Poetry Live: Mother and child and mother times infinity

At Stephanie Arsoska’s most recent Virtual Open Mic Night we were tasked with reading a published poem and one of our own, without saying which was which. There was to be some link in theme or style between the poems, or you could even try to copy or emulate the published poem’s style. The others would listen and guess. I was rumbled straight off, of course, but I challenge you to listen to Sarah Miles read her two poems and pick which one is hers and which one is by a certain famous poet. Go on, have a go.

Meanwhile, here is what I read.


Ad infinitum

My joints click your click
My feet step your tread,
In my ring I hear yours ting
against your cup.
My toothbrush-tap is your spoon
playing a tune
on the rim of your mug.
“And now I tap!”
His toothbrush joins a line
that spans life, space and time.

Your irritations are now mine
I tell myself the self-same lies
Hiding behind the same disguise
So too I echo in his whine
Grating on both our nerves
As time rewinds, loops and curves.

Here I stand
And reprimand
Dizzy with a skewed
I see
versions of me
looking both up
and down at me.
You are in my words,
I speak you at my child,
and understand
where you stand
and stood.
The ought and should
now echo over years
and all the tears,
the fears, the growing pains
and vomit stains
on this point
where I stand
and understand
both child and mother
in my hand.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014


The published poem I chose is by one of my favourite, but relatively unknown poets here in the UK: Gwen Harwood. I can recommend both her poetry and her laugh-out-loud funny correspondence with her friend Tony Riddell from the days when she worked in a hilarious bureaucratic job in Brisbane, Australia, during the Second World War. These letters were published under the title Blessed CitySo, here she is:

In the Park

She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.
Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.
A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt.
Someone she loved once passes by – too late

to feign indifference to that casual nod.
“How nice,” et cetera. “Time holds great surprises.”
From his neat head unquestionably rises
a small balloon… “but for the grace of God…”

They stand awhile in flickering light, rehearsing
the children’s names and birthdays. “It’s so sweet
to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive,”
she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing
the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.
To the wind she says, “They have eaten me alive.”

(c) Gwen Harwood


Why not join in the next Virtual Open Mic Night? It will be on Wednesday 25th of June and it is going to be a Newbie Night! Why not give it a go? You know you want to. Keep an eye on Stephanie’s blog for further details nearer the time.

Linking to Prose for Thought.


Loud ‘n Proud: Making Sense of the World

I have been waiting for the “why” phase for a while. One of The Boy’s many best friends was plaguing his mother for reasons even before he was three, but all the Boy wanted to know was: “What’s that, Mummy?” and “What are you doing, Daddy?” He has been more interested in defining, labelling and quantifying. This shouldn’t surprise me really, given his focus on numbers and shapes. He likes to know what things are and where they’re at. But he doesn’t ask me why.

“Does he just not have a natural investigative instinct?” I worry sometimes, child of two university lecturers. “Does he not want to do research?”

We are at said university lecturers’ house in the Netherlands this week. The kids have been over the moon to see their beloved grandparents again and play with the special toys that they only see at their house. The Boy is spending most of his time with the foam numbers, making hopscotch and hiding them for Opa and Oma to find, and the Girl is playing with the doll that was my own constant companion from age 5. I have been enjoying some time off from housework and indulging my tendency towards nostalgia with old photo albums. Generally, time has moved more slowly and nothing has seemed as frantic or urgent as it often does in daily life at home.

Yesterday we walked through the park where I used to play as a child. I was actually in a bit of a hurry to get to the town hall to take care of some ex-pat business, but the Boy wanted to stop at the bridge to see the ducks. I decided it wouldn’t really matter if we were a bit later, and was excited that he was showing an interest in nature, broadening his horizons. The Girl was asleep in the buggy, so it was just him and me and the birds.

sam met eenden

“Hello ducks! Mummy, I want them to come closer!”

He was sad we didn’t have any bread for them. Then he spotted a different kind of bird by the water’s edge, standing stock still, its long beak pointing down at the canal.

“Mummy!” he asked breathlessly. “What’s that bird?”

vliegende reiger (2)

What – not why.

“It’s a heron,” I explained.

The Boy studied the heron for a while. The bird did not move a muscle.

He asked me very seriously: “Is he made of glass?”

“No, it’s a real bird. He is standing very still because he is waiting to catch a little fish and he doesn’t want the fish to see him.”

The Boy was fascinated and refused to carry on until the heron had caught something. I was a little worried we might be a while, but it wasn’t long before the beak moved slowly closer and closer to the water, before snatching an invisible prey. Then the bird took off to find a new perch.

