Level 9 Walk-through?

baby gaming

The Baby, ready to level up.

Yo peeps, Baby here.

Thought I’d update you on how I’m doing in Life Game. Got some new tricks and skills to share, but also some issues that maybe you can help with.

I’ve recently completed level 8 and started on level 9. So far, really enjoying it. Discovered some cool new skills. It turns out that when the Mummy puts you in the middle of a play mat and walks away, you are not helpless. Crying loudly is still a good way of getting her to come back, but I worked out that if you get up onto hands and knees and move your limbs alternately, you can propel yourself forward and follow her around. This gets you into The Kitchen at floor level – a room previously only accessible in Mummy’s Arms, which only gave you limited functionality. You need to be ready with your plan though, because as soon as the Mummy spots you, you will be removed. Best to use stealth mode.

Needless to say, this discovery has revolutionised game play. I can now get to lots of the interesting objects that I spotted before but was never able to interact with. Things I have discovered since becoming mobile:

1. Occasionally, additional food can be found in the bin. Useful for health points.

2. There are many long, black coiling things along the floor that connect to appliances, lights and electronic devices. I am sure they are significant, as any time I get hold of one it is taken away from me and I get re-set to the play mat. I’ve tried ‘chew’ and ‘pull’ but so far no results. Will let you know when I find out what they do.

3. The black furry creatures that used to be so elusive? I can follow them now. I’ve tried ‘grab’ on their fur, but that turns them hostile, just like doing ‘pull’ on their tail. Not tried ‘chew’ yet, I think I’ll do that next and see what happens.

4. You know how I told you about the absolutely amazingly awesome Brother (he’s level 32 and can do ANYTHING). Well, now I can follow him where ever he goes to adore him. The more time you spend with him, the more positive relationship points you get. Especially if you do ‘play peekaboo’ or let him do ‘rabbit flying around your head’. Be careful though when doing ‘play’ around the Brother, as any object you are interacting with in his line of sight is likely to disappear from your inventory. This happens twice as quickly if you do ‘chew’ on an object, as this triggers the ‘No Not For Eating’ script. I think it’s a bug in the game, hoping a fix is in the pipeline… @God?

My other cool  discovery in this level is Pulling Up. This is a great new skill that allows you to access objects that are higher than your head. You can click on pretty much anything and do ‘pull up to standing’. Some issues:

* Sometimes the object you are using falls over – still working out why it works for some things and not for others.

* Sometimes you just end up with your bottom in the air. Data collected so far: bars of play pen, success. Doll, bottom in the air. Book, bottom in the air. Full laundry basket, success. Empty laundry basket, fall over, lose health points, get buried under basket, reload to start of level.

Finally, just a little question for anyone who has already completed level 9: you know how you wake up in the night, roll over and end up sitting in a corner of your bed? Well, how do you lie back down and get back to sleep? So far I’ve just done crying and got the Mummy to help, which is nice, but it makes the Mummy less helpful the next day. Is there a way you can do it yourself? Plz let me know in the comments.

Hope you’re all having fun playing Life Game!


The Baby (aka DevourerOfEverythingzz2012)


Play date

Play date

Into my tea I sigh and moan and whine
that I am fine, no really, I am fine.
I just wish that there were time
to clear away the daily grime.

Long hours, up so often, drying tears,
soothing pains and calming fears;
these endless days drag on like years.
I’m waiting till this brain-fog clears.

Your nod and sympathetic sound
shows that we have common ground
that this is just what you have found:
you too are stuck on this merry-go-round.

The centre of whirling cacophony,
we sit here in perfect symmetry.
Next time, why don’t you come to me
and I’ll do the tea and sympathy.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Linking up to Prose4T over at Helen Braid’s All at Sea.

Prose for Thought

Me and my girl

Two years I had alone with the Toddler. Two years in which I watched his every move, waited on him with snacks and drinks, read him stories, sat by his bedside in the night stroking his hair.

The Baby has had a three hour train journey – and now a weekend.

baby having breakfast

All you can eat breakfast: definitely her favourite meal of the day.

