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
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Father’s Day: A Tribute to our Dads

Today I am paying homage to our Dads: to my Noah’s and to mine. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get too mushy: I’m not the mushy kind. I want to write about what our Dads are really like, what makes them great among fathers without any Father’s Day/greeting card stereotypes. Well, maybe just a few…

Noah’s Dad

My husband is a bit blog shy. When I started this blog, he informed me that under no circumstances was I to put a picture of him up. But, secretly, he loves the little mentions he gets so I have now been permitted to add a photo:

Noah loves going on his Daddy's shoulders
Noah loves going on his Daddy’s shoulders

What type of father is he?

My husband always has time for Noah. He listens to him carefully when he is talking, giving him his full attention. He asks him about his day. Sometimes, I go to tell my husband something that has happened, and Noah has already told him. When he is on his way out of the door, Noah sometimes corners him: “Daddy, will you play with me? Just for five minutes?” My husband cannot resist and out come the diggers or the blocks.

My husband likes to be involved and has strong ideas (some might say obsessions but I am being nice today what with it being Father’s Day and all) about Noah’s development. He wants Noah to eat the right things, to love the fresh air, to be courteous and polite. He is the type of father who is consciously shaping his son into a good boy who will become a good man, the best of men. There is no lazy parenting with him, no putting the television on to get half an hour’s break. Playing with Noah is never a chore: it is always a delight. Unlike some people (me) who would rather stick their head in the oven than play Hide and Seek one more time. Or Pop Up Pirate.

My husband would do anything for Noah. That’s an over-used phrase, a cliché, but what does it actually mean? I don’t mean he would go half way around the world to get Noah a certain snack he wanted, or that he piles toy upon toy in his lap, or that he would take him to Euro Disney every weekend just so he could see Mickey Mouse. No, to my husband, these are small, insignificant things that children can do without. When I say my husband would do anything for Noah, I mean proper He-Man, superhero stuff. If Noah needed him to, he’d walk over hot coals without flinching. He’d take on Noah’s fiercest enemy and win. He’d slay dragons. He’d climb Mount Everest in his underwear and a pair of flip-flops and make it back down alive.

My husband likes living in Vienna because his office is only ten minutes from our apartment. He has time to sit down with Noah in the mornings and give him his breakfast. There is time for them to play together. He is home in time for us to eat dinner together and to give Noah a bath. When we move back to England, there will be none of this during the working week. There will be two and a half hours commuting to and from London every day. If he is lucky, he will see Noah for fifteen minutes every evening. I am not exaggerating when I say, this will break my husband’s heart. Will he moan about it? Yes, probably. But will it stop him? No. Because my husband is a provider. He is a worker. He is someone who continually strives to better himself. He is the worthiest of role-models for my son.

What type of father does Noah have? A superstrong one.

Teaching Noah to fly
Teaching Noah to fly

My Dad/Noah’s Papa

Unlike my husband, my Dad is not at all blog shy. He sometimes asks why I don’t put this or that on my blog. He “pretends” offence if I mention my Mum more than I mention him. Here is a picture which shows one of the most significant moments in a father’s life, giving his daughter away:

I started bawling my eyes out as soon as the harp started playing Here Comes the Bride. My dad, oblivious, continues to greet the guests!
I started bawling my eyes out as soon as the harp started playing Here Comes the Bride. My dad, oblivious, continues to greet the guests!

What type of father is my dad?

When I think back to my childhood, I remember playing libraries with his books. My Dad’s books are precious. There is never a crease in the spine. Never in his life has he turned down the corner of a page instead of using a bookmark. But, there I was at Noah’s age, pulling his books off the shelf, putting them in piles, pretending to read them, and he didn’t bat an eyelid. The thing I remember most about my childhood was my Dad’s stories. There was Stickatu, a stick that lived at the bottom of the garden. There was The Green Hand (said in a dramatic horror movie type voice). There was Great Uncle Samantha. The stories were riveting and my dad was tireless in the telling of them. My dad gave me words and stories and books and what am I if not a reader, a writer, an English teacher? I cannot imagine who I would be without them.

My Dad is a man of firm, unwavering and upstanding morals. When he was eleven years old, he decided he would be a social worker. He achieved his dream and made it to Director of Social Services, not a job for the faint hearted. He has set up numerous organisations and charities. He is a crusader. He wants to make the world a better place. He believes in good, he believes in honesty, he believes in justice.

My dad would do anything for me and my sister. Earlier I wrote about what that meant for my husband. My dad, however, would walk half way around the world to get me something I wanted. When I was fourteen I loved Boyzone (I’m not ashamed to admit it). Tickets for their concert came out one Saturday morning and I wanted to be one of the die-hard fans queuing up at the ticket office. Unfortunately, my school had half days on Saturdays. No way was I allowed to miss school to go and stand in the cold and get Boyzone tickets when a simple phone call could do. My Dad dropped me off at school and drove on to the Docklands Arena. He joined the back of the queue and made friends with the fans there. He asked them to save his place and bowled up to the front where he started chatting to the fans who had camped out all night to get front row tickets. They were so touched that he had gone all the way there to get me a good ticket that they let him in at the front of the queue and, abracadabra, I had front row tickets to Boyzone. I’ll never forget it. Not because I am still star struck by being a metre away from Ronan (he married someone else, anyway, the fool), but because right then and there, on that day when I was fourteen years old, a front row ticket was my dream and my dad made my dream come true.

What kind of father do I have? An inspirational one.

Then there is my dad as Noah’s Papa. Instead of writing about them, these pictures speak louder than words:

8 weeks old, reading about Van Gogh

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Happy Father’s Day to two upstanding gentlemen, my Husband and my Dad, love from my Noah and me xx

P.S. Husband, pick yourself up off the floor – it doesn’t become your stoic nature to faint. Dad, stop sobbing and dry your eyes.


Mami 2 Five