We moved on and soon we got to a large cage full of birds that has been there ever since I can remember, although the inhabitants change fairly frequently. At the moment there is a little family of pheasant-type birds living in the centre enclosure. (I myself know very little of birds, please feel free to correct me…)

The Boy was enchanted by the large, colourful bird. His question: “That’s a lovely bird, Mummy. What’s his name?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can we call it Bernard?”

I supposed that was as good as anything, and for the next ten minutes, the Boy chatted to and about Bernard. “Look, Bernard has a baby, Mummy. I’ll call it “chicken”. Hello Chicken!”



We had to leave Bernard and carry on, and the Boy spotted lily pads on the canal. He expressed a desire to go and jump on them. “No!” I cautioned, “I know frogs in cartoons jump on lily pads, but you are much too heavy.”

The Boy’s spirits could not be quenched. “When we be 8, we turn into frogs, and jump on lily pads!”

I didn’t contradict him. He’ll find out in time.

“Can we go back to Nidiland now?”

“We are in the Netherlands,” I sighed. It was the Spain issue all over again. “Do you mean to Opa and Oma’s house?”

Yes, that was what he meant.

The answer was no, and as he trudged dejectedly along with me towards the rather boring destination, I reflected on his wonderful brain.

He is not asking why. He is coming up with his own ideas on how reality works. A bird doesn’t move for a while? He comes up with his own hypothesis: perhaps it is made of glass. Mummy doesn’t know an animal’s name? Well, maybe that is because it doesn’t have one yet and the whole thing is still wide open for his own suggestions. He can’t jump on lily pads? Well, one day he might turn into a frog and then he’ll be able to.

He is, I thought proudly, becoming a free thinking, independent philosopher. Why would he want to ask other people for the reasons and the explanations? He is plenty clever enough to come up with his own.

Then, while I was contemplating all this, he asked me a why-question after all. One that I suddenly realised he asks a lot.

“Why are you smiling Mummy?”

He uses ‘Why’ sparingly, asking me about the only subject I am truly an expert on: myself. He uses it to find out what the matter is with Mummy. To work out what makes Mummy tick.

Have you discovered your children are future philosophers or Nobel peace prize winners this week? Have they staggered you with their knowledge, their effort or their sporting prowess? Have you yourself done something amazing this week? Come and link up with Loud ‘n Proud! Just click on the link below, it will take you to a separate page. 

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Glowing with Pride: The Boy’s first Review

There are reasons why creative people are creative. We want to express ourselves, we want to share something with the world, we want to touch other people’s lives – and we love the satisfaction of standing next to what we have made and being proud of it. Positive feedback motivates us to carry on and do even better.

Yes, that is what I felt like standing next to my son – who I had some hand in shaping – as his keyworker at pre-school praised his awe inspiring academic abilities.

The Boy has been at pre-school for a term and a half now and last week was my first ‘review’ meeting with the teacher assigned to keep an eye on him. The idea was to share what they had observed of him and talk about what he could work on next.

I was prepared to hear that he was above average in his mathematical abilities. His teacher was amazed that he could tell you which number came before and after another number, that he could recognise at a glance that there were five objects on a table (2 or 3 is normal for his age, apparently) and that he recognises shapes and numbers in the world around him.

You barely know the half of it, I wanted to say.

I have bragged about this before and I am sure you are all rolling your eyes now, but even since my last post on the topic he has done more amazing things. He has started adding up, telling me at random moments (on the toilet) that 2 and 3 make 5 and that 6 and 3 make 9. Then the other day at about 6am we were playing with the Duplo, which somehow turned into a multiplication lesson. Before I knew where I was he was making towers of equal height, counting the number of towers and how many blocks that made in total. Also, on a trip into town with Daddy he pointed at the interestingly shaped paving and said: “It’s a hexagon! It has six corners and six sides!”

The teacher also reported he was well ahead on reading skills: he knows most of the sounds the letters make as well as the names of the letters.20140516-161442.jpg

Again, I could add more amazing feats: The Boy recognises all of the names of the other children in his class as well as his own when he sees them written down on labels around the school, as well as the names of all our favourite supermarkets on pots of jam and freezer bags. He has started recognising words in books and wanting to copy them with his letter puzzle.

Besides all this the teacher said the Boy was very musical, had amazing recall and picked things up very quickly.

What I wasn’t prepared for was his top astounding skill.

Apparently, most 3 or even 4 year olds don’t cut around things, just through them. Who knew? That same morning the Boy had been crying because he couldn’t perfectly cut around each petal of a flower and asked me to do the tricky bits where the scissors turn the corner. After the review I made sure the Boy knew how clever he was to even follow the petals at all.

So what does he need to work on? You’ll all be pleased to hear that socially and behaviourally the Boy is just your average 3 year old, who does as he is told for five seconds before testing out if the embargo on running indoors has been lifted yet. He has plenty to learn still at pre-school about being part of a group, respecting the rules and doing as he is asked.

