Last week we were very lucky to be invited along to Motherswork to be introduced to Oribel– an innovative brand of baby accessories and toys that originates in Singapore. It’s not often that the suggestion of MORE toys and stuff to squeeze into our 1200 sq.ft apartment gets me genuinely quite excited – granted not as excited as my kids though, because you know, that’s a big ask – but honestly Oribel might just be a brand I can get on board with…

(click next to see more images or scroll down to keep reading and to enter the giveaway)

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For a start there’s minimal plastic involved which I love. When I had Finn I was determined that the only toys we’d have in the house would have as little plastic and chemical based paints/dyes as possible. Obviously that lasted right up until he started to get interesting and other people kindly gifted him toys to enjoy, but I still hark back to that parental dream occasionally. Usually right when I’m tripping over bits of mass-produced plastic with flashing lights and headache inducing sirens. You know how it is. Oribel, I’m relieved to say, are on board with using as many natural materials as possible, along with easy on the eye colours so the eco-Mama in me feels like I’m slightly back on track to achieving goals. Second big win for me- no floor space required. Well, no more than your kiddie already takes up. The toys stick to the walls and are designed for vertical play (Vertiplay to use the correct terminology). This is a pretty great idea for numerous reasons, the main one being no more stuff on the floor to trip over/vacuum up “accidentally”.  Plus, not only do the toys require as little real estate in your home as is physically possible, but the same principle applies to the traditionally bulkier baby/toddler apparatus- activity stations, teeny tables and highchairs. Everything is designed with apartment dwelling modern families in mind from ensuring every product has multiple purposes to their super compact storage. A third sprog is not currently on the cards, but if he/she was to be, I know exactly who I’d be going straight to for baby-stuff. So now that we’ve established that I’m pretty enamored by this brand, what do the true critics of all things kiddie orientated think?

Over to Finn and Clara…

 

Did you enjoy the Motherswork and Oribel party?

F & C: YES! 

 

What was the best part?

C: I liked the story time with the baby owls, soooo cute!!!

F: I just liked playing, and the donuts. And the cakes with the flags in them, they were deeelicious.

 

And Finn, what was your favourite toy you saw?

F:  Definitely the tree one, the one I have in my bedroom. Yes, that one. It’s really cool isn’t it? And the train, can I have the train too? It’s in the box still Mama.. oh and I liked the rockets too, but they were on the high shelf and you said no so shall I ask Daddy?

 

AHEM. Clara, any favourites?

C: Well I like my owl (the balloon) but it’s not a toy. And it’s running out of air. I liked Foxey as well but we gave her to Austin (a friend) because she loves Foxey’s doesn’t she Mama? 

 

So on the Finn and Clara scale of good, how many thumbs up are we going to award Oribel?

F: (sticking two thumbs up) TWOOOO!!!!!!!

C: (waving both hands manically in my face) why just thumbs Mama? I have fingers too you know! See! Look!

 

Thanks Finn and Clara, I guess that’s as good as feedback gets from a 5 and 3 year old!

 

Want to get your hands on some Oribel? Enter the giveaway below to win a Vertiplay Goofy Moose (as shown below)! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

GOOD LUCK! The winner will be announced across social media and will be contacted directly.

Terms and Conditions of this giveaway:

The competition runs from midday on the 26th April 2017 until midnight on the 7th May 2017 Singapore time. This giveaway is possible thanks to the kind gift of a Vertiplay Goofy Moose from Oribel, however the giveaway is in no way endorsed by Oribel, Motherswork or any other partners. The competition is open worldwide and the winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter. The prize must be claimed within 48 hours of notification of the winner, after which time it will be raffled again. Each entrant has a maximum of three entries to this competition, however multiple family members may enter. Your personal data will only be used for the purpose of this giveaway and will not be passed to any third parties without your permission.

 

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Why I Won't Vote The Expat Mama Blog

Here we go. A snap election has been called and suddenly social media is on fire with pseudo-political statements from people who are just a little bit bored of the same-old conversations, broken promises and gurning grins from the folk in charge. For the most part I’m not a particularly political person, I vote, and I watch all the debates with a glass of wine and bag of Doritos, but that’s about as riled up as I tend to get. I’m part of the generation that grew up watching Tony Blair take us into a war nobody seemed convinced about, we learned an early lesson in sex ed from Bill Clinton, and we’ve endured party leaders breaking all their promises on student loans consequently saddling us with tens of thousands of pounds of debt (Nick Clegg, you are still not forgiven). And now we have to watch as May holds hands with Trump, Brexit is upon us whether we like it or not, and there is not a single party ready to campaign convincingly for a spot at No. 10. And yet, come June 8th, we have to put an X in a box and pin a shaky few years on someone.

