The Fantasy Worlds They Live In

photo 2 (1)

The Boy

“Mummy, will you play my fruit game? Here, press on a fruit sticker, and it will become REAL.

Mummy, now play my dog game. Which dog would you like? ZIP! Now it’s REAL!

Mummy, The Girl is making LOTS of pups! The dining room is full of pups. There are thirty-four of them now. This house is getting very full. There are not 97, not 98, not 99, but one hundred dogs now! Here, give this one a treat and it will grow even more.

Mummy, I can’t go to bed now, I need to do some more stickers on here. Ah, I’ll use the Easter egg stickers. If you press on an egg, it will come alive.

My house is really busy, because there are one hundred dogs, and one hundred Easter eggs, and one hundred of me as well.”

The Girl

In the car, the Girl suddenly sits up and says in alarm: “Mummy! There’s something behind us!”

Me: “What’s behind us?”

Her: “A fairy pony.”

Me: “Ah.”

Her: “It’s a magical pony. It can make us go super-fast.” Silence. “It’s coming through the seats.”

Another moment’s silence. Then very quietly she says: “Naughty magical pony.”

We drive along.

Her: “Talk to her Mummy.”

Me: “The magic pony can talk?”

Her: “Talk to her.”

Me: “Hi Magic Pony. Where do you live?”

Magic Pony: “Into my story cave.”

Me: “Okay. And do you have a special friend?”photo 1 (6)

Magic Pony: “Yes! It’s the star one. It’s a little star. But I can’t find her! She’s lost! She’s in terrible trouble!”

Her: “Don’t worry, Pony. We’ll help you.”

Pony: “Oh, thank you.”

Her: “Magic Pony, are you make us go super-fast?”

Pony: “Yes, course!”

Her: “Oh great.”

My Own Fantasy World

Me: “Kids, it’s 5.45am. It is not morning. It is the middle of the night. Why don’t you go back to sleep, or read quietly in your bed?”

Five minutes later, there is a sound most like a herd of elephants galloping on the landing, followed by piercing shrieks and sobbing because the Girl has taken one of the Boy’s 25 favourite cuddlies and insists it is hers.

Five minutes after that, Team Umizoomi is on TV and I am making myself a cup of tea, fantasising about when they are teenagers and sleep until midday.

Erasing Memories

As parents we are mostly in the business of making memories.

But often it is as important to get rid of them. Like the memory of rashly made promises that you find yourself unable to keep. Or of the chocolate cake you blithely set about making with the children the night before, forgetting that you are keeping your daughter off dairy for a week.

Cake? What cake?

Cake? What cake?

“The cake needs to cool right down before we can eat some. It needs to cool down overnight,” I said, hoping sleep would induce amnesia.

This morning, as I set about erasing the evidence with a cup of tea in the kitchen, I thought gloomily that my plan was doomed to failure. My son, who has taught himself to read primarily by building up a dizzying sight-vocabulary, has a near-photographic memory. Times this by ten for memories that are inconvenient to you. Times this by a hundred for memories involving snacks.

Just yesterday he asked me about the banana chocolate chip muffins we had made last week, wondering where they were. To his great disappointment, I had to admit that they were all gone now, and he pressed me for a detailed accounting of the fate of each of the twelve muffins.

On occasions when the Fairy Godmother is babysitting I give her a quick rundown of the important information of the day while rushing out the door. “And I did say that before bed he could finish sticking the alphabet land book he was making earlier, but he’s probably forgotten about that by now,” I say dismissively.

“Yeah, all those things you say he has probably forgotten? He never has,” the Fairy Godmother replies gloomily, as I run off to work leaving her in craft-hell.

Sometimes there are things the Boy actually wants to forget, but can’t.

