The Adventure of Salzburg

I fancied going to Salzburg before we leave Austria in December. There is a direct train from Vienna that takes two and a half hours. It is under €50 for a return ticket and Noah can travel for free. City breaks are never easy with small children (I can only assume based on my own experience) but we were feeling brave…

Getting the 9.38am train out of Vienna should have been simple seeing as Noah rarely wakes up after 6am. Unfortunately, Noah woke up in a terrible mood. It was our own fault (it was mostly my fault). We took him along with us to a retirement party the night before, meaning he went to bed two hours later than usual. It is very rare that we allow him to stay up past his bed time. When you have a sleep demon, it’s best to stick to a strict routine for everyone’s happiness and sanity. However, I decided I didn’t want to spend the night sitting indoors on my own, so I dragged Noah along…

From the moment he opened his eyes at the crack before dawn, he was miserable. Every breakfast suggestion I made was met with wailing and an onslaught of tears. Seeing as we had a schedule to stick to and I needed him to calm the hell down, I told him he could eat his breakfast at his little table and chairs in the lounge, watching Bob the Builder. But he refused to eat his toast and refused to sit in his chair and the wailing started up again. Eventually, the television was switched off, porridge was made, he was transported kicking and screaming into the kitchen and was force fed his breakfast sitting on my lap. After this ordeal, we only had 20 minutes to get washed and dressed.

When we got off the train in Salzburg, we needed to go and dump our bags at the hotel, but we didn’t know how to get there by public transport so we walked. Noah, already dead on his feet, was not happy. I had booked the hotel (as my husband reminded me once or twice as we were walking down a strange, dark and seemingly deserted alley). One of the problems with staying in a hotel with a three year old is that when they go to sleep, you have to either go to bed too or sit silently in the dark for a couple of hours. We needed accommodation with two separate rooms. My husband found us a self-catering apartment with two rooms for €75 for the whole weekend. I considered the price and glanced at the photos of this place and decided it was a dingy, flea-ridden hovel. I found us a suite in a mid-range hotel (at about five times the cost). To my relief (because otherwise I’d never have heard the end of it), our hotel was fine. My husband liked it enough to buy himself a pot of their homemade jam to take home with us. There were only two real issues with the room. Firstly, it stank of stale cigarettes despite the no smoking signs everywhere. Secondly, the curtains were in metre long strips which you had to line up across the window in order the close. In other words, it was broad daylight in the room when I was trying to get Noah asleep.

Our hotel was a five minute bus ride to the old town. I had planned some activities with Noah in mind. We went to the Natural History Museum. I tried to psyche Noah up by telling him we were going to see some dinosaurs. Although Noah claims he wants to be a dinosaur when he grows up, he wasn’t very interested in spending time with his ancestors. In fact, we mainly got him around the museum by playing hide and seek…

Where's Noah?
Where’s Noah?

After the museum, we went to a café for tea and cake. As we were waiting to pay the bill, an Australian couple sat down at the table next to us. I gradually became aware that the man was complaining about something quite strongly. He sounded disgusted and I heard his wife say, “Let’s go somewhere else” so I pricked my ears up and listened in to see what the problem was. The man was complaining about the smell. I sniffed the air. Yes, there was a bit of a pooey whiff. I hadn’t noticed it before…And then I realised that the smell was my very own son. His bottom, to be precise. He had done a “botty pop”. He had farted and it was a stinker. Noah was oblivious, but my heart felt a little bit sore for him because of the man’s reaction. Okay, so he smelled a bit but it’s life. We all do it. (Actually, I don’t…). “Is that Noah that smells?” I asked my husband in a loud stage-voice, hoping to make the man feel ashamed of his over-reaction to a three year old’s fart. Moron.

Who's done a botty pop?
Who’s done a botty pop?

The next day, fortified by a good night’s sleep, we were still feeling brave so we embarked on The Original Sound of Music Tour. My husband has never seen the film but enjoyed the scenic views from the bus. Noah slept for most of it, including when they played the soundtrack CD and the only people singing along were me and an enthusiastic Welsh man sitting behind me. The tour ended at the Mirabell Gardens where the Do-Re-Mi scene was filmed. I couldn’t resist dancing along the pathways singing the song. Oh, I had a great time on that Sound of Music tour.

