Author: cutenessandchaos

The Naming of Cats

Today is International Cat Day and, as I am a life member of the ‘Crazy Cat Lady Club’, I couldn’t resist celebrating the domestic cat with this poem from T.S. Eliot (1885 – 1965). The poem is from his book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which was adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber into the stage musical Cats. Cats have been been a big part of my life since birth. Our family would not have been complete without all the wonderful cats of my childhood. The featured image of this post is of my beloved Matilda. She chose me in 1997 when I was still a schoolgirl. Matilda was so beautiful, intelligent and characterful. She took a big piece of my heart with her when she passed away a couple of years ago. Now I have sweet, fluffy Georgia in my life and my children adore her – in fact, Jasper’s first word was ‘cat’! Our house would not be home without her. I love this poem because I think I have a secret talent of bestowing …

July Retrospect

July. Slow, rainy July. After all the fun and adventures we enjoyed in the spring and early summer, July has been a more subdued month for us: In early July we celebrated Jasper’s fourth birthday. He was very excited about reaching this age, but for me it was a bittersweet milestone as it feels like there has been a big jump in his growth and development (read more here). As we were not long back from South Africa, and busy with house renovations, we didn’t plan much more then a small birthday tea party for Jasper to enjoy with our nearby family. This month we have been preparing for Jasper’s start at primary school (which will be from September). He really enjoyed the casual induction / stay ‘n play session with his soon-to-be teacher and classmates. We have also bought his school uniform ready for the all important first day of school. Baby Jules is now seven months old. She is sitting well and can roll over from her back onto her tummy. She is …

Awesome uShaka: Holiday Highlight

In May and June we enjoyed family time in South Africa (read more here). One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to uShaka Marine World and uShaka Beach in the city of Durban. We have visited here several times before, and it remains one of my favourite aquariums in the world. Ushaka Marine World opened in 2004 after large investment and development to the Point Waterfront area of Durban (in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa). Since then the area has developed into a world class attraction for locals and tourists. Aside from the beach and aquarium, the uShaka complex includes a water park, restaurants, shops and entertainment.The aquarium itself plays a serious part in marine education and conservation. It is home to over 300 different species of sea life, particularly those from the nearby Indian Ocean. It is the largest aquarium in the Southern Hemisphere, with 500 meters of viewing tanks set underground within a faux shipwreck. There is so much here for the whole family to enjoy. Aside from the aquarium …

Life with a Second Child

Six and half months ago we were celebrating our first Christmas as a foursome. How different it was from our previous festivities. Baby Jules was only a couple of days old, and I was utterly exhausted and in terrible pain. Trying to make the day magical and special for young Jasper was difficult, and I felt stretched beyond anything I had felt before. I have previously written about the steep learning curve I’ve experienced in my parenting since Jules’s arrival (read more here). I am continuing to learn, and there are many things I now know to be true. Once a trio, ‘the three musketeers’, our family unit was a triangle – each of us a point with the ability to reach out and always touch the other two points. Now we are sides of a square and, in our foursome, stretched to the edges. But we do feel like a team, a puzzle with it’s missing piece found, and I love that about our little unit. These are my 12 facts of life since we …

Now You are Four

Dear Jasper Today is your birthday – now you are four. Ever since your best friend turned four, last November, you have been desperate to reach this milestone too. Now you can celebrate and rejoice at being this special age. It feels like a big jump – from three to four years of age – bigger than your previous birthdays. You have experienced so much change in the last twelve months. This time last year we told you that you were going to become a big brother, and following that you have had to deal with the arrival of your little sister, moving home and preparing to start primary school. Perhaps it is because Mama and Daddy have been so busy with all of these things (and more) that we have blinked and suddenly our chatty, baby-faced, innocent little toddler has morphed into the tall, lean, lovely boy you are today. You are still as talkative as ever, but now you discuss more serious things like monsters, superheroes, blood, bones and even death. You continue …

June Retrospect

June. Strawberries and sunshine mean June. Early summer in the UK is so special – the days are luxuriously long, the gardens are full of fragrant roses, plus music, sport and other outdoor festivals are in full swing. Provided the weather stays fine, there really is nothing to beat this time of the year. June 2017 you have been beautiful and kept us busy: We started the month still on our holiday in South Africa (read more here). We ended our trip with a visit to the iSimangoliso Wetland Park on the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is home to several diverse and interconnected ecosystems including an estuary, lakes, wetlands, dunes, and beaches. There we stayed with my cousin, who works for the local conservation and research team in the town of St Lucia. From this base we enjoyed a day trip to the spectacular Cape Vidal beach and game viewing en route. We were lucky enough to see rhino, buffalo, crocodile, warthog and a variety of antelope. We also enjoyed …

