Back in Blighty: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good

Inspired by an episode of Charlie and Lola, I decided to take Noah to a good old English Library. Before we moved to Vienna, we were library regulars. From birth, Noah went to Rhyme Time. When he got fed up of that, I started taking him to the library to choose some books. This was usually a disaster as he would run off and I would hurriedly slot some sticky picture books under my arm and set off in pursuit of him.

But now he is a mature toddler of three years old, I thought he would enjoy the process of choosing his own books and taking them home with him.

The library was almost empty when we arrived. There were a few people on computers. Noah tore across the room, instinctively drawn to the bright colours of the children’s area. My heart sunk when I realised the librarian was hot on our heels. Was Noah making too much noise already? Were we about to be reprimanded for not following the library’s no running policy?

“Would your child like some balloons?” the librarian asked.

“I’m sure he would,” I replied.

“We’ve just taken down a display,” he said. “I’ll go and get them for you.”

He returned with several shrunken, semi-deflated, blue balloons which were held together with a jumbled mass of sellotape. He handed them to Noah who looked at them sceptically. On no, I thought, what insulting comment is he about to make?

“Thank you,” he said to the nice man. And that was it.

He started to make a pile of books he wanted to take home. It happened to be a pile of every single book he picked up. We had a minor altercation when I tried to pare the pile of thirty books down to ten, but it was nothing major.

He has really enjoyed having these books at home. It’s warmed the frayed edges of my heart, seeing him carefully balancing a pile of books in his arms, taking them to the nearest available reader.

Long live the library and long live the Queen.

The Bad

I am not averse to bribing Noah to get washed and dressed in the morning with the promise of chocolate. It keeps my blood pressure down. By chocolate, I mean one of his mini eggs or a chocolate finger or one square of chocolate. What I don’t mean is a great big twelve inch chocolate Gruffalo. Yet, that is exactly what I gave him whilst trying to get him dressed one day this week.

What can I say in my defence? It was all I had to hand. My Mum was taking him with her to drop my Dad at his hospital appointment while I went to have my highlights done. We were in a rush. But still, it was a terrible mistake to give him the whole thing to hold. I should have broken him a bit off and put the rest away. But we live and learn. Of course, Noah didn’t want me to take it away when he had barely started gnawing the Gruffalo’s head off. Of course, he had a major tantrum. Of course, my Mum and Dad had to leave for their appointment and Noah cried the whole way there and the whole way back.

(Husband, I know you are reading this. Did I not mention the Gruffalo chocolate? It must have slipped my mind…)

When in the UK, Noah has his very own Mickey Mouse toddler bed. It’s in my bedroom. Noah is not a good sleeper at the best of times but add in the time difference, the excitement of being here, the knowledge that he is in the same room as me and my husband, and his sleep in entirely unpredictable.

On the day of the Gruffalo chocolate, he woke up at 2 am. He decided to practise his fake cough. We ignored him. He gave us some renditions of his favourite nursery rhymes. We ignored him. He told off his toys for making too much noise. We ignored him. I could not continue to ignore him when he stood on his bed and threw his pillow and duvet on the floor declaring, “Get away from me you poo-poo covers and pillow!”

I told him off. I threatened him with no phone, chocolate, TV. I got in bed with him to try and relax him. He was still wide awake at 4am. I gave up, put my pillow over my head to muffle his noise and went back to sleep.

I awoke at 5.30am. The room was flooded with light despite the blackout blind. Noah’s bed was empty. I stood up and scanned the room. He was nowhere to be seen. The covers were in a heap on the floor. I picked them up and there was my son, fast asleep with his arms and head resting on the bed, his bottom half on the floor.

I was amused by this; my husband (who now had to go to work after 3 hours’ sleep) wasn’t.

I am sure his nocturnal behaviour had absolutely nothing to do with the amount of Gruffalo he consumed. I am absolutely, positively certain.

The Ugly

My friend suggested Noah join her 4 year old son at his art class. It was a lovely little class called Petit Picasso, where pre-schoolers learn about artists and make things based on their paintings. Noah was looking forward to it all day. He enjoyed making a tulip, copying one of Manet’s impressions of a poppy field and making his own Manet inspired masterpiece. He was mostly well-behaved at the class.

At the end, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him barge past a woman who was kneeling on the floor putting her child’s coat on. She looked at me incredulously. I told him off but couldn’t meet the woman’s eye. Why does Noah do this kind of thing? A switch flips in him and he is suddenly a manic bully that I have no idea how to reprimand and control.

