The Christmas Decoration Debate!

So when exactly is it ‘PC’ to start putting up Christmas Decorations? When I was a child, my mom made us wait until December 15th before putting up the tree and then she made us wait until January 15th before taking it down. I never could quite understand this and she never quite explained it either.

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Now it has become a tradition in my household to wait for the first week of December to set up the tree and decor, and pull everything down on the first weekend into the new year. Last year I managed to escape the madness slightly. You see, we went home for Christmas and I was able to convince my kids, 6yr, 4yr, 2.5yr at the time, that if we put the tree up in Kuwait, then all the presents will end up there on Christmas morning and we’ll be in SA with none, so they wonderfully agreed to only have one tree up, the one in SA, which saved me soooooooo much prepping, unpacking, cleaning and packing up.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of the year and very special to our family, but I also enjoyed the opportunity to skip out on a little extra holiday work. Guilty!

And far be it for me to judge on what is too early or too late but I most certainly had a bit of a giggle when my sister-in-law posted that her Christmas decor was going up on November 1st. And just a week ago my friend announced that Christmas had thrown up in her house. My American friends argue that you need to get through Thanksgiving first. It really did get me thinking about when exactly is the ‘right’ time to set up and take down.

I suppose it really doesn’t matter, but there’s no denying that this is a special time of year. For Christians, Christmas is centered around the birth and life of Christ and is celebrated among loved ones. For non-Christians it’s simply a time to cherish those around you. You can feel the love in the air, and you can feel the power of that love with a tangible strength in the echoes of choirs and carols singers.

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Many people ask me what Christmas is like in Kuwait. Well, I can tell you that yes, they do sell trees, and yes, they have some lovely decorations around. It does lack a little bit of the magic that can only come from those big Christmas afternoons with the whole extended family, but at the end of the day Christmas in any country is what YOU make it. What’s in YOUR heart will be revealed in the kind of Christmas you experience.

I will post again about Christmas in December, when our tree goes up, and about the  magical little gems I find at the stores.

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But I’m curious, which of you are? The ‘wait as long as you can before putting up the tree’ like me, or the ‘is October to early to set up’, do let us know in the comments below.

Happy to kick off the Holiday posts 🙂

la

 

Side Note: Keeping with the American line, Katie’s tradition is to start Christmas songs the day after Thanksgiving (aka Black Friday) and decorate that Saturday – So we know where she stands. HoHoHo!

 

 

A few pixels at time

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Have you ever been through a time in your life when you were being consistently challenged to pursue things you were not confident you would be able to make happen? Fake it ’til you make it right? Well, this is the season I’m walking in write now. Things are changing, big things are coming, I can feel it. Lindy-Ann and I have seen so much growth in each other and our community over the past year (shout out to all our awesome photogs who are making their dreams happen!) and there is more to come…seriously I can feel it in my bones!

Truth be told, it’s exciting, overwhelming, and a little scary all at the same time.

It’s stretching me that’s for sure, and I am still processing it, mostly verbally in true Katie style. (Thank you for listening family and friends!!)

It’s that moment when you are doing what you are supposed to do and it’s good, maybe even really good, but there is an ache for something else. Hear me here, I am not saying it’s “a grass is always greener” scenario, but it is the need to do more. The tug on your heart that says, “keep moving forward, grow, evolve.”

We have all heard the sayings that “life’s a journey” and “it’s all about the process,” IT’S TRUE!  If we are not growing and stretching ourselves we are not meeting our full potential. Especially as a creatives, staying stagnant leads to feeling uninspired, and feeling uninspired leads to bitterness as the flow of creativity dries up. Believe me, we have been here too.

What to do?

There is no right or wrong answer to understanding your journey and calling, it’s different for everyone. That said, here is what has been helped me this season.

  1. Pray about it.
  2. Write it out (aka blog about it!)
  3. Talk about it with trusted confidants and mentors.
  4. Process it, chew on it, and then do it all over again.
  5. Really be thankful for where you are in your journey – maybe write that out too…
  6. In the midst of all that the most crucial action (because I am a ‘do-er’) is to keep moving forward. Take the next step as it presents itself and cross off the ‘to-do’ list one item at a time.

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There is a reason we do not see the whole picture. If we did we would be paralyzed and  overwhelmed with how we make it happen rather than enjoying the process. The process is what stretches and grows us to get us to that point. Instead we have this small portion in front of us, just a few pixels of the high res photograph of our life, and we work with that. When we look back in a few months we will see what/how it all happened, what we learned about ourselves through it all, and enjoy the beautiful picture of our lives unfolding in front of us.