Doe, a deer, a female deer...
Doe, a deer, a female deer…

Later that day, we went to the Speilzeugmuseum (toy museum). They had lots of different toys out that children could play with. For €4, I’d go there every week if they had one in Vienna. The next day, we went on a Salt Mines tour. We crossed the border into Germany and went into a mountain which has been used to extract salt for hundreds of years. It sounds like a laugh a minute, but actually, it was really good. We had to put mining overalls on (or space suits if you listen to Noah). A little train took us through the dark tunnels into the mountain and then we had to go down a great big slide to get to the next level. I am not a fan of slides. I stood at the top and peered over the edge. “I’m going to take the walkway,” I told my husband. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he replied. I knew that there was a camera set up to take a picture of you half way down and I really, really, really wanted a family photo of us on the slide. So I swallowed my fear. In the photo, I have my eyes closed and I’m gripping my husband so tightly round his neck, it must have felt like I was strangling him.

Do you like my space suit?
Do you like my space suit?

Overall, I really liked Salzburg. It is a lot smaller than Vienna and not as grand. It seems more touristy which is a funny thing to say seeing as in the centre of Vienna, you can’t move for tourists. Vienna is more about museums and Opera and palaces. Salzburg reminded me a bit of a toy town. The mountains and lakes around there are spectacular.

And Noah was a good boy. That’s always puts things in a positive light.

Well done, my Noah.


Advertisements

The Adventure of the Day Trips: Dinosaurs and Dürnstein

This weekend we hired a car and got out and about a bit in Austria. And it was good. It was a good weekend. But since becoming parents, a good weekend inevitably involves a lot of hard work, a little bit of bickering and leaves us absolutely knackered for the week ahead. C’est la vie.

A couple of weeks ago, I went into the local shopping centre and was confronted by four gigantic, green, scaly feet with claw-like toenails. I tilted my head back, craned my neck around and discovered a dinosaur reaching up the entire three floors of the building. But what is this? I wondered excitedly. Is something dinosaur-themed coming to our very doorstep?! Something new to entertain Noah with?! Hooray! I noticed some information on a placard near the dinosaur. It was an advert for something called Dino Live. I snapped a picture of the info on my mobile and hurried home to put it all into Google Translate. I went to the website and discovered it was a dinosaur exhibition, but, alas, it was about 45 minutes outside of Vienna. So when we decided to hire a car for a weekend of excursions, I naturally thought about going to the dinosaurs.

So on Saturday morning, I crammed Noah’s lunch bag full of snacks and Noah duly packed himself some toys in his Postman Pat rucksack and a felt watering can (which is actually mine and is supposed to have Peter Rabbit in it…). I packed Noah the following snacks: a pot of grapes, carrot sticks, a cheese and pickle sandwich, raisins, dried apple chips, a kipferl (sweet, horn-shaped bun), a packet of 3 plain biscuits, a yogurt, a babybell, a peach, a Humzinger, a cereal bar and some cheesy breadsticks. Noah packed everything on the surface of the table which his train set is on apart from the track (several trains, cars, a runway, roadsigns, a crane, a helicopter, a boat…) and odd bits of Playmobil which were so tiny I will probably never be able to find them again. All this would come in very handy at the dinosaur exhibition.

Noah has recently become a bit (okay, a lot) whingey. I very much hope it is a phase because it absolutely does my head in. He started on the way there. Having eaten his grapes, raisins and kipferl within the first ten minutes of the journey, he then wanted one of the choc chip buns that my husband was eating in the front seat. I didn’t have one for him. He couldn’t possibly be hungry. The whinge started up, loud and relentless. “I’m switching my ears off! I don’t listen to whinging!” I declared and pressed an imaginary button on each ear. Noah then took offense to the music on the radio station and started up with, “I don’t like that song. Turn it off. I want another song.” Repeat times 100. Unfortunately, despite having turned my ears off, I could still hear him.

I thought the dinosaur exhibition would be quite good. I surmised this for the following reasons:

  1. The dinosaur I saw in the shopping centre was impressive and, presumably, expensive. Impressive and expensive advertising usually means an impressive and expensive event. Right?
  2. The Arena Nova (where the exhibition is set up) looked gigantic on the website.
  3. The website showed pictures of children inside dinosaur eggs so I imagined it was going to be quite interactive.

