When you decide that the swimsuit you wore to the beach during the day ☀️ would make a great top for your OOTN✨! #arabfashionweek
Sometimes you have to look back to realize how far or where you’ve come and today when I accidentally scrolled up too far in the sent photos section of WhatsApp while chatting on a family group, I landed on some old pics of my daughters and realized how much they’ve changed (mostly how my eldest has transitioned from chubby baby to opinionated little girl!) in what felt like a time and space I missed – even though I’m certain I was there pretty much all the time!
It’s in moments like this that I’m forced to have a bit of an out-of-body experience and reflect on the fact that my kids are growing up much faster than I’m able to catch-up and it’s then that I start questioning whether caught in the day-to-day grind trying to satisfy their (and my) ever morphing needs (and thank you move for making this even more intractable) I’m perhaps losing perspective and losing the delicate balance between my needs and my family’s. Despite my best efforts, it seems that every time I go through that mentally tortuous exercise (which often starts through an old cute picture!) I end up thinking the balance is tilting one way or the other more than it should and I start micro-planning solutions around this… those solutions often involve planning and slicing my time into more pieces to address all the things I and they want to do… the problem is both those lists keep on growing and I keep on thinking one of them is going to shrink to give way to the other! + hey sorry to break-it to all the second-time-around moms, the synergies of having gone through it once do have serious limits, as the second kid can be very different then the first and you may have some completely new experiences / challenges with them (for instance I never had to deal with unruly curly hair with my eldest!) Of course, despite my best planning, it seems that with so many things, not everything gets done exactly as I saw it in my planner…
Perhaps nowhere is this tension between their needs, my husband’s and mine more apparent then during the weekend, when we’ve resolved that it’s important for us to recharge both separately and together. All it takes sometimes, is one incident that creates a domino effect on all the rest of the carefully planned day and there goes the whole balance… For example, we plan a day carefully designed around a nice car ride with music, lovely brunch with friends, stroll in the park and an afternoon relaxing on the beach / going for a run… this can turn out to become a shouting fest by fussy toddler in the car seat from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (bye bye Seascrest top 40), an ‘à table’ juice fight between my usually white but then turned orange daughters at the bewildered sight of our single friends (who are likely to stay single for a while after this!), and a miracle tantrum at Dubai’s Miracle Gardens by my eldest over not finding the perfect lollipop! So much time gets wasted of course dealing with those unexpected events and even more time when we try to stick to principles. I mean obviously if I settle to their every demand (and my husband often voices the let’s save the rest of the day argument) or don’t hold them accountable to their actions, things would go faster but am I not hurting my future self there too? That day I didn’t give in and hey I missed the beach and my husband missed his run… oh well not sure I made the right choice there 😜
Of course (and perhaps that’s a blessing somehow) those self-assessment episodes only last for so long (because I only have so long before I’m interrupted by either a cute moment: “Maman regarde cette coquine dit “Tigre”; ENG: “Mom look this naughty one says “Tiger”! or a disaster “Maman cette coquine descent les escaliers toute seule! Regarde elle peut! Je lui ai ouvert la barrière! Laisse-la!; ENG: “Mom, look this naughty one is going down the stairs! Look she’s doing it by herself! I opened the gate for her! Let her do it!”… Moi 😱
I’m not sure if I’m balancing right but surprisingly as time passes I’m becoming less vulnerable to realizations that I’m actually not always balancing perfectly… it’s a sort of a gradual peace-making with my limitations or realization that my trying to control everything ultimately circles back to create even more frustrations that I lack control over. So perhaps the best balance one can achieve is to accept without frustration or too much resistance that “something’s gotta give” and that from time to time the coloring is going to go outside the lines… but that despite that your life can still be beautiful.
The past few months have been very hectic for my family as we’re planning yet another move! A beach break however was a must prior to putting in motion all the planned logistics leading to our new home destination. Our first stop was Sardinia where I got inspiration from the local colors to style my OOTDs and enjoyed blending into the organic & rustic decor…
Whether directly from a chimney, a street vendor or even the oven, roasted kastana (arabic & greek for chestnuts) are guaranteed to transport you to cosy land, bringing back fond memories of prior times you gathered around a chimney with family and friends and most importantly they will warm you up!