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I want to encourage you today, whatever season you are in, breathe in the process. Whether you just came out of the growing season and are confidently walking in that or being stretched, it is good. Be thankful. Share your story with others and celebrate theirs. That is another great way to not get overwhelmed. Change your focus, take a minute to encourage another or be their sounding board, it may even inspire you!

This is me: sharing, breathing, encouraging, being thankful, and growing…what a grand adventure right?!

cheering you on!

kdg

 

 

A little ‘no’ can go a long way…

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Truth be told, the art of saying “No” to demands outside my family is stretching me. As Lindy-Ann put in her NO-vember post on Tuesday, I am a “yes friend.” I would say “yes” so often I would triple book myself, and at times our family, which did not go well with my “no” husband, {love you babe and i’m sorry!}

It just feels so negative to say “no” but I am learning that when I say “no” to one thing I am actually saying “yes” to something else. Two days into the NO-vember challenge and I’m definitely trying to be intentional about the yeses I dole out. One such yes is to taking care of myself and working out with Vienna {GULP!}

So far, the biggest “no” I have decided to lovingly, but firmly, say has been to not co-chair the Halloween Spooktacular next year. This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing my vision for this huge event come to life with the help of some fantastic volunteers. My event co-chair (aka chaos co-coordinator), our decorations chair, and I had been formulating the plan and vision for the 2017 Halloween Spooktacular since the week after the 2016 one, and it turned out to be an incredible success. That said, next year we all agreed it is time to pass the baton and spend 2018 experiencing the event with our families. Therefore, in saying “no” to a third round, we are saying “yes” to celebrating and experiencing it with our families, and that is a good thing.

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Hear my heart on this. I’m not saying I won’t be volunteering anymore (it’s not in my nature to sit on the sidelines), or that it is more important for me to enjoy someone else’s hard work. What I am saying is that I was super involved for two years and now it is time to step back just a little and let my family have that much more of me. It’s all about that elusive balance we are all aiming for, right?

That is truly the heart of the NO-vember challenge for me. To take a moment to reevaluate my priorities, give myself the headspace to ponder my calling, and give more of myself to my family.

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If you are a “yes friend” I encourage you to thank your buddies that remind you to say no, we all need them! Thank you Lindy-Ann for always being that person to encourage and challenge me to be better and put my family higher on my to-do list.

I miss your face!

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H A P P Y   B I R T H D A Y   W E E K   L I N D Y – A N N ! 

May your NO-vember be peaceful and refreshing! Let us know how you are doing and any ways we can encourage you.

Cheers,
kdg

PS – forgive the iPhone photos, my camera was on the back burner at the event!

Embracing NO-vember.

November

My 7yr old put it perfectly, “it’s like trying to draw a straight line with a ruler yet you keep going all wonky”. Brilliant! It is the most spot on explanation for how I try to calm things down, yet never seem to succeed.

For the past 6 weeks or so my life has been this wonky line. I’ve tried in vain to pull it straight, but without much success. While off loading to my friend Kerry, she kindly reminded me of the book I read, Grace not Perfection, and how important it is to actively allocate down time. She presented me with a brilliant strategy.

NO-vember!

What if we took one month out of 12 where we reserve the right to say ‘No’ without guilt or explanation? (While I recognise that some people are lucky enough to live their lives like this permanently, Katie and I are not one of those lucky ones). If something falls within this month that does not ‘feed’ us as a family or individually, then it’s ok to say no. For one month, to not be obligated or coerced into something that eats away at precious family time. Our family time is really precious and yet it is something that we usually compromise on first. Why is that? We are always commenting on how quickly our kids are growing up and how quickly time is passing us by, yet we seem to be so willing to give it away at the same time. I’m going to try this crazy plan and I dedicate this post to my dear Katie who desperately needs a NO-vember in her life, as well. My ‘Yes’ friend needs to take heart and find the rest that can come from a simple and uncomplicated ‘No’ (or ‘No thank you’ if it makes you feel better).

If you have a ‘Yes’ friend, or are a ‘Yes’ person then I challenge you to give this NO-vember thing a try. Please share this with your ‘Yes’ friends and encourage them to get on board. If you find yourself on the receiving end of my ‘No’, then please don’t take offence, it’s not personal, it’s simply me trying to regroup myself and my family and restore a little energy to my soul so that I can be a ‘Yes’ person for the rest of the year.