We went back to my friend’s house for ten minutes before I had to pick my husband up from the station. Noah did not want to leave. He had a meltdown. I had to put him over my shoulder to take him off the property. He screamed like he was being tortured. He kicked and thrashed. His wellies were sent in opposite directions. I struggled with him to the car. My friend followed with the wellies. He bit me on the neck and the ear. I tried to calm him down now we were away from the house. But he wouldn’t have it. He was beside himself. I attempted to put him in the car and get the seat belt around him. He clawed at my face. I gave him a drink; he deliberately tipped it over the seat. Although he couldn’t get out of the lap part of the seatbelt, he wouldn’t keep his arm in.

I gave him a snack and waited for him to calm down. By the time my husband got in the car, he was a different child.

I now have two scratches on my cheek, one under my eye and one by my lip. I find it impossible to discipline him when he is in that state. How can I put a hysterical child on the naughty step? What consequence can be given to a child who is beside himself with grief at being made to leave his friend’s house? I have read numerous books and looked at countless websites by so called experts on child behaviour. I have consulted the health visitor.

All I have learnt is that one size doesn’t fit all and one size certainly doesn’t fit Noah.

My Noah, if my failings turn you into a spoiled child with anger problems and concentration issues (and I have met my fair share of them in the classroom), I can only apologise. I can only do what I feel is right at the time.

Disclaimer – Noah did not consume sugar of any sort on the day of the ugly incident.

Enjoying a bit of Gruffalo
Enjoying a bit of Gruffalo
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The Many Mini Adventures Involved in Picking Noah Up From Kindergarten

When I arrive to pick Noah up from kindergarten, he cries “Mummy!” in a delighted tone, then runs up and hurls himself into my arms. Sadly, that is where the sweetness ends. He swiftly transforms into his alter ego, the Demon Child.

Adventure 1 – The toilet

Noah steadfastly refuses to go to the toilet whilst at kindergarten. We have tried everything – star charts, bribery – but it is now nine months since he gave up nappies and we have accepted the fact that it’s never going to happen. He goes to the toilet right before we leave home at 8.30am and then holds tight until I arrive to pick him up at 12. Needless to say, the first thing I do when I get there is take him to the toilet.

Without fail, when we walk into the toilet, Noah stands at the light switch flicking it on off on off on off… until I manage to get myself between him and the wall. He then spins on his heels and locks himself in the toilet. But it’s okay! These are kindergarten toilets: they are easily opened from the outside when locked. I then kneel on the floor (this toilet is for the older children and they have only just arrived therefore the floor is still clean) and attempt to pull his trousers down. Tricky. His counter attack for this is to drape himself over my head. He is so heavy and so strong now, that I am either sent flying backwards or crushed forwards into child’s pose. Using all of my core stability, I manoeuvre him on to the toilet. He wriggles and protests, shouting for help, claiming that I am putting him down the toilet. But still, the child is dying to do a wee so, eventually, he gets on with it.

Every single day I endure this charade. Every single day there seems nothing I can do to make it any easier. This week there has been an addition to the fiasco of taking Noah to the toilet at kindergarten: before draping himself over my head, he licks the side of my face. Dis. Gus. Ting.

Adventure 2 – Getting his shoes and coat on

Whilst I am washing my hands (and now my face), Noah darts out of the toilets and usually disappears. There are three options where he could be:

  • He has gone into the room next to the toilets where the bigger kids go. He is usually expelled from this room quite quickly by one of the staff. Some days he is particularly persistent, in which case they will close the door on him. He sits by the door calling “knock, knock” until he gets bored
  • He has hightailed it back upstairs to the kindergarten rooms. I hate this. These stairs are dangerous and he is distracted by the thrill of the chase (i.e. me standing at the bottom of the stairs telling him to get back down immediately)
  • He has climbed into one of the alcoves where the children leave their bags. One day this week, he was doing just this when a member of staff came out and saw him. She had a right go at him. Neither of us knew what she was saying because she was speaking in German, but we couldn’t have failed to get the gist. Noah immediately extracted himself from the alcove. His lip quivered. “I’m allowed to do it at my house,” he said quietly. Of course he isn’t. We don’t have any alcoves for bags at our house so I don’t really know what he was talking about. Unless he was talking about when he climbs into a cupboard or a drawer…

Once I have retrieved him from his chosen hiding place, I face the battle of getting his shoes and coat on. In the past, I have had to struggle with him lying on the floor kicking his legs or rolling over and over. Or, if one of his friends are around, he might go and make a nuisance of himself getting in the way of them putting their own coats and shoes on. But this is now a thing of the past. Getting Noah’s shoes and coat on has suddenly become much easier thanks to a genius idea I had a couple of weeks ago: I now bring Noah one of his mini chocolate Easter eggs. Whilst he is focused on unwrapping it and putting it in his mouth, he is momentarily distracted from being the Demon Child and submits to getting dressed.

