Welcome to Jakki Jones’ Diary of a Mum column. Each month, the illustrator shares her adventures in motherhood.
Who would have thought it? My little girl finally off to big school. Wow, these last four years have flown by. And I’m not going to lie, getting here was a process I certainly hadn’t prepared for. I never knew the school system in London was so tricky and competitive – nor did I care – until, of course, our time arrived and then all of a sudden, I absolutely did!
Just over a year ago we applied for three schools that are local to us, all of which were assessment based. And I had no idea what that meant. How can you possibly assess a 3-year-old? What are they looking for? Who can pick Mayor Humdinger out of a Paw Patrol line-up the fastest? Surely not.
Over the break last Christmas, the nursery had assured us that Riley had had a great term and advised us just to enjoy the holidays and not to worry about the upcoming assessments (set for after the festive brea). But I found I was lying in bed at night worrying: What if she doesn’t get in anywhere? What if they don’t see what we see; a confident, capable, independent little firecracker? (obviously I am biased, we all love our own kids!). I then started worrying about us as parents: What if we don’t fit in? We are both creatives, and I imagined doctors and lawyers’ children lining up to sit these assessments. Maybe we aren’t the right fit!
Despite my anxieties, I didn’t put them onto Riley and to my relief, I realised my negative energy was wasted as Riley knocked it out of the park and got into all three schools! The main fear, I guess, was that I realised it was all out of my hands. Usually if it’s an exam, or project or a big thing happening, I can steer the ship. If I’m not successful, I can just blame myself…. but this was all down to her, no help from me.
It was definitely a first big proud moment. And now we have just completed our first term at big school. I’ve never seen Riley happier. Her confidence, her energy and her determination are all thriving, and it’s been wonderful stepping back, and watching her grow.
These pandemic times have meant we have had to be more distant at the school gates – and I actually think it’s helped Riley and her peers settle in. I am sure it’s made life easier for the teachers, not having to deal with dozens of anxious, over-protective and pushy parents every morning and afternoon, who all require a detailed breakdown and specific feedback as to how their little darlings’ day was. Me being one of them!
COVID-19 has made all the kids more resilient and they just ‘get on with it’. The fact that on their first day of school, each child walked in with just their fellow classmates, rather than holding their parents’ hands, is a big thing for a little one. But what a fantastic, huge step this is, going forward in this crazy world we now live in.
Independence, resilience and determination is key for our future thinkers. I am definitely one proud Mumma!
Jakki Jones’ Top Picks
Love My Read Subscription
I’ve recently signed Riley up to this amazing subscription service where you get a newly released book every month to your door. They have offered me a 20% discount if any of you are keen to use my discount (follow this link!). They will also donate a book to a school of your choice for every 12-month sign-up.
Infantino Baby’s 1st Playset
Marley adores his first playset. The objects are super easy for him to hold, helping his development of motor skills, as well as the exploration of textures and colours. He turned 6 months earlier this month – where has the time gone?
The Joy Journal for Magical Everyday Play: Easy Activities & Creative Craft for Kids and their Grown-ups
My dear friend Laura has written this amazing book which is all about doing crafts at home. Simple, fun ideas to do with your little ones. A great help in lockdown and everyday life – especially with those trying to get their kids off digital devices.
Kit & Kin Chunky Knit Grey Hat
My dear friend Emma Bunton‘s fantastic eco-friendly baby brand has just launched the most beautiful new clothing, including the cutest hat I’ve seen (modelled expertly by Marley above). This chunky knit hat is not only super sweet but it’s also made from 100% organic cotton and sustainable cotton.
Electric Eye Apparel Sweatshirt
Being a huge music fan, I love this brand. They offer a bespoke service of your favourite lyrics stitched into an item of clothing.
SBTRCT Moisturising Face Balm
I’m Obsessed with this facial balm, which comes from a new brand called Sbtrt. I use it in the morning and at night. It’s really thick and contains Glycerine, squalane, rosehip oil and shea butter which all work together to moisturise, restore and protect the skin. It feels like you are putting goodness back into your skin.