As I’ve already discussed in a previous post about nuts, chestnuts are also a great source of fiber which lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease. Kastana is a great option for an afternoon snack on a cold day and complements an afternoon tea very nicely.
While people often go for the marron glacé version during the holiday season, i’m not a fan from a nutrition perspective as they’re pumped with sugar (but I won’t deny that the marron glacé deserts can be quite delicious, so perhaps limit those unhealthy versions to very special occasions (e.g. over the holidays in a bûche de Noël / Yule log)). If you’re really looking to try a healthy variation from the classic roasted version, remember that chestnuts can be eaten raw – they will have a different texture (crunchier / harder) and the taste will be a bit stronger, but I find they make a great addition to a drink (warm or cold).
Of course, for the ultimate experience, you have to pop on this tune while you enjoy your kastana!
There’s a pub in my neighborhood called The Anglesea Arms, as soon as there’s a shred of sunlight, its terrace gets flooded with drink and sun-seekers… the mood in it is often contagious and the crowds overflow to the streets. One way or the other I end up passing by this place on weekend afternoons with my family and just as my eldest is throwing some sort of fit and my baby daughter is demanding to be held…My husband and I inevitably look at the crowds, then each other and grimace a nervous resigned smile and keep on strolling our two kids away into a non-pub / kids friendly environment. I’m sure many mommies out there have that place in their neighborhood, which just like The Anglesea Arms, is the constant reminder of how much their lives have changed since they used to hang out carelessly sipping a drink with friends at a bar terrace on a weekend morning. These days my weekend ritual starts, not much later after the last Anglesea Arms enthusiasts are forced to go home, inaugurated by my morning alarm / aka my 3 year-old daughter shouting in my ear: “maman j’ai faim! / mommy i’m hungry!” (an earlier stint occurs as well sometimes, while Anglesea Arms revelers are probably counting down their shots, by my daughter shouting “maman, pipi!”)… So she’s got my attention, I remove all the bed linens and open the garden door to let in the freezing air to force my husband out of bed to help. I head to the kitchen to prepare my toddler’s breakfast and then head back to the bedroom to find that my husband has still managed to stay asleep and before I get a chance to say a word, inevitably, baby # 2 starts crying and I have to go breastfeed her. It’s at that time that my husband usually wakes up and passes by the nursery to ask me what we’re going to do today and it’s usually at that point that my baby # 2 burps all over me and that my daughter starts shouting from the kitchen that she wants more Cheerios…
Despite the increasingly grey and wet weather in London these days, I refuse however to be imprisoned at home over the weekends caught in attending to one then the other or acrobatically attending to both and generally find that it’s easier to distract the kids outside the house so I endeavor to make my best to head out of the house as soon as possible. There’s of course a lot to get done for that to happen: showers x 4, getting dressed x 4, etc… Slowly but surely however we do head out (I’m glad to report that we hit a 10am record yesterday!) + 2 strollers and having gone through our 100 items checklist of things we need to have done or need with us on the go… On our way, we often pass by The Anglesea Arms again, which by then is of course empty and my husband and I stare at the place, our well-groomed and calm kids, then stare at each other, take a deep breath of fresh air and unreservedly smile and keep on strolling into our new parent identities…
A couple of months ago, amid the chaos of our post-baby#2 summer London move, my husband announced to me that his October vacation request was approved. It was his attempt to cheer me up at the end of a long hectic day while I was still trying to put to bed a restless newborn. My initial reaction: Traveling with a breastfed baby and a restless tot? Thanks but no thanks… it was just impossible for me to picture through tantrums and colic how traveling would be anything but exhausting.
Sales pitch: (1) only way to break the exhausting homebuilding ride I had embarked on; (2) keep my older daughter entertained during her October mid-term break; and (3) to compensate for not being able to head to a beach destination in the summer because of the move logistics.
I was sold on (2) and set myself deadlines for things I wanted to achieve at home before our departure and started planning the trip trying to balance making it as kids friendly as possible while still making it enjoyable for my husband and I… still, I wasn’t very thrilled.
