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!!”



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.



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.



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:


Birthday Joy

The Boy and The Girl’s birthdays are two weeks apart. Believe me, we were in no way able to plan it like that – it just happened. The Boy had already gate-crashed Gran’s birthday (the day after his), at the same time jumping in between our wedding anniversary, Daddy’s birthday and his uncle’s birthday in the same month. The Girl joined another busy month with Oma’s birthday, Opa and Oma’s wedding anniversary and now little Emilie’s birthday. Basically, autumn is a non-stop roller coaster of cake, presents and unusually fun activities. By the time Christmas was over and done with last year, the Boy had begun to assume that cake and chocolate were just part of our staple diet and that presents should be expected at any moment.

This year was a special birthday year.

The Girl turned 1. Inconceivable, still. That tiny little wrinkled thing, now sitting up in her highchair, stuffing her face with cake. Pointing and exclaiming and walking. The Boy was involved in all the preparations: we made cupcakes together and he chose her a present. It was perfect: a pink shape sorter bus with rattly shapes. He also helped pick her a card and wrote his name on it (read: held the pencil while I moved his hand). The Girl seemed very pleased with the attention. The unwrapping was interesting, but she was rather indifferent to her new toys – which was fortunate as the Boy had clearly been waiting for weeks to get his hands on that shape sorter bus and made off with it as soon as it came out of the box. The cake, however, was a definite hit. The look on her face was priceless: her mouth ringed with sugary icing, her birthday dress sprinkled with crumbs, her eyes slightly accusing: “Mummy, you kept this from me for a year!” She set about making up for lost time.

Cupcakes, ready for the big day.

Cupcakes, ready for the big day.

Pretty birthday dress

Pretty birthday dress

Two weeks later, the Boy turned 3. We had kept his first and second birthdays small, on the assumption that he probably wouldn’t remember them (and also because we were new-baby-zombies last year), but for his third birthday we decided it was party time. His excitement about Swashbuckle inspired us to book our church hall and plan a rip-roaring pirate adventure.

This was the first time he could anticipate his birthday. For weeks beforehand he would want to know how many more sleeps until his birthday. He would announce to strangers: “I going be three!” and then inform them how old Mummy and Daddy were for good measure. He would ask me out of the blue: “Is my birthday?” “No,” I’d have to say sadly, “Not yet. But soon.” We talked about  his pirate party and who would be coming – basically all his friends. At one point, I asked him: “And who will be at your party?” “Gran,” he said. “Opa, Oma, Cassie – and the Numberjacks.” For a moment I was worried that perhaps we should have done a Numberjacks themed party instead, and that perhaps he would be disappointed, but I shook that off and carried on looking for shiny jewels on eBay.

When the day arrived, he drank it all in. Gran and Opa and Oma came over to do presents at home, then we dashed off to have a very hurried lunch and from there to the hall to get things ready for the party. Then, it was Swashbuckle time. Instead of boring you with a blow by blow account, I want to highlight the three top Magic Moments of this magical day – three moments where the look of awe and wonder and joy on our little boy’s face almost brought a tear to Mummy and Daddy’s eyes.

1. The moment he unwrapped Gran’s present and realised that the Numberjacks had come to his party.

Only way to keep him interested in the other presents: show each gift to the Numberjacks

Only way to keep him interested in the other presents: show each gift to the Numberjacks

Although Gran had actually bought him something else for his birthday, as an afterthought she got him three cuddly Numberjacks: 3, 4 and 5. As soon as he saw them, the Boy was in love. They have not left his side since. Every time we go out, he decides which Numberjack is going out on the mission. They are the first to have a wee in the morning before the Boy himself gets on the toilet, they watch him have a bath and they cuddle up with him at night. His joy is complete. Well, almost complete. Teddy has recently been renamed Numberjack 6 – we think it might be a hint for Christmas…

2. The moment he realised that he was in his very own episode of Swashbuckle.

Captain Sinker leads a game of Pin the Eye Patch on the Pirate

Captain Sinker leads a game of Pin the Eye Patch on the Pirate

In my party preparations I had included some Swashbuckle-style games, like dressing up a pirate and having a ‘Shipwreck Rummage’, i.e. a treasure hunt around the hall to find gold coins and jewels. That was where I had stopped, however. I thought that would do quite nicely. But when my theatre/film director husband asked for the details of the running order, he said it would not do. “It needs to be a proper



episode of Swashbuckle. You are Captain Sinker. I’ll be Line. Your Dad can be Cook. You need to tell the children they are going to win S’s jewels back by playing the games. Then they get to put them in the treasure chest. Put a bit of theatre into it!” And so it was done. When I put on the massive pirate captain’s hat and led the children in the Swashbuckle Salute, the look on our Boy’s face was priceless. He really was on Swashbuckle.