It was lovely to be able to spend so much time alone with her these past few days. Together we attended BritMums Live, a blogging conference, bringing together hundreds of parents-who-blog for socialising, attending workshops, celebrating achievements and meeting companies that want to connect with bloggers. From the Baby’s point of view, we went to a large building crammed with (mainly) women eager to admire her, cuddle her and give her lots and lots of attention. She was loving it. During the awards ceremony in the evening I walked around with her on my arm, and after the first few people we encountered stopped me to chat to my daughter, the Baby started pre-emptively reaching out a chubby hand to everyone we passed, smiling winningly. She just loves people.

What struck me though, was that it didn’t feel unusual or strange to be alone with her so much. I treasured the time, but as I thought about it I realised that there are plenty of times in the day when it is just me and her:

* between 5.30 and 7am, when we snuggle up together before the Toddler wakes up;

* on Tuesday morning when the Toddler is in the creche for a few hours. I have tried leaving her there too, but she screams the place down. She wants to be with me and the other Mummies having tea and biscuits and sharing thoughts about parenting;

* in the early afternoon, when well-trained Toddler sleeps like the dead for hours, she usually wakes up early from what I keep hoping will one day become a two hour nap. We spend the time watching age inappropriate television mostly;

* At bedtime, when I try to feed her quietly in her room as the Toddler watches his regulation pre-sleep episode of Numberjacks. This one doesn’t always work out. About half the time the quiet feed in a dark room is accompanied by wild jumping around or ear-splitting screaming from my son;

* In the middle of the night. Not my favourite one-to-one time but hey.

So even though the Baby is my second child, we do get quite a few moments to ourselves. Probably more than I get alone with my son.

My second thought, as I watched her little face beam at all the lovely bloggers cooing over her, was that she doesn’t seem all that desperate to be alone with me. She wants me around. That much was clear when her joy turned to despair as soon as I disappeared out of sight for ten minutes, when suddenly the company of my lovely new, now Real Life friends was not good enough anymore. But she seems to love having plenty of people around. It is, of course, the only thing she has ever known. Her brother has always been there, and she can’t imagine life without him. She clearly adores him – her face was a picture when they were reunited after our weekend away.

Perhaps this guilt we feel, sometimes, towards our second or subsequent children is unnecessary. They don’t know what they’re missing – they have no concept of what these years of time alone with Mummy and Daddy might have been like for the first child. And they have something of great value: built-in friends for life, who look out for them and dote on them, watching their every move, bringing them drinks and snacks and, occasionally, lying beside them in the dark to make the night less lonely.

He knows the plans he has for me

An old one today. A lesson I need to learn over and over.

He knows the plans He has for me

I tried to sneak a look
but he replaced the lid.
His hands deftly diced carrots,
onions, garlic.
“Why so much onion?” I asked.
“Why vegetable stock? Chicken is nicer.”
He smiled.
He peeled and chopped
his movements a blur
sleight of hand
I couldn’t follow.
“Is that coriander?” I sniffed,
“I’d use thyme, myself.”
The knife flashed
steam filled the kitchen
a fragrant mist
I blinked blindly.
“What are you making?” I pleaded.
He gave me some potatoes and a knife
I peeled them and my hands
got covered in dirt
I couldn’t match his speed
but he was infinitely patient.

At last,
he stirred one last time
and held out a spoon:
“Taste and see,” he said invitingly,
“Isn’t it good?”

(c) Judith Kingston, 2008

Linking up to Prose for Thought at Victoria Welton’s blog.

Prose for Thought

Reinventing Education: Let’s start at the very beginning

Clean Slate now has a blog all of its own! No more education posts will appear on Secrets of the Sandpit. Please click here to read and comment on this post and catch up on my latest thoughts on reinventing education.

A Clean Slate

As regular readers may remember, I have been getting on my soapbox about education and how it needs to be completely reimagined. Having devoted two posts to what I feel is wrong, I am now ready to start putting it right. Every month I will write a post building up a picture of what teaching and learning could look like if we dared to start with a clean slate – which will also be the name of my project: Clean Slate.

If you have thoughts and ideas, if you would like to contribute by writing a guest post or linking up something relevant from your own blog, please let me know. At the bottom of any Clean Slate post will be an index/bibliography of other posts that help build the New Education. 

