Author: Skye, Cuteness & Chaos

November Retrospect

November. The inbetween month – stuck between beautiful, spooky October and magical, festive December. It has been another busy month for us, and has been filled with lots of Christmas preparation: Jasper and I attended a booking signing by Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler, acclaimed creators of The Gruffalo, earlier in the month (read more here). Jules is now 11 months old. Her legs are getting stronger through standing and walking holding on to things for support. She has started to climb stairs, and has also been fitted for her first pair of ‘cruising’ shoes. Jasper completed his first course of independent swimming lessons. He is gaining more and more confidence with each lesson, and is now brave enough to briefly put his face underwater. Jules ‘graduated’ from her Baby Sensory class and had her first short induction at nursery. This has been such a bittersweet time for me. I have been so proud of Jules and her growing independence, but really sad that her first year seems to have passed so fast. To end the month we …

The day we met Julia…

… and Axel too Almost twenty years ago the world was introduced to an ugly, grumpy, hungry monster known as the Gruffalo. This lovable creature (along with Mouse, Fox, Snake and Owl) was brought to life by Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler in what is considered to be the ‘most successful author/illustrator partnership in picture book publishing’. Adored by children and adults alike, The Gruffalo is an award-winning, modern classic and it’s protagonist has a place alongside other celebrated children’s book characters such as Paddington, Winnie-the-Pooh and Peter Rabbit. It has sold over 13 million copies and been translated into over fifty languages. Raising Jasper (now four years old), The Gruffalo quickly became a family favourite for bedtime stories. The rhyming couplets and repetitive verse have been memorised to heart and we can’t wait to share this endearing story with baby Jules as she grows. We have read the The Gruffalo hundreds of times, enjoyed the audio book and song, seen both the film and stage production, played with Gruffalo toys, puzzles and activity books, and explored the character trail …

October Retrospect

October. This month just seemed to fly by, so much so that I am a little delayed with posting this Retrospect! October 2017 you brought a beautiful autumn: Early in the month we made a return visit to our nearest Gruffalo Trailat Thorndon Country Park. I love woodlands in the autumn as they are a treasure trove of colourful leaves, shiny chestnuts and delicate toadstools to admire during a family walk. Combined with seeking out the familiar faces of the Gruffalo, Mouse, Fox, Snake and Owl wooden sculptures, it was a fun afternoon spent in the crisp outdoors. Our home renovations are ongoing. In October we had repair and maintenance work done to the chimney stack. This work was in response to one of the more serious concerns detailed in the building survey report on the house, published when we bought the property, and which we are slowly making our way through as part of the overall house renovations. We have also had more electrical work done and continued with redecorating. After a busy start …

Incantation: a Poem for Halloween

Last night, the waxing crescent moon shone eerily through a veil of cloud and I felt a chill of excitement for this time of year. As we ready ourselves for Halloween, the clocks fall back and autumn will creep into the darkness of November. There is magic in the air and it tempts our senses with the fiery, fallen leaves that crunch underfoot on chilly mornings and the tickles of woodsmoke in the twinkling twilight. My sister and I were quite ghoulish children. We enjoyed spooky tales and frightening films. As a teenager, I read so many horror thrillers that our village librarian, fearing for my taste in the gruesome, had to have words with my mother. I don’t like gore, but I enjoy suspense and mystery. I believe in signs and spirits, but try not to be superstitious. Growing up in South Africa we never really celebrated Halloween. There it is now late spring which brings the brightness of warmer weather and longer days. My family have also suffered a great loss at this time of year, …

Baby Essentials Part I

10 Must-Have Items for Babies 0-6 Months* Bringing a newborn home for a second time was a surreal experience. I felt confident but in no way prepared for life with two small people. Many newborn parenting skills came back to me very naturally – how to change a nappy, how to operate the electric steriliser and the best ways to help release baby’s trapped wind. There were, however, many things I had forgotten in the three and a half years since my first child was a newborn. The sleep deprivation – oh, I had forgotten just how awful it makes you feel. And how to fit the infant car seat or collapse the pushchair. I had also forgotten just how much baby ‘stuff’ there is on the market. So much of what was considered a ‘must-have’ several years ago has been usurped by something bigger, better and seemingly more expensive. My sister is expecting her first child soon and so has been quizzing me for the must-have items I would recommend for a newborn. After bringing …

September Retrospect

September. A new chapter, a new season. September 2017 you have been exciting and utterly exhausting: At the start of the month we attended Jasper’s preschool graduation. It was a sweet celebration of friendship and childhood development. Each graduate was presented with a gown, cap and memory book. They enjoyed party food, games and music before ending the graduation with a tear-jerking farewell song. I took Jasper and Jules to visit the Walala X Play installation at Greenwich Peninsula in London (one of  digital artist Camille Walala’s latest creations). It was a fun indoor maze of bright colours, bold patterns and mirrors. Both children loved it and we managed to capture some fun photos against the striking labyrinth. In September, Jasper started attending a local rugby club for young children. Despite the early start on Sunday mornings, we have enjoyed taking him to to play tag rugby and to see his enthusiasm for this sport grow. The big news from September is that Jasper started primary school. His first day of Reception was an emotional …

August Retrospect

August. Busy, busy August. The last of our summer months has sped by so fast that I’m a little delayed with publishing this piece. August 2017 you have been bittersweet: This month has been dominated by continuing house renovations. We have unearthed several issues during the work which means slow progress, but we have completed a lot of the major structural repairs and are now close to starting redecorating. Midway through August we enjoyed a family day out to the seaside at Broadstairs in Kent. The weather was just perfect for a day on the beach – to feel the sand in our toes and the warm sun on our skin.  No trip to the seaside would be complete without ice cream, which we enjoyed at the delightfully [authentically] retro Morelli’s ice cream parlour overlooking Viking Bay. We co-hosted a family picnic at a local country park for graduates and friends from Jasper’s preschool. It was such a lovely opportunity for the children to play together and for us to celebrate these first friendships of their …

From Baby to Boy

Dear Jasper Today is your last day of nursery/preschool. For the past three and a bit years this has been your home away from home. It has been a place to feel happy, safe and supported. A place to learn, make friends and grow. A couple of days before your first birthday, Mama and Daddy carried you into nursery for your first ‘settling in’ session. It was only for an hour, while we filled out forms and discussed your home routines, but it felt like an eternity as it was the first time we had handed our baby over to strangers. You cried to be away from us. We felt guilty and sad to be leaving you in an unfamiliar place. But soon, after a few more induction sessions, you started recognising the faces of adults you could trust and children you now call friends. The women who have cared for you there have become such familiar faces that they feel like family. You rush to them in the morning with smiles, laughter and cuddles. …

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 …