All posts filed under: Our Stories

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 …

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, …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Goodbye House: Sentiments for our Home

Today is moving day. It has been been eight months since we put our house on the market and it has been a rough ride to get to this point. We’ve swapped estate agents, accepted offers, had buyers pull out, and have had complications up and down the chain. In short, it has not been a pleasant experience. I understand now why house selling/buying is considered to be one of the most stressful life experiences, after losing a child or going through a divorce. To top it off, then came the short turnaround time to get our belongings packed up – we have had only nine days since the exchange of contracts. Before Jules was born I packed up non-essential items, which have been held in storage since December. However, the bulk of packing has happened this last week around our work and childcare. Read here for my top tips on moving house with small children.  In all the frenzy of packing I have tried not to let the emotions of changing our home get to me. After …

Us Two: Celebrating our Marriage

Today is our wedding anniversary – I can’t believe Neil and I had our beautiful wedding in South Africa six years ago. I remember is rained and rained in the days leading up to the wedding, and we were so worried because we had planned for the ceremony to be outdoors. On the morning of our wedding the sun shone brightly and the weather was perfect for the rest of the day. This is an extract from the poem Us Two by A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh. We featured the whole poem in our wedding day Order of Service. Yes, it is a poem about Pooh Bear and his best friend Piglet, but I think it perfectly describes the way you feel when you find that special someone to get through both the scary moments and the fun times of life with. Photo: Our first dance, taken by the talented Sean Kelland.

1 + 1 = 2

Parenting involves a special formula of pure love and gut instinct. When you become a parent for the first time, this is what gets you through the sleepless nights, feeding schedules and endless nappy changes. Your instinct kicks in and you learn the nuances of your baby’s cries. Your devotion to your child is what pulls you through the exhaustion. This formula matures as your baby grows into a toddler and then a preschooler. You start thinking to yourself I am totally rockin’ this whole parenting thing, and then you have another baby… When I was pregnant with my second child (Jules) I was cautioned by friends and colleagues that ‘one child is one, but two children is many’. Chuckling in response while gently rubbing my blossoming bump, inside I was thinking Oh sh*t. And it’s true – one plus one does not equal two, it equates to a whole circus. Jules is now three months old and I’ve experienced a steep learning curve in my parenting. My special mama formula has taken on a great, big dollop of what is scientifically …

Spring: a Poem to Welcome Blossom Season

The clocks have ‘sprung’ forward and the days are getting longer. With early morning birdsong and fragrant blossoms on the trees, I’m celebrating the arrival of Spring with this poem written for children. The author is unknown, but I think it is lovely in its simple expression of the joy for this long-awaited season. Photo: I plucked this floral beauty from the little Camellia bush growing in our garden. I love the dark pink stripes against the pastel petals and the way the light catches the glossy dark leaves.

To Blog or Not to Blog…

… that is the question I have been asking myself for years. I have often considered starting a blog but never felt confident enough to start typing. Well, that is until now. So what has changed? With a new addition to the family (Jules) we are experiencing life in the crazy-fast lane. Weeks pass by in a blur and our baby girl is already three months old. I hope that blogging will encourage me to be disciplined about writing our stories and recording memories for family, friends and, ultimately, my children to enjoy. If my posts can provide some encouragement, humour or inspiration for other parents then that would be a wonderful bonus. Welcome to Cuteness and Chaos. Read more on the About page. You can also subscribe for updates on new posts and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.