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  • Writer's pictureEllie Hamilton

It’s 2021 finally…can the madness stop now?

Here we are, a New Year and a fresh start, now we just need someone to tell COVID that so it can seriously just do one! As I write this new post, the UK have just been placed into lockdown 3.0 and watching it unfold I feel your frustration and it’s giving me anxiety, so to my family and friends over there I am sending you all the virtual hugs that I can muster, and I miss you terribly!

Haven’t done a post in a few months now and it’s not that I haven’t been motivated, I’ve been wanting to write one, but I’ve been pretty occupied with other things. I’ve thrown myself into doing lots of Muscat Mums stuff (more on that later) and also making the most of being able to be out and about with Emma now. However, I had a quiet word with myself over the festive period and promised I would smash one of these out, so here it goes…

Since my last post at the end of August, a lot has happened. We went to the Shangri-La (a few times), had my birthday, went back into night lockdown, went on some dates with Mr H, started potty training, celebrated Halloween, Emma went to the park and the supermarket for the first time in 8 months, celebrated our first Christmas and New Year in Muscat and Emma had her 3rd birthday.

The Covid situation here now is relatively stable. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been averaging 80 cases a day and only 2-3 deaths. Case numbers are starting to creep up slightly (190 cases today), but that is inevitable with more people travelling into the sultanate and Christmas/New Year celebrations.

It is still mandatory that we wear masks everywhere, and there is a 20 OMR penalty (£40) if you don’t where your mask in public. This rule has been in place since April last year, so it's become the new normal.

Pretty much all commercial activities are running again, and I had a huge sigh of relief on 30 November when they announced that children under 12 could now go to supermarkets and malls and they also reopened the parks and beaches so Emma and I could finally get our freedom back.

As I mentioned earlier Oman went into a night lockdown on 11 October for two weeks meaning no movement between 8pm – 5am, which I think helped with reducing the numbers. The Oman government seem to be pretty hot on the case from preventing the spread for example when the news of the new strain of COVID was announced in the UK, Oman shut it’s borders on 22 December for one week, meaning no one in and no one out. It ruined a lot of people’s Christmas plans, but they did what they felt was necessary.

The Pfizer vaccine has arrived over here and the first person to be vaccinated was the Oman Minister of Health. Like the UK they are focusing on vaccinating front-line workers and those most vulnerable first and it has yet to be announced when we might be in line, but fingers crossed it won’t be too long.

In September we went to the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort. It was brilliant to have a change of scenery and a little bit of luxury and I am fully aware of how fortunate we are to live so close to a resort like this. On our first trip, there were a few hiccups which we did feedback to the hotel and they kindly invited us back again in October to rectify the issues that happened. The October trip was AMAZING and we had such a relaxing time. The food at their Italian restaurant, Capri Court, was gorgeous and it definitely made up for the reservations we had from our first visit. We went for another visit in the limbo period between Christmas and New Year and the hotel looked after us so well. They even knew it was Emma’s birthday coming up (I’m still trying to work out how) and they made her the most beautiful unicorn cake. We went to their Bait Al Bar restaurant which is located overlooking the beach and it is so serene and tranquil. We both had the steak which was cooked to perfection and the pool bar at their Al Waha Hotel also make a cracking margarita. Suffice to say it’s one of our favourite locations in Muscat as it feels like you are on holiday, but it’s 25 minutes from your doorstep.

The last week of September we made the fourth attempt at potty training with Emma. We had got in the habit of sitting Emma on the potty every morning and at night before bed and when she was at the point of going for a wee every time morning and night, we started with a sticker chart, which worked a dream. After a few weeks we were at the point of being able to go out of the house with no pull ups and that was the case for a number of weeks, but then we hit a regression point and Emma started weeing in her knickers before realising she needed the toilet, so we were having to change her knickers/clothes every time she needed the toilet, and the pull-ups came back into play. As of today (4 Jan), I have created another sticker chart and it is already (touch wood) doing the trick.

I would like to point out that potty training is so far one of my least favourite bits of parenthood…anyone else with me? I’m truly grateful that we have marble flooring though.