Adventure 3 – Scooting Home

We have a good system in place for scooting home. This system is based on trust: when I call “STOP!” Noah must stop immediately. Unfortunately, you cannot trust a three year old. Well, you can’t trust mine, anyway.

There are set points along our route to and from nursery that Noah knows he has to stop and wait: a bike rack at the end of our road, a sign in the park, a letter box, a phone box, a bin. He knows the rules and he knows how to be compliant. And yet…sometimes he isn’t. Sometimes he sails past the stopping point. Sometimes he ignores my “STOP!” even though it is repeated several times, each time more desperate and shrill than the last. And at these times, as I am stomping after him, screaming, I feel fear like I have never felt before in my life. Fear that he won’t stop at a road. Fear that a car won’t see him coming.

On one such day this week, I reached him, close to tears. I told him I was taking his scooter off him and taking it back to the shop. He was on his back on the pavement, howling, kicking his legs around in a fit. I was kneeling beside him. I told him he was naughty and couldn’t watch television for the rest of his life. He retaliated by screaming at me to go away and telling me I am a “Poo-poo”. People walking past stared at us. When I calmed down, I tried to explain how dangerous cars are and how much they can hurt you. But he has no concept of accidents and serious injury.

We eventually made our peace, clinging to each other on the pavement in a very un-Austrian display of emotion. And since then, he has stopped at his stopping points every time.

As my Mum would say, a car is a lethal weapon, my Noah.

Please note – it is not easy to run after a three year old on a scooter when you are wearing Birkenstocks. I recommend trainers.

Noah waiting at the stopping point in the park
Noah waiting at the stopping point in the park

The Endless Adventure of Bedtime

Noah has never been a good sleeper. We have had some very long, very dark, dark nights in the past three years. His bedtime routine is very important. Since he dropped his afternoon sleep, he goes to sleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. It’s getting his head to hit the pillow that’s the challenge…

Step 1 – Bathtime

Noah’s routine starts with a bath. Bathtime is my husband’s responsibility. Noah likes his bath but that doesn’t mean he makes it easy for us to get him in there. It partly depends on what he has been doing five minutes prior to bathtime. Half way through Toy Story? There’s no way he’s getting in that bath without a fight. One day this week, my husband was working late so bathtime was down to me. I started running Noah’s bath and he came in to use his potty. I wandered out of the room to get him a towel. When I returned, he was sitting fully clothed in the bath, playing with his squirty toys. Yes, I left him in the bathroom unattended whilst running the bath.

If getting him into the bath is a challenge 60% of the time, then getting him out of the bath is a challenge 95% of the time. If you push the lever that lets the bathwater out, Noah pushes it back in. If you push the lever that lets the bathwater out and block him from getting anywhere near it, he turns his back on you and continues to play with his toys as if you don’t exist. Trying to lift him out of the bath when he is in this mood is very dangerous as he throws his slippery body away from your tenuous grip. I usually let all of the water drain away, silently count to three, then grip him under the armpits and pull him over the edge like a giant fish. He doesn’t like it one bit.

Step 2 – Pyjamas

Getting Noah’s pyjamas on is the biggest challenge of the bedtime routine. He rolls, kicks, runs, somersaults, crouches, moves away from you in whatever way he can. Sometimes my husband tries to hold him still while I whip the pyjama top over his head. Sometimes we leave the room and turn the lights out, telling him to let us know when he is ready to be a good boy, otherwise he can put himself to bed. If he is in a really naughty frame of mind, he will then deliberately wee all over his bed. Usually, he just treats it like one big joke and puts his light back on or appears in his doorway grinning. Sometimes, I ignore him as he parades around his room naked. Instead, I sit down and start reading his favourite book of the moment. It draws him over like a magnet. When the story is finished, he is calm and I then whip the pyjama top over his head.

Step 3 – Stories

This part usually goes well as he loves his books. He can choose three books at bedtime. Sometimes he wants to read the same book three times, but that’s as bad as it gets.

Step 4 – Getting into bed

He gets into bed with whatever animals he is sleeping with that night. He lays them all across his pillow. I say his prayers for him and he says Amen.

“How much do you love me?” I ask.

“Moon and back,” he replies dutifully. Otherwise he completely ignores me.

I tell him, regardless, “I love you all the world and everything and absolutely to the moon and back.”

I then sing him two songs, at the end of which he is sound asleep.*

*(Unless he has fallen asleep at some point during the day and then we have a whole other kind of nightmare to live through before he finally goes to sleep).