I know it might seem a little odd that I – from my lofty tower in Singapore – should be having a crack at the impending doom of political Britain, but I’m still eligible to vote, so I’m still eligible for a whinge. In fact, just trying to vote from outside of the UK is a right pain in the backside. As soon as the news broke I was online and checking if I could still vote, and then how I actually could vote from overseas. The options are limited, and I understand why, but postal votes are dodgy territory (the outrage from fellow Brits here that their votes weren’t counted last general election because they didn’t arrive on time is a clue as to the unreliability of this system). So that leaves me with the options of either voting by proxy, where someone else votes for me, or to travel to the UK and vote myself. As it happens I will be in the UK come polling day so I opted for the latter. Simple, right? WRONG. The application forms for both the proxy vote and the voting in person are fraught with issues, the main one being that you are required to give the UK address at which you lived when you were last registered to vote in the UK. Not your current UK address, albeit a temporary one whilst you are in the UK, but the one you last lived at within the 15 year period in which you are still eligible to claim a vote. An address, for someone living overseas, that is clearly not going to be theirs anymore. That address is where your poll card will be sent to, that’s where you’ll be on the electoral roll for, and that’s where you are expected to cast your vote from. Unless that address has stayed in the family, or you’re very friendly with the people who currently live in it, it’s not exactly a reasonable request. If you have opted to vote by proxy, where you’ll need to find someone to cast your vote for you, you might run into trouble finding that trusted person in a place you lived in up to 15 years ago. Particularly if, for example, the last UK address you were on the electoral roll for was a student house and everyone has moved on with their lives. This address conundrum is also true if you opt to vote yourself, so I am now in the frustrating situation of needing to be in Plymouth to vote at the same time as needing to be in Liverpool (a distance of over 300 miles). I thought we’d all learned a lesson about making people return to former home addresses for political reasons when Mary found herself giving birth in a stable. Seemingly times have not moved on that much, despite the bells and whistles of, you know, the internet.

I feel bad for Barry at Plymouth City Council, he’s one of the nice folk at Council offices up and down the country who are now left to pick up the pieces of a messy system and T-May’s snap decision. I could feel the weight of his weary sigh in his email response to my complaint. For him the next six and a half weeks are going to be a bit shit as he tries to facilitate people’s right to vote. And when we’re all being encouraged more than ever to get out and vote – whether in the UK or not – isn’t it ironic it’s the very system designed to make voting an easier process that’s letting us down in the end? As it looks, I don’t think I will be voting in June. Not because I don’t want to, but to do so would mean a 600 mile round trip, probably an overnight stay somewhere, and a lot of diesel all on the back of a serious dose of jet lag. All of that for one X for someone who wouldn’t make that effort for me, or for anyone else. And that’s what it comes down to, who can I vote for who would go out of their way to stick up for and support me? Right now Barry gets my vote. He’s the only person I’ve come across who is showing an ounce of empathy and understanding for the British electorate. I want to say the next six weeks are going to be very interesting indeed, but without my usual Dimbleby and Doritos (or decent people at the forefront of British politics) I fear it’s going to be a rather boring build up with a complete anticlimax- the 2017 version. 

(Feature Image: Pinterest)

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Mothers Day Gift List

I promise I’m not writing this post with anyone in particular in mind. Oh how she lies. If any of these goodies end up my way on 14th May, then I definitely won’t be disappointed (HINT, Karl, this is a hint). This is the first year that we almost entirely ignored Mothering Sunday in the UK and have decided to go with the local Mothers Day celebration instead. For a brief moment I thought I’d managed to wangle two celebrations of me, but no. And so, with three weeks to go until the big day I’m sharing some lovely ideas I have in mind for all the hard-working and much deserving Mama’s I know, with not one sad looking bunch of roadside garage flowers in sight…

 

Artifact Uprising Mothers Day Gift Idea

Okay, so nothing exactly groundbreaking here. But in the days of smartphones and social media, do we ever print off photographs and store them in an actual album? Rarely, if ever, I’d suggest. My Mum was so disciplined when we were kids printing off photo’s, sticking them into our childhood albums with little notes underneath about where they were taken and when. Me? I just whack them on Insta with a moderately witty caption and forget about the joy of pawing through hardback albums in years to come. If you, like me, are a bit crap at this parenting goal then let’s all praise the gods of the internet for bestowing upon us the modern photo album- the photo book. It’s somewhere between a stylish coffee table book and a record of all things childhood/parenting related. There’s loads of websites offering photo books, but one I’m particularly taken with (and offers international delivery) is US based Artifact Uprising as not only do they create objects of beauty from the faces of my children and my on the hoof photography style, but their products are jam-packed full of recycled and reclaimed materials. All the wins! Get a shuffle on though- you need to order by 27th April for Mothers Day delivery.