His intense curiosity, lively imagination and sensitivity are a bad combination when it comes to films, books or TV shows that contain what is laughably referred to as ‘mild peril’. (For the record, Disney, to a four year old, an adorable little rat being swept away on a raft by a rushing river and getting separated from his family, while being shot at with a shotgun is not ‘mild peril’. Yes, I am looking at you, Ratatouille.) The Boy will back away from the screen, squeaking in fear, his eyes still glued to the TV, unable to look away. These are memories that he will refer to later and mull over, trying to unpick their meaning.

The images that have haunted him above all else were from a Barbapapa book about pollution and animal cruelty. (I know, not the ideal topic for a children’s book. It has taught me to re-read my childhood favourites before showing them to my children…) He loved the book and wanted to read it all day, asking me questions: why were those people hunting the animals? What did they want to do to the animals? What is coming out of that chimney? Why are the animals sad? What is the dirty stuff in the water? What are those people wearing on their faces? (They were gas masks. Barbapapa doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to pushing its idealistic agenda onto the next generation). What are the people doing now? Is the air clean again now? Will the animals come back?

He woke in the night crying bitter tears, his dreams filled with smoke from chimneys and a sky that had gone black and would never be blue again. We talked, I explained, we prayed together, he slept. The next day he woke from a car-nap, again terrified and in tears because people had destroyed the earth and the sky was black.

We had really good conversations about all sorts of important things off the back of this book, but how I wished I could hide the book and erase the memories.

In the end, he worked out a way to do it himself.

“See,” he said, “This is the book all about me. It has lots of pages.”

“What book?” I said. He wasn’t holding anything.

“Here, in the air.”

I looked up. He was pointing proudly at nothing. He told me that the book had pictures, and he could look things up about when he was two or when he was three. I started to understand. The book was imaginary. It was the book of his life, with all his memories.

“But some pages I will take out,” he said very seriously. “Like the pages about the chimney with the smoke and the sky that is black. I will rip those pages out of my book.”

“That is a good idea,” I said. “And we can put nice pictures on the pages instead and fill up your book with good memories.”

“Yes,” the Boy agreed.

“Great,” I said, giving him a hug. “Let’s bake a chocolate cake.”

Life Game: Potty Training Edition

Dearest Gamers,

Sorry for the long silence, but I’ve been very busy navigating my way through all the complex quests in Level 2. I won’t go into all of the stuff I’ve been doing now (the coup I staged on the Brother’s pre-school deserves a post all of its own I think) because right now I want to talk you through the Potty Training quest.

At some point during Level 2 I was given a scroll, signed by the Mummy. It said:

“Congratulations! You are now a Big Girl. I have removed all nappies from your inventory and replaced them with Pants with Cartoon Characters and Anthropomorphised Fruit on. From now on, when you perform Wee or Poo actions on the Potty or Toilet, you will receive 1 Sweet.”onderbroeken

I have to say I was a bit dazzled by this news to begin with, for several reasons:

1. I’d always been a Little Girl. What was involved in being a Big Girl? Would I still get to wrap up in a massive towel and Play Baby? Would I still get hugs?

2. I checked my stats, but I hadn’t gained any height. How was I going to get up onto the toilet? I can’t even get onto the space hopper! Or the balance bike!

3. Sweets had always been a precious commodity, rarely available in the house, and if they were in stock, they were usually enchanted by the Fairy Godmother with a “Mine”-spell. Were they now really freely available? Just by weeing or pooing in the potty? It seemed like there must be a hidden trap somewhere.

So I gave it a go a few times. I weed on the floor – got wet. I weed on my chair – got wet. I weed in the potty – got a sweetie, as promised. I tried the toilet too, which was even better, as it comes not just with sweets but with a whole flushing routine. Finally I was actually allowed, nay, required to press the awesome Button of Rushing Water.

The only trouble is: how do you know when to sit on the potty in order to get a sweetie? I started off trying as often as possible for maximum sweetie-revenue, but sometimes I’d just sit there with no result, getting more and more frustrated. The Mummy would say “Never mind, just try again later. When you feel like you need to do a wee, go straight to the potty, okay?”