When we pulled up to the Arena Nova, we were directed to a small building alongside it which looked like a cheap hotel… nay, it was a cheap hotel, designed by someone who had a liking for corrugated iron. It was in the middle of what looked like an abandoned industrial estate. The exhibition was okay. It consisted of various large models of dinosaurs. It was a bit like a dinosaur Madam Tussauds, but the dinosaurs weren’t made of wax. Not like Madam Tussauds then. There was also a room playing a short film about dinosaurs, some rows of tables where you could colour in a dinosaur (I did) and a tightly packed row of four dinosaur rides (the type you get outside a shop). We paid 5 euros to get our picture taken on a dinosaur but there were no dinosaur eggs for Noah to climb in and create mischief. Within 20 minutes we were done, but we decided to go around another time and eek an hour out in there. Basically, it was okay. Noah enjoyed it well enough. But it was underwhelming.

Noah and the dinosaurs. He wasn't really glowing, I just have no idea how to use the settings on my camera.
Noah and the dinosaurs. He wasn’t really glowing, I just have no idea how to use the settings on my camera.

On Sunday, we drove to Krems, a little town on the Danube, about an hour outside Vienna. From there, we got a boat along the Danube to a picturesque little town called Dürnstein. On the way, my husband showed me a picture of some ruins of an old castle on the hill at the top of the town and informed me there was a pathway leading up to it from the centre. I agreed to have a look, thinking Noah would be interested in looking around an old castle. It was also the castle where Richard the Lionheart was kept prisoner. Unfortunately, as soon as we got off the boat, Noah decided he wanted to go home. He refused to walk or scoot and further. “We’re going to an old castle to look for a dragon,” I told him. He was suddenly much more willing to move.

We walked up the cobbled streets of the town, past various shops selling tacky souvenirs, and eventually happened across the pathway to the top. Except, I really wouldn’t call it a pathway, it was more like one long, uneven, ancient, broken set of continuous stairs. Some of the steps came up to my knee. Noah was having none of these stairs so my husband put him on his shoulders. He also had a rucksack on his back and carried Noah’s scooter. What possessed us to bring the scooter? I have no idea.

When I was 6 months pregnant with Noah, I was diagnosed with a problem with my pelvis called SPD which affects 1% of pregnant women. It was uncomfortable when I walked. I had a couple of sessions with a physio and was assured it would go away once Noah was born. It didn’t. It was far, far worse. The birth also resulted in a small tear in my hip. Noah was 7 months old before I could walk normally, without feeling any pain at all. Three years later, it hardly ever bothers me apart from when I (a) attempt to go for a run (b) do any kind of high impact/high resistance exercise or (c) as I discovered yesterday, climb up an ancient set of stairs for 20 minutes in order to see some old ruins.

Half way up, my left hip had stiffened and that leg decided it wasn’t going to support this adventure up the stairs any more. The top of both legs ached the whole way around my groin (sorry, I hate that word but I put it into the thesaurus and nothing else came up!). I stopped for a little rest on a boulder and rooted around in my bag for my drink. It wasn’t there. I must also mention that it was 30 degrees. The following conversation ensued:

Me: (to husband) Where’s my drink?

Husband: I don’t know.

Me: What do you mean you don’t know? I asked you to put it in my bag.

Husband: You didn’t.

Me: I did! When we were on the boat, I put it in your hand and asked you to put it in my bag which was around your side of the table. You took it and said okay.

Husband: I didn’t hear you!

Me: Well, that’s just typical. What did you do with it?

Husband: I poured it into my water bottle. If you want a drink, have some of mine.

Me: (enraged) I will not! When have you ever known me to drink out of anyone’s water bottle?!

Husband: If you really need a drink, there’s one here. Don’t cause an argument over a bottle of water.

Me: I’m not causing an argument. You are!

Husband: That’s it! Let’s go home! Let’s go and get on the next boat! The day is ruined!

Noah: (voice of calm and reason) No, Daddy. Mummy hasn’t ruined it. We can’t go home, we still haven’t found the dragon! Mummy, have some of Daddy’s drink!

Three years ago, I would have abandoned the quest to get to the ruins and stormed back down the stairs. My husband would have stormed down after me. We would then have spent the next twenty minutes in a stormy silence until I had some wine and/or chocolate and my husband had some food. Then we would have made up. But it was not three years ago, and Noah would have been upset if I stormed off. The boy wanted to see the dragon so I carried on up to the top, walking like a crab (i.e. sideways) with my right leg leading. By the time we eventually got there, Noah’s own mood wasn’t too hot either. In his eagerness to refuse to do anything he was told, he forgot about the dragon entirely, which is fortunate because I’m not sure what story I would have had to concoct in order to explain why the dragon wasn’t there.