 

Want to wear you heart on your, erm, chest? I love this t-shirt from The FMLY Store in the UK. They do a range of T’s and sweatshirts with various parenting related slogans, but We Are All Wonder Women is probably my favourite (right now, anyway). It just sends…the right message, you know? Plus, buying this means £10 going to MOTHERS2MOTHERS who “employ, train and empower mothers living with HIV, called Mentor Mothers, to end paediatric AIDS”. This would also make a brilliant present for the woman who is  a mother-figure but not the mother, someone who should be celebrated but without pastel hued flowers and naff poems about a mothers love. You know the woman. International shipping available.

 

Buying for the lady who doesn’t need more stuff, she just needs a massive hug, or at the very least to be told she’s a total superstar smashing her way through life/pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding/motherhood? Since moving to Singapore and having something of a maternal wobble I’ve started using yesmum affirmation cards to remind myself that in doing the best that I can I’m doing enough, one card at a time. With cards for every step of the motherhood journey these would make a great present for someone who doesn’t want a big fuss made of her, but she’d love the reminder she’s acing life right now. And, at only £10.50 a pack they’re as affordable as they are thoughtful. Of course international shipping is available (and, for what it’s worth, the packaging gets a big thumbs up too).

 

Bit more of a pricey gift, but the personalised necklaces from Rina Oliveira are absolute beauty’s. Word of warning though- if you have kiddies with arms that are flung around your neck with off the scale enthusiasm, this necklace is very delicate and may well break (speaking from experience). However, for the Mama with older kiddies or even for a Glam-Mother, then this is such a sweet gift. There are multiple options for personalising with one or two initials and various different metals available so there’s something to suit everyone. But seriously, it is very delicate, so you have been warned. International shipping comes as standard.A certain level of knowing someone is required to give/receive Cowshed products, particularly women, particularly those who are sleep deprived mothers. But if you’re not totally without a sense of humour and can appreciate the simple pleasure of a hot bath and a scented candle then this is for you. Or her. Depending on who you’re actually buying for this Mothers Day. I was introduced to Knackered Cow by a dear friend just after I’d given birth to Finn, and ever since then I’ve had a soft spot for this scent. In fact I bought my Mum a set of bath smellies from this range at Christmas. She feigned offence for about two seconds, then had a good whiff and was a convert to the Knackered Cow Club. I want to say it’s a very exclusive collective of women, but really it’s most of us- sprog or not. For free international delivery buy from ASOS.

 

Chocolate is almost always going to be the ultimate gift. But let’s step things up a notch here. I’m not talking about a half price Thorno’s selection, or even splashing out on a pink box of truffles. No, no. I’m talking about a chocolate subscription. Chocolates delivered, every month, to the door of your beloved. Quite literally how to keep her sweet. Cocoa Runners offer a very grown up selection and (best news EVER), the subscription can be delivered internationally for just over £20 a month. Besides, Mama’s are worth celebrating more than just one day a year. Am I right, or am I right?

 

I’m absolutely NOT going to suggest anyone read a cheesy motherhood book. In general they make me want to be sick in my mouth. They are quite possibly one of the worst things to happen to modern day mothers. Us normal women will never, ever compare to the beautiful ladies with intact fanny’s and clean swooshy hair. Honest observations about the shittiness and wonderment of motherhood are okay though. And when I was a breastfeeding hermit it was the likes of Hollie who persuaded me and my bountiful tits to come out into the sunshine. A pick up/put down book of poetry is a thoughtful gift for the Mama who only sits to feed babies and change nappies. Waterstones ship internationally.

 

The countdown is officially ON! Remember ladies and gents, 14th May is Mothers Day, order by 28th April for most international shipping to get to you in time (I hold no responsibility for individual postage times or methods).

All in all I’m wishing all the brilliant women of the world a very happy Mothers Day!

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Marital Bliss and Single Parenthood

To all the women and men who are left behind.

The work widows and widowers.

The one’s who live somewhere between marital bliss and single parenthood.