Jakki Jones’ Diary of a Mum: A Summer to Remember
The Summer of 2020 certainly wasn’t what we thought it was going to be…
We had planned to go to the south of France with the younger kids – but that all went out the window at the impending thought of social distancing, wearing masks and navigating all the baby baggage. Enough already. Kelly was meant to be on tour for a lot of this summer and we had planned to dip in and out to visit him. With all his concerts cancelled for the foreseeable future, it meant our summer plans had gone from hectic to zilch.
As a family, we are not great at sitting still – we like to be busy, living life in the fast lane, and we definitely like an adventure. We were sat in the garden one afternoon and Kelly had a text from Steve – his tour bus driver – who informed him that all the busses were sitting empty in the yard. Pretty sad considering that summers are always the busiest time of the year in the music industry, and for lots of people, now meant many people were out of work.
Kelly had a brainwave ‘Why don’t we go to Italy on the tour bus, with Steve driving us?’ ‘What?!’ I said practically spitting out my coffee. ‘We could pack all the kids on the bus and go door to door without seeing anyone ‘. Bar passport control, of course. My head went to initial thoughts of being in a vehicle for over 24 hours with four kids; no escape and nowhere to hide. Gulp. Pass me the gin.
During lockdown, I had definitely felt trapped being in the house, let alone a bus……but the more I thought about it, the more I thought Kelly was right. If we wanted a holiday abroad, this is a brilliant idea. Genius, in fact. It’s something Kelly has been wanting to do for a while (pack all the kids on tour with him) and there has never been the time or the right opportunity. Lockdown has given us this opportunity, and Kelly doesn’t even have to sing one note! This will definitely be a summer holiday we won’t forget.
So, one sunny evening, all six of us boarded the bus outside our house. A mixture of bags, buggies, artwork, guitars, floats, hats, wine and digital devices. The Vontrap family were hitting the road. And our holiday began. I must admit – the whole trip was by far the best travelling experience I’ve had with the family. Remarkably it was SO chilled.
The teens mostly hung out in the top lounge, and Kelly and I hung out in the kitchen or in the back ‘Dolly Parton suite’ with the two little ones. The movie ‘Cars 2’ was on the TV, and Kelly and I raised a glass together celebrating smashing complexed parenthood, as the evening drew in. Apart from an early stop off for passport control, we were on the road the duration, and taking in the incredible view of the Swiss alps. Something you don’t see every day.
We arrived at Lake Como just before lunch time. The hotel probably didn’t know what hit them when they saw the double decker tour bus pull up. Gig anyone?! The week flew by and I can honestly say it’s the most fun, most lovely holiday we have had as a family. Despite the various age gaps, everyone mucked in and had a laugh, and we certainly won’t forget this holiday – especially Daddy trying to get everyone to look up from their devices and take in the beautiful scenic mountain views of the alps.
‘Look kids’, ‘What?… Another mountain, Dad?’…I guess some things are just lost on teenagers and toddlers. 2020, what a year you have been so far.
Jakki Jones’ Top Picks
Inti Knitted Baby Blanket
This came in beautifully handy during the cooler summer evenings.
Over the summer I sorted through a load of Riley’s artwork and got it made into a beautiful coffee table book. It’s one to cherish forever. Use code DOODLE10 for 10% off your order.
La Roche Posey Sun Cream
Always a winner in our house, the compact size version of this cream is forever in my handbag and Marley’s buggy.
Cub Club Leopard Print Cub Set
I’m a bit obsessed with leopard print and I just love this little matching set from Cub Club. The booties stay on, too, which is a miracle – I can’t count the amount of socks and booties I’ve lost.