However, at any point during step 4, he could do one or more of the following:

  • Claim he is hungry. “You’ll have to wait for breakfast,” I tell him. Result – outraged, screaming fit.
  • Desperately needs a toy he hasn’t shown any interest in for weeks and you have no idea where it is.
  • Says he needs a poo-poo. This is a very tricky one and the thing that, above all else, makes my blood boil. 50% of the time that he says he needs a poo when I have already settled him into bed, he is telling the truth. I can’t refuse to let him go, even though the other 50% of the time, he is saying it just so he can get out of bed. I take him to the toilet, he sits there for an endless amount of time, play-acting at squeezing his poo out. Finally, he informs me with an expression of fake sorrow on his face, “My poo-poo won’t come out.” It then takes another 20 minutes before he is ready to fall asleep.

Step 5 – Sleep

Peace descends. I usually stay in his room for five minutes after he falls asleep. All is quiet. All is calm. I lay next to him with my head on his pillow and listen to his little breaths. The child is my nemesis, but he is also my life.

Sweet dreams, my Noah.

Noah has always loved his bath. Here he is chillaxing at 7 weeks old.
Noah has always loved his bath. Here he is chillaxing at 7 weeks old.
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Asleep on the floor at 4pm. Game over for bedtime.

An Hour in the Life of My Noah and Me

A rainy afternoon…

2.30pm

“That’s enough television for one day, Noah,” I say, switching off Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as it finishes. “Let’s play with your toys.”

Noah decides to play stickers. He has a Melissa and Doug sticker book where you can make a meal on a big plate, including drinks and desserts. He sticks some scrambled egg on top of a fried egg and tops it off with two spears of asparagus. Dessert? Ice cream. Drink? He isn’t thirsty.

And that’s the end of stickers.

2.35pm

“Shall we play Duplo?” I ask.

He agrees. I spend ten minutes building the new Duplo castle he got for his birthday while he pelts me with the Duplo cannon. It stings. He starts to play happily, engrossed with the knights and the horse and the drawbridge. He refers to the knights as “sisters” which I find a bit strange but don’t want to interrupt the rare flow of his independent play in order to question him about it. I stretch out next to him (because if I left the room it would be game over) and prepare myself to enjoy a few moments of peace while I scroll through Facebook. I manage to upload a photo of him in the park before the knights are having a rowdy sword fight. The fight moves from one knight attacking another knight, to one knight attacking the whole castle. Before I know it, there are Duplo bricks flying around the room.

That is the end of the castle and that is the end of Duplo.

2.50pm

“Shall we get all of your cars out and play with your garage?” I ask.

I get the box of cars and he arranges them into a very precise line along the edge of his rug. Then he picks each one up and lobs it in a different direction. One of them just misses my head. Instead of telling him off (which I have been doing constantly since 6am today) I pretend the car has really hurt me and fall to the ground with a moan. I close my eyes and go still. He comes over and pries one of my eyes open with a grubby finger. He peers into my face. “Do you want to build a snowman?” he asks.

And that is the end of cars.

3.00pm

While I am collecting the cars, he lines his dinosaurs up in a similar military fashion. I expect they will go the same way as the cars but at least flying dinosaurs cannot break the window. I am wrong: Noah gets his new birthday digger and drives it over the dinosaurs.

That is the end of the dinosaurs.

3.05pm

He wants his CD player on. Unfortunately for the people in the surrounding flats, the CD player seems to be stuck at the highest volume. I sing along with the nursery rhymes at the top of my voice. Who could resist? But Noah shushes me and tells me to go and sit quietly on his bed. He dances around his rug for at least three songs, kicking whatever toys get in his way. Then he gives up on dancing and just wants to spin. Unfortunately, he is spinning holding the tail end of his slinky dog meaning the top end of slinky becomes a weapon of mass destruction: all of the toys that were neatly arranged on his shelves are now on the floor.

Wind the Bobbin Up comes on the CD and I will not be silenced. I stand up and do the actions. Noah gives up on telling me to be quiet and goes and gets his guitar to add to the mix.

Then he starts swinging the guitar over his head and that is the end of nursery rhymes.

3.15pm

I write an N for Noah on his Megasketcher. He attempts to copy it and doesn’t do a bad job. Then he starts stabbing the Megasketcher with the pen and that is the end of Megasketcher.

3.17pm

“Shall we colour in a picture from your Peppa Pig colouring book?”

“No.”

“Shall we dress up as Pirates?”

“No.”

“Shall we fix something with your tools?”

“No.”

“Shall we read a book?”

“No.”

“Shall we play with your train set?”

He picks up as many pieces of his train set as he can possibly carry and dumps them in his fire engine tent.

And that is the end of trains.

