Wees and poos in

Potty training. We’re having another go.

The Boy recently turned three, and I had sort of in my head decided that I would have another attempt at getting him out of nappies soon after his birthday. If you are struggling with potty training, please read about my first attempt, no really, it will make you feel better.

I will write more about his birthday later, but for now the most important thing to note is that he got three cuddly Numberjacks. They go absolutely everywhere with him now and are even rivalling the much loved and abused Teddy. So one evening the Numberjacks were getting ready for bed, just like the Boy, and he presented them to have their nappy changed. I started pretending to change 3’s nappy when I suddenly stopped and said: “Hang on: 3, 4 and 5 don’t wear nappies! They’re big Numberjacks! They wear pants! And do you know what, you’re three now, and you’re big, so tomorrow, you can wear pants too.”

I put him to bed and gave myself a well-deserved pat on the back and a gold star for a) quick thinking and b) model parenting and c) exploiting the Numberjacks.

The next day, I spent all day mopping up floor puddles and changing his clothes.

The second day, I decided there was nothing wrong with bribery. He was awarded a chocolate coin for doing wees and poos in the potty.

The third day, he was good at doing wees in the potty, but I had to change SEVEN soiled pairs of pants, that just did not seem to bother him in the least. I had to ask him to show me the contents of the offending underpants, tipped off by the smell, otherwise he would have happily kept playing. He then took great glee in watching me tip the poo from his pants into the toilet and then he demanded chocolate coins. I had to explain that the deal was that he had to deposit straight from his body into the potty, with no intermediate stop offs in his pants. Not sure he’s got the message yet…

The days after that have been up and down: some accidents, some spontaneous potty/toilet visits, a lot of “Do you need the potty?” “No thank you please”, and a lot of requests for “treasure”.

I still have no wisdom to share, except that this time I am determined to see it through and wave goodbye to size 5 nappies (for now). What I do want to show you, however, is the most fantastic potty training book that we have been using. I can heartily recommend it – and I should add that nobody is paying me to say so. It is called Pirate Pete’s Potty.

DSCF4562It is aimed especially at boys and does an amazing job of taking both the adults and the child through potty training step by step: why it’s happening, what to expect and how to react to the things that might happen on the way. One of the best things about it (aside from the “cheer!” button) is that it starts by setting up Pirate Pete as the instigator of the potty training:

"It's alright for the baby to wear nappies," thinks Pirate Pete, "But I want to be more grown up than that."

“It’s alright for the baby to wear nappies,” thinks Pirate Pete, “But I want to be more grown up than that.”

This starts the whole thing off on the right foot: you’re not wearing underpants to please your parents, who seem to have some mysterious stake in the matter. You’re doing it for yourself, because you’d like to be more grown up.

Your potty is for doing wees and poos in, instead of in your nappy."

Your potty is for doing wees and poos in, instead of in your nappy.”

It also very clearly explains what the potty is for, and that it replaces the nappies. Finally, it suggests some lovely motivational peer teaching:

When the baby is ready, Pirate Pete can show him just what to do with his potty.

When the baby is ready, Pirate Pete can show him just what to do with his potty.

The Boy just loves the book. We’ve been reading it as a bedtime story for the past week, and I frequently get requests to read it throughout the day. He has added his own little details and has snuck in the Numberjacks as well (they each get to choose a potty after Pirate Pete has chosen his). When he presses the ‘Cheer!’ button, he also gives a little extra cheer for himself. All in all, it has been a brilliant tool, and it also helps keep him sitting on the potty for a bit longer in the hope that he might try doing a poo – so far no luck but I’ll keep you posted.

A final useful side effect of Pirate Pete has been that the book has provided the Boy with a subtle way of letting me know that he has had, or is about to have, an accident. While he is playing and narrating his play, suddenly I will hear: “Wees and poos in!” This is my cue to grab the spare underpants, trousers, kitchen towels and anti-bac.


I’m sure he will get there soon, but there is still a way to go before my days will be free of clearing up wee and poo…




I was hoping to make this into a podcast, inspired by Stephanie’s dialect poetry, but it’s not working out. So instead, you get the same poem twice in print: once in Dutch and once in English. It was actually an interesting exercise, because you don’t just ‘translate’ a poem. Really, you write it all over again. So if you are bilingual, read both versions – perhaps you have a favourite?