I wanted to say: “But I am not yet fully aware of the urge to urinate and my response is therefore often as not, too late.”

Sadly, that was not a conversation option at Level 2.

So, rather than working out this tricky “urge” and knowing just when to go, I have been working on an alternate, subversive strategy for sweet acquisition that I would like to share with you all here.

But shhhhh, this is super-secret.

What you do is: turn the tables on the Mummy and potty train her instead.

The trick is to turn up the pressure on the Mummy to such a degree that she gives up on waiting for you to learn to recognise when you need to go, and just works out when she needs to put you on the potty on time for you to do a wee.

Turning up the pressure is easy:

1. Choose your friends carefully: only associate with fully potty trained model toddlers. They will make the Mummy feel embarrassed that you are still not trained.

2. Puddles: make as many as you can, in as many different places as you can. And be sure to look adorably distressed at the result. This dials up both the Embarrassment and the Sympathy. I can recommend the pharmacy as an excellent place for a puddle, as well as a grown up friend’s new carpet. Puddles that destroy stuff are even better: try weeing on puzzles or library books.

3. Regularity: time your puddles. Make sure it is a pattern that is easy to recognise though, Mummies can be a bit dim. As soon as she notices the pattern she will find it impossible to resist the urge to beat you to it and put you on the potty just before it is puddle-time.

It’s brilliant. I’ve got my Mummy pretty well trained now and the sweets and congratulatory cuddles just keep on coming. I’m just hoping that she doesn’t cotton on it’s actually her that’s doing it, or she might start pocketing the winnings for herself.

Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on!

Love & kisses,

The Girl

girl in garden

Public apology to my son’s plants

Dear Seeds,

Anybody home? No?

Anybody home? No?

I haven’t seen any green shoots appear so I guess you must be dead. When my son brought you home with great excitement, in that little pot with a sticker with his name on it and a hand-written note from the lovely pre-school staff saying “Today the Boy planted sunflower seeds”, you were probably unaware that you were going to be handed over to a serial killer. (That’s me, in case your current state of dehydration and asphyxiation hadn’t tipped you off)

By now, you could have become a lovely tender green plant in the tidy and clean window sill of some other Mum’s home, with a lovely view through the crystal clear windows of the beautifully tended garden where you would soon be able to spread your roots and grow and eventually flower.

But sadly you came home with the Boy and now you are here.

I did remember to water you on the first day. And on the fourth day, I think, or it might have been the seventh, I lost count, and quite frankly, that is my problem right there. Or I guess it is more your problem, as I have not noticeably suffered from your demise.

Some of your fellow seeds were in another pot, with the Girl’s name on it, and that didn’t even make it to the window sill – perhaps that is of some comfort. I stuffed that pot in her school bag, where I accidentally tipped it over as I pulled her lunch box out, and all the soil spilled out, probably with the seeds in, and I shook the whole lot out into the bin.

It wasn’t even the compost bin.

The truth is, I just can’t make myself care enough about you plants. I wish I did. It’s not that I hate nature or anything. I love walking through forests, for instance. And I love the idea of growing plants from seeds. But I’m afraid there is always something more pressing on my mind. You are bottom of the food chain in our house. And unless you learn to somehow draw attention to yourself, like the cats very successfully do, you are going to stay there.

I guess this apology is more of a “sorry not sorry”. Because although I do feel really bad about your death (and the death of the others before you), I don’t see myself changing my ways anytime soon.

After World War Three and the nuclear apocalypse, when the supermarkets have become places to hide from zombies and the farmers have all been eaten by aliens, once peace has been restored and we pick up the pieces and try to build new lives for ourselves, I promise that then I will really and truly dedicate myself to growing a beanstalk. And potatoes and carrots and everything. They will have top priority then.

Though I have to admit I probably still won’t bother with sunflowers.

Sorry again.

The Boy’s Mum.

This could have been you if we'd done the right thing and taken you to Gran's. Gran knows how to look after plants.

