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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 young lives.
  • Jasper took part in the 2017 Summer Reading Challenge. This is a national UK event held by local libraries every August to encourage children to continue reading during the summer holidays. For young children, the challenge involves giving six verbal book reviews to library staff to receive stickers for their activity packs and to qualify for a certificate and medal (which will be presented by the child’s school in the autumn term). I plan to write a blog post about the Summer Reading Challenge at a later date.
  • Baby Jules is now eight months old. She is more active than ever – rolling over and crouching up all ready to start crawling. She claps her hands and continues to express dance and music appreciation in her own special way.
  • In South Africa, my father celebrated his 70th birthday. He and family travelled to the Western Cape to visit wine farms and view the phenomenon of Cape wild flowers in bloom following the winter rains.
  • Jasper had his final day at nursery/preschool at the end of August. For me, this has been an emotional time reflecting on the past three and bit years he has spent at this special home away from home (read more here). I am denial that he will be starting primary school in September as it seems like only yesterday he was born.20a. August Retrospect

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. These women have changed your nappy and then encouraged you in your toilet training. They have fed you bottles, then helped you to feed yourself. They have read hundreds of stories to you and settled you down to sleep. These women have picked you up when you’ve fallen and comforted you at times you have not been well. They have taught you new words, numbers and how to write your own name. They have given you space to get messy, cover yourself in glitter and jump in rain puddles. Importantly, these women have given me the opportunity to return to work after becoming a mother. These wonderful women have helped raise you.

You have flourished at nursery/preschool. Your outgoing personality has shone and you have made many friends. With each quarterly review meeting at nursery, we have delighted in hearing about your kindness to others, your excellence at language and communication, and your interest in numeracy and understanding how things work. Your love of books spread from home to nursery – the Book Corner has been your special place for a bit of calm in an otherwise busy and exciting day with friends.

While at nursery you have enjoyed days out to zoos and wildlife parks, woodland trails, local shops and the park. You have had endless fun at nursery Christmas parties, fetes, Halloween and other dress-up occasions. We love all the artwork and creations you have brought home with you. This has been such a special experience as you’ve grown from a baby into a boy.

For me, saying goodbye to your nursery/preschool is an emotional time. This is a place I have come to trust in caring for you completely. Sometimes, on busy days at work, I have barely thought of you as I know you have been looked after by people who genuinely love you.

You starting primary school in September will be a whole new learning curve for us as a family. New routines, new demands, new friends and new trust. I know you are sad to say goodbye today, but your excitement for starting ‘big school’ means you are ready to make the next jump in your development. I am so proud of you.

Love you always,
Mama x

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 awesome names on our cats. However, we always seem to call our cats by their nicknames which does bring them closer to us and makes them part of the family . This is for you ‘Tilly’, my beautiful Matilda, I miss you so much.


The Naming of Cats
, T.S. Eliot

All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter–
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

 

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 undecided about solid food, but does have some favourite first tastes (sweet potato and yogurt).
  • This month we have mostly be busy with our house renovations. We anticipate the repairs, improvements and redecoration in the majority of rooms will last another few months. By then we hope to unpack more of our boxes and for the house to feel a bit more like our home.

17a. July Retrospect

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.16a. Awesome uShakaThe 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 and water park, entry also includes dolphin and seal shows. For an additional fee you could get closer to the marine animals by feeding the fish, ‘walking’ the lagoon floor or taking part in a shark cage experience. However this time, with two small children in tow, we concentrated purely on the aquarium viewing galleries. This provided more than enough to see and enjoy over a few hours.

16b. Awesome uShakaI love the attention to detail in the design and layout of the underground viewing galleries. The ‘shipwreck’ is not entirely lost to the deep blue of the Indian Ocean – in some galleries the distant sound of a gramophone playing makes you feel that this could perhaps be a phantom ship, and that its passengers were not long drinking from the fine china teacups around which deadly spinefish now swim.