 

We’re now forty eight hours into a two week trip. He’s in America. I’m still at home in Singapore. Two weeks isn’t that long, I know, and there are plenty of families that go for far longer without a loved one due to their job. But this is us, and our story, and the fact it is a lesser time apart than others manage doesn’t make it any less trying.

My husband has always worked away for periods of time, it’s nothing new for us and I’ve already talked about how the dynamic of our marriage works thanks to his job. I enjoy having brief periods of respite from him, as he does from me. I remember, well vaguely anyway, having a red wine soaked late night conversation with a writer several years ago about love. He had recently had a book published but broken up with his girlfriend, and I was in the middle of something that Facebook would term “it’s complicated”. To cut a long story short, and several bottles later, I decided that I couldn’t possibly love someone if I never missed them (please keep in mind I was twenty one, in an unwelcome web of student emotions and fueled mainly on cheap wine). The writer went on to have several more books published and now writes for national newspapers about sex. I on the other hand graduated, broke up with the head/heart breaker, got a job, met my husband and popped out a baby. We both had a fairly busy few years after THAT night.

And now here I am, a part-time wife, full-time Mum and managing just fine.

For those of us stood watching as the suitcase comes out again, the frantic search for the passport commences and time zones are roughly calculated, missing the person leaving us behind isn’t our overriding emotion. Maybe it would be if I had time but I don’t. I have children to comfort and reassure, food to put on the table, bottoms to wipe and normality to maintain. What good would I be moping around missing my husband? What message would that send my kids? Sure, we talk about missing him, and the first twenty four hours after he goes is always fraught with emotions seen and unseen. Clara tends to turn into a cling-on, never leaving my side at any point, sweetly telling me that she “just needs to snuggle”. Finn on the other hand tends to worry, which in turn manifests into toilet related accidents and lashing out. But twenty four hours of constant love, gentle words of comfort and reassurance is all it takes before normality is restored. Our alternative normality anyway. The one in which I am a single-parent and Daddy is a figure on the other end of the phone. The version of life where there is no team-mate to share the burden of childcare, housework and day-to-day worries. And although it is a temporary state it is no less worthy of acknowledgment.

To complicate matters is the the fact that we are now overseas and can’t just decamp to my parents for home comforts (and free babysitting). That was, I’m not even ashamed to admit, my go-to coping strategy when Karl had to go away for work and I was left with teething, toilet training, crying kiddies to deal with. It’s not an option now though is it? Now I’m part of a very exclusive club of expat spouses who not only pack up lives and start again overseas, but they can hold their shit together long enough that the breadwinner can head off for days, weeks, months at a time all in the name of work. And I suppose that is why this trip feels like such a turning point for us all. It is the first trip that has taken Karl away for more than a few days since we’ve lived in Singapore. It is the first trip where he’s further than a few hours journey home in an emergency. It’s his first trip where I really am left at home in charge of everything and everyone with no husband or parents to turn to in an emotional or parental wobbly moment.

It’s another first for us and our expat adventure, not one that I’m particularly enamoured by, but one which is part of our journey none the less. So whilst Karl is off taking in the sights of some corporate hotel suites and airport lounges across America, I’ll be here just trying to figure out what to cook for dinner that involves adequate nutrition for growing children, but not too much washing up for a frazzled mother. You know, the normal stuff.

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In our fifth installment of The Expat Mama meets… we head down under for a chat with Olivia of The Wilsons of Oz (if you’re considering upping sticks with your family for the sunnier shores of Australia, this blog needs to be you go-to). The blogger, instagrammer (@the_wilsons_of_oz) and expat mama is now mid-way through a four year stint in Australia with her husband and two young kiddies (and is on city number two), so knows a thing or two about settling and resettling in a new country. And, with a limit on their time in ‘straya, the family is already pondering their next great adventure (very excited by the foodie/wino/insta-friendly destination being considered right now….).

 

So Olivia, where are you from, where do you live now, and how long do you plan on staying?

My husband and I and our two children Poppy (8) and Monty (4) left Somerset in the UK in 2015 with the intention of only staying in Australia for 4 years (the length of our visa) then we would look at possibly moving a little closer to home. Italy perhaps; we all adore Italy, mostly for the dreamy sunsets and the ice cream. We moved our family to Melbourne in December last year as it was a good chance for us to experience a little more of what Australia has to offer. We decided after nearly two years in Sydney that we should jump at the chance of life in another Australian city. So here we are.

 

What made you move?