This could have been you if we’d done the right thing and taken you to Gran’s. Gran knows how to look after plants.

And then what?

The Boy is 4 and a half.

“Mummy, what happens if you leave your car in the car park?”

“Eventually someone will call the police and they will take it away. Then it will cost you a lot of money to get it back.”

“But what if the police don’t come and take it away?”

“Well, then it will just stay there.”

“And then what?”

“It will just stay there.”

“And then what?”

“Well, eventually, after a very long time, everything falls apart. The car will start to rust and fall to pieces.”

“And then what, Mummy?”

“And then what what?”

“After the car has fallen to pieces, what will happen then? Can they fix it?”

This is the Boy’s new hobby. Anything interesting that comes up, he wants to follow the process through to its ultimate conclusion. What are the eventual consequences? My husband and I promised each other that we would take our children’s questions seriously, and give them a real answer – as long as it was age appropriate of course. So we do this: we answer his “and then”s ad infinitum.

Sometimes, the questions come from scientific curiosity.

Sometimes, from worries. He has recently discovered that there is such a thing as death, and it seems sometimes that he is checking whether a decision could lead to something disappearing from this world, either through death or by breaking beyond repair and Mummy throwing it away. If I warn him not to do or touch something, he wants to know what the consequences might be: if he did step in dog poo, what would happen? Would the shoe need to be thrown away? Would he get sick? How sick? If he dropped his Paw Patrol playset on the floor, would it break? Would Daddy still be able to fix it?

Sometimes you can see that he is assessing the risks and benefits of being naughty. So eating something off the floor might give you a poorly tummy. And then what? You might have a very sore stomach and throw up. And then what? Do you have to go to hospital? No? Do you have to go to the doctor? Not always? You can see the cogs whirring: this doesn’t sound too bad, perhaps a risk I could take if it is a very tasty bit of cake that has dropped on the floor.

Something I always liked about the Numberjacks was how they seemed to exemplify their age. Numberjack 2 is very two: everything is “mine!” This where our Girl is at. 3 wants to do everything herself and 4 likes rules. Numberjack 5 is the one who asks “What if…?” It would seem our four and a half year old has levelled up ahead of time.

While writing this, the Boy has turned up next to me, his head on one side, a proud grin on his face. I notice that he has tucked a small Lego piece into his ear and is balancing it there, waiting for me to notice his clever trick.

“No!” I shout. “Don’t put stuff in your ear! It might get stuck!”

I’m sure you can guess his answer.

numberjack5

The Mummy Dictionary

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It is lunch time.

“Mummy, What does ‘new’ mean?”

“That something was made or born a short time ago.”

“What does ‘old’ mean?”

“It means that something was made or born a long time ago.”

“What does ‘red’ mean?”

Briefly I consider going into light spectrum and so on, but I decide against it. “It means something has the colour red.”

“What does ‘one’ mean?”

“That there is only one of something.”

“What do two, three, four, five and all the other numbers mean?”

Now I’ve had enough.

“They are arbitrarily assigned combinations of phonemes used to signify the number of units of something present at any one time.”

Well, he was asking for it.

The extent to which a two year old understands what you are saying

photo 1 (4)“Taking Turns” Is Just A Way to Get Your Hands on A Toy You Want

Boy: Here, you can hold my cuddly for two minutes. Then it’s my turn.
Girl: Yes! Thank you!
Boy: (a little later) Okay, the two minutes are over. It’s my turn now.
Girl: (wails inconsolably) NOOOOOO MY TUUUUUURN!!!!!!! MUMMY, S. SNATCHED MY TUDDLY!!!!

Time – There Is Only Now

Me: In two sleeps we’re going to play at Mary’s house!
Girl: I DON’T WANT TO GO TO SLEEP!!
Me: You’re not going to sleep now, it’s the middle of the day. I said we’re going to see Mary on Tuesday, in two days. Two sleeps.
Girl: YAY! We go to Mary! I get my shoes and coat on.
Me: Not now! In two sleeps!
Girl: I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP, I NOT TIRED!

