10 Things I Love About Noah as he Turns Four

My Noah is four. Last week, he had a dinosaur-themed birthday party at the local park which consisted of an hour and a half of outdoor activities. From the moment I booked it, I worried it would rain on the day, but it didn’t. It was lovely. My dinosaur cake also turned out well (if I do say so myself) but there were a few hairy moments where I thought it was going to be a lost cause and I felt like throwing myself on the floor in a Noahesque tantrum.

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As I watched him at his party, I couldn’t help but marvel at how much he has grown up since last year’s birthday. Rather than ignoring all of his guests, he revelled in being in the thick of it. Some things remain the same: the tendency to whinge, the emotional rollercoaster he rides every day, the unshakeable wilfulness. I had hoped the threenager would become a distant memory, but he has merely turned into a fournager. Oh, well.

But he is also a good boy.

“I’m not a baby,” he responds indignantly, when I call him such. “I’m big!”

“You will always be my baby,” I tell him. This week, I got a tiny leaf, about the size of a grain of rice and showed it to him. “This was how big you were at first and then you grew into a baby in my tummy. That means you will always be my baby because I grew you.”

He contemplated the leaf for some time (at least five seconds) and then agreed that he would always be my baby and went back to eating his dinner.

But the truth is, he really isn’t my baby any more. He is a remarkable little person in his own right. Here are 10 things I love about Noah as he turns four:

  1. He is extraordinary at colouring in. He favours A3 colouring books and Crayola Supertips. Nothing else will do. And he is very possessive over them. He uses one colour at a time, forms an orderly line until he has used every colour and then goes back to the beginning. He often colours a tiny spec of the picture then abandons it, but occasionally he will persevere and finish one. Twice, he has finished one of these fantastic pieces of artwork, only to get angry at something and rip it up. Both times I was devastated. Everyone wants one of Noah’s colourings. He has a backlog of orders. Only very lucky souls will eventually get to own one.
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He insisted this picture go in the middle of my parents’ kitchen wall
  1. At least once a week he goes to nursery in one of his fancy dress costumes. This week, I went into nursery for his birthday walk, a little ceremony they have when it’s someone’s birthday. Noah had to wear a huge birthday cake hat. It even had candles on top. As if this wasn’t funny enough, he was also dressed as a Power Ranger.
  1. He speaks to his toys. When I am in another room and I overhear him having a conversation with his lion or one of his dinosaurs or Buzz Lightyear, I stop what I am doing, stand very still and listen. It never fails to bring a smile to my face.
  1. He knows all of the words to the introduction and song for P J Masks. The tempo is quite quick and he struggles to keep up, but this doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the task.
  1. He will sit and watch a film. Finally. I thought the day would never come. We can actually sit and watch a film together now. He won’t get fed up after twenty minutes and ask me to put a different DVD on. He won’t stand on the arm rest of the sofa and hurl himself at me. Over the Easter holidays, we watched lots of new films together: Brave, Inside Out (my favourite), The Good Dinosaur, Penguins of Madagascar, The Princess and the Frog, Dino Time (Noah’s favourite).
  1. He is ready to learn. I bought him a lift the flap Usborne book for his birthday about the human body. He is full of facts such as: “Mummy, did you know, that when we eat food, our tummies break it down into tiny pieces to give us energy?!” Or, “Mummy, did you know, that we could fill ten thousand balloons with the breaths we let out every day?!”
  1. He thinks Father Christmas is the most magical person in the world. I suppose he would be if he actually existed.
  1. He has mates. Proper little mates. As each friend arrived at his birthday party, he greeted them with a hug. Whenever we go to soft play, he always finds himself a friend. He makes friends easily. This is a gift and I hope he retains it throughout his adult life.
  1. He will speak to anyone: the postman, shop assistants, delivery men, old ladies walking down the street. I find delivery men are the least likely to want to engage with him. He often disappears to get a toy to show them only to find they have gone on his return. For some reason, this leaves him heartbroken. I truly think half of Essex must have known it was his birthday last week, because he told every single person who crossed his path.
  1. He is so much more confident and independent. Over the Easter holidays, I booked him into a “create and play” session at the local theatre. We went along and I imagined it was something we would be doing together, or I would at least be watching. When the woman running it asked me whether I intended to stay in the building whilst it was going on, I was taken aback. The children would be taken off upstairs to the session on their own?! I also felt a bit panicked as I didn’t know how Noah would react. A few months ago, I’d have had to play gooseberry and sit in or else he wouldn’t have taken part. But my Noah was happy to go off without me. After I watched him disappear up the stairs with the other kids, I hurriedly phoned my husband and my mum to share the momentous news. I was proud of him. And it was nice to sit there and read my book for a couple of hours. But I also felt a little bit lost. He really isn’t my baby any more. The world will have to be adapted accordingly.

I can’t help but wonder if all birthdays will be this way now. Every year he will get bigger and stronger. Every year he will need me less and less. It’s the way of the world and the way it should be. It means he is being raised properly. It means he will have the tools he needs to tackle the big wide world out there.

But it hurts just a teeny, tiny, eeny, weeny, minuscule, little bit because I know that the day will come when my Noah no longer needs his mummy at all. By then, of course, I won’t even be Mummy any more: I’ll just be Mum.

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Happy Birthday my gorgeous boy

Mr and Mrs T Plus Three
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10 Differences Between Going for a Job Interview Before and After Having Children (and a Career Break)

Until last week, I hadn’t been in a classroom for two years and three months. It’s safe to say, I am not at the top of my (teaching) game. In fact, when you take my maternity leave into consideration, I have only spent eight months out of the past four years teaching.