So, let’s start at the very beginning, as Julie Andrews tells us it is a very good place to start. I think any discussion about school and education needs to start with:


Why do we learn? Disregarding the fact that we are usually coerced by external forces (parents, government): why do we decide to learn about something? I have narrowed it down to three possible motivating factors:

1. It is necessary for survival

2. It is necessary to achieve our goals

3. We are interested

Learning about construction

Learning about construction

We can see these three motivations at work in our children all the time. There has been some discussion in the field of language acquisition about the reason behind the language learning window (the age at which you will learn a language fluently) being so early on in life, and the assumption is that it is necessary to learn to communicate for survival. I am sure this is true: when you are too short to reach the fridge, how will you get your supplies unless you can ask “Milk, Mummy?” The second motivator I can see at work in my daughter as I type. Her goal: reaching Daddy’s shoes. How will she get there? She must learn to crawl.

It is the third factor, interest, that I find the most beautiful to see. It flows from our individuality. I have loved seeing my son grow up and develop preferences, learning to choose: I like this but I don’t like that. The things he likes, he has an insatiable hunger for. He wants to find, practice, rehearse, explore and celebrate them. His favourite is still numbers. He spots them on the signs over supermarket aisles and calls them out, spurring me on to find the next number in the series. A walk down a long street is interesting because he finds that each house has a number: there’s 21 and there’s 23. But Mummy, where is 22? This prompts a discussion on house numbers, the postal system and odd and even numbers. He searches for and spots numbers and letters in every day life, encountering numeracy and literacy in their natural habitat.

Child-led vs adult-led curriculum

When I was teaching, the question we were always asking ourselves was: how can we get the students interested in what we want to teach them? To start the new education, we need to turns this around. How can we teach what children are interested in learning? Children are intrinsically motivated: we need to learn not to squash this, but to help them with our experience and knowledge to learn what they want and need to know.

Now I can hear you shouting: But Judith, there are things they have to know! They will not be able to function in society if they can’t read or write or do basic maths! Maybe your son loves numbers and letters at 2 years old, bully for you, but my son’s main interest is bashing things with a large stick!

First of all: chill out.

Second of all: remember that there are three motivating factors. Maybe maths and English don’t immediately feature in every child’s interests (though it may be there if you look more closely), but it will become clear to them that they are necessary for survival (to quote Michael Macintyre: “Now, if you can’t remember four numbers, you can’t buy food.”) and for achieving their short and long term goals.

Writing numbers on the pavement with chalk: unprompted, untaught

Writing numbers on the pavement with chalk: unprompted, untaught

If you wait, they will get to a point where they want to know. We must let go of the idea that children have to learn certain things at a certain time, in a set order. We also need to trust our children. As I said before: they have been designed for learning. They want to learn. Their in-built motivation will eventually lead them to the things they need to know.

A set curriculum, that prescribes what needs to be learned in what order, squashes motivation. If we are anxiously trying to cram in our own targets for our children, diverting them away from what they are naturally exploring at the time, we will be harming the possibility of them becoming interested in the things we so desperately want them to learn. Perhaps initially, the National Curriculum was drawn up sensibly, by studying what children need to know to survive and achieve their goals, observing at what ages they learn which skills, observing the stages that they go through before they are secure in certain skills, and recording these. Recording is fine, it helps us see what is usually the case. But you cannot use this to prescribe how every child must learn. If anything, the observation that children tend to go through certain stages to get to certain points, and observing that they tend to have certain interests at certain ages, should give us the confidence to trust children, to take a step back and let them discover what they want to learn about at each stage.

We should be brave enough to let go of this fixation on controlling the order in which skills are learned, and on everyone needing to learn the same thing at the same time.

What is our role as teachers and parents?

I am saying we need to trust our children. However, I am not saying that we have no part to play. We are older. We have experienced and learned more than our children. We are a tremendous resource in our children’s learning – and they know this. Why else would they be driving you to distraction asking you questions all day long? “Why does that man have no hair? Can you eat a shoe? Why are the sun and the moon in the sky at the same time? What is colour?”

So again, children are designed to learn. They are intrinsically motivated. They naturally explore and experiment. And they naturally consult experts. This, again, is something we need to harness in the new education. We need to build on this and not undermine their natural reliance and trust by saying: “Stop asking silly questions and do this worksheet, we’re doing long division today.”