The atmosphere is totally immersive and it is very easy to lose track of time within the labyrinth of the creaking old ship. The shark tank is large with brilliant viewing from several angles, and the close encounter with huge turtles and rays is exciting for both adults and children.

16c. Awesome uShakaWe also enjoyed seeing the African penguins and a sneak peak at the dolphins splashing about in their pool. The aquarium is located right on the splendid uShaka beach. We returned the following day to enjoy some beach time on a beautiful, sunny autumn day – to make sandcastles and dip our toes in the warm Indian Ocean.

If you plan on visiting South Africa I can highly recommend that you stay in the KwaZulu-Natal region. Durban is fun, vibrant and offers many family activities. uShaka Marine World and uShaka beach are our holiday highlight from this special city.16d. Awesome uShaka

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 have welcomed a second child to our family. Over time, as the kids get older, I am sure many of these feelings and emotions will have changed. But for now, with a six month old and a four year old, we are still finding our way. These are how things currently stand – the good, the bad and the ugly:


1. 
Exhaustion
Nothing in life prepares you for the exhaustion of parenthood. It is relentless. You never get a vacay from the tiredness you experience while raising small people. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a support system nearby, and have some time away from your kids, the tiredness is so deep that it would take years of hibernation to undo the damage. With a second child in the family, my exhaustion has more than doubled. Weird maths, but true.


2. Time 

Much like the speed at which the pregnancy of our second child passed, time has flashed by like lightening since her arrival. It was only yesterday that Jules was born. Now she is sitting and feeding on solids. Where did the last six months just go? How do we slow down time? There never seem to be enough hours in the day because life is now running on overdrive.


3. Money
Or lack there of… raising a child costs a lot of money. Raising a second child costs even more money. Factor in nursery fees, after-school clubs, groceries, household bills, insurance, transport costs, children’s clothing and there is not much left at the end of each month. We never take for granted that we have a lot more than millions of people around the world. We have jobs and a new home. We have love and we have each other. These are our treasures.


4. Social Life
Like many of my friends before me, since having kids my social engagements have declined. Items 1, 2 and 3 above are mostly to blame for this, but I have also found that many of my urban friends have moved further afield to accommodate their families. The arrival of the second child seems to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – sadly, I have lost touch with some friends since the expansion of our families. Like so many parents, for now, we get our social kicks through the birthday parties, parent evenings and club gatherings of our children. Whoop! Whoop! 


5. Housework

We have always tried to keep a clean and tidy home, but small people create A LOT of mess. Since having a second child, I am now embracing the chaos. I have to appreciate that the whole house will never be clean all at the same time, and can only dream of a cleaning service coming in to do the job for us. Some days the bathroom might get cleaned, but the bedrooms may not have been dusted for a while. The laundry pile never seems to end and often it can take a couple of days just to wash, dry, fold and put a load of laundry away. It is a never ending cycle. Fact.


6. Preparation
If you plan on leaving the house, with small children, before midday then you have to plan ahead and be prepared. Sadly, impromptu trips out for the whole family are on the decline because it takes us so long to get everyone ready and out the house. However, if we are prepared then we can pack change bags and snacks the night before, lay clothes out for the morning and hurry our breakfast to enjoy a day out together. With the start of Jasper’s schooling fast approaching, this is something we’re going to have to practice to ensure we make the school run on time!


7. Older Child
With a new baby in the family, it is only natural to expect their sibling to be a bit more mature and responsible. This seems unfair as the older child may still be little and need the same love and attention as before. I have, however, found that Jasper has relished being a ‘big brother’ and will happily be my helper. He beams with pride at his little sister, and loves it when we tell him stories about what he used to do when he was a baby. Jasper does have moments when the immaturity of his age shows through and, with two children, that is when the days feel longer and more exhausting.