For my first ever niece

Lieve Emilie,

Jij noemt hem papa
– of eigenlijk noem je niet,
je kijkt en denkt
hij is een warme
vorm vol veiligheid –
papa, dus, voor jou.

Voor mij: broertje.
Altijd vijftien in mijn hoofd
lang haar en fijn gezicht
en t-shirts uit de Large
een cello, even groot als hij,
een stille denker
dichter, zanger
en acteur.

Nu is hij jouw papa
en jij zijn allerliefste Emilie.

Zijn haar is kort
en hij draagt pakken
rijdt een auto van de zaak
en elk moment zingt hij van binnen
omdat jij in zijn leven bent.

Jij kijkt en denkt
Jij groeit en leert:
Die handen, dat gezicht
De ogen die maar kijken
lachend, vol met liefde,
papa heet hij
papa nu.

Ik blijf het zeggen
want het lijkt zo vreemd
hoe één klein mensje
zoon en broer en man
voor altijd zo veranderen kan

maar ja

jij kent hem toch niet anders
dan die man die
alles voor jou over heeft
altijd in je blijft geloven
een veilige haven
een rots in de branding
je vaste anker
je trouwe vriend
altijd blijft hij van je houden:


je papa.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Dear Emilie

You call him Daddy
– though really you don’t

say anything at all
you watch and think
he is a warm
safe shape –
so: Daddy, he is to you.

To me: brother
always fifteen in my mind
long hair, fine features,
black t-shirts with band names
swamp his frame
like the cello that he plays.
A quiet thinker
a mathematician
an actor, a singer
a crafter of words.

Now he is your Daddy
and you his dearest little Emilie.

His hair is short
and he wears suits now
jet-sets, analyses and consults
and every heartbeat is a song now
because you have come into the world.

You watch and think
You grow and learn
Those hands, that face
The eyes that gaze
laughing, full of love:
the word is Daddy
Daddy, now.

I keep repeating and repeating
because it strikes me as so strange
that such a tiny little person
can change who someone is, for ever:
son, brother, husband, man –

But then

you have only ever known him 
as the man who would do
for you
who will always keep believing
your safe haven
your protector
your rock
your friend
his love is for ever

He is: Daddy.

Your Daddy.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013


Prose for Thought, you can’t get rid of me. Soz.

Back to work

Return to the Classroom

Return to the Classroom

I went back to work once before.

The Boy was about ten months old and I returned to a new job – before I went on maternity leave I’d had exactly five weeks in this new role at my old workplace. When I returned nearly a year later, I had to re-learn everything. I was very blessed to be able to go to work without needing to send my boy to nursery. Daddy looked after him on one day and a dear friend on the other. But even though it wasn’t costing us money, and he was with family and close friends, I was wracked with guilt. I felt guilty about all sorts of things: that my husband was sacrificing his only day off, that my friend was having to look after a kamikaze baby while trying to home school her own four kids, that I couldn’t do more days at work, that I wasn’t doing fewer days at work. I felt guilty if I left work early and I felt guilty if I picked the Boy up late. I drove drove drove like the wind to get back home or to my friend’s to pick him up at the end of the day.

Mostly, I felt like I was shirking my responsibility. He was my son. I was his Mummy. I should be looking after him.

After a few months, we decided the situation was not ideal, and as I was getting lots of freelance work in at the time, I stopped teaching and became purely self-employed. I worked while the Boy napped/slept and when he was awake I could spend the time with him.

It is now two years on. A lull in the freelance work and the end of maternity pay caused a financial drought and over the summer we decided something had to be done. I applied for a teaching post and got the job: part time, close to home, mostly in the evening which is easy to cover childcare-wise. I do one morning when a kind friend has the kids until after lunch.

Somehow this second return to work is different. I don’t feel guilty. The kids are loving having a bit of special time with Daddy without me around and they love being at my friend’s house. She has a four year old girl who the Boy is slightly in love with, and a 1 year old daughter who is 9 days older than the Girl. The two babies just adore each other and are so cute together that my friend reports never getting any housework done because she just sits and watches them be adorable.

The Fun Bag. It is red and entirely frivolous.

The Fun Bag. It is red and entirely frivolous.