I want to leave you with a little TedTalk that my other friend Kirrily shared with me. One of the reasons we are even more drained of time in today’s society is the fact that our screens and devices no longer have ‘off’ cues. This turns our news feeds into complete time sponges. If you take nothing away from this post this week, I challenge you to at least watch this 9 minute clip. It will, at the very least, encourage parameters and help you set those all important screen boundaries which will pull your eyes off your device and help you look at the world around you with a little more detail and love.

As we say goodbye to October, I wish everyone a happy No-vember!

Cheers,

la

 

An inspiring love story

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If you have been following our blog for a while, you would have read that my mom passed away just before my wedding, 8 years ago. But there’s a second chapter to my story that I am inspired to write about. My dad got remarried to one of his oldest and dearest friends. She was a pillar of strength for our family during our hardest times and a few years after my mom’s passing she and my dad finally got together. With all the love and support under the sun for each other, it has only been a pleasure to see them so happy.

They have truly become an inspiration for me and I’m sure other couples out there who know them, too. Their kids are now grown up and independent. They are super fit and super healthy and they truly embrace life with hearts filled with joy, love, and kindness, not to mention boat loads of energy and zest. When I grow up I most certainly hope to follow in their footsteps or in their case, bicycle tracks.

A few years back they got this beautiful painting as a gift for their anniversary and I have always admired it as it really captures the essence of their relationship so beautifully. While we were reminiscing one afternoon as sunset approached, sipping on fine red wine, I blurted out that it would be a good idea to photograph them and reenact the painting. So we did. This is the result. A super fun spontaneous moment has become such a warm memory for myself and the kids. My poor husband was holding down the fort in K-Town at the time.

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I have grown a lot over the years. Although  the hardships are difficult, they also have the ability to refine. I have grown to see love as always evolving. I think the secret to a lasting love, is not a perfect spouse, a perfect self, or a perfect environment, but rather two hearts who commit to finding each other constantly as life, individuals and circumstances change. I now find myself falling in love with my husband in new ways everyday and for this I am truly grateful.

With love,

la

Acrobranch – Tree climbing adventures for all ages.

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We are very slowly getting back into our old routine living here in our beloved desert homeland. By slowly, I mean snails pace. I think that may be due to an extended period of humidity which has been challenging, but we’re getting there. What the kids miss most, other than family, are the trees… climbing the trees to be exact. I keep going back to the time when we went to Acrobranch in Centurion, South Africa. If any of our South African readers have not yet been to Acrobranch, please read this post.  It is an aerial tree top adventure that caters to the whole family. All ages from children as young as 3 to adults of all ages.

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I went there with my three minions, plus their cousin and her mom, and we had such a wonderful afternoon. The kids were climbing for over an hour and we then settled in to The Big Red Barn for lunch. It was truly a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Side note: The next time you find yourself there over lunch do yourself a favour and order the house fries. I may or may not have eaten the entire plate #sorrynotsorry.

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“Acrobranch is Kid Heaven! Swinging through trees, dangling from branches, balancing in the air. But wait, Acrobranch also takes care of every parent’s fear and tucks those kids safely into snug harnesses, hooked into secure lines all through the course. It’s all with adult supervision, but the children are encouraged to go at their own pace and move their own clips themselves.

All courses are designed with specific ages in mind to keep your kids entertained…and safe. Check out your desired park for more info on our kids course age and height requirements.” – via Acrobranch website.

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Now what I appreciate the most about this concept is the benefit to a child’s physical development.  A child is constantly thinking about which hand they need to put where, which foot they need to move first, and which clip goes where. They work on balance, how the brain interprets where the body is in the environment it is in, they need to orientate their whole being to work as one to navigate the course safely, they build core strength, and improve flexibility and reach.

The next time I go, I promise to take more grownups with me, which should leave me hands free to carry my ‘big’ camera and get proper photos, but hey, they say the best camera is the one you have with you, so thank you iPhone.

Acrobranch – super affordable rates and fantastic for kids parties, I can only imagine how much fun it would be for team building too. You can contact them on +27 86 999 0369 or visit their website for more information. I highly recommend it.

If anyone has tried them out and would like to share your experience with our readers, we would love to read your comments below.

Cheers.

la

Fall in Israel – Rosh Hashanah

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The weather, the holidays, and the spirit of Fall in Israel are all definitely different from our beloved Virginia, but we are enjoying the adventure. This was a big weekend for us and the country as we celebrated the New Year, also known as Rosh Hashanah. Until last year, I used to be unfamiliar with the Jewish/Israeli holidays, aside from their dates pre-labeled in my calendar over the years. For all of you like me, living in Israel means three days off of school, celebrations and toasts, religious observances, lots of new traditions, and it is a great time to travel or explore for us non-observant expats.