3. The moment with the cake.

The Boy loves singing Happy Birthday. At every birthday party it is the bit he looks forward to the most. We even have to sing it for characters in books, like Topsy and Tim. And when he gets to the end, he always blows out an imaginary candle on an imaginary cake. At his party, the lights went out, the pirate candles were lit and the cake was brought in. His little face, by the light of the candles, as the cake approached him, and he knew it was for him, and it was his special day, and the pirate cake was his – that I will not forget in a hurry.

Pirate Cake: blue icing for the sea, foam pirate ship put together by Z

Pirate Cake: blue icing for the sea, foam pirate ship put together by Z

All in all, the kids’ birthdays were a big success. I was a little worried about planning a party for 12 small people, but I think it went well and I am already thinking about what a Number Party might look like next year – with the Numberjacks in attendance, of course, as the guests of honour.



Virtual Birthday and Clip Show

Happy 1st birthday, Secrets of the Sandpit

Happy 1st birthday, Secrets of the Sandpit

I realised today that I missed my blog’s first birthday. It was a few days ago I think. Although I am a little late, I didn’t want to let this milestone gone by unmarked, and so I present you with the dreaded “clip show” episode. You know the one: you sit down with a mug of tea and some biscuits/chocolate/crisps/cake to enjoy your favourite show, and instead of a proper story you get little snippets of episodes gone by to remind you of what has gone before. Annoying, right? Well, buckle up because this is a ‘greatest hits’, if you will – the best, most relevant, most ignored or most read of Secrets of the Sandpit. Celebrate its birthday with me by taking a look around and reminiscing on the first year of my blog’s life. May there be many more!

Sandpit. Best thing ever.

Sandpit. Best thing ever.

So, to start at the very beginning, you can read my very first post here, in which I explain what the “sandpit” is all about. A year ago when I started this blog, the Boy would express his extreme excitement about The Best Things Ever by exclaiming “sandpit!”. In fact, if you look in the side bar you can see my running log of things that elicited this response over the past year. Faithful readers will have noticed that the list stopped growing about six months ago. He has sadly grown out of “sandpit!” and now just tells us “love-a guinea pigs” or “That’s a fun filled fest!” for special occasions. He has grown up so much over the past year, and his language has developed massively. I marvel every day at how long his sentences are getting and how complex, at his awareness of his own bilingual-ness and his ability to express his emotions in words. My Boy is three and is becoming a whole grown up little person.

My blog has changed over the past year as well. Like most people, I started writing with only a vague idea of what the ‘flavour’ would be. It began as a more durable log of funny things the Boy had said and done, not wanting all his best material to get swallowed up by Facebook. In fact, sometimes my posts were actually no more than a slightly longer status update.

Soon themes began to emerge, though:

* The Girl, who is only a month older than Secrets of the Sandpit, inspired me to  share the reality of breastfeeding in the hope of helping other Mums who were having a very tough start but nevertheless wanted to carry on, as well as pregnant women who wanted to be properly prepared.

* I started using my blog to follow my Boy’s language development, especially how he was coping with growing up bilingual.

* I also began a monthly children’s book review, as a way of sharing my love for children’s literature. The first one is here but you can read the others by clicking on ‘Children’s books‘ in the menu at the top. Keep an eye out for the next instalment this coming Monday!

* Then I went a little bit crazy and decided to reinvent education, which I got so excited about that I started a whole separate blog about it called Clean Slate. As The Caterpillar says in Alice in Wonderland, you should start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, stop.

* Thursday became poetry day courtesy of Prose for Thought. It has become one of the highlights of my week, turning my thoughts on family, sleeplessness, changes, identity, God and Weetabix into poetry, experimenting with form, verse and imagery.

* Other voices turned up and wanted to put their two cents in, like the Boy on play, the cats on the rules of the house and the Girl, updating us on the l33t skills she is learning in Life Game.

A year in, how is Secrets of the Sandpit doing in the playground? Well, like her author, she is not the most popular kid in school, but she has a group of faithful, close friends she hangs out with on play dates and sleepovers, that she can turn to for advice and pass notes to in class when the teacher isn’t looking. She also had one amazing day of fame when my Guide to Cbeebies was picked as Mumsnet blog of the day and a gazillion people dropped by to read it.

So happy birthday, Secrets of the Sandpit! I look forward to what the next year will bring.

Thanks for the cake, it was deeeeeeeelicious.

Thanks for the cake, it was deeeeeeeelicious.

Meet all my blog-friends over at Vic Welton’s place for her weekly Post Comment Love.

Still dreaming

3o wasn’t a big deal for me. As I said in my birthday post, I generally quite enoy getting older and am still holding out hope that one day I’ll be old enough to be taken seriously. But I have to say that so far I have not worn 33 as comfortably as previous ages. I am starting to rethink my self-image: am I who I think I am? Or am I still operating on assumptions that are no longer valid? Sometimes I feel like I have lost all the opportunities of youth but not yet gained the wisdom that comes with age and am just sitting here, in the middle, staring into space.