Here is what we can do:

1. We can provide varied experiences and environments that allow children to discover what they are interested in.

2. We can and must use our life experience to guide children in what is necessary for survival. Children have no concept of what might be dangerous and this is one thing you don’t want them to learn the hard way. We don’t need to schedule lessons about road safety though – while we take children out into the world to have those varied experiences, there will be roads. This is when they learn about crossing them.

3. We can help children break down their goals to see what it is they need to learn in order to achieve them. And don’t try to sneak maths in if it isn’t there, I saw that! Maths crops up all by itself in practically everything. You don’t need to cheat.

4. We can offer extensions of what the child is doing to expand what they are discovering. If they are pouring water into containers, you might ask which cup has more water in it. If they are playing with a tape measure, you could offer your foot for measuring, and then suggest measuring the child’s foot. However, if they insist that no, it is a snake, the correct response is: “Well hello Mr Snake.”

5. We can encourage their interests, whatever they are. Even if it is bashing things with sticks, as long as they are not breaking precious things or people, they can learn from it: how thick a stick needs to be before it won’t break when bashed against a tree, what else a stick can be used for (digging, prodding, pole vaulting), collecting more of them to build a hut or a fire, using one each for sword fighting and playing knights etc.

5. We can answer their questions seriously. Yes, it is cute when children ask crazy questions, and it is fun for us to give them a funny answer, but they really do want to know why. This is the start of an interest. We need to foster and encourage interests. If you respond to questions about the human body, about flowers and about the rain in all seriousness, you have the start of a biology lesson.

Let’s recap

There are many more questions to answer, of course. I am sure you want to tell me that we need to do more teaching than I have just outlined. You will want to ask me about how this works in a formal education setting. How you can teach a million different subjects at once without having one teacher to each student and a classroom the size of the world. You’ll want to say this is all well and good for three year olds but that this method is too slow for a sixteen year old to learn what he needs to know for his GCSEs.

Again: chill out. We’ll get there. This is only part one.

To sum up, this is as far as we have got with reimagining education today:

Children are intrinsically motivated to learn what they need to survive, to achieve their goals and to satisfy their curiosity.

Children recognise adults as valuable resources in their learning.

You can trust children to become interested in the things they need to know at some point.

It is not necessary for all children to learn the same skills at the same time or in the same order.

Join in the discussion! Leave me comments, and let me know if you want to contribute by writing something or linking up.


Many thanks to Helen Braid for creating this awesome logo!

Read More

Time to Learn

How to Play – by the Toddler



Right, welcome to S house, thank you playing. I will now explain how to play correctly with my toys. You would do well to listen and obey, because my cry is so ear-splittingly loud that the police can hear it all the way in the centre of town and they will come with their nee-naw to arrest you for playing wrong.


If there is something red, it is mine and you must not touch it. I’ll spell it out for you. If we’re playing Shopping List, I get the trolley with the red handles. If we’re playing Where’s my Cupcake, I get the plate with the red napkin. If we’re playing with my car transporter, I definitely get the red car. I might let you have the yellow one if I’m feeling generous.

Other things you must not touch

The grapes in the shopping basket, both colours.

My plane.

My George Pig bag.


Anything that is especially mine today.

Anything I am touching.

Baby, if you’re reading this, you cannot touch anything. It is not for eating.

Right, now we’ve set the ground rules, it is time for some instructions on how to play.

How to Play with Duplo

The people are not interesting, you can ignore them. The polar bears live in this house, and the baby polar bears fly the plane and drive the car. You can also play Big Barn Farm and find all the farm animals. This one’s a horse, not a cow. No, it’s really a horse. Bit scary.

Don't forget to match the colours too!

Don’t forget to match the colours too!

How to Play with the Number book

Put it on a flat surface. Find the right magnetic numbers and place them on the cover of the book to match the numbers in the picture.

How to Play with Happyland

Happyland has lots of fun vehicles to drive around, but make sure you get the right people in the right car. The postman drives the bus. Then you put two children in the other seats. The queen drives the van.