Life Game: I made it to Level 2!!!

Hey there Life Gamers,

 

Well, I did it. I made it to level 2! And boy is it amazing. Let me give you a run down:

Levelling up gets better and better

Last year when I reached Level 1 there was a bit of fuss (cupcakes, a pretty dress, a shape sorter bus), but it turns out that levelling up just gets better as you go up the levels. This year when I levelled up there was a cake with TINY EDIBLE FLOWERS (I knew it. All tiny objects in Life Game are actually made of sugar. No one is going to stop me trying ‘Eat’ on tiny objects ever again!). Also, the Living Room had transformed and there were paper garlands and balloons everywhere.

Then there were lots of amazing new toys for my inventory. There was a little house with two tiny rabbits to live in it (+10 Imagination, +15 Happiness). The little rabbits had a tiny little stove with a tiny little pan with a tiny little omelette – obviously I had to try Eat on the omelette, having just discovered that probably everything is made of sugar, like I said. Then the omelette and several other tiny items disappeared and I haven’t found them again. Weird.

There was also a Peppamog Pig tree house (+10 Fun) and some books (+5 Wisdom each, +10 Knowledge of the World) and…

… a new henchman. A travelling companion to accompany me on all my adventures. Yes, when I levelled up I got my very own, cuddly Mog the cat. Words cannot express my joy. Mog has not left my side since this day and has been a source of much happiness.

But anyway, on to the new skills and other features that come with Level 2:

 

+20 Willpower

Who would have thought you’d get such a massive boost? Clearly there are going to be a lot of difficult confrontations with high level sorcerers and so on in this level. The increase in willpower can be used for all sorts of important things, like avoiding having to wear a coat. What you do is Stamp Feet, Pout Lip, Fold Arms and then choose the Princess conversation options: “NO, not coat! I PWINCESS!!”

NOT COAT

NOT COAT!

It is also absolutely essential for avoiding getting poisoned. At some point you will find that the Mummy tries to feed you some rubbish about having to take this medicine because it is good for you blah blah blah (I stopped listening). You MUST NOT allow this medicine to pass your lips, because it is actually POISON. You can see from the red glow around the bottle. The best thing to do here is Flail Arms, Turn Head Away, Cry, and just shout NO as much as you can. If you make good rolls on your willpower the Mummy will probably start crying too and give up. But hide her phone because she might try Phoning for Help and then you are screwed.

Finally, if you fail a Willpower check, the best way to save the situation is by attacking the character that beat you. At Level 2 you have some powerful new weapons that can be used for a retaliation attacks: Grump, Huff, Spit, Push and Whack.

 

Jump

How awesome is jump? I knew it was going to be great. I’ve been trying to copy the Brother for ages, and for a while I thought all you had to do was bend your knees and say “Jump!”, but it turns out what you really need to do is level up. Now I can do it! I can make both my feet lift off the ground at the same time! This is the beginning of great things, I can feel it. At level 3 I can probably pick Flying.

 

Mimic

This guy got it all wrong.

This guy got it all wrong.

Source: RiddlewraithRP3

Putting all that XP into Imagination has really paid off. At level 2 I had enough Imagination to pick an excellent Special Ability called Mimic. This allows you to take on the characteristics of another character or an animal, which allows you to take part in Pretend Games with the Brother, or to sneak past the security in heavily guarded special areas in order to acquire precious and rare objects (this last use is still just a theory, but I am expecting great results on my imminent trip to the Tower of London). This is how to use Mimic: basically, you select who or what you want to be and simply declare it, followed by an explanatory sound:

“I’m a cat! Meow, meow!”

“I’m Milli! Milli measure!” (Milli from Team Umizoomi, of course)

“I’m an aeroplane! Neeeeeeeeeeeow!”