Before I had Noah, I was responsible for Key Stage 3 in English (that’s years 7-9 for non-teaching folk). At that stage in time, it was exactly where I wanted to be and I gave it everything I could. When I went on maternity leave, I didn’t dream that once I had a child, I would want to abandon my post and work part-time. But once Noah was here, I could not bear the idea of being away from him so many hours of the week, let alone doing a job where I had to give so much of myself. Teaching is a blood, sweat and tears kind of job and I was already bleeding, sweating and crying profusely just being Noah’s mother. So I left. Temporarily.

And now I’m back. I want to pick up where I left off. When I saw a job advertised for second in department at a secondary school that is a mere hundred footsteps away from the primary school Noah will hopefully be going to in September, I decided that was the job for me. Obviously. What could be more perfect? So I went to the interview and the Head came over to introduce himself to me and the other candidate. As he shook our hands, he clearly wanted to acknowledge that he knew something about each of us already. I was “the one who had been abroad for two years” and the other guy was “the one who had achieved ground-breaking GCSE results at a school where he was already second in department”. And I realised, quite calmly (a bit like how I imagine having an epiphany would be with sunshine and soulful music), that this was a one horse race: I was the horse who didn’t even cross the starting line.

The whole experience of applying for a job, preparing to teach a lesson, standing in front of a class for the first time in two years and going through the interview process (as well as the epiphany) was all a bit draining. A lot draining.

Here are ten differences between a job interview before and after having Noah (and a career break):

Difference 1: Location

Before – I’d pretty much have worked at any school within a 45-minute radius of my house. I’d have had a look at the most recent Ofsted report, browsed the school website and if the role was right and the kids weren’t terrors, I’d have gone for the job.

After – I want to be close to my Noah. My husband works in London. My Dad works in London. My Mum works all over the place. I feel that someone has to be close to Noah whilst he is at school and naturally that person should be me. I’m not sure why my conviction is so strong on this point. It’s what I call my Mother’s Random Logic: weird and probably ungrounded, but intense nonetheless. I don’t want to be more than 20 minutes away from his school. And 20 minutes is a push.

Difference 2: First Reference

Before – When applying for a job in teaching, your first reference needs to be your current employer, i.e. the Head. It’s fairly obvious who to put down.

After – In absence of a current employer, your most recent must be approached as first reference. Unfortunately, the head at the school I worked at for four months just before going to Vienna has retired. I had to send several e-mails before I could ascertain who my first reference actually should be and it turns out it was someone who I have never met…

Difference 3: Availability

Before – When a school rang me up and offered me an interview, I could go. All I had to do was ask for the day off.

After – When the school rang me up and offered me an interview, I informed them I was free between 12.30 and 3.30 on that day. When the school informed me the interview process was actually a day-long thing, I had to find someone to look after Noah. My Dad was working, my Mum had a pupil on a driving test, my husband was going to a funeral. The nursery couldn’t take him for the morning because they were at full capacity. My aunt was a possibility but the issue was with the car seat and ferrying Noah to nursery. In the end, my husband missed the funeral.

Difference 4: Interview Attire

Before – I had a wardrobe full of work clothes. For all of my previous interviews in teaching, I wore a black suit with a jazzy accessory to show, you know, I really am quite jazzy. For the interview at my first school I accessorised with hot pink shoes. At my second, I accessorised with a cobalt blue blouse. At my third, I wore a frilly black and white blouse with a slightly Victorian feel about it.

After – I had absolutely nothing to wear. Absolutely nothing. All of my work clothes have spent the past two years festering in my Aunt’s loft. In anticipation of getting an interview, I ordered three dresses from the Oasis sale. When they arrived, every single one of them was too low cut to wear in the vicinity of teenagers. I then had to drag Noah around the high street, buying outfit choices from Next, Marks and Spencers and Dorothy Perkins, none of which I had time to try on until the morning of the interview. Luckily, one thing fit me: a black and white dress. There was nothing jazzy about it.

Difference 5: Level of Polish

Before – I was pretty well polished when I rocked up on the day of the interview. My hair was blow-dried, my make-up was subtle, my black suit was pressed.

After – I only put mascara on one eye because Noah came in and distracted my attention from the other eye by showing me he had put his own vest and socks on.

Difference 6: The Lesson

Before – I would plan the best lesson it was in my power to create. There at the forefront of my brain would be all the things I needed to include in the lesson: engaging but challenging activities, differentiation, SMSC elements (spiritual, moral, social, cultural), progress, learning objectives, assessment criteria…The list goes on. As soon as I found out the topic of my interview lesson, my brain would be buzzing with ideas. I would be nervous about the lesson, but once I got in front of the class, I switched into role and things came naturally.

After – My lesson was distinctly average. Things did not come naturally.

Difference 7: Interview Questions

Before – I could answer the questions. I knew a time when a child hadn’t done what I had asked of them because it had happened just the day before. I knew how the department would be affected by upcoming changes to the curriculum because it had been the topic of department meetings for months. I knew of a time when I had done something in my role which had made a significant change because I had done it last week.

After – I had a hazy notion I could deal with behaviour and had made positive changes in the past, but the details escaped me. When asked about a time a child hadn’t done as I asked, my Noah’s face loomed into my mind. I am yet to meet a teenager as obstinate as Noah. Teenagers at least pretend they are going to do what you have asked.

Difference 8: Truth and Lies

Before – When asked where I see my career going, I said Head of English. That was what I eventually wanted to be.