Bloom & Blossom Wonder Worker Balm
I’m a big fan of B&B and was thrilled to see they have just launched some new products, including this awesome balm which you can use on lips, dry skin, cuticles and babies’ bottoms. A great all-round cream and a handbag essential.
Jakki Jones’ Diary of a Mum: Sibling Rivalry
Adding another child to a family is always going to shift the dynamic. When I got together with my husband Kelly, I became a step mum overnight. We had our first daughter, Riley, together in 2016. I remember when Riley was born, our ‘baby of the family’ Misty (who was 9 at the time) was a bit wobbly ahead of her impending arrival. We noticed her behaviour changed and she became lot more emotional in the lead up. It lead to a big breakdown one particular evening with Daddy, where she revealed she was worried about being left out. At the time, Colby, our eldest, was doing entrance exams for high school and I was caught up with being pregnant – naturally she felt the attention was drifting from her, and at that particular point in time, she was probably right.
Of course, when the baby arrived, Misty took to being a big sister like a duck to water and absolutely loved the new addition and her new role within the family. There was no jealousy whatsoever.
This time around being pregnant with Marley – it was Riley’s turn to have her position and role questioned. In the lead up, she was so excited at the prospect of a new baby sister and told everyone she met about it. Cut to when he actually arrived – I think she was stunned!
We called home from the hospital and told her that in fact she now had a baby brother and her response was, well, disappointingly flat! When we brought him home and they met for the first time, she just stared at him and was quiet. Almost contemplative; summing up who this little person was and wondering how long he was going to stick around for.
The days that followed she realised he was not going anywhere – and we witnessed some very special moments; smiles, kisses and secret chats. I could see Riley was falling in love with Marley, just like the rest of the family had from the off. Our love was not being taken away from her, and we reassured her of this every single day.
But even with this affirmation, we have noticed that Riley’s behaviour has been questionable at times; particularly when I am feeding the baby, or friends and family are ‘cooing’ over the baby. The behaviour shifts and the cheeky Riley comes out to play. Of course, this is textbook, especially when I compare notes with friends who have had a second (or more) babies.
It’s been an unusual time for us all due to the virus, and with strict rules in place and not being able to see friends, or do usual things like got to the park, or have playdates, it’s hard to know if lockdown has had a greater effect on the young brain, or if it is in fact the result of a new arrival – or perhaps it’s a mix of both.
What I have found incredible to witness is the love that is growing daily between each of the siblings. Despite the varying age gaps – 15, 13, 4 and 3 months – the bond is so evident, and it makes me and my husband so proud.
Being a parent to four kids is absolutely exhausting, but we wouldn’t change it for the world… Well I say that, let’s wait and see what a family holiday – mid global pandemic – looks like. More on that next month!
Jakki Jones’ Top Picks
Star Pick: Kirstie Le Marque Compass Necklace
One of my best mates gave me this compass necklace when Marley was born to help, “guide me through these uncertain times!”. I absolutely love the design and the thought behind it and haven’t taken it off since.
Murad City Skin SPF 50
I wear SPF every day and with the recent weather we have been having lately I have been slapping it on even more than usual. This cream by Murad has been one of my favourites. It’s super lightweight and protects against the usual harmful effects of the sun from UV rays, pollution and even blue light from Screens. Which let’s face it, we could all use with some extra protection right now given the amount we are using our screens more now, than ever.
Rainbow Organic Muslin Swaddle
I love rainbow designs, and this swaddle is just divine, so soft and looks awesome in the pram or even dropped over my shoulder (which is a lot at the moment). I think it could also double up beautifully as a sarong when I go on holiday!
Ewan the Dream Sheep
I’ve heard lots of wonderful things about this sleep aid and they have just unveiled a brand new eco makeover, so I’m delighted to hear it’s kind to the environment, as well as kind to my (and Marley’s) sleepy brain!
Meminio Memory Case
This is got to be one of the best gifts I received when Riley was born: a special memory case to keep all of Riley’s keepsakes. Plus, it looks beautiful in her bedroom. I had to get Marley one as soon as he was born and have already been storing away special things. I know one day they will love looking back at their ‘firsts’, special cards and treasured items.