Finally, laugh loudly at your own funny joke. Repeat until tired or hungry.

 

stripesChoosing Robes

Another fantastic use for your Willpower is combining it with your Charisma to choose your own robes. It turns out that you don’t just have to wear whatever the Mummy puts on you in the morning. You can use Speak Language (English) or Speak Language (Dutch) to indicate your preferences and then the Mummy, charmed by your charisma and coerced by your willpower, will usually take those items out of your clothing chest and help you put them on. So if you run into me in Life Game nowadays, you’ll see me rocking the stripes (“Striiiiiiipes!!!”) or starry tights (“Look Mummy! Stars!”) or anything with cute animals on it (“Chute!”)

 

Expressing Love

I would like to finish this report on the joys of level 2 by disclosing a secret. I have discovered a never ending source of Happiness. I used Listen to discover what it is that the Mummy and the Daddy and the Brother say to me when they give me those wonderful hugs that fill up my Hug-bar. Then I combined Speak with Express Feelings to do the same. Let me tell you, saying “I’m love you” to your family just increases all the hugs and kisses. It turns out, when you give out love, you get even more back and your Happiness is for ever and always overflowing. Especially when you use bad grammar to do it (+5 Cute).

 

Well, Gamers, I have no idea what is ahead in the levels to come, but I feel like I’ve pretty much cracked it already here at Level 2. I am invincible and full off happiness and love and I’m wearing a pretty butterfly top. What more could anyone want?

Keep at it, all of you, and see you on the forums!

Love & kisses,

The Girl

 

Important note to regular readers: you may have noticed that there have not been very many new secrets in the sandpit. The Mummy has decided to focus more on creative writing, so posts on here are going to be few and far between. If you want to keep up with Mummy’s poetry and fiction, come and follow her other blog: http://judithkingston.wordpress.com/

Not so secret racism

Sometimes certain political parties dare to darken my door with election leaflets. This is what I would say to them if I wasn’t afraid they’d come back later with more friends/big dogs/guns.

2011_04_09_G2826SassenheimNarcisTussenHyacinthen

I am still different

 

My form may conform
to the local norm
as I open the door to your leaflets
that spew forth your bile
against others and strangers,
that warn of the dangers
of letting us in.
I know that within
I’m what you think is so vile
so I smile.

You see,

With malicious glee
I do all those things you’d expect from me.

I take your jobs
and I live in your houses
I sit in your queue for your A&E
I use your library,
Take up space on your bus
I even vote for my local MP

I say “We”.

I watch your news

I stand in your queues
My car appears in your Google Street Views.

I’m using your water
I’m breathing your air
Flush my wee through your sewers
Your pipes are clogged with my hair

best of all:

I made children
bilingual half breeds
growing like weeds
spreading my seeds
my foreign ideas
shooting roots over years
until decades from now
you will look around
and find Britain has changed
is no longer the same
because I changed my name
and staked a claim
on your country, your land.

I’m sure you’ll understand
I’m sure you’ll forgive
You’ll live and let live
Because you don’t need to fight
someone like me, you’d say –
I am okay, I can stay:

I am white.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

 

You can hear me read this at Stephanie Arsoska’s Virtual Open Mic Night.

Clinging on to Bilingualism: “I’m wijzing at the blue auto”

IMG_3858[1]I’ve had to face facts. The kids are barely scraping by with their Dutch. As their only source of input, and an inconsistent one at that, I provide pitiful motivation for speaking Dutch, as I respond just as well to demands for juice in English. And so the idea for our Intensive Language Holiday to my parents was born. Surely 2 1/2 weeks in a purely Dutch-speaking environment should help.

One week in, the Boy is still speaking mainly English with, granted, an increasing number of Dutch words thrown in.

“I’m dol op spaghetti!” he exclaims. (I love spaghetti)
“Look Mama, I’m wijzing at it!” (wijzen = point)
“When he is worden vier then I will be vier as well!”
“We can put it in my mondje and it will be very lekker. I love that dropje!”