8. TV
I hate to admit it, but the TV has become our friend these past few months. We laugh now when we think how strict we were with allowing Jasper to watch a little bit of TV only once he had turned a year old. We are still tight on how much screen time he can have, but the reality is that we have a new addition and she is mesmerised when the TV goes on for her brother. So, sometimes we let Jules watch TV too and this is usually a very productive bit of time for me to cook a meal or have a tidy up.  I am not ashamed to admit this and I am pretty sure the little bit of TV she watches is not stunting the development of her infant brain.


9.
 Multitasking
 I will admit that I have always been a pretty good at doing several things at the same time. My job involves coordination of a lot of different projects and activities simultaneously. However, since becoming a mum of two, and currently on maternity leave, I have become the Swiss Army Knife of multitaskers. There is nothing like having two children demanding different things at the same time to exercise this new super power!


10. Preloved
Although I am the oldest of two children, I am no stranger to hand-me-down items as I used to get a lot of great stuff passed down from my older cousins. Often people sympathise for the second child because they don’t get as spoiled as the first child did. However this is my case for embracing preloved items and why we shouldn’t always feel sorry for the second child:
(a) Jules was born in the opposite season to Jasper so we dressed her in what saved newborn clothes we could, but since those first few weeks she has pretty much had her own wardrobe of new clothes to suit the weather and her gender.
(b) We have saved lots of money by keeping most of Jasper’s baby toys. We recently unwrapped a box of six-month+ toys which we had stashed away after Jasper had outgrown them. I tell you, it was like Christmas morning {in July} in our house – both kids were so excited and Jasper has spent more time playing with the forgotten baby toys than he has with his recent birthday toys!


11. Version 2.0
Becoming a mum for the second time has made me an improved version of myself. I find that I am more confident in my parenting skills and decisions. I am a little more streetwise – I often venture out with the baby WITHOUT her change bag as I now know that babies don’t poop their nappies all the time, nor do they need constant feeding once they have settled into a routine. I have become more fierce (as in Beyoncé fierce). I am no longer a ‘yes’ person. I voice my opinions more often. I am more emotional yet feel more grounded. I would go to the ends of the earth to protect my children. I admit that sometimes I am a sh*t mother, but mostly I am a devoted mother and doing the best I can with what I have.


12. Love
When I was pregnant with Jules I was so worried that I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, love this second child as much as I loved Jasper. My son holds a great, big chunk of my heart and I was concerned that I wouldn’t have much more to give away to another child. But from the moment Jules was born I fell so in love with my girl child. The greatest thing about becoming a mama again is that the heart expands so that all your babies receive great and equal love. This is magical and mysterious, but truly amazing to experience. I am also witness to the adoring love between Jasper and Jules. As young siblings they have a bond that is already as strong as chains. It confirms that our decision to expand our family was right for us. We wanted to give Jasper a sibling, a friend for life, a partner in crime. We wanted to become a foursome. Life is exhausting, at times really tough, but with this love it is good.

 

img_5797-e1493115745402

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 to have the energy of the Duracell Bunny and perpetually exhaust us with your bounciness. Your love for books is ever strong, but now you are so interested in how to spell and sound out words that I know it won’t be long before you learn to read. You have also developed a love of tools and an inquisitive mind about how things work or can be fixed – I am convinced that you may follow the path of your maternal grandfather and great-grandfather and might be an engineer one day.

Your social skills amaze me – you are much more bold and outgoing than Mama and Daddy.  You engage with everyone you meet and have a large circle of friends at preschool. You are a genuinely kind soul – you always champion little people, and have often been praised at nursery/preschool for being so caring and friendly to the younger children and your peers. Because of this quality, your baby sister instantly fell in love with you and always beams a big smile when she sees you or can hear your voice. You are strong, handsome and your eyes melt hearts – pools of denim blue I could stare into forever.

We may not have spent much time together (just me and you) this past year – wedged by the demands of your infant sister – and for that I am sorry, my darling. Even when I feel so exhausted from your endless energy, or your constant chatter is driving me insane, you will always be my precious boy and I will support, love and encourage you in everything you want to achieve in life. In turn, I know that you will be my fearless protector and loyal son for all my life.