Summer Sun: a Poem for Solstice

Today is the Northern Hemisphere Summer Solstice. I am celebrating the longest day of the year with this beautiful poem by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894). The long summer days here are still such a novelty for me – I grew up in South Africa and the difference there between summer and winter daylight is not that much. The African sunsets are breathtaking, but sink so quickly. Here in the UK, the sun shines bright into the night and dusk is a slow burn before twilight. Summer Sun, Robert Louis Stevenson Great is the sun, and wide he goes Through empty heaven without repose; And in the blue and glowing days More thick than rain he showers his rays. Though closer still the blinds we pull To keep the shady parlour cool, Yet he will find a chink or two To slip his golden fingers through. The dusty attic spider-clad, He, through the keyhole, maketh glad; And through the broken edge of tiles, Into the laddered hay-loft smiles. Meantime his golden face around He bares …

Happy Father’s Day: With Love from a Preschooler

In celebration of Father’s Day this year, I ‘interviewed’ Jasper (age three – very nearly four) with 20 questions for him to answer about his daddy – brilliant father and my partner in crime, Neil. These two have such a beautiful relationship and I just know that they are going to be best friends for life. 1. What is your daddy’s name? J: Neil. 2. How old is Daddy? J: He’s big, but I just don’t know how old. 3. What does your daddy look like? J: He has a head, a body, a belly button and a winky wonky [bursts into hysterical laughter]. 4. What is Daddy’s favourite food? He loves apples, cheese and cake. 5. What is Daddy’s favourite thing to drink? J: Beer…. and tea. 6. What does Daddy do in his job? J: He has his lunch there and works on a computer. Daddy does nothing else at his work, he only eats his lunch and works on his computer. 7. What is Daddy’s favourite colour? J: He likes green, but …

May Retrospect

A little later than planned, but here is my second monthly bulletin for the Cuteness & Chaos blog. May. Unpredictable, floral-filled May. This year, however, we have spent the month of May in South Africa. There it was autumn – the days were short, but sunny and warm. At night it was chilly and the first fires of the season were lit. We spent the initial weekend in Johannesburg, then travelled down to my family home in KwaZulu-Natal. May 2017, thank you for family-time and all these special holiday memories: While in Johannesburg I was able to have a reunion with my two oldest friends – we met on our first day of primary school 30 years ago. Despite living on opposite ends of the world from each other, and the pressures of life as working mothers, we have kept in touch after three decades. It was also really special for our five children to hang out together at the picturesque Irene Dairy Farm. In sunny Durban we enjoyed a return visit to uShaka Marine World. It is …

Moving House with Small Children? 10 Survival Tips…

Moving house is stressful and exhausting. It’s unfortunate then that a lot of families find themselves in this position during pregnancy or with the arrival of a new baby. When we found out I was pregnant with Jules, we put our two-bedroom house on the market and started the search for a bigger home as we knew we needed more space in which to raise our family. We finally moved (read more here) and these are my 10 top tips for surviving this hectic time when you have small children: 1. Hire a removal company Unless you have very few possessions, get a removal company to do the moving for you. Get at least three quotes from different removal companies – this should involve someone coming around to your house to meet with you and discuss your moving needs. You may find that you will receive very different quotes, so choose a removal company that can work to your budget AND which you feel most comfortable with. In the UK, choose a company that is BAR registered (British Association of Removers). The …

April Retrospect

Looking back over the past month is my new exercise for the Cuteness & Chaos blog. In the craziness of motherhood, this will give me an opportunity to record what my family has enjoyed, achieved and celebrated before time whizzes by and we forget. April. Beautiful, blossom-scented April. You are usually a special month for us (read more here), but this year you have outdone yourself. April 2017, you have exhausted, delighted and indulged us: At the start of April we exchanged contracts on the new house and ten days later had moved in (read more here). In all the frenzy of packing Neil and I remembered our sixth wedding anniversary. We hope to celebrate it properly at some point soon! Our first week in the new house was capped by the long Easter weekend. The Easter Bunny paid us a visit and so we scoffed chocolate eggs for breakfast. To escape unpacking boxes for a day, we enjoyed a sunny family outing to the Tallships Festival at Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. On 18 April we waited nervously, like mummies and daddies all over the …

Today it Begins

Dear Jasper Today is the day we find out which primary school you will attend. For Mama and Daddy it has been a long wait for today. We started viewing potential schools last September. You may remember that we took you along to see some ‘big boy schools’, but most we visited while you were at preschool or tucked up in bed at night. Each school gave us a different welcome and taste of the education it might offer you. We filed into schools halls and poked our heads around classroom doors, while the children whispered and grinned at all the mummies and daddies looking at them like goldfish in a bowl. For many parents this was the first time they had been in a primary school since their own childhood, and the familiar sounds, sights and smells made memories of their school days come whooshing back to them. They remembered the class clown or their favourite teacher. They remembered the excitement of school trips and dress-up days. They remembered how scary school could be …