After – When asked what I want to be in 5 years’ time, I said Head of English. This is a lie. What I want to be in 5 years’ time is semi-retired from the profession. I want to be standing at the school gate as Noah walks into school and to be there again when he comes out. I want to be a professional writer. I want to have had two books published. I wouldn’t mind having a trophy on my bookshelf for best debut novel or something like that.

Difference 9: The proof was in the pudding

Before – I proved myself at the interview for teacher training, therefore I could train to be a teacher. I proved myself whilst training, therefore I could get a real teacher job. I proved myself at my real teacher job, therefore I could get a promotion with responsibility.

After – The pudding was at a banquet eaten two years ago. In fact, because of changing schools and going on maternity leave, the last set of GCSE results I got from a class that was mine from the beginning to the end of the course was in 2010. And those results were okay. But they weren’t ground-breaking.

Difference 10: The Job Offer

Before – I got every teaching job I went for. I am not blowing my own trumpet. First of all, before I was a teacher, I wanted to be an Editorial Assistant at a publishing company. I went for thirteen interviews before I actually became an Editorial Assistant. Secondly, I was the only candidate at one of my teaching interviews and the only sane candidate at another. But still…

After – Nein.

 

Have my seven years of teaching really been wiped off the slate? Maybe not all of them –  I have had several people contacting me about jobs since I came back. But not jobs that put me right back in the spot where I abandoned my career path. This is all part and parcel of the decision some mothers make to stay at home with their children. It is part and parcel of the decision I made to go to Vienna. For, after all, I was the one with the deciding vote. The hardest thing about being in Vienna (apart from being away from my family), was the feeling of being in limbo: I felt like I had left my life behind in England and had to live in a kind of in-between state of nothingness for two years. I thought we would come back to England and everything would magically be okay. Whilst I thank God every day that I am home, I hadn’t anticipated that settling back in would be so hard. There are so many changes, so many things that have to slot back into place. It will happen. I know it will. But it is taking longer than I thought. And I don’t regret leaving teaching to look after my Noah. I don’t regret it one bit, no matter how much it may have set my career back.

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My non-jazzy interview attire. (Excuse the mess behind me – these are rejected interview outfits).

Mr and Mrs T Plus Three

The 15 Stages of Going Shopping with your 3 Year Old

1.When you originally decide to take your three year old on a shopping trip, your intentions will be good. The afternoons are so very long and there is a nice local shopping centre you can go to which has a little soft play area. This will kill a couple of hours. Your three year old needs some new paints to feed his Arts and Crafts habit and, while you are there, he can choose himself an advent calendar.

 

2.On the way to the shopping centre, after you have picked him up from kindergarten, your three year old will be hungry. He has just had a three course meal at nursery and you bought him a snack when you picked him up but, still, he will be “starving”. He will draw out his most effective weapon, a.k.a. the whinge. You inform him that if he is going to whinge, we will go straight home. There will be no paints. There will be no advent calendar. He stops immediately. Once or twice he forgets himself as you make your way to the shops, but after a stern look, the whinge turns into a pretend coughing fit. “Just coughing, Mummy,” he will enlighten you innocently.

 

3.As you stand in front of the Viennese shelves of advent calendars, you will be filled with jealous longing. There will be Lindt ones, there will be After Eight ones, there will be Ferrero Rocher ones. There will be advent calendars half a metre tall. You would very much like a grown up advent calendar. But you can’t buy one for yourself, can you? That would be ridiculous. As your son debates whether he wants a Smarites one, a Kinder one or a Mickey Mouse one, you will realise that this is the first year your own mother has not bought you yourself an advent calendar. How can I drop a big enough hint to my husband that he will go out and get me one of these advent calendars, you will wonder. Then you will have a brainwave – you will go home and write a blog about it. If that doesn’t do the trick, nothing will.

 

4. As soon as you have put your son’s advent calendar of choice (Kinder chocolate) into the shopping basket and are ready to move on to the stationery aisle to look for some paints, your son will need a poo. First of all you will check, “Do you really need a poo?” To which he will reply, “I really need a poo NOW!” You will have no option but to leave the basket with the advent calendar on top of a display of Playmobil and leave the shop.

 

5.When you return to the shop, you will discover that the poster paints are not in the aisle with the other paints: they are actually in the toy section. This means you will have to steer your three year old past countless shelves of toys before you get to your goal. You probably could have made it without incident, but, unfortunately, you happen to notice that Lightning McQueen (which is on a certain person’s Christmas list) has been reduced to €32 and it is currently £32 on Amazon, making it a significantly better buy over here. No matter that you have already blown the budget for your child’s Christmas presents. No matter that it looks as if you are going to have to pay £30 for a £13 Paw Patrol toy, the last one that you haven’t managed to get yet. You will step up to Lightning McQueen and check him out. Your son will innocently follow and will not be able to help but realise that he is surrounded by toys.

“Can I have a toy?” he will ask.

“No,” you will say firmly. “You’re getting paints and an advent calendar. That’s your treat.”

“But Star Wars!” he points to the Star Wars toys you have inadvertently drawn his attention to.

“Absolutely not.”

Then you will hastily move away to find the paints. It’s too late, of course. The Whinge has started up. It is constant and relentless. You still have to drag him to the supermarket. You are so very tired where you haven’t been sleeping well. You have no protection against The Whinge. Even though your husband will shake his head at you, even though one of your aunts (known as Witch 3) reads your blogs and infers you give in too much, you give in. But, in your defence, you will insist he pays for the extortionate €16.99 lightsaber (which doesn’t even light up) out of his pocket money.