Scamp & Dude Baby Vest
I absolutely love Scamp & Dude and have been a fan since their launch 4 years ago. The colours and print designs bring me so much joy – and I love that the whole family can have a matching item!
Jakki Jones’ Diary of a Mum: Our New Normal
Coming home after Marley’s arrival was different to how we had envisioned. Pre-lockdown we had planned for Kelly’s parents to come over from Wales and stay with us for a couple of weeks, as we had done when our daughter Riley was born.
We loved having Beryl (Granny) and Oscar (Granchy) with us in the family home in those early few weeks, as it was a great bonding time for us all. They really helped us in those tiring, early weeks with a newborn. We were obviously looking forward to this happening again, little did we know a global pandemic would change our plans.
This time around, an empty house has been most unusual. I still can’t help comparing this situation to what was (back when Riley was born), and wishing for that similar experience: The house was buzzing, people were in and out, Kelly’s parents were permanently topping us and our guests up with tea and coffee and being amazingly supportive, silent helpers.
My parents and sisters also used to pop over and, as a new mum, I loved receiving those amazing and supportive cuddles. This time – it was just Kelly, myself and four kids, and not one knock on the door! Quite the difference.
It’s been intense few weeks, and although nice to have our family bubble, I’ve really missed seeing our immediate family and friends and have felt resentful having the first chapter of Marley’s life so isolated.
Thankfully, over the last few weeks the restrictions have been lifting slightly, and we are gradually getting out a bit more and seeing people. However, there is still an uneasy feeling in the air. I remember going into the chemist soon after Marley was born and felt quite on edge when people approached me and the baby to say ‘congratulations’.
I didn’t feel comfortable being so close and almost rushed the conversation in order to make a speedy exit. This is not right – and that is certainly not me. I love a chat. I hate the way that I’ve become so worried and wary…but speaking with friends I am not alone.
2020 is not the year we ever imagined it to be. But with these worrying times, there are also many blessings and for me, being a mother second time around has been an incredible experience so far. I am loving every single minute. The broken nights don’t seem as hard this time and I feel more relaxed in my parenting. Riley has taken to being a big sister very well, although she’s not impressed with all the presents he’s getting and certainly has something to say about that!
Over the next few weeks we are looking forward to spending time with both sets of grandparents and seeing friends we haven’t seen since before the lockdown. Hopefully a little bit of normality will return!
Jakki Jones’ Top Picks
Star Pick: Brora Cashmere Knitted Baby Blanket
Marley has been wrapped in this beautiful blanket since he was born. Not only is it a gorgeous colour – it’s the softest most exquisite knit ever. Perfect for newborn baby skin.
Scola Chubbi Paint Markers
Since lockdown we have been doing lot of craft and art work as a family and absolutely love Scola. They have great products, bright colours, and easy to use. These Chubbi markers are definitely a winner in our house as they don’t spill, are are fast drying and non-messy paints.
Polarn O. Pyret Boys’ Jacket
I’ve just discovered this gorgeous Swedish brand, this little jacket looks like a mini version of one of Daddy’s, so it’s definitely a winner in our house.
Mimi and Lula Face Masks
An essential item for all of us right now, Mimi and Lula’s matching adult and child face coverings boasts a handful of super cute prints and designs. I’m loving this floral number, but the polka-dots and star prints are also pretty cool.
Rachel Riley Cardigan
As you know I’m a huge Rachel Riley fan – and have adored her dresses for years! Now I have a boy, so he is going to to get a preppie makeover. This cardigan is just adorable!
Bugaboo Buggy Board
Riley has to make way for her baby brother and is no longer in the buggy anymore – this buggy board is a game changer – all of the kiddies on one cart! Also she loves sitting on it and watching Marley.