Gran has a nice little house with different floors to play with. You put the ginger cat behind the first floor window and the dog in the kennel outside, like so:

Cat inna window. Waiting people. People car. Dog inna dog house. Dog in house, go waf waf! Cat scared.”

How to Play with Teddy

Teddy is real and has feelings and is often sleepy. The other day, we were in the car going to the other supermarket. Teddy was tired. Mummy gave me one of the Baby’s jumpers as a blanket for Teddy. I tucked him in on my lap and said: “Mummy, drive carefully, Teddy’s asleep.”

How to Play with Clothes

Wave them around and shout: “Let’s party!”

How to Play with the Number Stencil Book

This is my box of paper Numberjacks. We play this game a lot.

This is my box of paper Numberjacks. We play this game a lot.

You make a stencil of each number by colouring through the holes in the book (but don’t do the fun pictures, just the numbers, they are more fun). Make sure you use the correct colour for each number, that is, the colour for each Numberjack. Then Mummy must draw a Smiley Face on each number and cut it out with scissors sharp. (Careful!) Then you can play Numberjacks with the numbers and find a three to land on somewhere in the house.

How to Play in the Sandpit

You can, if you like, make sandcastles and sand crabs (with the special mould). You may also smooth the sand with this ping pong ball. Another fun game is to fill this empty pack of biscuits I found in the recycling with sand and tip it out onto the side of the sandpit – but wait until Mummy is not watching because she will come and say something like “Blah blah sand IN the sandpit blah blah”.

However, the best way to play, is to smooth an area of sand and write numbers in it. Get Mummy to help. She loves helping you write numbers for hours.

How to Play Games

Mixing is very important. If there are cards, they must be turned face down and mixed vigorously before starting the game. Another important part of playing games is taking turns. First, it is S turn. Then the rest of you can sort out an order amongst yourselves, as long as it doesn’t take too long to get back to S turn.

Found-it sweeties! Yay!

Found-it sweeties! Yay!

Different games have different rules. In “Shopping List”, the most important thing is to find the card with the sweeties on it. In “My First Orchard”, throwing the dice is the best part. If you don’t get the colour you wanted (hint: red), you may turn the dice so it shows your favourite colour. Also obligatory is to have a picnic at the end of the game.

Finally, every game has a winner. And then another winner. And then another winner, until everyone is a winner! Yay!

Some final points to remember

When going downstairs, you must first shut all the doors on the first floor.

That spot on the sofa is mine. It is where I sit with red blankie and my beaker of milk to watch Maisie.

That’s it. Bye bye! Thank you playing, such fun!

Are you still there?

I am living in my childhood holidays – except I’m not. When I was a child, England was our destination of choice for most summer vacations (because of the lovely weather of course). We would rent a little holiday home in a village somewhere and go for walks through the woods, climb over stiles, jump in brooks, go for cream teas, browse second hand bookshops and visit stately homes.

Now I live here – paying a mortgage, finding work, bringing up kids – I sometimes struggle to see how this is the same country I knew from those summers in my youth. This is the topic of this week’s poem.

Our front garden - recreating an English country walk

Our front garden – recreating an English country walk

Are you still there, England?

I remember stone cottages
on windy roads hemmed with hedges,
dogs barking in the yard at dawn
a village shop, red phone box outside.
We ran without fear, without thought,
down the road, flip flops flying,
summer clothes, always grubby,
cricket in the garden and afternoon tea.

There was a stillness that settled.
You were but the scene, painted
as backdrop for childhood adventures,
no one moving or laughing but us.
Shopkeepers waved paper hands,
painted smiles from the hikers,
they knew their role and their place,
any words tightly scripted to brighten our day.

Twenty years on I have jumped in the picture:
the cars set in motion, the volume turned up.
Outside the shop is a shattered red phone box,
the winding lanes hide speeding cars round blind bends.
The chatter is ceaseless, voices cry for attention,
each one the centre of their own universe.
I can’t hear the birds now, the rush of the river,
no one wants to play games or run after geese.

Oh England,
Is it you or my youth that has fled
in the whirl and confusion of life games
insurance and taxes, politics, violence
and final demands?

Then I step out of the front door
the dewy lawn, tall purple flowers,
a child by the hand and one on my arm
and I see them gaze in joyful wonder
at bees and planes and diggers and cats.
Bills are just paper, traffic a game,
Their eyes reflect your beauty,
I look at their faces and find you again.