And I am enjoying having a place where people meet me for the first time without two small children hanging off me. I am just Judith to them, or “Teacher”. Slowly, as I prepare lessons and look through the familiar websites and course books, I am remembering what I loved about this job, why I did it in the first place. I feel I am genuinely making a difference to people’s lives and to my community.

Best of all, I get to take my fun bag with me! There are no nappies in it. Just my wallet, my phone, my ID card and some real actual make up. 

So I don’t feel guilty. I feel great. Even the Boy’s new favourite phrase doesn’t make me feel bad: “Oh Mama,” he says, throwing his arms around me, “Zo gemist enenene werk!” [I missed you so much enenene work] I see it as a sign of a healthy attachment. He loves having me around, he misses me when I am gone and is pleased when I return – but he is clearly not distraught or worried that he has been abandoned.

Really, apart from an initial settling in period at my friend’s house back when he was ten months old, he has always been quite content and secure and not half as mummy-ish as I imagine him to be. As for my daughter, she didn’t even need settling. She merrily starts waving me goodbye as soon as I put my coat on, even if she is coming with me and we’re just popping to the shops. And so I have come to realise that two years ago, it was me who had the separation anxiety. I didn’t want to give up being a full time mother just yet.

This time, though, the time is right to broaden my horizon again. This time, I really am ready to go back to work.

Who are you?

This morning at a parenting group I attend, the visiting speaker told us about an exercise she had learned during her counselling training. The counsellor sits opposite you and asks: “Who are you?” Whatever answer you give, she will ask you the same question again. And again. And again. Until you run out of answers.

I am one of the Hermione Grangers of the world. If someone did that to me, I would be looking for the right answer. The textbook answer. Trying to ‘guess what’s in the teacher’s head’. If they kept asking, I would get more and more frustrated, annoyed. Why had I still not got an A*? The trick is, of course, that all the answers are the right one, all of them reflecting how you see yourself.

When we were asked the question: “Who are you?” and given time to count how many answers we would give, instead I found myself writing a poem.


Who are you?

I am the sum of everything said
everything asked
everything thought of me
in a single day

I have shaped and curled
to fit and suit
to please and amuse
in every way

I am who you say I am
Who I wish I was
Who my mother thought
I ought to be
Who am I meant to be?
Which of these thoughts are mine?
What is there left of me
since I met all of you
out there in the world
and thought how nice it would be
if you never thought ill of me.

What lies inside this shell
down the tunnels
twists and turns
when I unlearn
all these faces
the voices that say
‘I distance myself,
I can still deny,
prevaricate or lie
if need be.’

Who is sitting round that final bend?

What she breaks
I cannot mend
What she speaks
turns to stone
She is a stranger
in my home
where she sits
all alone,

Who am I?
I cannot tell
cannot see inside this shell
I don’t know me very well

But you do
don’t you
the one who made
every hair and every nail.
Can we trade?
This maze of riddles is for you,
the need to please,
every time I fail,
the guilt that won’t fade
that impenetrable veil.

Then if you could sit inside that place
give the real me your fine face
clothe her in your glorious grace

And when they ask me “Who are you?”
Can I refer them on to you
and can your answer be mine too?

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013


After a bit of a hiatus, I will link this up to Prose for Thought.

Old Favourites: Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

After a brief hiatus, I am very pleased to introduce the latest in my series of nostalgic children’s book reviews. This month it is Firefly Phil, who has an excellent taste in books, joining us with a review of one of my personal favourites, Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson.


I am only going to touch lightly on the story-line of this book; it is so fascinating, that to do more would spoil it for you. Very simply, our heroine, Maia, an orphan girl (albeit not poor – this is part of the plot) finds herself setting out with her guardian, Miss Minton, on a voyage to, and up, the Amazon – and to a new life. As she discovers its scenery, wildlife, and culture, and falls in love with it, she is also caught up in a web of adventures.