3.25pm

“Let’s watch Frozen,” I say.

Thank goodness it’s nearly the weekend, My Noah.

Being naked on the bottom half as often as possible is a toddler thing. Right?
Being naked on the bottom half as often as possible is a typical toddler thing. Right?

*PLEASE NOTE: No sugar was consumed prior to the events in this blog.*

The Adventure at Zoom Ocean, Kindermuseum

“Mummy,” Noah said, wearily, as he sat on his potty, “I’m feeling fragile today. I don’t want to go to nursery.”

I should have known then that we should stay at home watching Toy Story all day rather than venture out to sample the cultural delights of Vienna. Even the screaming fit Noah had when I left him at kindergarten didn’t deter me. It was a beautiful afternoon, perfect park weather, but I had booked Noah a place at Zoom Ocean in the Kindermuseum and that was where we were going to go.

Zoom Ocean is an ocean themed soft play area for 0-6 year olds. It’s great. The children climb under a chiffony blue giant scarf and enter the ocean. On the first floor, there are lots of sea creatures and a watery tunnel. Up the slope on the next level, there is a ship you can steer or you can go below deck or climb into a submarine. There are also lots of costumes for the children to dress up in. Noah favours the sea urchin.

The session is an hour long. At first, Noah was into it. He enjoyed rolling himself down the slope, climbing through the tunnel and hooking fish on to a fishing rod. Forty minutes later, he was tired, he was hungry and he was lying on the floor wanting to go home.

It’s the getting home bit that’s always the problem. It was the first proper summery day in Vienna today. When we left the museum, the first battle I had was the sun cream battle. I managed to smother him in it but he wasn’t happy at all. In fact, he was wailing. He wouldn’t get on his scooter. He wouldn’t move at all.

Two people walked past licking ginormous ice-creams.

“Noah, do you want an ice-cream?”

“Yeeees,” he sobbed.

“Get on your scooter, then, and we’ll go and get one.”

“Noooo,” he sobbed.

“Do you want an ice-cream?”

“Yeeees.”

“Get on your scooter, then.”

“Noooo.”

Somebody shoot me.

I eventually manoeuvred him on to the main road. Every other person seemed to have an ice-cream so I followed the ice-cream trail. I towed Noah on his scooter. Most of the pavement had been blocked off because of road works. It was busy. Impatient people behind me tutted when they couldn’t get past. Impatient people coming towards me, knocked into me or, worse, Noah. Suddenly, walking in the opposite direction to the u-bahn to find an ice-cream seemed like a bloody stupid idea. But still, we found the eis café. Noah, now happy, pressed his nose against the glass and selected a wildly inappropriate flavour of ice cream (tiramisu). I ordered him strawberry. I would have liked to have an ice-cream myself but I am on day two of Slimming World. My Slimming World contains too much wine to accommodate ice-cream as well.

I sat Noah down at one of the tables in front of the café. The sun beat down on us and Noah didn’t like it, so I hovered over him, sheltering him with my shadow. At last, he was smiling. I breathed a sigh of relief. And then I realised the ice-cream wasn’t moving backwards and forwards to his mouth any more. I peered under his baseball cap and discovered he had fallen asleep, head propped on his hand.

I woke him up and he howled. He thrust the rest of his ice-cream at me and told me to put it in the bin. There was no bin in sight. I attempted to get him to follow me to the nearest bin. He stood up and stretched his arms up to me. “There’s no way I can carry you,” I said. He stood on the pavement and bellowed. I carried the following things on my person – my handbag stuffed with snacks, cardigans and spare clothes for Noah, Noah’s scooter, his toy monkey and his ice cream. He started to scream. He was tired. He was emosh. I picked him up. The ice-cream went all over my white top.

I staggered to the bin. Then I staggered back down the narrow pavement where I was involved in a head on collision with three people wheeling bikes. Noah was now fast asleep in my arms. I staggered to the nearest station, which was not the station that would take me home. I dropped the monkey; it was returned. I staggered on to the tube and off the tube. Outside the station, I faced a number of steep stone steps which led to the bus stop. I made it half way up the steps before I dropped the monkey again. Then I dropped the scooter. I set Noah down on his feet and told him, for the twentieth time, he needed to wake up. He lay himself down on the stone steps and went back to sleep. I retrieved the monkey, the scooter and my son and headed up the steps once more. There were three people lounging on these steps. Would it have killed one of them to offer to carry the scooter for me? Or, if that was too much trouble, they could at least have carried the monkey.

Noah is in the 98th percentile for height and weight. If I had known I’d be carrying him half way across Vienna today, I wouldn’t have bothered doing my Thirty Day Shred dvd this morning. My hand still aches from clutching the scooter. My shins are bruised from where the scooter bashed them every time I took a step.