 

6.When you get to the supermarket, you will be so completely loaded down, you will not be able to hold the shopping basket. You are holding your son’s scooter, your son’s hand, and the bag of shopping from the other shop. Your son will refuse to hold anything apart from the lightsaber.

 

7. The Whinge will pursue you the whole way around the supermarket. He wants you to open the lightsaber. There is no way on God’s earth you are letting your son loose in a supermarket with a maximum potential damage causing toy like a lightsaber. This, finally, is when you will lose your patience.

“Mummy, can you open my lightsaber?”

“No!”

“Why?”

“I’m busy!”

“But I want my lightsaber.”

“You’ll have to wait!”

Repeat conversation x 10.

 

8.When you get to the soft play area, there will be nowhere for you to sit. You drag a beanbag over to the wall and plonk yourself down next to a sticky patch. A three year old girl will come and sit next to you and apply her lip-gloss. Do three year olds wear lip-gloss these days, you will wonder in dismay. But no. It’s her sister’s lip-gloss. Said sister will then come over to your beanbag and start to grapple with said three year old for said lip-gloss.

 

9.Once your son has been in the soft play area for one minute and thirty seconds, he will inform you he is hungry. Luckily, you have bought him a kipferl (sweet, horn-shaped bread roll) in the supermarket. He happily takes the kipferl over to the television and watches Donald Duck in German while he enjoys his snack.

 

10.You will realise you haven’t eaten lunch.

 

11.You will smile at your child fondly as he tries to make friends with three older children who are coming down the slide with their arms wrapped around each other’s waists. Your heart will give a little squeeze as your son tries to converse with these children who don’t speak the same language and ignore him. You will feel relieved when your son discovers Lip Gloss Girl is willing to play. You will feel concerned when he chases her and rugby tackles her to the floor. An actual rugby tackle. That his father has taught him. Soft Play is always emotional.

 

12.When you decide it is time to go, you will struggle to get off the beanbag.

 

13.Once you manage to drag your son away from his new playmate and put his shoes back on, he will remember the lightsaber. Despite you shouting after him, he will launch into the (very small) soft play area brandishing this weapon about, whacking the other children and generally pissing them off.

 

14.You will be in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Tony from O2 better not ring you to inform you that your mobile phone is eligible for an upgrade, not after you get a phone call telling you this every single day, not after you have told them several million times that you are not living in the country and therefore do not need an upgrade. Tony from O2 is going to get his head bitten off.

 

15.When your husband gets home from work, he will raise his eyebrows at you as your son darts about sweeping his lightsaber across the sky.

“Where did this come from?” he will ask your son but really be asking you.

“The shops. Mummy got it. At first she said no but then I was whingeing and she did say yes.”

Thank you very much for that, my Noah.

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The force is strong in this one

Mums' Days
Mami 2 Five

Noah’s 10 Strange and Slightly Annoying Habits/Obsessions of the Moment

I don’t want to moan about my son. But I am going to just a little bit. I am fully aware that Noah is a remarkable little person. I am fully aware that for every annoying habit he has, he has an even bigger endearing trait. He is three years old, I tell myself. Most of the time, I am patient. Most of the time, I try to see the world from his perspective. He goes through phases and some of these phases are trying. It’s just a phase, I tell myself. It will pass. He will grow out of it. But still, I’m just a teeny tiny miniscule bit exhausted.

Here are Noah’s top 10 favourite things to do at the moment from the least to the most annoying:

  1. He has taken to sleeping in his slippers. These are blue, slightly too big, and have Mickey Mouse on them. In itself, this habit is quite endearing. When I check on him before I go to bed, all I can usually see of him is his little slippered feet sticking out under the duvet. God love him, I think with a smile. What is annoying about this is the tracking down of the slippers just as he is climbing into bed. One is usually easy to find; the other often proves elusive.
  2. He has started biting his toenails. Surely he will grow out of this as he gets bigger and less supple? Unless he is hypermobile like me*. He then complains his big toe hurts and needs cream on it. If this happened once, or even twice, a day it would be okay…(*Please note – I do not bite my own toenails.)
  3. He insists on wiping his own bum after doing a poo. Bum wiping is not one of the aspects of motherhood that has come easily to me. I’d love it if I didn’t have to wipe his bum for him anymore. But he doesn’t do it properly which means I have to intervene which usually means me chasing him around the flat with the toilet paper. Sorry for talking about poo.
  4. He is obsessed with plasters. Last week, he insisted on wearing a plaster on his finger every day because it “hurt”. At first I indulged him. It was easier than having to suffer one of his tantrums over it. But then he used up a whole packet of plasters and I was a bit worried his finger was going to shrivel up. So I suffered a 45 minute tantrum where the only words were “I want a plaster” over and over and over and over a hundred times until, exhausted, he fell asleep. What were the first words out of his mouth in the morning (at 5am)? “I want a plaaaaaaaaaaaaster!”
  5. He is “afraid” of the Big Bad Mouse. One of his current favourite reads is The Gruffalo’s Child. Every day this week, he has drawn a picture of the Big Bad Mouse when I pick him up from nursery. The Big Bad Mouse is also under his bed. Apparently, this is why he wakes up at night. I have tried to explain to him that the Big Bad Mouse doesn’t exist, it’s really only a little mouse. I remind him of the story of The Gruffalo. But it seems that intertextuality is too difficult a concept for a three year old to grasp.
  6. He watches videos of adults playing with toys on YouTube. One is a man (American) who opens toys with his daughter. He usually opens some sort of plastic egg that has sweets and a toy inside. You can hear him eating the sweets as he gives a running commentary on the toy. Annoying. But he has nothing on the woman (also American) who plays with Paw Patrol toys. Her favourite expression is “Super cool!” In today’s video she had buried the Paw Patrol figures in a sandpit and was digging them back up again. What the duck?
  7. He puts all of his toys in bags. I can only find half of his pirates. Most of his train track has disappeared. Where are the cars for his garage? All in random bags. He often wants to take these bags out with him. Can he carry them? No. This was the conversation we had this morning as he was stuffing Happyland people into his Postman Pat bag:

Noah: Mummy, can I take some toys to nursery?