(c) Judith Kingston 2013

I am linking up, like every Thursday, to Prose for Thought on Victoria Welton’s blog. Click through to read some excellent poetry from fellow bloggers!

Prose for Thought

Breastfeeding: Winding down

I thought it was high time for another breastfeeding update. My aim all the way through has been to provide a realistic, truthful picture of breastfeeding that might help prepare a new mother-to-be and her partner for what it is really like. If you would like to read back and find out how my breastfeeding journey started, have a look at:

1) The Truth about Breastfeeding – things I wish I had been told pre-baby.

2) Bleeding nipples. The horror.

3) Update about the breakthrough I had with feeding my daughter

4) A look at breastfeeding 6 months in.

Today’s update was prompted by Thursday night. Thursday night, the Baby slept through from 7pm until 6.30am for the first time ever, and did not wake up for a feed.

This was a moment I had been waiting for ever since she started solids. As babies make the transition to Big People Food, there will come a point where they are so full up with Weetabix and roast dinner that they start to reduce the amount of milk they drink. If you are feeding your baby on demand, you will notice that she asks for fewer feeds, or leave longer gaps between feeds perhaps, thereby dropping one or two. If, like me, you feed your baby at certain times of day, you will notice that those feeds become shorter, your baby gets more distracted and generally doesn’t seem as interested. This is when you can try dropping a feed and seeing if they notice and/or mind.

The first feed I wanted to try to drop was the 11pm one. I dreamed of drinking more than one glass of wine of an evening, going to bed early without needing to wake up later for the last feed and perhaps even go to the cinema once in a while.

The Baby, initially reluctant to gain weight, has greeted solid food with enthusiasm and has jumped up a few centiles since she started weaning. For the past month or two she has been eating three full meals a day and her daytime feeds were getting shorter. I decided to stop waking her for the last feed, just to see if she would sleep through. She obviously disagreed with this idea and promptly started waking herself up, not just at 11, but several times throughout the night. I saw this as a sign of her displeasure at my intention to reduce her milk feeds, but now I’m thinking it was just her very first tooth coming through.

So I kept feeding her at night. And on Thursday, she did it herself. She ate her own dinner and half of her brother’s and then slept very deeply all night. We checked a few times just to make sure she was still okay, but she was fine, just sound asleep.

Friday night, she woke up briefly but was happy to be shushed back to sleep without milk.

Saturday night, I cracked open a bottle of wine and poured myself a large glass. Of course, 1AM saw me rocking an inconsolable baby. In the end, I fed her.

I felt a bit of a fool. Or a failure. Or both.

There is no need however. You cannot fail at breastfeeding. Every feed is a gift to your child. There is no rule book. Breastfeeding is a cooperation between you and your baby and how you work together is completely unique. Babies start up breastfeeding and wind it down in a million different ways – they are individuals. 

And for the Baby it has seemed to be a bit of dance from start to finish: one step forward, two steps back. Two forward, one back. Step to the side, one two quick-a-quick.

So sleep, my lovely daughter, and wake, as you wish, as you need, and I will dance with you for these few more short months until breastfeeding is done and you start to forget all about it.

Then, I’m getting wasted.

How to be a Domestic Disaster

I couldn’t sleep the other night. I was thinking about housework, and deciding that Something Had to be Done, before one of our friends called Kim and Aggie on us. Or Social Services.  So the next day I drew up an ambitious schedule for the week and got going. I managed to tidy the living room, reorganise it so my nappy-storage-location was no longer the space between the sofa and the French windows and did some long overdue filing. I decided I absolutely had to hoover every day, no excuses, and got going straight away – I even hoovered under things. Yes, well you might gasp.

I couldn’t sleep any of the subsequent nights either. It was as if I had flicked a switch that was normally set to ‘Rest’ and ‘Twitter’, to an unfamiliar setting named ‘Feverish Activity’. Even while lying in bed, I was still planning which load of laundry needed to be done next and how I might occupy the Toddler while I hoovered the stairs and tidied the dining room table.