I made it on the bus, off the bus, across the park to our front door. I made it into the lift and up to our apartment where I laid Noah down on the sofa. His eyes snapped open. He sat up and looked around. “Can I watch Toy Story and have a plate snack, please?” he asked.

My Noah, at least we didn’t lose the monkey.

Noah happy at the Kindermuseum
Noah happy at the Kindermuseum
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Noah not happy at the Kindermuseum

The Adventure of the Vienna Marathon

Yesterday, my husband took part in the Vienna marathon. He ran his first marathon ten years ago. He trained religiously. The day before the event, he carb loaded and rested. It was the same with his second and third marathons. But eight marathons and one small sleep demon later, he signs himself up for these things only to find he can’t quite find the hours in the day to fit all the training in. The spirit is willing but the flesh is so very tired.

And so my husband set off at 7am yesterday morning. His preparation the day before was an apartment full of children at Noah’s birthday party. Noah was also up for hours in the night. He has a sixth sense for these things: any time you really, really, really need him to sleep, there is absolutely no chance he will oblige. (Noah: Ofsted? Five lessons plans by tomorrow? I think I’ll wake up eleven times tonight…)

Optimistically, I told my husband that Noah and I would be along the course cheering him on.

I spent half an hour on the internet trying to decipher a map of the route and decided when and where I would meet him. I also downloaded an app on my phone which promised to tell me where my husband was on the course and what time he was expected at every 5km point. Unfortunately, after 15km, it informed me that my runner may have dropped out. Not if I know my husband.

I left home in plenty of time with Noah, his scooter and his Buzz Lightyear rucksack stuffed with snacks and his toy dragon. Five minutes later at the tram stop, I waved my google translate app over a sign which told me the tram would terminate at a different stop because of the marathon. Did I know where this stop was in the labyrinth of Viennese roads? No. Did I have time to get Noah, scooter, rucksack and dragon to the U-bahn? No. Still optimistic, we boarded the tram and let it take us to our destiny. Our destiny was a random abandoned road that I had never been down.

The tram reversed away. The other five people on board dispersed. Noah and I rounded a corner and there to my relief was the running course and a scattering of runners. I whipped the app out. Although it wouldn’t tell me where my husband was, it was more than willing to tell me where I was – at the start of the course. My husband would have passed by here about two hours ago. Marvellous.

But all was not lost. The app also showed me that the course looped around and three roads over was nearer the end of the course. I had one small problem. Or rather, I had one very big problem in a small package: Noah. Noah had had enough. As I tried to manoeuvre him across the road, he started up a constant winge: he was cold, he was tired, his legs ached, he was puffed, his head hurt, his tummy hurt, he wanted to go home. I could more easily have got a mule on marijuana across those three roads than Noah. When we are in this kind of situation, his favourite battle tactic is the scooter sit. The scooter sit, very simply, is when he crouches on the scooter and refuses to move. He doesn’t even necessarily need the scooter for a scooter sit: in its absence, he will crouch on the ground.

When you imagine the Vienna marathon, don’t think it is anything like the London marathon. The roads are closed with orange tape rather than metal barricades. The crowd, if there is one, is only one person deep. When we finally crossed over to the later part of the course, Noah had perked up, looking out for his daddy. With sinking heart, I saw the four hour pace maker trudge past. My husband would have sailed past this point at least fifteen minutes ago.

I still had a shred of optimism in me. I decided we would go to the finish line. We still had an hour. Vienna is a small city. We could make it. But Noah was still cold, he was still tired, his legs still ached, he was still puffed, his head still hurt, his tummy still hurt, he still wanted to go home. I attached the rope that I use to pull him along on his scooter and started to hurry to the station half way up the road. He fell off…Then he sat back on the scooter.

I didn’t actually give up all hope until Noah spotted the Wiener Riesenrad (Viennese Giant Ferris Wheel) in the near distance. His wine changed to: “I want to go on the big wheel. I want to go on the big wheel. I want to go on the big wheel.”

We went on the big wheel. It cost nearly 15 euros. Noah laid on the floor for the whole fifteen minutes of the ride and refused to get up.

My husband staggered to the finish line. What did he say kept him going? The thought of my Noah and me waiting to cheer him on as he passed. Husband I am sorry. I tried.

We also lost Noah’s dragon. If you see it hanging around Vienna, please let me know.

My Noah, I am no match for you.