This is the chirpy subject of this week’s poem.

Still Dreaming

When I’m not looking and just living
I think I am still young, sometimes,
too young to have two little children,
to own a house or read The Times.

I imagine I’m still standing
on the brink of life, still waiting
for the show to start
the future open, nothing decided
full of potential, thinking
the world is holding its breath
for me
waiting for me
and what I have to say.

I am still dreaming
of a greater life
than this.

When I look into my rear view mirror
I look old sometimes, and cringe in shame
at my knee high boots and miniskirts
and my dreams of literary fame.

I had my chance and made my choices
ships have sailed and trains been missed
tethered to domestic life now
plans for writing interrupted
by a sudden need to snooze
or by my miniature muse
who says nuff puter, Mummy,
calling me to feed his dreams
to nurture his potential
and ambitions
not my own.

I am still dreaming
of a greater life
than this.

And in this dream I see you laughing
You say I haven’t understood
You’re only thirty-three, you tell me,
It’s only starting to get good.

You spent all these years in practice
while I built this life for you
Now enjoy it and get writing
it’s what I meant for you to do.

Woman, writer, mother, wife
there really is no greater life
the future will be ever gleaming
just as long as you keep dreaming.

(c) Judith Kingston 2013

Linking up to Prose for Thought and I am Me.

Prose for Thought
I am me


It is my birthday today. “Gefeliciteerd!”, we say in the Netherlands, which dictionaries will translate as “congratulations”. We say this, not just to the birthday boy/girl, but to everyone we find in the room at a birthday party: father, mother, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends. “Congratulations on your [best friend]’s birthday!” This always makes my husband laugh. “What exactly is it they have done that I am congratulating them for?” he wanted to know the first time he experienced this curious custom. “Your mother gave birth to you, but what do the other people have to do with it?” It was then I learned that saying ‘congratulations’ in English is usually reserved for achievements. The more accurate translation for ‘gefeliciteerd’ is ‘felicitations’, or ‘good wishes’.

I used to make a massive deal of my birthday every year, never having lost that childlike excitement for getting a year older. I think I was still hoping that this year might be the year that I was old enough to be taken seriously. Although I have now realised that this day will never – and probably should never – come, I still quite enjoy getting older, even now that I am looking at 30 in the rearview mirror. But the excitement about my special day has faded a bit since ha2 taart 2ving children. My first birthday after my son was born I woke up and realised the thrill had dulled. Don’t get me wrong – I have had lovely birthdays since the arrival of my son and I have thoroughly enjoyed them. What is missing is the feeling of being Very Very Important for a day. Instead, I get that thrill for his birthday now. I enjoy having a day to celebrate my son and making him feel special and important. But I myself also feel important  – because it is his birth-day, the day I went through hell to bring him into the world. This now seems like a much more appropriate day to feel a little important than my own birth-day, on which, to be fair, I didn’t achieve anything more impressive than drawing the first of many breaths.

I wonder if my mother still thinks of that moment every year on this day, even now. It probably seems more and more surreal as the years go by and the reality of me-now bears less and less resemblance to that very small, screaming, squirming thing I was on day one.

Giving birth to my son was not cool. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but – oh alright then – it was an instrumental delivery, I lost a lot of blood and needed a transfusion. While I was pregnant I had read books that were meant to be empowering, to help you realise that as a woman you are built to give birth to your baby and that you can do it yourself, no need for medical intervention. The books were meant to be uplifting and encouraging, but after my son was born the memory of their advice made me feel like a failure. I felt like it was my fault that it had come to a forceps delivery: perhaps I had not relaxed enough or I had unresolved issues or whatever. I felt very down for ages and couldn’t think back to the birth without crying. Although I wanted more children, I wasn’t sure that I could go through labour again.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I dreaded having to give birth to her, but resolved to grit my teeth and bear it. I didn’t read the books about natural birth again, although I hadn’t changed my mind about it: I still wanted as little medical intervention as possible, but this time I decided to be more relaxed and open-minded about changes of plan. Good thing, because as it turned out she was coming out feet first. Nobody had picked up on this until I was at the hospital and 3 centimetres dilated. By the time the doctors arrived to decide on a course of action, I was ready to push. I was rushed into theatre but gave birth to her normally – she was small and in much too much of a hurry to wait for scalpels. My husband only barely managed to scrub up in time.

Although my daughter’s birth was possibly even more eventful than my son’s, I felt on top of the world afterwards. I had delivered her normally, even though she was breech, and I got to hold her and feed her in the first hour after she was born. Any lingering guilt or feelings of failure from my first labour were gone: I was superwoman.

So no need to congratulate me today. I have done nothing remarkable other than stay alive. Congratulate my mother, and applaud my accomplishments in the autumn when we will be celebrating three years since my son came into the world amid quite a bit of agony, and one year since my daughter landed safely on her feet.