While we talked, the Boy was helpfully stacking up all the little chairs, obviously getting straight on his action plan.

I looked at my bright little boy, bursting with pride. “Look what I made!” I was thinking. “Isn’t he great?”


Obviously, I am Loud n Proud… If you are too, link up! It’s not too late.

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3 Children and It


Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper were 3 once

The Boy has once again snatched one of his sister’s toys. He was very happy playing with the Duplo, building a house that would not stand up, until he heard the tell-tale sounds of his sister having fun. He came to see what she was playing with and took it off her so he could play with it instead.

When I take the toy piano away from him and return it to The Girl, telling him she had it first and it is not kind to snatch, he grabs it back and says: “But I want it.” His tone implies: now that you know this, surely you will back down from your ridiculous position and let me have the toy.

A few moments later, the Boy is wailing in time out for trying to hit Mummy and not listening, the Girl has abandoned the piano in favour of smashing up the one-walled Duplo house, and I am in the kitchen nursing a headache. Amidst the pain and the screaming, I have an epiphany: this is the time in his life when the Boy learns not to be a sociopath.

All the seeds for a life of narcissism or crime are there in the three year old mind. The snatching incident demonstrates an “I want it, therefore I should have it” attitude, but there is more evidence that a three year old is a budding psychopath, depending on you and only you to stop him before it is too late.

I did a little test once, to see if I was a psychopath. You can do it too, here:

You are at a funeral. At this funeral, the daughter/son (pick preferred gender) of the deceased catches your eye. You have a wonderful day with them. You have great conversations and really click, and you are starting to think you might be falling in love. Afterwards you keep thinking about them. You want to see them again. How do you go about arranging this?

I’ll give you a moment to think.




What was your answer? If it was: I’d phone them the very next day, you’re fine. If you had I’d phone them every day until they agreed to come on a date, that too is fine, you are perfectly normal. Was it: I’d find out everything I could about them on the Internet and get involved in all their weekly activities? Don’t worry, I did the same when I met my husband. Stalking is absolutely fine.

So what’s the wrong answer then? If your first thought was: I would kill his/her sister, then you are a psychopath. Your sick brain seems to think that your best chance of seeing this wonderful person again is by replicating the circumstances of your first, successful encounter, and so you think the best way to orchestrate that is by killing another relative.

Nobody thinks like this, you say?

Just the other day, my son had a friend to lunch. The last time this little boy came to visit was maybe three months ago. I had the kids sitting at the table and was about to bring in the scrambled eggs on toast, when our perfectly behaved guest said very calmly: “I am ready for my pancakes.” I suddenly remembered that pancakes was what I had served up three months ago at his last visit. The poor little boy had been looking forward to more pancakes ever since the play date was set up. I decided to play it cool and breezy.

“I’m sorry, but it’s eggs today,” I said as I brought in the plates.

“I don’t like eggs,” he said quietly, struggling to contain his disappointment.

I felt terrible and gave him an extra yoghurt.

My son does the same thing. When I tell him he is going for a play date at his friend N’s house, he will excitedly start to tell me what they will do: “Yes! I go to N’s house, and we play with Cuddly Milly and Cuddly Bot and we watch Team Umizoomi and then we play with trains!”

It makes perfect sense to the three year old mind. This is what we did last time and we had fun. Why mess with a good thing? Let’s have the same play date over and over!

Other worrying trends I have noticed are his overenthusiastic affection.

“I just giving N a hug!” he insists when I intervene.

“That is very nice, but you were squishing her, and she didn’t like it any more. You can tell, because she was saying stop and trying to push you away.”

‘No means no’ starts earlier than you think.

And then there is the classic walking in the Grey Area of the Law. I tell my son he can’t swing the red blanket around or he’ll knock something over or hurt someone. So, watching me out of the corner of his eyes, he will swing the blanket – a little bit.

“What are you doing?” I demand.

“I just gently swinging the blanket,” he says.

When I confiscate the blanket there are outraged tears. He wasn’t doing anything wrong! I am starting to feel like he is a genie in a lamp or worse, a lawyer, and I have to word my prohibitions and instructions with extreme care, excluding any other options, limiting and delineating precisely what behaviour is okay and what will incur penalties, or else he will be through those loopholes like a shot.

So, this is where the magic happens. This is where we teach empathy, respect for other people’s feelings, bodies and possessions, delayed gratification, respect for authority and altruism.

This is where we teach them to subjugate their desires to their will and their will to their conscience.