You are the gift that made me a mother and that is why I celebrate your birthday each year with much pride and happiness. I cannot believe that just four years ago you came into our lives – sometimes it is hard to remember what life was like without you.  Always stay as lovely as you are today, no matter how many candles may be on your cake.

Love you always, Mama x

 

 

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 a scenic cruise on Lake St Lucia and were treated to sightings of many hippos and their babies basking in the autumn sun.

13a. June Retrospect

  • Once back home, we continued with renovations to our house – not as much as we would have liked, but we’re slowly chipping away at what needs to be done and hope to get much more sorted out over the summer.
  • We started the induction process for Jasper starting primary school in September, including a home visit from his new teachers and a parents’ evening at the school.
  • On the hottest weekend of the year so far we celebrated Father’s Day with a visit to Kent Life Heritage Farm Park. We fed the farm animals, watched ferret races, went on a tractor ride, walked around the historic village and enjoyed a picnic among other things.

13b. June Retrospect

  • Jules celebrated her half-birthday this month. We have started weaning her and she is doing really well with trying vegetable purées and soft finger foods.
  • At the end of the month I celebrated my birthday and we enjoyed another family day out. We revisited the Epping Ongar Railway for a ride on a vintage steam train through the Essex countryside.

You can follow Cuteness & Chaos on Instagram and Facebook. Get in touch and let me know what you have enjoyed this June.

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 to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.


Photo:
I took this photo of the oast house at Kent Life Heritage Farm Park last weekend. An oast house is a building traditionally used for drying hops as part of the brewing process. They are such a striking feature of the Kent landscape and heritage.

 

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 my favourite colour is yellow.

8. Does Daddy have a favourite flower?
J: Yes, he loves sunflowers. Sunflowers are yellow.

9. What sorts of things does your daddy like to do?
J: He likes going to the recycling centre and eating food.

10. What does Daddy do when he’s happy?
J: I just don’t know [shrugs his shoulders and sighs].

11. What does Daddy do when he’s angry?
J: He talks like angry talks.

12. Does Daddy like to go shopping?
J: Yes.

13. OK, so what does he like to buy when he goes shopping?
J: He loves buying pizza… and pears.

14. What is your favourite thing about Daddy?
J: His cuddles and playing with my toys together… and because we go to the playground together.

15. What is your least favourite thing about Daddy?
J: When he tickles me too much.

16. Who is Daddy’s best friend?
J: Me – Jasper.

17. What do you think Daddy would like to be when he grows up?
J: When he is 100 years old then maybe he would like to be a giant.

18. Jasper, would you like to be a daddy one day?
J: Yes. I would like 10 children of my own because I love children.

19. Who is the best daddy in the world?
J: My daddy.

20. Ok, so why is he the best daddy?
J: He just is, and because I love him so much

 

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.

may blog 1

  • In sunny Durban we enjoyed a return visit to uShaka Marine World. It is always one of our favourite places to visit when in KwaZulu-Natal life (read more here). Aside from the water park and dolphin shows, the aquarium has an important role in research and conservation of Indian Ocean marine life.
  • Little Jules mastered the ability to sit by herself shortly before she turned five months old in May.

may blog 2

  • Neil and I belatedly celebrated our wedding anniversary with indulgent treatments and a little R&R at the fabulous Fordoun Spa. This is where we celebrated our mini-moon, after our wedding six years ago, so it has a special place in our hearts.
  • A family day out to Kamberg in the majestic Drakensberg mountains. In my childhood, we often used to picnic here and splash in the ice cold river. It was fab to breathe in the fresh mountain air and soak up the autumn sunshine.

may blog 3

  • At the end of the month we took Jasper to the Royal Agricultural Show in Pietermaritzburg. This was another blast from my childhood past as I haven’t been to the ‘Royal Show’ in so many years. Jasper had lots of much fun seeing the livestock competitions, enjoying the fairground rides and most of all climbing on dozens of tractors, diggers and other farming vehicles.