Staying on the subject of Emma, just before Christmas she went through a phase of itching her legs and arms to the point where she was breaking the skin, so, like any concerned parent, we took her to the doctor. One of the benefits of healthcare out here is you don’t need to have your phone on redial at 7.30am in the morning to get a doctor’s appointment, we can just WhatsApp Emma’s doctor for an appointment and go in on the same day. Emma’s doctor seemed thorough and prescribed some creams, some antihistamine, and another product to bathe her in. She also stressed to us that we should get a food intolerance test done, now in hindsight (which is always a beautiful thing), we should have said ‘lets just see how the other products work first’. However, when a doctor is advising you to get something done and you are concerned for your child, you do it. The next day we got the test done (which cost us a lovely 265 OMR aka £500) and were told the results would come back in 10 days. Fast forward a week later and the itching had stopped, so we put it down to Emma’s bath products being the cause and I thought nothing more of it. I then got a call from the doctor asking me to come in as the food intolerance test had come up with a few things. As I sat down at the doctors in anticipation, she handed me the result booklet which stated that

Emma was intolerant to wheat, gluten, barley, diary, eggs, peas, oranges, and a host of other things. The doctor said I should cut these foods out of Emma’s diet for 2 months…I wanted to cry, in fact, when I got in the car I did.

This was going to be a huge lifestyle change for Emma and also seemed really unfair for her. I also couldn’t quite get my head around the fact that the itching had stopped and yet the test had shown all these intolerances, especially milk which Emma has had everyday since she was one. I returned home and messaged some friends and our parents for advice as to what to do. We also did some research into food intolerance tests which are actually not recommended by British Dietary Association as there is no scientific evidence that these tests are correct.

The course of action was rather than go down the drastic route of completely changing Emma’s diet I decided to keep a food diary for her, which has turned out to be really useful and has made us realise that Emma has an intolerance to Oranges including Orange juice. So, the lessons we learnt from this…unless it’s urgent, do a little bit of research and try out the initial course of action first.

I also want to publicly say thank you to my lovely NCT friends who are always on hand for advice and I'm not sure what I would do without our little WhatsApp group!

Christmas has been and gone already, but apart from the fact we weren’t celebrating with family or friends we had a brilliant first Christmas in Muscat, it was still a little odd listening to ‘Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let is Snow’ whilst it was 24 degrees, but we made it magical for Emma.

In turn she made Christmas magical for us too as it was the first one where she had a scooby as to who Santa was and she gave us all the feels on Christmas day when she saw her presents around the tree.

We spent Christmas day at the Crowne Plaza in Qurum, the views there are always stunning, however we were put on the only table which was not shaded and it didn’t take too long before Danny and I were roasting like little pigs in blankets. After about 45 minutes the manager came to rectify the problem and set up a new table in a shaded area and by way of apology offered us a complimentary brunch on New Year’s Day which did make up for the fact that my make up had slipped off my face at this point. The food itself was a brunch set up and they had all the traditional western Christmas food i.e. turkey, beef, pork, Yorkshire puddings, Brussel sprouts etc. Was it as good as a home cooked Christmas roast…no (you tell me a place that is), but it was still really tasty and it was nice not to have to do the washing up!

As I mentioned earlier, Muscat Mum’s (MM) has been taking up a fair amount of my time over the past few months. If you haven’t read my earlier blogs I took on the Chair role for MM in the Summer last year by default, but it has been really great to take on another hat apart from just being ‘Emma’s mum’. MM is a non-profit support network for mum’s in Muscat and currently has over 150 members. They have a range of resources including a toy library where you can hire toys every month, a book library where you can borrow books and pre covid we also ran playgroups and large events. Due to not being able to host our annual Christmas event we decided to create Christmas kits for people to purchase which included a personalised video message from Santa and they were extremely popular. There is a bi-weekly coordinators meeting which has been amazing at feeling connected with other mum’s and something which I have looked forward too.

To end the blog on a positive I am so proud of what I have achieved throughout 2020. It was probably one of the most challenging years of my life (and many other people’s too). But it wasn’t all bad as I...

  • Managed to keep my daughter thoroughly entertained for 5 months when we were trapped in doors.

  • Found a love for HIIT workouts and since April worked out 4-5 times a week consistently which made a big impact on my mental health.

  • Took on the challenge with Muscat Mum’s and met some lovely people through it.

  • Reconnected with friends and through the wonders of technology. I have seen one friend (virtually) more than we have seen each other in the last 5 years and I love catching up over a cup of tea, even if we are thousands of miles apart.

  • Successfully binge watched a number of series on Netflix (I see this as a positive)…anyone else got through Bridgerton in lightning speed?!?

  • Feel exceptionally lucky to have the life that we have and the people who are in it.

Will leave it on that note as it has been a bit of a long one, but will be back in March until then, fingers crossed that, that light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter.

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