Naturally, when we got to the car at 4pm, Noah was knackered and promptly fell asleep. Naturally, the knock on effect of this was that he went to sleep an hour and a half later that night. By the time I was eventually able to extract myself from his toddler bed, my whole body had ceased up.

But, still, it was a good weekend, my Noah.

Being strangled on the boat (just before my bottle of water bit the dust)
Being strangled on the boat (just before my bottle of water bit the dust)


The Adventure of Menorca

I have been to Menorca every year for the past 28 years. My grandparents bought a villa there and it now belongs to their four children, one of whom is my very own mother. When I was a child, before the airlines had thought up baggage allowances, my sister and I would pack suitcases full of toys. I have memories of our Barbies floating on a lilo (their cruise ship), of tea parties in the forest with our bunnies (I was never a teddy kind of girl and my sister did everything I did) and of us getting lost on “adventures” with my dad which sometimes ended up with us walking into strangers’ back gardens. When we were teenagers, we went through a stage of hibernating indoors watching Sky. In particular, Clarissa Explains it All, Saved By the Bell, Boy Meets World and countless other teenage American TV shows which I have now forgotten the names of. They really don’t make TV like they used to. When I did venture outside, it was to sit in the shade with my notebook and scribble one of my novels, my very own series called Kool Kidz. And, of course, I read and read and read. This was something that continued as I grew up. The very attraction of Menorca was that it was a holiday to do nothing but to read and to relax, to eat out and drink Sangria. When I started work, this was more precious than ever.

And then I had Noah. Holidays in Menorca, like everything else in my life, changed dramatically.

We first took Noah to Menorca when he was three months old. For the whole holiday, the longest period he slept in the cot was 40 minutes. Every 40 minutes he’d wake up screaming until, at somewhere around 3am, I’d give up and hold him for the rest of the night. In hindsight, I think he was cold. But back then, I was obsessed with cot death and overheating. He’d be put to bed in a vest with a thin sheet over him. We’d have the air con on. The boy was cold. We live and learn.

Me and my 3 month old Sleep Demon
Me and my 3 month old Sleep Demon

The next two years were spent chasing after Noah in a state of sleep deprivation. This year was no different.

The Buzz Lightyear Rucksack

To get to Menorca from Vienna, we had to change flights at Madrid. Unfortunately, there was a casualty at the airport: we left Noah’s rucksack there. Noah’s rucksack contained his sunglasses, his dragon, his lion Leo (favourite toy to take to bed), his Ben and Holly DVD, his Jake and the Neverland Pirates DVD and a brand new sweatshirt from GAP which I was particularly fond of. I have since made six or seven phone calls to Lost and Found at Madrid airport. The conversation goes something like this:

Me: Hello. Do you speak English?

Madrid: A little.

Me: I have lost a bag.

Madrid: Sorry?

Me: I left a bag at the airport.

Madrid: Back?

Me: No, a bag.

Madrid: What colour?

Me: Blue and red. It’s a Buzz Lightyear children’s rucksack. Nino.

Madrid: No. Call back after 8.

Explaining the situation to Noah was a bit easier:

Noah: Where’s my Leo?

Me: You know in Toy Story 2 when Woody gets taken and all the other toys go on an adventure to find him and rescue him?

Noah: Yes.

Me: Well, the toys that were in your Buzz Lightyear bag are on an adventure and they’re trying to find their way back to you.

Noah: (Running out of the room) Nana! Nana! My toys are going on an adventure!

I am a bit cut up about the sweatshirt, but I think the real problem will come when Noah inevitably asks to watch Ben and Holly or Jake and the Pirates…

Nightmare Nights

True to form, Noah didn’t sleep well. The villa has three bedrooms: one for my Mum and Dad, one for my sister and one for me, my husband and my Noah. None of us slept well. Noah now wears pyjamas and sleeps under a duvet so he slept for longer than 40 minutes at a time, but it was still hard work. He spent the first four nights waking up at 5 am. For the next five nights, he woke up for between 2-3 hours in the middle of the night. For the rest of the holiday, he was up and down, either waking up early or waking up in the night.