Three days into my personality make-over, I found myself sitting at the breakfast table, bleary eyed and drained, staring at my schedule. I’d only managed half of what I’d planned, but I’d planned for that, too. Aim for the stars and you might land on the moon. The Toddler’s chatter broke into my thoughts.

“Mummy, biscuits?” he said.

Junior baker at the ready

Junior baker at the ready

I suddenly had a vision. I was Nigella Lawson, in a spotless house, looking gorgeous, baking immaculately beautiful biscuits with my Toddler, teaching him about cooking, measuring, enjoying food and keeping him away from the TV at the same time. Somehow, in my sleep deprived state, this seemed completely within reach.

“How would you like to make your own biscuits?” I asked.

The suggestion was met with pleasing enthusiasm. We went into the lovely, recently cleaned kitchen with an optimistic spring in our step.

Fast forward half an hour.

There are dirty dishes absolutely everywhere and the floors and surfaces are covered in flour, sugar and butter. The baby is crying in the high chair which I put in the kitchen to keep her close, bits of rice cake stuck in her hair. The Toddler is standing on a little chair, wearing an apron, crying because I told him off for licking the spoon that was meant for stirring and then took the spoon away. The first attempt at creaming sugar is in the compost bin (butter too hard). I am in a corner of the kitchen doing all the mixing myself, because the Toddler was doing it wrong, too slowly, and trying to stick his fingers in the mixture. In between the crying, the Toddler keeps asking me if we can bake biscuits now.

“We ARE baking biscuits!” I snap. “Now the dough has to sit in the fridge for an hour. We can finish making the biscuits after your nap.”

Only had one biscuit cutter. We made the other shapes with tupperware.

Only had one biscuit cutter. We made the other shapes with tupperware.

The crying goes up another notch. “No! Not nap!”

I bury my face in my hands, getting dough in my hair as I do so. Through my fingers I look at Nigella’s book, the one with the biscuit recipe I am using. It is called How to be a Domestic Goddess. 

Lies, all lies. It just tells you how to mix ingredients for biscuits. Nothing about managing two small children while doing so, as well as keeping the kitchen clean and your sanity in tact.

We finished the biscuits after nap time. They tasted a bit salty, and I had to chuck away half the icing as the ‘pink’ food colouring came out brown. I tried to remember how long I’d had the bottle but when I’d narrowed it down to ‘definitely since before I got married’ I thought it best to throw it straight in the bin.

The whole thing, I decided, had been a disaster.

Left: definitely green. Right: erm, no. Bin.

Left: definitely green. Right: erm, no. Bin.

But the next day, the Toddler proudly took his biscuits to a play date and shared them with his friend. Today he wanted to eat more of them, and do more baking. It occurred to me that perhaps I had been a domestic goddess after all. There are, when I think about it, very few activities the Toddler can get through without crying or having a tantrum at least once. He is two and does not need a reason. So he cried. So we made a mess. So I lost my rag and ended up doing most of it myself. So it was all done to a soundtrack of ear-splitting screaming from the Baby. He seems to have come away from the episode with positive memories, a sense of pride in his achievement and tasty biscuits.  Job done.

You want to know what happened to the housework schedule? I decided that putting in lots of extra effort is great and definitely worth it, but one also needs to know when to quit. While the biscuit dough rested in the fridge, I followed its example in my bed.

Iced and ready for sharing.

Iced and ready for sharing.

Embarrassing Moments in my Life

A poem I wrote a while ago – it speaks for it self, I believe.


Embarrassing moments in my Life


Remember that diary that wasn’t in Dutch

like you thought it would be?

How you opened it, just at the page

that said “I LOVE HIM!!!!”

in desperate, gawky letters

not meant for eyes other than my own

and how you laughed and laughed

and I went cold inside?


And remember the tent?

When we thought they’d be gone for hours

so we could – you know –

but they weren’t

and your little brother –

it wasn’t even good.


Or remember the time I lied

or the other time I lied

or all those times I said something dumb

those little splinters sticking

in the pin-cushion of my mind.


I’d invent Life Tip-exx if I could

if only that were possible

not to see your mocking face

or relive my shame


You do remember all that

don’t you?


(c) Judith Kingston, 2009


Linking up to Prose for Thought, hosted by the excellent Victoria Welton.

Prose for Thought