The Adventure of Superheroes and Dreams

All my Noah wants in life is to be a superhero. Judging by the number of superheroes that exist in the world of television these days, I am quite sure that a lot of four-year-olds share the same dream. Of course, with Noah, the superhero fixation is intense. And although I find it charming, although I am proud of the boy’s imagination, I do find it all a teeny tiny bit exhausting.

Example:

Last night, my husband was working late, therefore not in the proximity at bedtime. Noah knows what’s what. He knows what he can get away with. He knows I am the weaker one, the one with the more wobbly and changeable rules. My husband is the first to attest that Noah never plays him up at bedtime. Oh no. He saves that particular superpower for me. Two minutes after I said goodnight and left him in his bedroom, he was calling me. I trudged back upstairs.

“I need to be blue, Mummy,” he said. “Blue like the Blue Beetle. How can I get a blue face?”

“You can get face paints. Goodnight, Noah.”

“Will face paints make my face blue?”

“Yes.”

“All over my face and my eyes?”

“Yes. Now, goodnight.”

“But not inside my eyes, Mummy.”

“No, not inside your eyes.”

“Because if paint gets inside my eyes, I won’t be able to see. And it will hurt.”

“Okay. Goodnight now, Noah.”

“Wait, Mummy! What about my feet? How can I get blue feet?”

“You can put face paint on those too. You should have been asleep ages ago so I’m going now.”

“Face paints on the face of my feet?”

“Er…yes…”

“And my legs?”

“Yes.”

“Both sides of my legs?”

“Yes.”

“And I need blue arms.”

“You can use face paints. We’ll get lots of face paints and you can be painted completely blue. But right now, you need to go to sleep.”

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A lot to answer for

Every day, Noah wants to dress up as a superhero. He can go through several different personas in the space of fifteen minutes. I have to watch his superhero moves on my bed. “Watch this, Mummy!” And he launches up in the air at a contorted angle. “And Mummy! Watch this!” And he attempts some sort of gymnastics, landing in a heap. Putting the washing away takes about half an hour because I have to enthuse over so many of Noah’s moves. The bedsheets, pillows and mattress protector have to be reattached to my bed several times a day. There is no escape from the superhero downstairs, either. He launches off my chair (which I am not allowed to sit in) and throws himself across the room crying “Super cat speed!” Every time he needs to pick something up, he declares “Super Gekko muscles!”

I am also required to be a superhero myself in role plays where Noah is director, creator and controller of the game. He tells me everything I have to say and every move I have to make. I often get things wrong which enrages him. There is no room for improv on my part and no opportunity for my own creative exploration. Noah is a creative dictator.

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I’ll be Batman and you be…the green one…and you stand over there and don’t say anything

Noah’s passions have always been relentless from the moment he was born. His first passion, of course, was breastfeeding. As a baby, this was all he was interested in doing all day and (especially) all night. Until he discovered the delights of food and breastfeeding was just at night. All night.

Noah is a spirited and an intense child and I often question whether I am cut out to be the mother of a spirited and intense child. I wonder whether I’m getting it wrong somehow. When we are in a restaurant and Noah is hanging upside down from his seat, refusing to talk in anything but baby speak, refusing to eat anything, I look around the restaurant and every other child of his age is sitting there eating dinner calmly. I have no idea how other parents manage this. Okay, so a lot of these quiet children are on ipads so maybe I do know how a lot of parents manage this…But I have to wonder – did I eat too much Haribo when I was pregnant? Did I make Noah like this? Because I did eat a lot of Haribo.

And yet, as my Dad is fond of saying, it’s the Noahs who change the world. Passion is a gift. Spirit is a gift. Dreams are a gift. So I play along with these superhero games with as much enthusiasm as I can muster. I often find myself gritting my teeth and waiting for Noah’s phases to pass. But do I actually want this phase to pass? Do I want Noah to give up on wanting to be a superhero and get the bad guys? Do I want him to stop believing he can do the impossible?

Hell no.

Today I turn 35. Every time I think of this, I feel like a bucket of ice has been tipped over my head. I am closer to 40 than I am to 30. I am virtually middle-aged. I have grey in my hair and frown lines between my eyebrows and little pouches under my eyes when I smile. I have a little lump that comes and goes on my leg, about the size of the fingernail on my little finger, and I am terrified it will turn into a varicose vein. My metabolism gets a bit slower every hour (although that could have something to do with the amount of jaffa cakes I consume to get me through each day). Today I turn 35 – that magical age when a woman’s fertility suddenly takes a nose dive because my eggs are all old and my ovaries are weary. Yesterday, when I was 34, I was so much more fertile than I am today. But today I turn 35 and I am still chasing after my dream.