Me: You can take one toy.

Noah: I want to take lots of toys! (Gets Postman Pat bag and starts to fill it)

Me: That’s enough! You won’t able to carry all that. I’m not going to carry it for you.

Noah: I can carry it because I am Superboy.

Did he take the whole rucksack full of toys? Yes. Who carried it? Me.

  1. He pulls my hairband out of my hair. Seems like an innocent enough thing but this infuriates me. Every mother in the world feels some level of harassment when they are trying to leave the house in the morning. Right? First I have to coax Noah into the bathroom for a wash. Then I have to grapple him into his clothes whilst he won’t stand still for a second. Then I have to find a pair of matching shoes (the pair that he actually wants to wear). It is when I am kneeling down trying to get the shoes on his feet that he makes his move and whips the hairband out. This annoys me because (a) it hurts (b) I have to go back into the bedroom and brush my hair back into a ponytail and (c) he won’t give the hairband back to me and hairbands in my house are like gold dust.
  2. He refuses to scoot on his scooter. He wants to be pulled along by his scooter pull rather than scoot. On the one hand, it is safer because I know he isn’t going to accidentally scoot in front of a car. But it also means he is always bumping into the back of my heels, falling off when we go round corners or ploughing in to things.
  3. He acts like a baby. As in he talks in a baby voice. A lot of the time he doesn’t actually speak at all, just makes whinging baby noises and points at what he wants. He can keep this up all day. I have become one of those mothers in a shop snapping at her child, “Stop acting like a baby!” But when I say it, I don’t mean stop being immature, I really mean stop acting like a baby.

I am not being negative about my Noah. Not really. All threenagers are hard work, right? I know that these habits/mild obsessions mean he is developing his character. And what a little character he is. Whilst these 10 things annoy me, they also make me proud. But not number 10. Or 8 and 9. Or 2…

I’m saving these anecdotes up for when he gets married. And yes, I am planning on doing a Mother of the Groom speech.

Do you remember when Noah was three and wore his Mickey Mouse Slippers to bed? Ha ha ha. Do you remember when he wore a plaster on his finger for a month and the finger fell off? Ha ha ha.

My Noah, you are my treasure.

A few toys to take to kindergarten.
A few toys to take to kindergarten.
The big brown circle with legs is the Big Bad Mouse. The blue things are Darth Vader and his men (last week's obsession). The shadow is my arm taking the picture.
The big brown circle with legs is the Big Bad Mouse. The blue things are Darth Vader and his men (last week’s obsession). The shadow is my arm taking the picture.

You Baby Me Mummy

10 Predictions for Noah’s Future Career Choice

What do you want to be when you grow up? A classic question adults ask children to make conversation. Someone asked Noah this question recently. I awaited his answer with interest. He doesn’t really have a proper concept of what a job is. He knows his dad goes to work; he knows I don’t. He knows that pilots drive planes and that astronauts drive space ships and that teachers look after you at school. If you’re a builder then you’re Bob the Builder and if you’re a fireman you’re obviously Fireman Sam. Anyway, according to Noah, he wants to be a dinosaur when he grows up.

In this day and age, it’s never too early to decide what you want to be when you grow up. There are roads into lots of careers nowadays that weren’t available to my generation. There are qualifications in a vast array of subjects which weren’t available when I was at school. Want to be a famous writer? Do a Creative Writing A Level, a Creative Writing degree, a Creative Writing Masters and even a Creative Writing PHD. Want to be a popstar? Go and audition for the X-Factor.

I was raised with the secure belief that when I grew up, I could be whatever I wanted to be. The world was my oyster. I was given every opportunity a child could possibly be given, but most importantly, I had two parents with an unshakable belief in me and everything I did. If I had said I wanted to be a ballet dancer, they wouldn’t have said “yes, of course you do, darling”, whilst sceptically looking down at my ever-so-slightly chunky legs. They’d have arranged lessons, rigged me out in the best sparkly tutu that money can buy, ferried me there and back and sat through every performance, full of pride. And that’s what I want for my Noah. Although, I’m not sure what I can actually do to help him fulfil his ambition to become a dinosaur…

Taking into account his personality and his interests, here are 10 possible careers that might be suitable for Noah in the future:

1. A baker. The boy loves cake. We make a cake every week. I have to limit them to one a week because of my ever expanding waist-line, but Noah would happily make a cake every day. He has even started telling me what kind of cake he’d like to make. Today we made a strawberry cake. We like to be ambitious.

2. A rugby player. He likes jumping on people, climbing over them and tackling them. My husband (the expert) claims Noah has natural skill in rugby. I must admit, I have concerns about this possible career choice already: my Noah has the most beautiful, delicate, perfect shell-like little ears. The thought of them turning into cauliflower ears hurts my heart.

3. An actor. Before the boy could speak, he could act. He is theatrical. He loves dressing up. He does different voices for different toys. He is also a bit of a straight-faced fabricator.

Me: Why were you calling me in the night? You know it’s naughty.

Noah: I was scared. (Does shivery, scared action. Speaks in small, scared voice.)