It’s not surprising really. Here in the Netherlands where we are all pretty well educated in Modern European Languages, requests for juice work just as well in English. Again, there is no pressing need to speak Dutch to get your needs met.

We discussed just refusing to respond to anything but Dutch, but I could picture the despairing wailing and frustrated crying that might ensue if I had to stop every excitable story the Boy started to insist he laboriously translate every single word of it into Dutch before I would listen or join in his game. I don’t want to make Dutch a chore.

Clearly, though, what we were doing was not working as well as we’d hoped.

This morning I had a little epiphany as we met Opa while we descended their Himalayan staircase. He told the Girl: “Je moet wel het hekje even open doen“, which is to say: “Don’t forget you need to open the stair gate.”

And I repeated for the Girl: “Hekje open“, “open the gate”.

She echoed: “Hekje open“.

It was then that I remembered a friend of mine with a little girl who had a speech delay. The speech therapist taught her how to talk to her daughter to help her catch up. Basically, the message was to do more “child directed speech”, as it’s called. Talk about what your child is doing at the moment in short clear sentences, modelling language they can easily mimic and pick up. Like, for example: “Open the gate”, as they open the gate.

We started to implement the new technique over breakfast. We spoke to the Girl in short sentences, stressing and repeating key words: “Juice or milk?” “Not nice?” “Yummy apple!” It worked wonders on her, and she dutifully parrotted what we said, even volunteering some Dutch words herself without prompting.

It did not seem too effective on the Boy, however, until we accidentally landed on a rhyme. This helped trigger his memory for the Dutch word he needed and he seemed delighted to have discovered that there are rhymes in his other language as well. Perhaps, I thought, he needs games, things with repeated phrases that he could start to pick up.

After breakfast we played a game with pulling and pushing Opa, sleeping and waking up, standing up and sitting down – but the commands only worked on Opa if you said them in the right language. With a lot of enthusiasm we just managed to keep it fun and light-hearted, skirting the edges of frustration with frequent successes, a lot of help and a lot of cheering when they managed to get Opa to wake up or push him back down again.

IMG_3976[1]Then while trying to distract the Girl from running around the living room like a lunatic I discovered another good game, using a Kermit the Frog puppet. I improvised a tiny interactive puppet show.

First Kermit was shy and had to be called gently. Then I changed shy to afraid as that is much easier to say in Dutch. The Boy wanted to join in and spontaneously produced an almost correct Dutch sentence saying “Maar ik ben niet bang” [“But I’m not scared”]. He said ‘scared’ instead of ‘scary’, but the idea was there. We repeated the key words a lot more times, Kermit decided The Boy was not scary and got a ‘kusje‘ (kiss).

Then Kermit was hungry and wanted something to eat. As the Lego was out, the kids started offering him Lego food items (eg. a little tile with an apple on it). Kermit started chewing and then spat it out. “Dat is geen eten, dat is Lego!” he exclaimed: That’s not food, that’s Lego. And so a game was born. In fits of giggles, the kids kept fetching Kermit more funny Lego titbits (a little broom, a small bicycle, a tiny watering can) and Kermit chewed them with enthusiasm before spitting them out in disgust and repeating: “That’s not food, that’s Lego.”

I left them to it after a while. They went off by themselves and continued finding food for Kermit and using the Dutch phrase. Slowly he started substituting other acceptable words into the grammatical construction, like “Dat is geen Lego, dat is een aap“, that’s not Lego, that’s a monkey.

IMG_3984[1]

It is now almost a week since I started writing this and there is definite improvement. The Girl now shouts “Klaar!” instead of “Finished!” when she pushes her plate away at the dinner table, and the Boy was overheard in the sandpit today, talking to two random Dutch boys and telling them in Dutch to dig deeper. Their vocabulary is expanding and occasionally they will say an entire sentence in Dutch.

I think, after a doubtful start, I am ready to call this language holiday a success!