When Mr W was offered a job in Sydney back in 2014, we were pretty excited. We had never properly considered Australia as an option as we had never been here and didn’t really know what to expect; we knew instantly however that this was too good an opportunity to miss out on.

 

What has your experience been like so far?

We all adore our life here in the southern hemisphere. We love the laid back lifestyle, the beach being on our doorstep, the weather being pretty awesome nearly all of the time. The fact that we can travel to Asia, the Pacific Islands, and all sorts of exotic places much more easily than if we were at home is also a huge plus for us. It’s so far removed from our life in sleepy Somerset, it’s hard to remember what we used to do. Australia is so incredibly different from what we had imagined. Just the distances between places has been a shock to the system. Australia is huge!

 

What has surprised you most about your move?

Daily life is very different to home. We are intrepid explorers, we have become real beach bums, and have a new found love of fast food, much to my horror! (I know, cringe!) The fast food available to us here is crazy, and I’m shocked at just how easily it ends up in our mouths. We would never have popped out for fast food at home, so I have no idea why we do it here! I blame “embracing aussie life”, because I have to blame something! Luckily, we have a good healthcare system here; however, it can be pricey if you don’t have the right health insurance package. Having been so used to the wonderful NHS the cost did come as a shock to us, but we have had great care so far, so I guess that’s the most important thing!

 

How does Australia compare to your home country in terms of quality of life, family benefits, career prospects, healthcare and opportunities for women? 

On our visa we aren’t entitled to any family benefits, or government subsidies, I’m not sure we were at home either having said that! It makes sense to me that we aren’t really entitled to much, as we have only been paying into the Australian system for two years. I think it really varies according to visa types, but don’t quote me on that!
Moving to Australia has thrown up a few challenges for me personally. I’m still not convinced about the education system compared to the UK. I know a lot of people complain about the British system failing their children, however, I truly believe we have had to sacrifice a great education in the UK for, dare I say it, a mediocre one here. (please don’t judge me….) It might just be a case of getting used to the differences, I’m not sure though. NSW is very different to Victoria, so give me a few more months and I’ll let you know how the kids are getting on. We are now in “The Education State” so fingers crossed. Children seem to start school later here if the parents want them too. This means that my sons Prep teacher has a class of 4,5 and 6 year olds. Seems like a huge age range to me. This throws up many conversations around the dinner table of where we go for the kid’s high school and whether or not we need to move again. I am a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason,” and I truly believe regardless of the classroom education my children are getting, (which isn’t dreadful) just the expat life is enough of a lesson for them. That, and the opportunity to play sport like a pro!!

 

What has been the biggest challenge?

I think the homesickness has been the biggest challenge for me, and I guess for my daughter too. We miss our friends, grandparents, and I miss the free babysitting…. Yes, the biggest challenge for me, living here, has to be the distance from all our loved ones. 24 hours at least in the air to get home isn’t ideal, and neither is Skype when Monty just repeats the word “fart” over and over again, and Poppy always hogs the camera. You can never have a “proper” conversation over the internet I don’t think, and I really struggle with that! The time difference doesn’t help. We’re 11 hours ahead of the UK at the moment, so I only ever speak to my mum when she’s eating her breakfast in her pyjama’s and I’m shattered, and drinking wine! I find myself making friends, but at the same time holding back, trying not to get too close as I know how hard it is to leave them. It sounds crazy I know, but expat life is a little weird at times.

 

Would you recommend Australia to someone else?

Having said all of that, I would always recommend people to give Australia, and in particular Melbourne a go. Australia is a beautiful country, with endless things to explore. Melbourne is vibrant, funky, super kid friendly, and has been voted the “most liveable city in the world”, so why wouldn’t you come here if the opportunity arose? I truly feel blessed to be here; to be able to walk around a city like Melbourne, with everything at our fingertips, to pop to the beach and see a seal sunbathing, to paddle board above huge stingray, to travel such a diverse country, is such a wonderful treat.

 

What one piece of advice would you give someone who is thinking of moving to Australia?

My advice to anyone wishing to make the move to the lucky country is ‘do it!’ If you don’t do it now, you’ll never do it. Life is short, and there are so many adventures waiting to be taken, so why not start now, move a little further out of your comfort zone, and be enchanted by what you find!

 

If you enjoyed reading about Olivia’s adventures so far, why not pop over to her blog and give her a follow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more?

 

And, if you liked this then why not read more The Expat Mama meets… stories?

Want to be featured on The Expat Mama meets? Simply drop me an email at hello@theexpatmama.com and introduce yourself!

 

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