBliss stand

Well after a very long and tiring day, we are back home from The Baby Show. First off I have to say I was really impressed with how things were organised as at around 11.30am when we arrived it took just minutes to get through into the hall itself. First tip: make sure you grab a hall map as not all the aisles line up so you could accidentally miss something good.

The first thing we did was sign up for the British Red Cross First Aid for Babies and Children. It is free and there are sessions throughout the day that give you basic, but essential knowledge on what to do if your child chokes, is burnt or unconscious. Make sure you sign up on arrival as sessions fill up quickly.

The next stop for us was the Mothercare stand where we snapped up some clothes for the Mini Grumpy Egyptian that were discounted. The VEtech and Chicco toy areas were also great and I got some good ideas for Christmas.

The Babies R Us area was well discounted and on the way there visit the Prima Baby stand where for £20 I got a years magazine subscription and choice of 4 Tommee Tippee free gifts. They are also selling goodie bags for £2 that have October and November issues of the magazines as well as a load of products.

A selection of the Funky Giraffe bibs we bought

Sadly I missed the talks I wanted to listen to, but did visit the speaker's respective stalls and get some good tips. After the Babies R Us area, make sure to keep an eye out for the Fisher-Price life-size rocker that adults can sit in!

When it comes to the smaller brands, it was nice to put a face to some of those I follow on Twitter. I got to meet the guys behind The Gro Company and see the product in person. I didn't get one in the end but on reflection wish I had because with these cold nights the MGE will need it. My favourite item was the travel bag that could safely be worn with a car seat.

Another brand I enjoyed meeting was MamaBabyBliss who launched their new CDs for both expectant and new mums as well as a birthing kit at the show. They kindly gave me a copy of their CD for new mums (The Mama & BabyBliss CD) that along with other things teaches you about baby massage - something I've struggled with in the past. A review of the CD will follow shortly. They also have a gorgeous range of products that smell fantastic. Holly Matthews, who acts as brand ambassador for them was even there to sign CDs.

I did make good use of the Tommee Tippee feeding area with breast pads and rocking chairs, as well as microwaves and free Plum baby food. There is also a baby changing area (ran by ASDA) that has changing tables, free wipes and nappies as well as talc/nappy cream.

On the way out we stocked up on Funky Giraffe bibs - 5 for £10 or 12 for £20.

The only downside related to public transport and the lack of signposting telling those wanting to go in Clapham Junction direction that there wasn't a lift to the footbridge and they had to walk all the way round, but that wasn't really the fault of The Baby Show!

All in all we had a great day and really had to work hard to keep our cash in our pockets! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did and see you next year.

*DISCLAIMER* I did win tickets to The Baby Show in a Tommee Tippee Freebie Friday competition on Facebook, but was not required to write about the show

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Getting baby into a routine

There’s one in every group of mums that proudly states how their little one has slept through the night for months now and has good long  naps during the day. Meanwhile you’re stood there smiling and remarking how wonderful that is, yet inside cursing the sleep Gods’ cruelty. I’m the latter mum. Now to be fair to the Mini Grumpy Egyptian she did go through a bit of an upheaval when we moved countries – she was just three months old – and I’m sure some of my stress rubbed off on her, but I had rather hoped she would have settled by now. The fact that I’m writing this post on my phone in the middle of the night because she has woke up again would suggest she hasn’t.

For illustrative purposes, this is what I'm told a sleeping baby looks like

At first I wondered if it was the new cot, the different noises and smells, teething or if I was doing something wrong. Some told me the only way to deal with it was to let her cry it out… a method that even in my most sleep deprived state I haven’t been willing to do. Others suggested stuffing her with formula (she’s breastfed) before bed so she wouldn’t want to feed during the night. Basically most of what was suggested I wasn’t willing to embrace.

So I sat down and thought about her bedtime routine, The MGE has had a routine of sorts since birth as it helped me stay sane during her colic and cluster-feed strewn first months. We would put some relaxing music on, give her a bath with bubbles, attempt a massage (I never mastered this) and then after pjs I would read or sing (anyone who has heard me sing would claim this was the reason for her distress) to her before she would feed to sleep.

That would happen whatever time she looked tired, but now she is older we worked out it needs to start around 7pm otherwise the tears come. I still follow the same routine – Mozart for Babies  is currently our favourite  – and she drops off quickly, but isn’t so keen on being put down. A sleeping bag helped as she kept getting cold when her blankets fell off, but what next?

How do you get your little ones to sleep at night? I know some mums that don’t follow any routine and it seems to work for them at the moment, but I can’t help seeing trouble in the future. Don’t get me started on daytime naps! If I hold her or push the pram around the MGE will sleep for hours, put her in her cot and she glares at me like she wants to know what I’m playing at!

Any tips from my fellow mums? Please tell me there is hope or should I just take out shares in Yves Saint Laurent concealer?

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Baby Show 2013

I never win anything. Well until last week when I won two tickets to The Baby Show 2013 – Olympia Kensington, in the weekly Tommee Tippee Freebie Friday competition. I enter this competition on Facebook every week so was rather excited when I got an email saying I had won. The show runs from October 25-27 and features everything from shopping to advice and a load more competitions.

While there I want to take a British Red Cross First Aid class, listen in on talks by Clare Byam-Cook (breastfeeding), Jo Tantum (sleep) and Annabel Karmel (weaning), visit the Nipper Clipper Nail Salon (invented by the guy that won The Apprentice a couple of years back) for tips as I’m terrified of doing the Mini Grumpy Egyptian’s nails and spend a penny or two on some early Christmas presents in the shopping area.

I am hoping to go up on the Friday so will try and do a review that night to help anyone that comes across this post while researching pre-visit. Who else is going to be visiting the show? Any tips on what talks or stalls not to miss?

Tickets are still available to buy so if interested click HERE for more details.
Disclaimer: I'm not in anyway linked with The Baby Show, just an excited mummy who happened to win some tickets.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sure Start Centers

Stock photo found on Cornerstonelife.org
Ok I put my hands up in shame and admit I used to think Sure Start Centers were somewhere you had to take your kids if you weren’t doing a very good job with them, but after visiting my local one a couple of weeks ago I can say I have been missing out!

I’m lucky that there are four Sure Start Centers in Winchester that I can have access too – Sunbeams and Reign and Shine Children's Centre, Sparklers and Carroll Children's Centre, Little Petals and Merry-Go-Round and Happy Valley Children's Centre and Lanterns Children's Centre. Offering baby massage classes, antenatal and prenatal yoga, play sessions for different age groups and access to community support staff that can help with everything from baby routines to weaning, it is well worth joining. Oh and did I mention the best thing…. It is FREE to join.
Lanterns Children's Centre - so much fun goes on behind these gates

Some of the courses and play sessions do charge a small fee but if you are unable to pay or in my case once forgot to bring change, you won’t be laughed out of the building. Becoming a member also means you get free access to the centers toy and book library that feature some fun things to do with the kids. In the case of my local center – Lanterns – the library is split into different age groups and can be taken home for a couple of weeks. They even have a ball pit and balls you can borrow!

After a couple of visits to the mum and baby group, it has been great for the Mini Grumpy Egyptian to interact with others her age and for me to meet other mums. The babies get access to the playroom with lots of cushions and toys, as well as a ball pool and sensory room (funky lights!). It is suggested a donation of 1 is made, but as mentioned earlier you won’t be turned away if you don’t have it. They also offer a record book, which I thought was a lovely idea, where you can record your babies milestones and take foot/hand prints as they grow.

To find your local centre, click here.