Noah demonstrating the Scooter Sit
Noah demonstrating the Scooter Sit

10 things I now know about hosting a 3rd birthday party

  1. Your child will be ill. The day before the party, your child will be in a strange and emotional mood. If you have a child prone to dramatics, that child will curl up on your lap the night before with your scarf stretched over his body in absence of a blanket, flutter his eyelids and feel his own forehead which he declares to be hot. With trepidation, you will dose your child up with Neurofen before going to bed, and start on the birthday cake, trying to keep an optimistic outlook. Your child will wake up with streaming eyes and nose and a temperature but declare himself to be well enough for his party. You will believe him because you have a Peppa Pig shaped sponge cake in the kitchen waiting to be iced as well as a fridge full of party food.
  2. Your child will wake up earlier than normal (at least an hour) and you will have to get up earlier than normal (at least 55 minutes). Expect to be up before 6am.
  3. No matter how many assistants you have, you will not be ready in time. Don’t expect to be dressed when the doorbell goes.
  4. Your child will sit by the door all morning, waiting for his guests to arrive. When they finally arrive at 2pm, your child will refuse to speak to any of them and glare at them when they dare to attempt to play with his toys.
  5. Cake making will not go well and will not look as professional as you envisaged when you looked the method up on the internet. No matter how careful you are, ready to roll icing will never do what it is told. Parts of the cake will be patched up with icing plasters and parts will be so thin it will be shiny and see-through. However, your child will be excited by your efforts. He will keep sneaking into the kitchen to try and lick the cake. You will stop him several times with his tongue a millimetre from the icing. Also, everyone will tell you the cake is marvellous even if it isn’t. All your struggles with the rolling pin and trying to unstick the rolled icing from the work surface will be well worth it when your child fills his little lungs and his little hamster cheeks puff out and he blows his candles out. Never mind the spit.
  6. Your child will make a random and unpredictable wish when blowing the candles out. He will probably wish for a dragon. A real one. In all other circumstances you would pray that your child’s wishes come true….but not this time.
  7. Your child will be stationed by the front door greeting guests. When he catches sight of a present, he will remove it from the parent’s/child’s hands before it is offered. Presents will be unwrapped at the front door in everyone’s way. He might say thank you; he might not.
  8. Dancing competitions don’t work.
  9. A lot of the food that you spent hours preparing will be thrown in the bin at the end of the day. Things children eat – crisps, fairy cakes, mini pizzas, jelly. Things children don’t eat – sandwiches with a variety of healthy fillings, fruit salad, cheese and pineapple, dinosaur biscuits (surprising).
  10. Birthdays are exhausting. Your feet, back and legs will ache. You might need to take a diclofenac if you want to get to sleep that night. But you will probably forget because you will need a drink or four once the party is over and will fall into bed early.

I would like to acknowledge the following people who helped to make Noah’s party a success:

  • My Mum who cleaned the flat from top to bottom
  • My Dad who blew up all the balloons and attached them to various bits of furniture
  • My sister who made the sandwiches and fruit salad that nobody ate
  • My husband who carried out my orders graciously despite being depressed about his enthusiastic barber giving him a GI Joe haircut
  • All of Noah’s friends (and ours) who helped us celebrate today.

Once again my Noah, Happy Birthday.

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The Adventure of the Happy Birthday

Noah’s third birthday started at 5.30am. He has one of those clocks that tells him when he can get up. The clock has a sleeping bunny and an awake bunny. It has never really worked. If the bunny is not awake when he wakes up, he gives it a good telling off for still being asleep. Either that or he pulls the lead out so the whole thing goes off. Last week, I told him that if he gets out of bed or makes any sound at all before the bunny wakes up, he will not be able to watch anything on my phone for the whole day. It worked for a few nights but this morning we had to spend forty minutes listening to him talking to his dragon and bashing it against the cabinet beside his bed, then a further ten minutes listening to him calling out that he desperately needed a drink.

My husband went in to him. Noah decided he wanted to read his favourite book of the moment, a collection of fairy tales, in particular a story about the Swamp Monster. His thirst was forgotten.

“What day is it today?” my husband asked him.

“Ah yes!” Noah said. “But where are my happy birthday things?” He looked around his bedroom, frowning. “They are playing hide and seek!”

Noah’s happy birthday things were carefully arranged in the front room. He ploughed through them until he opened Buzz Lightyear. This brought the present-opening proceedings to a standstill. Naturally, Buzz had to fly around the room several times, land on various objects, then take off again shouting “To infinity and beyond!” Holding Buzz upside down and looking at his shoes, Noah asked whether ANDY could be inscribed under his own feet. I told him that if anything was being written on him, it would be Mummy, not Andy.