Before we knew it, 2 months had passed and we were off to the airport, a kid strapped to my husband, another holding my hand + 3 travel bags, a car seat and of course my Coco Cocoon bag / diaper bag.
Bad Start: After going through the painful airport security checks with our two kids, we decided to grab breakfast… my toddler was restless and the infant was crying and when I tasted the ‘yogurt’ and granola I had ordered for my daughter I discovered they gave her mayonnaise and granola! To say the least I was already ready to head back home by then, but somehow I managed to keep calm and go on (well maybe the waiter there might disagree with the keep calm part).
Surprisingly the Plan Worked: Much to my surprise and delight however, after this initial hiccup, things started lining up and the vacation was a success to both parents and kids. Having been back for a couple of days and had the chance to reflect on how we pulled this off, here’s what I think are the key components for a successful trip with your kids and hopefully this will convince you not to always rush to your parents/in-laws to drop your kids before heading on vacation!
Planning, planning, planning…
Destination: The key is to minimize being on the go with the kids as they will get exhausted and in consequence will exhaust you through whining and having to deal with their many needs in unexpected places (changing diapers and breastfeeding while hiking or just visiting touristic sites + museums in a new city is therefore not the best idea). You want to be somewhere where you can enter into a comfortable vacation routine to address your kids’ needs (fun, food, sleep and WC) without that becoming stressful to you. We chose to go to the Maldives and stop on each way in Dubai. Despite the fact that there was some long and varied traveling involved (by land, air and sea…as we had to go far to find sunshine in October), we thought that this was balanced out by the fact that we planned for a very kids friendly environment to await us in each destination.
In the Maldives, we chose a resort that has a kids club and thankfully we got lucky as we found a local babysitter we were able to quickly trust with both our kids. We would therefore drop off both kids with her at the kids club in the morning and get some time for ourselves while knowing that they are safe and being entertained. The kids club was managed almost like a pre-school and they had a daily schedule of activities. At the end of each day my toddler would come back with different arts and crafts achievements and many stories about the different activities they did (from a crab race, to visiting the turtles at the turtles conservation program at the hotel to feeding the fish in the ocean…).
Of course, we would pull them out from time to time during the day to spend time and play with us at the beach or pool. My toddler loved the formula and would wake up looking forward to seeing her friends at the kids club while we were grateful to be able to relax, listen to music and read our magazines (we had left our books back home as we thought we wouldn’t get a chance to read at all but perhaps in retrospect we could have managed a bit of reading…) It was also amazing to see how our own patience and interaction with the kids would change once we had the ability to relax a bit between playtimes with them. By the time we saw them again, we were recharged and ready to go build that sand castle or splash in the pool. The balance of solo relaxation and family quality time was just perfect.
In Dubai, both the hotels we stayed in and my main shopping destination there (The Dubai Mall) were also very kids friendly and had enough to keep us and the kids entertained. I was particularly thrilled to be able to leave my daughter for a bit at a kids club in the mall as well where she did some arts and crafts while I got a chance to really shop (vs. the running after her in stores and apologizing to the salespeople which is what my shopping experience sometimes turns to with her). She then joined me and hopped on a pushable car-type stroller, which she loved and kept her distracted. The mall also had regular strollers which we took advantage of for the baby.
Packing light, packing right: As a fashion lover, I always found it hard to pack light. I like to bring lots of options! This time around, I was realistic about the number of outfits I would pull off with the kids and favored the practical + kids friendly options since I knew I would end up opting for those anyways once there. A stylish familly vacation wardrobe should make you feel voguish without sacrificing comfort as your time spent there will involve dealing with kids, hence running, jumping, sliding, floating, splashing, carrying them around, breastfeeding…
Expectations: The fact that I had low expectations to start with and anticipated a trip revolving around the kids was key in feeling that it was a success at the end and in making me appreciate the amount of adult time we ended up having (which was much more than what I had anticipated). If I had embarked on this expecting to have something more similar to the kind of trip we used to have pre-kids I would certainly have been disappointed… therefore expectations (here & pretty much regarding everything else in life) are key to satisfaction.
So start planning your next family vacation and take the challenge of not dropping your kids off with your parents/in-laws before traveling!