Me: What of?

Noah: Darth Vader was in my bed.

To infinity!
To infinity!

4. A librarian. Noah likes playing libraries. He likes the order of stacking books. He also likes reading, which helps. Mind you, libraries might be obsolete by the time Noah grows up. I hope not.

A library on the veranda
A library on the veranda

5. A pilot. Noah is a well-travelled three year old. He’s very used to flying back and forth between Vienna and England. He takes flying in his stride. He’s also been to Spain, Florence, Brussels, Helsinki and California. One of his first words was “plane” (although he pronounced it “ham”, I knew what he was saying). One of his first ever sentences (repeated multiple times) was “draw plane” meaning he wanted the nearest available person to draw him a page full of planes. He loves the Disney Planes films. Look Inside an Airport is also one of his favourite books.

6. Technology/media genius. I can’t really tell what specific jobs technology/media geniuses will do by the time Noah has grown up, but he has a definite interest (obsession) with mobile phones, ipads and television. Maybe, instead of it frying his brain and making him a couch potato like some might suggest, it will make him his millions in the future.

7. A naturist. By this I mean a nudist rather than a lover of nature. He strips off as soon as he gets through the front door, even when it’s freezing and I’m in thick socks and two jumpers. I don’t suppose a naturist is actually a career though, is it? But still.

He is rarely dressed at dinner
He is rarely dressed at dinner

8. A dancer. Noah never can resist getting up and boogying to the hot dog dance on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. He likes performing to his piano too.

9. A dinosaur hunter. He has a mild obsession with dinosaurs. At church this week the vicar was talking about favourites and how we shouldn’t be prejudiced against people who don’t fit with our ideas about what is best. The vicar (bravely) put the microphone under Noah’s nose and asked what he thought of when he said the word “favourite”. Noah said dinosaur. When we were at Centre Parcs recently, we went to an activity where the children were shown a few different animals. At the start of the session, the woman leading it, asked the children to put their hands up if they had a pet at home. I almost fell off my chair when I realised Noah’s hand was up because I’m pretty sure we don’t have any pets. It seems like I was forgetting about the pet dinosaur we keep at home.

10. A politician. He switches his ears on and off depending on what he wants to hear. He is asked not to do something but does it anyway. He has an answer for everything. Just please don’t be a Michael Gove, my Noah.


Mums' Days

10 Things That Keep You Awake When Your Child is Sick in the Night

I cannot quite believe I have decided to write a blog post about vomit. Previously, back when I was someone else (i.e. before I was a mother), I had a phobia of sick. On the occasion when a child I was teaching was sick in one of my lessons, I reacted no better than the rest of the hysterical room full of twelve year olds. Even in the early days of motherhood, I coped with the poo and wee but the idea that one day I would have to clear up sick, or even worse, be sicked on, made me go cold with horror. I didn’t think I would be able to do it. But when the day did eventually dawn earlier this year, I coped. Of course I did. We never know what we are capable of until we have children.

So here it is: a few hundred words on the subject of sick…

On Tuesday night, I was dramatically woken from my slumber by the terrifying noise of my Noah making choking, gagging sounds in his sleep. We are in England this week so are sleeping in the same room. Yes, he was being sick. I lifted him from the bed and took him to the bathroom. Once he was confident he was not going to be sick again, we had to go on a hunt for clean sheets for his bed. We went into my sister’s room and started hunting through clear plastic boxes of sheets but couldn’t find any to fit the toddler bed. (Don’t worry, my sister wasn’t in there: she has her own house now but the room still belongs to her just like my room still belongs to me).

I then attempted to wake my mother in order to ascertain where the elusive sheets are currently kept. But despite her claims of being a very light sleeper, she could not be roused. I must admit, I only stood by the side of her bed whispering her name. I was fearful that if I woke her too forcefully, the shock of opening her eyes to see me and my Noah standing at the edge of the bed, bathed in moonlight, would be enough to give her a heart attack.

So I put him in my bed. He was sick again. We went back into my sister’s room and found some old sheets for my bed. Whilst I was changing the bed, bedroom lights blazing, my Mum finally appeared.  Noah gleefully danced around the room telling her he’d been sick as if he’d just won a medal. Once we were settled, sheets changed, mother soundo once again, he was sick a third time. Luckily, I’d put a towel under us and it only went on that.

Noah went back to sleep and didn’t wake up until seven (a small miracle). But I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep at all. Here are ten things that were going through my mind on a loop:

  1. Is he okay? It is just a tummy bug, isn’t it? Or is it something he has eaten? Is it something I gave him? Could it be something more serious? What did Dr. Google tell me last time he was sick? Could it be meningitis? Is he breathing? Is he asleep or unconscious and how is it possible to tell?
  2. Is he going to be sick again? What if I fall asleep and he is sick and he chokes and I don’t wake up?
  3. If he is sick again (i.e. for the forth time), how am I going to change the sheets when the spare set have already been used tonight for both his bed and my bed? Does he have a third pair of clean pyjamas?
  4. I feel guilty. I lost patience with him earlier when he wouldn’t brush his teeth and shouted at him. I asked him, for the love of God, when was he ever going to do what he was told? I should be more patient. But how? I don’t mean to snap. What was it Supernanny said in her book (in the half I read)? Stand back and observe the situation before reacting. Should I give Supernanny another chance and read the other half? Do I need her to come round and sort me out? Or the Three Day Nanny? Should I get in touch with Channel 4 and offer myself up for the next series? Why does he never do what he is told?
  5. Why can I still smell sick when we are both wearing clean pyjamas and the sheets are all clean and all the sicky stuff is in the bathroom, not the bedroom?
  6. Should I have stopped him drinking lots of water after he was sick for the third time and it was all just water that came up? I gave him one sip and that’s it. Is he going to be dehydrated? What are the symptoms of dehydration? What did Dr. Google tell me last time he was sick?
  7. Will he be well enough to go and see The Gruffalo show in London on Friday?
  8. Should I move him over and risk waking him up? It’s difficult to get to sleep hovering on the edge of the bed with a small child glued to your side as if you have an extra hip and leg.
  9. Am I going to get sick? When am I going to get sick. Am I going to be able to go and see The Gruffalo?
  10. How long will it take us as a family to recover from letting him sleep with me tonight? How many night-time hours will he spend attempting to get in our bed for the rest of the week? Or will it take longer than a week? Will he ever sleep through the night again?