This is where they learn that collecting little keepsakes from your friends is not cute, it’s creepy, and that playing the violin on your own in your room ultimately leads to a sad and lonely life.

violin with sheet music

Loud ‘n Proud: How to Make Friends and Fake Reading

Hey Gamers!

Me, adventuring.

Me, adventuring.

I can see some new faces, so I’d probably better start by introducing myself: I’m The Girl (or GamerGirl2012) and sometimes when the Mummy is busy or asleep I hack into her laptop (not hard, she hasn’t changed her password for years) and go online to update all my toddler friends on how I’m getting on playing Life Game.  I joined this fully immersive RPG about 19 months ago and haven’t looked back.

I’m half way through Level 1 of Life Game now and I thought I’d share my latest discoveries with you, particularly the two great skills that I have been putting all my experience points into over the past few months.

They’re called Perception and Memory and the effects are quite remarkable: I only have to hear a character’s name a few times before I start using it, which gives me a massive influence boost over the character in question. Picture this, gamers: you’re doing a Play Date quest and your cuddle bar is running low. You could just run up to the nearest Mummy and whine, but if you say her name, and especially if you add “hugs?”, she will cuddle you until your bar is full and beyond, plus she will tell all her Mummy friends about it and that gives you Fame points. Learning your friends’ names will fast track the friendship process and turn them into reliable side kicks.

Thanks to my awesome Perception, I have noticed that the programmes on the Magical Viewing Device have theme max_and_rubytunes. If you also have Memory, you can memorise the tunes. Then, if you randomly start singing “Max-a Wubeeeeeeeee!” (Max & Ruby), it instantly neutralises the Mummy’s hostility towards the Viewing Device and she will actively go and switch it on and find the show for you. It also works if you say the names of the characters, but I think the music must actually be a spell of some sort because it has an instant effect. NB: The Miffy theme tune-spell requires you to hug a cuddly bunny while singing it. Don’t know why, it’s just one of those things.


You may have noticed a Bunny theme. I won’t let you in on all the details because you have to figure this out for yourself, but bunnies are the key. Oh yes. They are VITAL to completing Life Game successfully.



So, what else can Perception and Memory do? From very early on I’ve been wise to the power of books. For months, I have been searching through the bookcase in The Bedroom for the tome that will give me the right spells for completing some of my trickier missions (Open Door, Get Inside Washing Machine, Play Outside for Ever, Re-attach to Mummy, Make Doll Drink Juice etc.) I empty that bookcase every single night, but so far no luck. In fact, it seems to have a negative effect on my relationship with the Mummy, who starts shouting and returns the books to the bookcase in a totally different order! That just means I have to do it again immediately so I can find the best volumes again and put them in my inventory for later.

I think the trick to books is taking the Read skill. I have noticed The Brother has put a few points in it recently, because he can now identify which

Willing grown up found.  Great success.

Willing grown up found. Great success.

supermarket the jam and the freezer bags have come from. He can also read “tiger” and “Maisy”. I have tried adding points to Read but I think it must be an Advanced Skill because it’s greyed out. Anyway, I have found a way round it: you take the book to a grown up and push it into their hands saying “tory?”. Then you make yourself comfortable on their lap and listen carefully to what they say. If your Memory is good, this means that later you can “read” the book yourself. Or at least, bits of it. Example:

FLOPThe Girl reads from “Dear Santa”“Izza? Nooooooo! Izza? Nooooooo!”

The Girl reads from “Some Dogs Do”“Sdo. Fly! Oh Ben. Flop.”

The Girl reads from “Penguin” “Duck!” [failed my Perception-check on that one] “Ben! Haha! Lion! Ow! Wow, Ben!”

The Girl reads from “Dora the Explorer: Bedtime Explorers“: “Dowa! Boots! Baby, baby. Map! Back pack! Jump! Night night, Dowa.”

The most significant volumes of Lore I have found so far are those in which all my favourite people appear. I don’t know how such a thing is possible, but there is a whole pile of these books on top of the bookcase, and when you get your hands on these precious stories, you can do Naming AND Reading all at the same time!

There must be important secrets encoded in these books

There must be important secrets encoded in these books

So I think I’ve made my case: Perception and Memory are the most important skills you can have.

Movement, you say? Climb? Balance? Run? Who needs those when you can be cute and get The Mummy to carry you everywhere? Or better still, you can just give it a go and make a roll at half your Agility. Then when you fall and hurt yourself, you can say “Ow! Head!” and get even more cuddles! Bonus!

Well, that’s it for me – now it’s over to you, Gamers! This is a special post called a Linky – if you have acquired any great skillz or completed any quests, click below and you will get to a separate page where you can link up your own post. Do it, do it! I’m dying to hear how far you are all lagging behind how well you are doing. I’ll come and visit of course and leave smug supportive comments.

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