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Since we have missed our Fall traditions from back home, we took the long week and went camping at Horshat Tal in the Golan Heights with a few of our favorite outdoorsy friends.  We also toasted the new year at our favorite Israeli winery, Pelter Winery and one of our favorite Israeli craft breweries, Galil Brewery (they have pumpkin ale!). It was a wonderful time to be removed from the pressures of school and work and just be together and laugh a lot. Plus, I checked a few things off our Fall bucket list!

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I know I say it all the time, but experiencing the cultures of the country we live in (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and those of the people we befriend is truly one of my favorite things about living abroad. It makes me so happy to listen to the boys sing holiday songs, share the salutations in the language, and try traditional eats and treats. Their favorite Rosh Hashanah treat is apples dipped in honey, eaten to symbolize a sweet new year.

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It is especially fun to experience each of the holidays through our youngest at a local Hebrew gan (pre-school). On the Friday before the holiday the parents were invited to join a toast to the new year. The littles all wore white, the traditional color worn on Shabbat (the Sabbath) and for holy days. There was a rabbi who talked (in Hebrew of course) about the holiday and blew the shofar for us. We sat and watched the children sing and clap to songs they had clearly been learning leading up to it. I couldn’t help but smile at the tiny hands holding up glasses of tirosh (children’s wine) toasting and shouting “Shana Tova”!

Our big kid had his own Rosh Hashanah celebration at the international school and learned about the holiday in Israeli Culture class, which is one of his favorite classes. He just loves the teacher too! She has them singing fun songs, speaking in Hebrew, and excited to share it all at home with us. Let me tell you, we have learned a lot because of it! Fun fact, similar to our beloved Greeks, the Israelis see the pomegranate as a symbol of prosperity, health, fertility and happiness and they are particularly important and given as gifts at Rosh Hashanah.

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To learn more about the holiday check out this fun video. I can really get behind the heart of starting fresh and walking into the new year on a sweet note!

Here’s to a sweet (and intentional) new year!

Shana Tova!

kdg

Origami birds courtesy of fellow gan mom, Noa, check out her blog post: I’m on Leave

‘There’s an oil for that’

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These were the words my cousin Cacey in Australia put out there on Facebook when she discovered doTerra essential oils, and that’s what stuck with me. After following her enthusiasm and passion for these little essential oil filled glass containers, I became curious.

Especially since before the summer my number 2 developed an extremely heightened sensitivity to smells.

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She sent me this amazing starter kit with 10 essential oils, a larger bottle of fractionated coconut oil as well as the Petal Defuser and tons of reading materials and suggestions on when and how to best use the oils for individual use as well as for the whole family.

Being new to this I naturally had a few questions:

What on earth is an essential oil?

  • ‘Essential oils are naturally occurring, volatile aromatic compounds found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of the plants. When the oils are extracted form the plants, they can be used as single oils or in oil blends to increase emotional and physical wellness. If properly extracted, essential oils have the unique ability to benefit people in all areas of life, whether in food preparation, beauty treatment, or healthcare practices. You will be amazed with the diverse ways essential oils can help you fulfil your and your families health.’ – exert from doTerra living naturally guide book.

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How do I use this?

  • Each essential oil can be used in one or all of three ways:

1 – Aromatic – Some oils can be very stimulating while others can be quite calming, and ‘OnGaurd’ for example can help to clean the air, great when you live in a sandy environment like the desert. Simply add a few drops of your favourite oils into the petal defuser (in my case) filled with fresh clean water and set the time. Enjoy your home or office as the natural fragrance filled the air. My favourite combination to use just before bedtime with the kids has got to be OnGaurd, lavender and peppermint.

2 – Internal – essential oils can be invested to help support many health factors in the body, one being the immune system, and if you’re on board the autoimmune disease train like I am, this brings great relief. Even if you perhaps just have the little GI issues. This is a great option. I use one drop of lemon with one drop of DigestZen in a really large bottle of cold water to get me through my mornings and it is has become such a great way to start the day.

3 – Topical – You can add these essential oils to your favourite lotions, face creams or coconut oils to be applied topically. The reading material provided has some amazing suggested combinations and suggested uses for each one of them, it really is amazing.