Since I was twelve, I have wanted to write novels. In fact, I have written several novels. I wrote a series of novels when I was a teenager. Think Sweet Valley High. Think Sweet Dreams. Think Point Romance. I created my own version called The Kool Kids. I wanted to have a novel published before I was 30. When I was 28, I decided I had better get cracking so I religiously wrote for 20 minutes every single day. After ten months voila I had my first novel. Alas, it wasn’t good enough. So when I went to Vienna and faced two years of unemployment, I decided to neglect my Hausfrau duties (such as doing the washing or tidying up) and spend my free time writing another novel. But an average literary agent receives fifty unsolicited manuscripts a week from people like me. That’s 2600 a year. An average literary agent takes on about three of these writers. This is the kind of thing they teach you at the writing events I have been to: how unlikely it is that you will ever get published. The book I have just written is better than the book I wrote six years ago. But is it good enough? Look at the odds.

If this novel gets rejected 50 times, if this novel doesn’t make it, it will be disappointing. No, it will be soul destroying. Every rejection hurts. Of course it does. I am not particularly resilient by nature. I am not particularly confident or driven. But eventually, I know for a fact, my soul will heal, I will get over it and I will start writing another novel and maybe that will be the one. Who knows?

My spirit and determination is altogether a quieter thing than Noah’s. But I am 35 and I still have a dream. I still have a dream because my Mum and Dad believe in me and they are as close to real life superheroes as you can get. By the time Noah is 35, I hope he is everything he wants to be. And if he isn’t, I hope he still has a dream.

So when Noah is at nursery today, I will go to the shops and find him some face paint. A lot of face paint. And I will come home and paint him blue if that is what he wants. And I will let him paint me green. Or red. Or stripy. I will do whatever I need to do to keep him believing he is a superhero for as long as I possibly can.

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Present Boy…Superpowers include unwrapping other people’s presents and camouflaging himself in the wrapping paper.

P.S. Can anyone tell me where to buy face paints??


 

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Dressed Himself

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This is what happens when your 4 year old goes to nursery, indulges in water play and is then encouraged to dress himself in his spare clothes. Yes, he looks like he is wearing some sort of trouser/skirt/cape combo, but, in fact, he is just wearing his joggers inside out.

P.S. My feet really shouldn’t be part of this photo but now that I have uploaded it, I cannot be bothered to go back and crop it and do it all again. I am comfortable enough with my feet and taste in socks to put them out there.

 

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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

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

The Adventure of Living with Mini Maker

Six weeks ago, I glanced at Noah and did a double take. Not only was he sitting down with a colouring book in front of him, miraculously, he was actually colouring in. Up until this point, Noah’s interaction with colouring books involved him picking up a crayon (usually black) and scribbling all over the picture on the page, then turning to the next page and doing the same until the whole colouring book was one mass of scribbled out pictures. To my dismay, I found Noah could actually colour in amazingly well for a three year old. And thus, Mini Maker was born.

Noah is a child who develops obsessional phases with things. As quickly as these phases come, they are gone again. Once he had an obsession with clementines and would eat at least five every day. When he was eighteen months old, he had an obsession with sticker books. “Stick-stick” was one of his first words. I was spending about £30 a month on the things and that was me limiting myself. His latest obsession is arts and crafts and, like most of Noah’s obsessions, this one is relentless and exhausting.

Every day when I pick him up from kindergarten, he presents me with a pile of drawings which he claims are for me. When my husband gets home from work, he is then presented with the same drawings which are now for him. Sometimes, the kindergarten make things with the children to adorn the walls. Noah has issues with this. He doesn’t want to leave things he has made at kindergarten, he wants to bring them home the very same day. A couple of weeks ago, I arrived to find cardboard owls hanging from the ceiling. Noah pointed out his one and wanted to take it home. “You can take it home next week,” the practitioner told him. A meltdown ensued. The owl was removed from the ceiling and has since been sitting on our bookshelf. We spent most of that week making owls at home. We must have made ten owls, one of which was taken back into kindergarten and presented to the pedagog.

Whenever we go back to England, my Aunt buys Noah a present. When we returned in October, she had bought him a whole bag of arts and crafts goodies – colouring pencils, stickers, a sharpener, pencil case, coloured paper, scissors and, Noah’s favourite, “MY VERY OWN SELLOTAPE!!!” I left him with my Dad while I went to look at a primary school we are thinking of sending him to. When I left at 9 a.m., Noah and Dad were at the kitchen table making things with pompoms and pipe cleaners. When I returned at 11 a.m., Noah and Dad were still at the kitchen table making things with pompoms and pipe cleaners.