Do you know what I wasn’t worried about? Noah being sick on me. It never entered my head to be worried about that. Until earlier this year when I caught Noah’s tummy bug, I hadn’t been sick for twenty-three years. I lasted three years at university without having been sick through alcohol*. Motherhood has changed me. It has made me braver.

*However, I have sat down on the toilet in a club and not been able to get up. I have fallen over a few times. I have been escorted out of a night club. I have suffered alcohol induced memory loss. I have accosted DJs who weren’t playing enough cheesey music. I have been put to bed at six p.m….I could go on. My point is, I’m just not a sick drunk: I’m an annoying one. This doesn’t really have anything to do with the topic of this post, but I thought I should elaborate to avoid confusion and give people the wrong idea about me.

Get well soon, my Noah.

P.S. Sorry for the gross topic of this post.

Sleeping it off the next day. At 4pm. No sleep for Noah tonight, then. Or for me.
Sleeping it off the next day. At 4pm. No sleep for Noah tonight, then. Or for me.
Stopping at two

10 Not Toy Things to Keep Toddlers/Threenagers Amused for Hours

Here is a list of non-toy things that can keep toddlers or threenagers amused for hours… okay, for at least 10 minutes.

  1. The brown paper stuff that comes in Amazon parcels (aka a pet snake, an obstacle course)

Phone Pics 8.4 0902. A dustpan and brush. Noahella was only 13 months old here. We trained him well (I wish). When we bought him his own toy set from ELC, he lost interest: he used it as a weapon instead. The times I have been smashed over the head with the broom…

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3. CDs/books/DVDs. This creates an awful mess but at least he is old enough to put everything back now… in theory…

1052989_10100357523307834_1662826393_o4. The washing basket is very versatile. It can be used for hide and seek, toy storage and as a football goal.

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5. Pine cones, acorns, sticks, pebbles, twigs, leaves, stones, grit, muck etc are great for treasure hunts…or stuffing in shoes. Seriously, this is one of my favourites as it keeps Noah occupied for ages.

20150809_1113196. Sellotape is Noah’s tool of choice in our household. Sellotape is stuck to the mirror in the hall. Sellotape is stuck all over the cover and in between the pages of Noah’s Postman Pat book because one of the pages had fallen out. And every Buzz needs a bit of sellotape to secure his wings, right?

20150809_1155427. Our sofa never looks like a sofa: it is a bouncy castle or a fort or just a mess.

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8. The bath is a swimming pool, especially when it’s 39 degrees and you’re bored but it’s too hot to go outside. Or rather, the bath was once a swimming pool and never will be again seeing as the bath being a swimming pool meant the whole bathroom being a swimming pool too. Watch out for the water gun.

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9. The sprinkler in the park is a perfect non toy toy: it’s not in my house; if it gets broken it’s not my responsibility to fix it and there’s a nice shady spot where I can sit and watch him.

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10. The fan goes on. The fan goes off. The fan goes on. The fan goes off. The fan goes on. The fan breaks. It’s 39 degrees. Take a valium.

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You Baby Me Mummy

10 things you should know before embarking on a board game with your 3 year old

  1. There are not many board games that a 3 year old will fully understand. 3+ actually means 5.
  2. Most games involve counting. Although your 3 year old can confidently count to 11 (in English and in German), it seems he cannot count at all whilst playing a board game. Four on the dice is two and two, but two and two does not make four. Confused?
  3. He will constantly put the dice in the mouth. This will result in a conversation about choking to death, without actually mentioning death because you don’t want him to understand about death yet, but at the same time, you don’t want him to put the dice in his mouth.
  4. He will not throw the dice sensibly (i.e. so it lands within arm’s reach). He will throw it across the room every single time it is his turn, despite you saying “Keep it on the rug!” every single time it is his turn.  He will then excitedly chase the dice. He will get more and more animated every time he chases after the dice, just like a dog and its stick. You do not want him to get excited, you want him to focus on the board game because you want him to pass whatever tests the government are putting in place for four year olds when they start primary school next year.
  5. You will lose the dice. This will keep you awake at night. Did it somehow land in the bed? Could he choke on it in the middle of the night?
  6. The box won’t stay box shaped.
  7. You will later find bits of the board game under the rug, in between the sofa cushions and in the washing machine.
  8. He won’t take turns.
  9. The game will randomly be packed up by your 3 year old, inexplicably, 50-75% of the way through.
  10. On the odd occasion he does see the game through to the end, he will win.

You win, my Noah.

P.S. Orchard games are really good for 3 year olds!

Noah enjoying a game of Ladybirds. (He is actually wearing pants!)
Noah enjoying a game of Ladybirds. (He is actually wearing pants!)