Lil Cubs x Mr Men Muslins
I adore this collection by Lil Cubs! The images take me back to my childhood and Riley loves seeing Marley swaddled in this muslin as she has recently taken a great interest in the books!
Inch Blue Leather Shoes
I’ve adored this company since Riley was born. Not only are the shoes made using the softest most beautiful leather – but they are handmade in Wales!
Diary of a Mum: Marley’s Arrival
Well, baby is here! We welcomed our son Marley Levi Jones to the world on May 1st, and what a journey he’s had already.
In the weeks leading up to Marley’s arrival I was very concerned that my husband would not be able to be present at the birth as there were conflicting reports around how the lockdown protocols were affecting maternity units. Closer to the date however, we were thankfully informed that Kelly would be able to be at the birth – but would have to leave shortly after, before I moved with baby to the maternity ward.
Due to the way Marley was lying, I had a planned Caesarean booked, (as I also did with Riley). Having been through a Caesarean birth before I was comfortable with what was ahead as I had a really good experience last time and recovered quickly and well.
The day before Marley’s scheduled birth however I began to experience sensations I’d never encountered before. I was unsure if they were ‘Braxton hicks’ or in fact early labour contractions, so I stayed in touch with my doctor that day and thankfully the pains subsided that afternoon. I went to bed early that night praying for a good night’s sleep ahead of the big day. However I was woken at 00.30 with pains which I can now denote as ‘Contractions’, and they were arriving every 5 minutes. Marley wanted out sooner than planned!
We immediately rushed to the hospital. As I had not prepared for natural labour at all, I was totally freaking out and finding the pain pretty unbearable! The midwife and my hubby were telling me to breathe through the pain, but I found myself resisting and almost holding my breath. Thank goodness my new best friend, the Anaesthetist, helped me out soon after and Marley entered the world at 4.20am by emergency Caesarean weighing 5.7lbs.
I will never forget when they handed him to me and I saw these two big balls coming towards my face; I was in total shock as I’d been convinced I was having a girl! It was a wonderful surprise and holding Marley on me in those first moments was incredible. Ultimately I was just so relieved he was safely here; our little lockdown baby.
Kelly was only able to stay for a couple of hours until we left the recovery room and didn’t see us until we were discharged thre days later. I felt really sad saying goodbye – it was a bittersweet moment bringing our beautiful son into this world and then having to be separated from each other.
I found comfort knowing Riley would have her daddy and they would look after each other. My job was now to focus all my energy and efforts into my new little man and spend the weekend getting to know him. In some ways I was relieved this wasn’t my first birth experience as I felt more confident and calm in those early days, but in other ways I found myself also comparing birth experiences and considering what was missing from the usual experience of hospital birth.
This time round the ward felt eerily quiet; I was isolated in a private room with staff only coming into see me if I needed them, or to do my observations. The midwives were incredible though; dressed in full PPE it felt really strange not to be able to properly see their faces but I tried to find comfort in connecting with their twinkly kind eyes. The hospital staff as usual were working tirelessly around the clock in very unusual and challenging circumstances, and I appreciate everything they did for me that weekend. I will never forget it.
As well as Kelly, I really missed seeing my family and friends coming to visit in hospital, and the celebratory feeling on the ward. As I was unable to leave my room I didn’t get to meet other mums or babies on the ward and I missed the buzz, the laughter, even the cries. Zoom became another new best friend that weekend and I introduced Marley to my family on a group video call, such a weird experience!
We have been home a few weeks now and have found our flow. There have been unexpected benefits to the unusual circumstances, like being able to spend more time together. Despite everything we are in our little family bubble now, with no pressure to tidy the house for visitors or get ready and we will be able to tell Marley he was part of a unique period in history; our very own lockdown baby.
Jakki Jones’ Top Picks
Star Pick: The Bugaboo Bee5
I adore this model from Bugaboo, it’s such a perfect size for city life, and the carry cot is just perfect for those early snuggly days.