The portrayal of scenes, characters, and events is wonderfully vivid; the plot contains several facets and is most ingenious. Yet this book goes further than that. Many details that are described carefully are powerfully symbolic, containing many contrasts. Contrasts of conventional perception with the results of enquiry; of prejudice, with the desire for the truth; of haughtiness, meanness, and pride, with a generous-spirited openness towards fellow men; and perversion, greed, and dishonesty with simple desires and joy in living. Yet this is no sanctimonious Victorian cautionary tale; gripping to the finish, it carries its own brand of humour. Young readers will learn ‘life lessons’ without thinking of it in this way – something that good reading matter – and good teaching practice – is very much about. Because of this, many children will love to re-read the story of Maia’s adventures many times, as they grow up. I hope they leave their (doubtless, now battered) copy of the book somewhere where their own children will find it and pick it up…

This brings me to another point: in these days when many of us have to budget carefully, we face a  question in regard of books, namely, buy or borrow? Let me say, here is a book I would buy for myself, and buy as a gift.

Children who have reached that magical stage of fluent reading – I can remember it personally, even though it’s, [cough] a long time ago – and who love to think and investigate, will devour this book. Children of ninety, who still love justice and the desire to kick convention in the teeth, will still enjoy it, and needn’t be ashamed of doing so.

A quotation? I was going to give you one, but it’s so precious I’ll leave it for you to find; at one point, Maia is asked what it was like to be ‘rescued’. Note her beautiful reply. Also look for the symbolism in what Miss Minton throws overboard in the later part of the story…

Eva Ibbotson, take a bow – or should that be curtsey? You’ve given us an all-time classic. I humbly lay this review at the end of a long line of prestigious, and well-deserved, awards.


Firefly Phil,  October 2013

Breastfeeding one year on

It’s funny, but it almost seems like people’s attitudes to hearing that you breastfeed your baby flip overnight from “Well done” to a shudder of disgust on her first birthday. You don’t have to anymore, so why would you? They start to get a little nervous: they always thought you were normal, but are you going to turn out to be an Extended Breastfeeder, and will they have to grin and bear it while you whip your boob out in a cafe and feed your three year old?

I am sitting here at stupid o’clock in the morning, feeding her. This is our last and only feed in the day now. I dropped the late afternoon/early evening feed around her birthday with a sigh of relief, turning my attention back to my non-nursing bras and un-breastfeeding-friendly dresses. But I also feel a bit bad. Dropping the evening feed was my decision, not hers. Sometimes she gets fractious at that time of day and tugs at my top, and I let my gaze guiltily slide away from her. I get up and find her a banana or some bread sticks. I have offered her cow’s milk, but she doesn’t like it. She will take a sip and let it sit in her mouth for a moment. She pulls a face and slowly it comes dribbling back out. She now knows the pink cup does not contain tasty water like the orange one and won’t even try the contents.

She has always been a young lady who knows what she likes. She will try any kind of food once, but if it doesn’t meet with her approval she will offer it back to me, and if I’m not prompt about accepting her gift, she drops it on the floor. Milk was not popular. I am amazed and astounded, really, because as a family we go through litres of the stuff per week. Her brother is a milk evangelist: any little friend he visits who is reportedly a milk-refuser will be eagerly drinking cup-fulls of it by the time the Boy goes home. But he has yet to work his magic on his sister.

She knows what she likes.

She likes Mummy’s milk better.

And why wouldn’t she? It is still the best milk for her. It is still designed just for her. It still tastes a little different every day – and let’s face it: cows eat grass, but Mummy eats lots of chocolate, ergo she produces tastier milk.

My baby is one, and I am still breastfeeding her. It is still good for her. It is still full of things she needs. It is nutritious, it protects against illnesses, it is comforting. Yes, it is comforting. When I sit here at 5 am and she won’t go back to sleep quietly and we are both crying because we are so tired, it is comforting for her and me. Frustration melts away. She feeds and calms down. She tugs on my hair. I lie my head back against the sofa and snore with my mouth open while she feeds. She grins at me and all is well. Then she toddles off, slipping and sliding on the laminate on her pyjama-ed feet, clutching a plastic banana in one hand and a Numberjacks DVD in the other.

My baby is one and I am still breastfeeding her. I’m not embarrassed. I’m proud. I have made it this far from really very difficult beginnings. I so nearly quit so many times when she was tiny, but I persevered and saw it through and managed to give her the best nutrition I had available. It was true that there was pain in the night, but joy came with the morning.

So my baby is one, and is a toddler now, and I am still breastfeeding her. In case you were wondering, the appropriate response is still: “Well done.”