10 Things I Have Learnt About Being a Mother in Vienna

  1. If it is raining, you will get wet. Very wet. Despite the rain, you have to go outside to take your son to kindergarten and/or to do the daily shop. You cannot carry an umbrella as well as bags of shopping and the scooter, so you go without. Your son, snug in his raincoat, will insist on jumping in or scooting through every puddle you pass, meaning you will be exposed to the rain for tedious periods of time and get even wetter than necessary.
  2. Your arms will ache a lot. Firstly, there’s the daily shopping which needs to be carried from supermarket to home and you do insist on stuffing as much produce as possible into two carrier bags. Secondly, there’s your son’s scooter which can no longer be left at kindergarten because it is a fire hazard (don’t get me started…) so it has to be managed along with your two shopping bags. Thirdly, there is all of your son’s discarded clothing – his jacket, hat, sunglasses. You may not believe it is possible, but you will invest in a granny trolley. Unfortunately, you will only get to use it on Saturdays when you don’t have (a) a three year old or (b) a scooter to manage as well.
  3. You will miss Sainsburys (and Tesco and Asda) with a passion you never would have believed was possible. On trips back to England, you will arrange for your parents to do babysitting duty while you go and pay homage to this miraculous store. Miraculous because you can buy food, toiletries, cleaning products, medicines, clothes, books, cooking utensils, towels, stamps and many more things ALL UNDER ONE ROOF. And then, you can put them in the car and drive them to your front door! You will take your time strolling down the aisles, running your hand lovingly along the shelves. You will buy raisins in little packets, Goodies bars, a whole host of junk-free snacks for your three year old, Calpol, Oilatum and fill your suitcase with these luxuries. You will look longingly at the chilled Anabel Karmel meals, a nutritious standby to have in the freezer for when you are just too tired to cook. Oh Sainsburys, how I do love you.
  4. Other children (natives) just won’t behave in quite the same way as your child. Other children do not leap off their scooter, punch both hands in the air and shout “To infinity and beyond!” before jumping back on and scooting off at break-neck pace. Also, expect to have your parenting mistakes pointed out to you by well-meaning (I think!) old ladies. Don’t expect to understand the advice, though, as it will only be delivered in German.
  5. You will always be on a diet. You love your son with all of your heart, but the days are long and you will take comfort in gigantic bars of Milka, giant buns (okay whole loaves) of raisin brioche and wine, wine and more wine. You don’t have the same waist or metabolism that you had four years ago so these three things will take their toll and you will need to go on a diet. Repeat ad infinitum. You will do crazy and uncharacteristic things like pay £67 for the 21 Day Fix which will make you miserable for a whole 21 days of your life (or maybe only 10 as that is all I have endured so far).
  6. Everything will seem so much further away. Instead of your journeys being delayed by traffic, signal failures or tube strikes, you will have to contend with the Scooter Sit, walking along walls, detours through the park as well as hundreds upon hundreds of tantrums. When you hire a car, you will be amazed when it takes twenty minutes to drive somewhere that took you an hour and a half when you braved it by public transport.
  7. Your three year old will be forced to understand the green cross code, and yet, it will only be understood using a three year old’s warped logic. He knows he must not cross the road unless the green man is on. But what if he gets to the crossing before you and the green man is on? He will think he can cross the road on his own. Cars won’t be able to predict his actions and neither will you. You will live in perpetual fear.
  8. The kindergarten will make you uneasy. It is not like a British nursery. There are stairs. There are glass glasses rather than plastic. There are marbles. There are three members of staff supervising seventeen kids. Most of these kids are under two. Sometimes you will find a stray child apart from the others who appears have been forgotten. You will not know how much lunch your child has eaten and he cannot be relied upon to tell you truthfully. If your child is in nappies, it might not be changed, or he might come home in a nappy two sizes too small. You will barge into the manager’s office, irate about the lack of potty-training skills only to be met with a blank look of someone who does not speak a word of English. Your child may come home with bruises, scratches or bite marks. There will be no incident form. There will probably be no insight into how the bruise, scratch, bite mark came to be on your child’s skin. And yet, you have a social child who needs constant engagement so you take the risk.
  9. You will be responsible for your son’s Early Years education. Children in Austria do not start school until they are six. Some of your friends in the UK have children who can write their name at three. You will try to undertake some sort of schooling where nothing seems to be learnt making you doubt your teaching skills and experience. Here is Noah’s most recent report:
      1. Drama – A* – He is a talented actor who enjoys playing a range of parts
      2. Reading – A – Enjoys books and stories and has a good comprehension of what the story is about
      3. Writing – C – Lacks the inclination or concentration to practise
      4. Maths – C – Steadfast refusal to pay attention to lessons about shapes
      5. Science – F – Failure  to understand the difference between night and day resulting in tedious nocturnal habits
      6. Music – A – An enthusiastic player of all instruments at his disposal
      7. P.E. – A* – Outstanding at running, scooting, jumping off things, crawling under things
      8. Art – B – He has more enthusiasm than natural skill
  10. You will fall in love with the beautifully tended parks, especially the one on your doorstep. You will get unexpected enjoyment out of every season. Through your child, you will delight in the snow (because your car will never get stuck in it). In autumn, your heart will be warmed by the damp piles of leaves your child has collected for you as a present. You will love the fact you have four months of solid shorts and ice-cream weather, despite the sun cream wars.

My Noah, Vienna is not really our home, but our days together here are precious.

Green man everyone!
Green man everyone!
Hold on, Mummy, I must just scoot through this puddle!
Hold on, Mummy, I must just scoot through this puddle!

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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