It was more difficult to blog here while I was away, but it did give me a chance to focus on recording memories more frequently through Instagram. You can follow the blog on Facebook too, so get in touch and let me know what you were up to this May.

 

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 company we settled on were brilliant. For me it came down to gut instinct when deciding on them. They were very caring and helpful with advance packing while I was pregnant, and then where super considerate and just brilliant on moving day.

2.  Tell your children about the move at an appropriate time
We find that it’s best not to tell Jasper (age three) about upcoming events too far in advance, and I imagine this is the same for many other small children. We slowly starting packing non-essential items, but once we had exchanged contracts we had to finish packing up the house in nine days. It was at this point we told Jasper that we would be moving house. For us, this was perfect timing as it gave Jasper enough time to process his thoughts and emotions before saying goodbye to his first home.  He was then not concerned by the boxes piling up in the house, and happy to get involved in the packing too. You will know your own children best when it comes to telling them about the house move. If we had told Jasper months in advance he would have become disheartened by the long wait until moving day. This timescale may, however, need to be adjusted if you will be moving to a new area and your children changing schools. 

3.  Keep the new house neutral
 I’m not talking about decorating themes! What I mean is its best not to show your young children photos of the new house because they will include other people’s belongings in the rooms. However, you could build excitement and anticipation for their new home by driving your children pass the house to see the outside and the local area. You could also plan their new route to nursery/school from the new house, and visit local shops, parks and libraries if you are moving to a completely new location. 

4.  Moving is a good thing
You may find your children are having difficulty processing the thought of moving house. Talk about the move in a positive way, and promote the good in all the changes you will be experiencing in your family life. Start with simple things like sharing ideas of how your children would like their new room(s) decorated, and build up into conversations about bigger changes like different schools and new friends. 

5.  Packing takes time
Don’t underestimate how long it will take to pack up your house. Try give yourself two weeks of as much free time as possible to get the packing done without last-minute stress. If you can, arrange for some child-free days so that you’re not constantly interrupted while packing. Alternatively, if your budget will allow and you’re short on time, have your removal company do the bulk of the packing for you. 

6.  Let your children take responsibility for their own possessions
Aside from some child-free time to get the bulk of your house packed up, involve your children in sorting and packing their own toys and books. This is also a good excuse to declutter and weed out toys that may no longer be age-appropriate or played with. 

7.  Essential packing
The first couple of days in your new house will feel weird. Your possessions will be in boxes scattered in strange new rooms, and you will feel so overwhelmed and exhausted. To maintain some sanity, ensure you pack a small bag for every family member before moving day. Keep these bags in your car so they don’t get muddled up with the boxes and furniture which will be transported by the removal company. In each bag pack a few changes of clothes, pajamas, bedding, a towel and essential toiletries. For children, pack a few of their favourite toys and books too. 

8.  Moving day
The big day will be exhausting, emotional and stressful. The house (old and new) will not be an appropriate environment for small children. Ensure you have childcare away from the house lined up for the full day. 

9.  Priority unpacking
As soon as you are in your new house make it a priority to get your children’s room(s) comfortable before they get home. Make up their beds and lay out their favourite toys and books from the emergency bags (see item 7). Consider leaving them a gift from the new house – something simple like a colouring book and pencils, or a new picture book for their first bedtime story in the new house. Keep to your usual evening routine and get your children to bed as normal. This will help with the settling-in process and your children should feel comfortable with their first night in the new house. 

10. Settling in
Unpacking your boxes will take a while, but try not get bogged down by this. Soon after the move, take time out as a family to explore your new local area and have some fun after all the stress of moving home. 

I hope these tips will be helpful if you are moving house soon. Get in touch and let me know if you found them useful.