In the middle of one particular awful night, he was on the floor between our beds.

“Noah, get back in to bed!” You can imagine my tone.

“I’m just doing my press ups,” he replied.

He has an answer for everything. When he was asked why he didn’t sleep, he replied, “My back was hurting. The bed is uncomfortable.”

Armband Alert

It was difficult to keep Noah entertained all day. He liked the pool, but there are only so many hours in the day you can spend in there. He liked the beach for about an hour. One day we went to a snack bar that has two little water shoots. He loved it. It cost 5 euros for 28 goes. We got there at 12 and Noah had his 28 goes, then we had lunch. After lunch, he wanted to go back on the slides. My husband took him up to the top whilst I positioned myself at the bottom with my phone ready to take a picture. As he got to the bottom, my timing was late and I missed the shot. I moved the camera over to try and get a shot of my husband who was on the next slide. I also missed that shot. As I was busy deleting the photos, my husband called, “He hasn’t got his armbands on!” Yes, to our extreme horror, Noah had gone down the water slide without his armbands on. When he ploughed head first into the water at the bottom, he resurfaced and swam to the side. And that’s all I have to say about that.

3 year olds must wear armbands when sliding head first down water shoots...
3 year olds must wear armbands when sliding head first down water shoots…

Melting Meals

As Noah finds sleeping through the night such a challenge, his bedtime routine is very important. But this causes problems when we are on holiday. Most restaurants don’t open before 6 so we either have to find somewhere open at 5 or eat at lunchtime. It was so very very hot in Menorca this year that neither of those options were ideal. My husband is a great believer and enforcer of the routine. My mother likes to mention how when we were children, we had a strict bedtime at home but not when we were on holiday and thinks Noah should go to bed later. I hover in the middle. By 7 o’clock, the boy is finished. Staying up later would mean him being a nightmare. I certainly don’t go on holiday to stay indoors and cook and neither does my Mum, but finding somewhere to eat can become a bit of a chore. My family are in Menorca for four extra nights and they are now enjoying eating in their favourite restaurants in the evenings. They claim they miss us…

And so Menorca is not as relaxing as it used to be. So what? I still love it. I love the pine trees, the sound and the smell of them. I love the general stillness and the quiet of the island. I love the white villas with the red tiled rooves. I love how all the waiters are friendly and give Noah illegal lollypops. Most of all I love the memories. Menorca is part of my fabric and I know that it will be part of my Noah’s too.

Me and my 3 year old sleep demon
Me and my 3 year old sleep demon


Ten Tips for Travelling with a Three Year Old

  1. When packing, don’t leave your suitcase unattended. I made this mistake yesterday. I returned to my half-packed suitcase and discovered two rubber ducks, fresh from the bath, dripping all over the neatly folded, ironed clothes. I also found a photograph of Noah and me in an “I love my Mummy” frame. There wasn’t room for it in his own suitcase, apparently, because he had packed every book on his bookshelf.
  1. Don’t be ready to leave for the airport earlier than necessary as this provides an opportunity for mischief to occur. We were all packed and ready with shoes on at 9.50 a.m., waiting for my husband to arrive to help us to the airport. Five minutes later, when he hadn’t turned up, I checked my phone and discovered he had texted me an hour before telling me we were leaving at 10.30 a.m. instead. What to do with the extra 40 minutes? I let Noah watch television. He claimed he was hungry. The only snack I hadn’t packed for the journey was a chocolate croissant. 30 degrees heat plus chocolate croissant equals an almighty mess on his clean clothes. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise until I was strapping him into his car seat.
  1. Your child will need to go to the toilet at the most inopportune times. I was at the self-check-in booth printing our boarding passes, gripping both passports and a notebook containing the booking reference. I had keyed half the details in, when Noah announced he needed a wee, grabbing his willy to accentuate the point. Every day without fail the boy holds his wee for over three and a half hours whilst at nursery, but that doesn’t mean he will choose to hold it when I really need him to. I abandoned the check-in and proceeded to the toilets. Again, five minutes before boarding, Noah did several stinky “botty pops”.

“Do you need a poo?” I asked.

“No.”

“Sure?”

“I don’t need a poo-poo!” he informed me indignantly, as if I were a simpleton.

Boarding was announced and he needed a poo. We rushed to the toilets. He didn’t do a poo.