I stalk Pinterest for ideas. It’s like being a teacher all over again, planning my lessons with Noah. He knows his own mind when it comes to his artistic creations. He knows his own mind full stop. He won’t be guided and our creations are never Pinterest worthy. The week of Halloween, we did potato stamping in the shape of a pumpkin. But Noah didn’t like the pumpkins having eyes and mouth so he painted over them. We also did finger-painting around a bat shape on black paper. This was a particular favourite and he asked to do it again a few days later. When he said, “I want to make a bat,” I thought he said, “I want to make a rat,” so I cut him out a giant rat shape. This caused a meltdown until I finally understood what he meant. Then he painted the rat too.

If I hear the Mr. Maker theme tune, I have to shoot across the room and pay full attention because, at some point that day, I will be asked to replicate whatever it was Mr. Maker made.
Noah: Can you draw me what Mr. Maker drew this morning?
Me: What was it?
Noah: That thing that Mr. Maker drew this morning!
Me: What did Mr. Maker draw this morning?
Noah: I don’t know. Do you know?
Me: No, I don’t know. What did it look like?
Noah: A fridge with feet.
Me: A fridge? A fridge that we put food inside? With feet?
Noah: I SAID I WANT THAT THING THAT MR MAKER DID DRAW THIS MORNING!!!!

Obviously, I am delighted Noah is exploring his creative side. I am delighted that he has proved himself capable of sitting down and doing an activity calmly for a prolonged period of time. But as well as the fact that his constant desire to make things is intense, it is also problematic in other ways. Firstly, it’s expensive. I bought him a big pack of paper and set of felt tip pens (never again) in IKEA and they were used up within a week. I’ve also bought him countless craft kits – wooden elephants, paper boxes, foam dinosaurs, Christmas cards. Second problem: it’s messy. Last week, I was on the phone to the council about reinstating our parking permit and Noah was painting at the kitchen table. He spilt an entire pot of blue paint on my Mum’s upholstered chair. I had to phone her in hospital to break the news. Today, Noah started to paint the outside of the paint pots. I told him to stop so he roared in outrage and threw the purple paint pot at the white kitchen wall. He has several tops I cannot get the paint out of to save my life. But my biggest problem is that I am running out of ideas. We have already made Christmas cards for everyone we know. Maybe we should make Happy New Year cards too…

Maybe my Noah will be a world famous artist one day. Maybe he will win the Turner Prize and I will be interviewed about what he was like as a child and I will be able to regale journalists with these tales. Most likely, Noah will have grown out of this phase by Christmas and all the craft kits I have stuffed his sack with will remain unopened, left on the shelf to grow dusty because that is the way things go with a three year old. Or is that just my Noah?

Mini Master Maker
Mini Master Maker


The Twinkle Diaries

The Adventure of Toys, Toys, Toys and Treehouses

Christmas.
I know. It’s 14th October. It’s far too early to be thinking about Christmas. And yet, it’s difficult to avoid it. Vienna does Christmas in style: renowned for its Christmas Markets, it has a reputation to uphold. Advent calendars and decorations are in the shops already. Noah’s eyes boggle in excitement at the shiny red and green splendour of it all. And it’s still 10 weeks away.
Noah’s Chirstmas list is all written, decorated and ready to be posted to Father Christmas next week when we are in England (because Royal Mail will send a reply). This year will be the first time he has asked for things himself. To be honest, I am a bit dismayed – I had so many good ideas for what he’d like! But my baby is growing up and God knows he’s got his own mind, so this year, it’s over to him.