We had a nice day planned with swimming and then going to Toys R Us so Noah could choose himself a bike from my Mum and Dad. This didn’t make it any easier than usual to get him washed, dressed and out of the house. He was more than willing to brush his teeth for a change, thanks to his new Mickey Mouse electric toothbrush, but he still had to be coaxed out from under the coffee table with a chocolate finger biscuit before he would get dressed.

We all went to Oberlaa Therme Wien, a large swimming complex in Vienna. Noah thoroughly enjoyed the slide in the children’s pool for ten minutes, then spotted a big slide outside that he wanted to go on. It was raining. My husband took him on the slide. Five times. The pool he preferred, however, was the relaxation pool, which meant it was a little bit less relaxing for everyone else attempting to chill out. When I started to do Pop Goes the Weasel with him, I was given a firm rejection (some people might call it a shove) and he informed me he is not a baby anymore. So that was the end of that.

“Mummy, I love swimming pool water!” he declared as I lounged on one of the tile beds in the pool.

“I’m glad you’re enjoying your birthday treat,” I replied, fondly.

“Yes I am. Can we go home now?”

After his early start, the excitement over all his presents, the joy of now being in possession of his very own Buzz, as well as a morning spent doggy paddling around a heated pool, Noah was not in a very good mood by lunch time. For the past couple of months he has been asking for steak, like his daddy. My husband told him he could have steak when he was three. And so Noah was furious when a ham and cheese toastie was set before him in the café. “I want steak!” he roared. Even when his sandwich was swimming in a sea of ketchup, Noah could not be comforted. I put him on my lap and tried to feed him a piece. He took one bite then conked straight out with the hefty form of Buzz Lightyear tucked under his arm.

Happy Birthday, my Noah.

Noah's very own Buzz Lightyear
Noah’s very own Buzz Lightyear

The Adventure at the Natural History Museum, Vienna

After four months of avoiding his new scooter at all costs, Noah has recently made his peace with it. Now confident he can steer it without flipping himself over the handlebars, he wants to take it everywhere. At first, watching with my heart in my mouth as he veered dangerously close to the road, I ran along beside him as he scooted. Obviously, due to lack of fitness and general lack of energy since I became a mother, this could not be sustained. I now settle for shouting “STOP!” when he is more than ten metres in front of me. Without fail, when he hears this command, he wobbles to a stop, leaps off the side and shouts, “Did you say stop?” back at whoever is responsible for him at the time.

So our family trip to the National History Museum started with Noah zooming ahead of us, red bobble on his bobble hat bobbing in the distance. Outside the museum, there is a grassy forecourt with a large green stone statue in the middle. As there are no roads and therefore cars on this forecourt, Noah was allowed to scoot towards the statue without the limitation of our stop command. He flew straight past a group of tourists from Japan who were admiring the architecture and ploughed headfirst into the grassy bank encircling the statue. He then picked himself up without a murmur, fished his scooter out of the gravel and turned towards us to see where we had got to. The tourists were highly amused. “Very tough!” one of them said as we approached. Yes, Noah is very tough. When it suits him.

He was fed up of the museum sooner than we hoped. In fact, he had had enough after the dinosaur room which was the first room we visited. By the time we were in the third room he was sliding across the floor on his tummy, regardless of the feet which had to step over or around him.

“Get up Noah.”

“No. I’m a whale.”

“Get up, please, Noah.”

“I’m a whale.”

“Noah, will you please get up off the floor? You are getting in everyone’s way and the floor is dirty!”

“I’m a whale.”

He refused to get up for quite some time.

We stopped for refreshment in the museum café after hurrying around the first floor. Still grumpy, Noah sat on my lap. I saw him pulling his glass of apple juice towards me in slow motion. It tipped forward into both our laps, just like so many glasses of apple juice have done in the past. It was a full glass; we were both saturated. Noah’s trousers were removed. His socks and shoes had already been removed as soon as he sat down because that’s what all three year olds do as soon as they sit in a restaurant. Don’t they? My husband took the trousers to the bathroom and set the hand dryer on them whilst Noah sat happily at the table, watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates on my mobile and playing with his willy.

He really wasn’t interested in looking at anything else, but seeing as we had paid 10 euros to get in, we were determined to at least stride through the upstairs rooms. His attention could momentarily be directed to the elephants, the giraffes and the Big Brown Bear, but he mostly wanted to sit on the floor and refuse to move, bite my leg, punch the handbag of an innocent bystander and run through the corridors.

On leaving the museum, his mood lifted as he was promised a cake by his grandmother. He declared he would get “a big, big cake right up to the ceiling”. He chose a little yellow iced fondant decorated like an Easter chick.

Happy Easter Monday, my Noah.

Noah attacking a pre-historic sea creature with the museum map
Noah attacking a pre-historic sea creature with the museum map