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And of course,

  • How can I get more?

doTerra has reps in most countries and if you did a quick Facebook search for one in your area I have no doubt that someone close by can help you. Having said that they also have an excellent mailing system in place and I received my oils here in Kuwait in just over a week via my US Aramax box from Cacey in Australia, who can also be contacted via her Facebook page Garden of Eden Oils. Thanks Cuz!

There is even an app called the doTerra Daily Drop to offer up any extra info and advice should you need it.

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Needless to say within about an hour of receiving my package, I was obsessed. This has very quickly become a daily habit in my home as I am truly discovering for myself that yes…

…there is indeed an oil for that! 

Cheers

la

 

The Simplified Planner by Emily Ley

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A few months ago Katie and I wrote up a review on Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley, we mentioned in that post how she is the designer and creator of The Simplified Planner. Since we read her book, Katie and I both were itching to get our hands on one of them. That itch has been scratched. In South Africa our school year went from January to December, it took some getting used to when the kids started school here and the new year went from September to June. To help that, I opted for this version of The Simplified Planner the academic year, going from August 2017 to July 2018.

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The Simplified Planner comes in 4 different designs, I chose the floral print. Katie went with the Gold Dot.

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I ordered it on Amazon and it arrived last night, one week into the first school term. (See why I need an organiser). It came in a very strong, high quality, easy to open, navy blue packaging box. I will keep this for future travel to add extra protection to my planner in suit cases. The planner itself was covered in bubble wrap and an extra layer of plastic. They made sure no water or dust could get in anywhere with this packaging. And I love  the attention to detail, even in shipping!

Emily has also included a handy little start up brochure for people like me who need a little extra beginner’s encouragement.

As a self taught designer she combined her love for design with her passion for helping others simplify their lives to produce something that is not only useful, but it is beautiful and intentional too. I love her use of colour on different pages, her space allocation for things like meal planning… (Something I have also only recently starting doing and oh my gosh has it been life changing).

Possibly one of my favourite features is her sticker page. I’m a sucker for extra detail splashed with fun.

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She has recently launched her Yearly planners as well going from January to December, for all our SA readers, those not in the school aged season of life, or if you just prefer yearly planners – there’s a beautifully designed option for you too.

Much like Katie’s post about starting fresh this fall and setting your intentions, I hope this has encouraged you to get organised and prepare yourselves for the year ahead. One thing Emily stresses, which both Katie and I are trying to implement more and more, is the power of saying “No.” To intentionally save blank space in your schedules for down time, family time, or just a little time-out time. These quiet moments are just as important, but we need to be intentional about it – especially in our ‘Always On’ society.

Cheers!

la

Back to school Prep

We’re home.

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The flight home was great, especially since hubby gave me the upgrade to business class on our long stretch. What a gem! And what a difference that makes. I woke up the day after we got back with extra energy and a ready-to-go attitude.

School starts for us on Sunday.

A new school year = new beginnings, new friendships, new teachers and new opportunities. So how is everyone getting ready for the new school year? For this family, it was a good day to be a mum of 3. Pottery Barn Kids is having a buy two get one free promo. Yup, my smallest person basically got all his new back to school stuff for free 🙂 Now that’s a great start in anyones books.

Besides the morning traffic, I would say that packing lunch boxes probably brings me the most Back To School Anxiety.

That should be a thing don’t you think? #backtoschoolanxiety

Anyway, a few years back I had the delight in meeting a lady by the name of  Jen, from MAMA.PAPA.BUBBA blog here in Kuwait. She is a Canadian based writer on all things mom, kid, creativity, nutrition, family and travel. She has been a huge source of inspiration for myself as an expat mum and her kids lunch box ideas are unrivalled.

Since the start of my kids school careers, we have been fans of PlanetBox Lunch Boxes. With our extreme temps I LOVE that the boxes are non-toxic, non-leaching, safe from BPA, phthalates, and lead. I LOVE that they are strong, high quality stainless steel and warrantied for 5 years. I LOVE the little compartments which makes variety a key element when planning. I LOVE that they are dishwasher safe. I LOVE all the accessories available: magnets for design, knives, forks, specials little containers that then fit into the lunch box itself for specialty foods, fruit salad for example.

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The website boasts so many different combinations of foods and food ideas for you to be inspired from, they have an entire tab on the website dedicated to Meal ideas. It truly takes the stress out of #backtoschoolanxiety 

If you have any Back To School favourite tips we would love to hear from you and share them with our readers, after all as moms, we need to lift each other up and get (and offer up) all the help we can.

Much love and good luck for the first week back to school for our Kuwait readers.

Now, I need to get back to labelling.

Cheers.

la