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About a month ago, we had the following conversation on the way to nursery (thanks to a certain episode of Peppa Pig):
Noah: Mummy, please can I have a treehouse?
Me: You can’t have a treehouse. We haven’t got a garden so we haven’t got any trees.
Noah: In Nana and Papa’s garden, I mean.
At three and a half years old, the boy sees exactly how the land lies. Noah went straight to the heart of the situation: if anyone was going to get him a tree house, it would be my Mum and Dad. So my Mum commissioned me to make Noah a star chart. She had a long list of things Noah had to do to get stars. At first, she told him he would need 300 stars, but she later changed it to 100. To add to the confusion, she was calling the stars “brownie points”. This Skype conversation mostly went over Noah’s head. My Dad would get Noah a treehouse tomorrow as a just because present (just because you are my Grandson).
Anyway, Noah now has a star chart with a skewered picture of a treehouse and Father Christmas (drawn by my own fair hand) at the top. He gets a star every time he does something good, but a red dot goes over one of the stars when he does something naughty. When he is threatened with a red dot, he says, “I don’t really want a treehouse. I was only pretending.” He is mostly being good at the moment, which is just as well because the treehouse has already been sourced, payed for and delivered. I just hope it doesn’t snow this Christmas, otherwise we’ll be spending a lot of time outside freezing ourselves to death whilst Noah delights in his new treehouse.
My husband and I have already bought Noah a Playmobil farm house, tractor and some animals to go with it. Playmobil is quite big over here. I bought it on Amazon.de because it worked out £30 cheaper than buying the same products in England. However, as I paid for it, I realised I had somehow signed up to the German Amazon Prime. I went to cancel it but realised I’d actually been a member for 6 months and the €49 had come out of our account in May. Damn and blast bloody Google Translate! How had I missed that?! Now I am desperately racking my brains to think of things I can buy to make use of the free delivery before we move back to England.
Thankfully, Noah doesn’t watch children’s television channels because we live in Austria, so Noah hasn’t seen any toy adverts. He has, however, been watching the Toy Genie on YouTube, and for the past two months has been saying, “Oh! I wish I had all these Paw Patrol toys!” in a small, hard done by voice, as if he doesn’t have a palatial bedroom crammed with toys as it is. So another thing on his list is Paw Patrol toys and I am having a bit of an issue with these. Firstly, he wants all of the pups with their vehicles. When he was dictating his letter to Father Christmas, he expressly reminded me to write down the names of each pup, just in case Father Christmas didn’t know what they were called. Each pup with their vehicle should cost about £13. Oh, if only life were that simple. It appears these fairly reasonably priced toys are being discontinued. What is replacing them? Super-duper lights and sound Paw Patrol trucks which cost £25 each. There are six pups and Ryder, the boy who looks after them. If Noah’s wish is to be fulfilled, that’s £175 on Paw Patrol toys! Some shops still have the old ones, although on Amazon they’ve put the prices up to £20+. So I am doing what any concerned mother would do: trying to buy up the old ones whilst they are still around. What does this mean? It means we have already blown our budget for Noah’s Christmas presents. Oh, yes, and he also wants the Paw Patrol “house” as he calls it.
My husband and I have conflicting philosophies surrounding Christmas presents. My husband’s stance is thus: Noah has a room full of toys, many of which he never plays with. Noah does not need a lot of toys for Christmas. If people want to give him something for Christmas, they should buy him something small and then give him money for his savings account if they so wish. My husband is a sensible man. He is a practical man. He is not a material man. He thinks of the people in this world who have nothing. And he’s not wrong. I am sure many readers would agree with him. Last year, Noah got so many presents, he got fed up of opening them. My head tells me husband is not wrong…

But my heart says otherwise. I can’t agree with him: it’s just not me. It’s not what I come from. When my husband declared that Noah doesn’t need “sacks and sacks” of presents this year, my family were aghast. What? No sacks? He usually gets a sack from us, a sack (treehouse sized) from my Mum and Dad, a small sack from my sister and a sack from my Aunt and Nan. It was my Nan who actually started the sack tradition. My Nan was a single parent at 20 years old with twins. She had no family around her. It was the 1950s and she was a housekeeper. In other words, she was skint. But she saved hard to make sure my Dad and my Aunt had a sack of presents every Christmas. Despite my husband’s moral barometer, my family will not be deterred from buying lots of presents (sorry dearest). My husband’s family get Noah lots of presents too so I really don’t know where he gets it from.
How much should children get at Christmas? It’s a controversial matter. Out of curiosity, I googled how much do you spend on your children at Christmas and was taken to a handful of parenting forums. I discovered that it really varies. Some parents were saying £50, some £500. There is no right or wrong answer. Partly, I suppose it depends on how much you have. I think we have spent enough now, but I keep seeing things and thinking Noah would like that.
Also, should Chirstmas be about getting lots of presents? What is Christmas really about? I’m a Christian: I know what Christmas is about. I’ve also heard sermons on what it shouldn’t be about.
But this is my stance: treehouses are built for children. There are websites full of different treehouse designs for children. So if some children in this world are lucky enough to be born into a family who can afford to buy them treehouses, why shouldn’t Noah be one of them? Part of the magic of Christmas for children, is wishing for something and then getting it. Dreams coming true for three year olds is all about toys and treehouses.
My husband worries Noah will be spoilt. His theories are noble and perhaps mine aren’t. But as we were growing up, my sister and I had everything we could possibly wish for. We are nicknamed “The Princesses” by the rest of my Mum’s family. Although I have been privileged, I don’t come from a wealthy background; I come from a very hard-working one. My Mum is 64 and frequently works 12 hour days. My Dad is always crusading around the country for the greater good of mankind. My sister and I may well be Princesses, but we are good people and we work hard and we value everything we have ever been given. Being spoilt is not always about how much you are given in your life, it is about what you think you are entitled to. We are living in a material world and I am a material girl. And I want to give Noah what I can.

Noah and his sacks last year
Noah and his sacks last year

The Twinkle Diaries
Mami 2 Five

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.