  1. Avoid taking your child in the Duty Free Shop. Avoid this at all costs. This is difficult when a bottle of water costs €1.90 in the Duty Free Shop and €3.50 in the café. No matter how hard you try to steer your child away from the sweets, his beady little eye will seek them out. He will pick up a giant Toblerone. You will say no. He will pick up a giant tube of Jelly Belly. You will say no. He will pick up a clear plastic bag full of mini packets of Mentoes. You will say no. He will not take no for an answer and will refuse to put them back. An argument will ensue. He will flee the scene, still clutching the Mentoes. The shop has no walls, therefore your three year old will see no boundaries. You will have to chase him as he flees the scene of the crime, casting worried glances over your shoulder to check if any security guards are running after you, before rugby tackling him to the ground to retrieve the Mentoes.
  1. No matter how many activities you pack for the journey, your child will be fed up within an hour of boarding the plane. We had a colouring book and pencils, a sticker book, story books, a puzzle, his Vtech Innotab and a portable DVD player. The DVD player is the most handy (see point 8) but the volume does not go very high so he gets fed up of straining to hear Peppa on a plane, far sooner than he would if he were sitting indoors.
  1. Accept your child will eat far more sugar than they normally do. What else is there to do between check-in and boarding apart from bribing him to sit in a café and eat cake? On the flight, you will be offered a sweet (i.e. chocolate) or savory snack. If your child is paying attention and you choose the savory option, he will put you right in front of the air hostess, and inform her he will have the chocolate. He will also have undiluted apple juice. Also,if your parents, his loving grandparents, are picking you up from the airport, they will bring some sort of treat food (e.g. a muffin) for your child to snack on. There will also be promises of choc-ices after dinner. Which leads me on to…
  1. If your parents haven’t seen your child for a while, expect excessive behaviour. Yesterday, my mother outdid herself by greeting us in the arrivals hall by shouting our names whilst surrounded in a cloud of bubbles from a bubble gun. The bubble gun was Noah’s, of course, and he was absolutely delighted with it. I didn’t realise it at the time but the bubble gun was actually a godsend (see point 8). Apart from the bubble gun, my parents had bought Noah an array of garden toys: a trampoline, a new tent, a swing ball, a football and goal and a bug catching set (?!). Whilst they didn’t bring all of this to the airport with them, they did describe it to Noah in great detail, making his face a picture of rapture as he imagined it. He won’t miss the park this time we’re in England: he has his very own adventure land in the back garden.
  1. Your child will never fail to surprise you. On the way home from the airport, we got stuck on the M25 for four hours between junctions 24 and 25. When we eventually did get off, we were still miles away from home. Noah occupied himself with his DVD player and the bubble gun. To my delighted dismay, the boy was an absolute angel. He asked, mildly, a few times, why we weren’t moving. My back ached, my legs ached, I was mind-numbingly bored, I was hungry and thirsty and I needed to go to the toilet. I certainly felt like throwing my toys out of the pram, but my Noah completely put me to shame.
  1. Your child will be willing to wee in an empty apple juice bottle but under no circumstances will he poo by the side of the car. Noah took great delight in weeing in a bottle and claimed to need a wee every ten minutes or so until the novelty wore off. Later, he really needed a poo. He was a bit distressed by how much he needed a poo. We pulled out of the traffic, stopped beside a grassy bank and got him out of the car. He was unable to poo. He did wee all over my shoe, though.
  1. Sleep will be disrupted. Even if you set out with all the best intentions, booking flights in the middle of the day so you avoid early starts or late bedtimes as well as rush hour traffic, sleep will be disrupted in some way. Noah finally fell asleep in his car seat at 9pm. That’s 10pm in Veinna, three hours after he would normally be asleep. Then he kept waking up on and off until we got home and I carried him up to bed. He woke up this morning at 4.45am demanding breakfast. Seeing as he’d only had a series of snacks for dinner last night (a goodies bar, a satsuma and half a packet of biscuits), I had to allow him to get up and raid the kitchen cupboards at that unearthly hour.

I’m proud of your behaviour yesterday, my Noah.

Two cartridges were used on the journey home
Two cartridges were used on the journey home
The List

My Noah and Me

Promote Your Page Too

The Adventure at the Airport

12.55am

“I need a drink,” a soft, quiet but not-at-all-sleepy voice filters into my dreams.

I ignore it.

“Mummy,” soft, quiet, unsleepy voice now moans, “I need a drink.”

Ignore.

“I need a drink! I need a drink! I need a drink!” voice roars.

I get out of bed, put drink in Noah’s hand, remind him we need to leave for the airport in 5 hours, put the covers back over him and get back into bed.

Bang! Bang! Beaker is whacked against the side of his bed.

Shuffle, shuffle shuffle. Covers are kicked off.

I get out of bed, remove beaker from hand, remind him we are getting up early, put covers back on, get into bed.

Repeat x 2 hours. (And this time I had not given him a giant chocolate Gruffalo).

5.45am

Bleary eyed, pounding head, I need Noah to get up and get dressed. He is unconscious. I put all of the lights on and do my hair whilst having a loud conversation with my mother who is in the next room. Noah is still unconscious.

6.05am

“Take your wellies off. Your wellies stay here at Nana and Papa’s house.”

“No, I’m wearing my wellies.”

“If you don’t leave your wellies here, you won’t be able to water the garden with Papa next time we come back.”

“We can bring them back with us. I want to take my wellies to my house!”

“You have different wellies at your house.”

“I want these.”

“The pilot won’t let you on the aeroplane with wellies on.”

“Why?”

“Because…wellies aren’t safe. If we crash, you won’t be able to run off the plane fast enough in wellies.”

He concedes to the removal of wellies. I put his shoes on, wondering vaguely if I have jinxed our flight.

8am

We are in a restaurant having breakfast. At least, my husband and I are having breakfast; Noah is rolling around on the floor getting in everyone’s way.

8.30am

Our gate is announced. It is a fifteen minute walk away. Noah refuses to go to the toilet, meaning he will 100% need to go while we are taking off beneath the fasten-your-seatbelt sign.

8.35am

It is a necessary evil that we have to walk past the soft play area on the way to the gate. Noah passes it without comment and I think we are safe. But no.

“I need to go in that play area.” He stops walking ten steps past it.

“No. We need to catch our plane. We’ll miss it,” my husband tells him.

“For five minutes!” Noah insists.

“No.”

Noah turns and runs off back to the play area with my husband in pursuit. Both return: my husband red faced and trying to seem nonchalant to passing gawpers; Noah kicking and screaming.

“Take this and I’ll take him,” my husband says. I am now carrying my rucksack, Noah’s trunki, my husband’s fleece, Noah’s gilet, Noah’s shoes, a bottle of water, my husband’s sunglasses and Noah’s Buzz Lightyear rucksack. I step unsteadily on to the escalator and promptly drop the Buzz Lightyear bag containing Noah’s Vtech tablet. I watch it bounce on every step down the escalator in front of me.

At the bottom of the escalator, I can hear Noah’s screams. I stand there for at least five minutes before I see my husband’s legs appear. His arms fixed tight around a very distressed Noah. We find a bench and attempt to calm Noah. Like a knight in shiny plastic, one of the airport staff arrives in a buggy. He asks us if we’d like a lift. I am so relieved, I hear angels singing the Halleluiah. But no, Noah will not get on the buggy. His screams escalate. I think they will tear his throat to pieces. My husband politely thanks the buggy driver and tells him we won’t take a lift. Above my husband’s head is a glaring yellow sign telling us our gate is a 13 minute walk from here. Thirteen minutes of hell.

“We need to sort his sleep out,” my husband informs me.

But how? How? How? How? We have tried everything.

*

Noah was actually good on the plane. He was good right up until 4.30 in the afternoon when I was cooking his dinner and he decided he wanted to go to the park. A tantrum ensued which culminated in Noah looking me in the eye as he deliberately weed all oved the floor.

But in between these major tantrums, there was one of those little moments where I look at my son and I thank God he is mine. We had just got home. Noah went through the house like a whirlwind, getting toys out and quickly discarding them. I made a cup of tea and went to see what he was doing. He was sitting at the table, intently cutting up one of his drawings with a confetti of paper on the floor around his chair. What gave my heart a tug was that he had taken it upon himself to put his Mickey Mouse slippers on (wrong feet of course). Such a small thing, but I felt so full of love for him, it could have split me open.

My Noah, you can be a nightmare but you are still perfect to me.

Watering the plants - one of Noah's many delights
Watering the plants – one of Noah’s many delights

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