The Adventure of Saying Goodbye (to Vienna)

Three more sleeps.

On Monday, the packing company came and packed up eighty boxes of our stuff with minimal disaster. It is now half way to England. My main concern is that the new Christmas decorations I bought will be smashed in transit. But they, like most things in life, are replaceable. Noah took the packing up of his toys fairly well. He grasps the fact that his toys are too big to take on the plane and will be at our “little house” in England when he gets there. There was a minor issue that went like this:

9 a.m. Sunday Morning. I am piling up Noah’s toys along one wall of his bedroom.

Me: Noah, do you want to keep Aylan here or do you want him to go in the big lorry with the rest of your toys?

Noah: In the big lorry.

Me: Are you absolutely sure?

Noah: Yes. In the big lorry with the rest of my toys.

Me: You won’t see him until we get back to England.

Noah: That’s okay. I want him to go in the big lorry.

Aylan, in case you were wondering, is a large teddy bear brought for Noah on our last trip home by my Mum and Dad. My Dad named him Aylan after the three year old Syrian refugee who drowned. He liked the idea of Noah looking after a refugee. Anyway, I put Aylan in the pile to be sent back to England with the rest of Noah’s toys (a) because he would take up a lot of room my suitcase, (b) because it’s stressful when Noah is carrying an enormous teddy around the airport, not least because we are always losing toys at airports and (c) because Noah seemed pretty adamant that Aylan should be packed with the rest of his toys…

4.30 p.m. on Monday, 10 minutes after we had waved the lorry off with all our stuff inside (including Aylan)

Noah: Where’s Aylan?

Fifteen minutes of wailing ensued.

 

Moving abroad for two years is many people’s idea of a dream. Usually, when it comes up in conversation that I live in Vienna, I’m met with responses such as “Wow! How exciting!” And I am the miserable cow who shakes her head and says, “Not really.” For me, it was never going to be easy. My husband knew that when he applied for the job. I am a home bird if ever there was one. Back in May 2013, the job came up in Vienna and my husband presented me with a written proposal listing all of the benefits of going for it. It wasn’t the first time he had broached the subject of doing a foreign posting. I phoned my Mum up and read her out the proposal. Because my Mum saw the £££ signs and (reluctantly) said go for it, because I had just gone back to work after maternity leave, because I wanted to work part-time and couldn’t, because it was a good opportunity for us financially, because it was my husband’s heart’s desire, I agreed. We formed a pact: I would try living in Vienna as long as Noah and I could come home for one week every month and stay with my parents. Last year, every single time I waved goodbye to my Mum and Dad at the airport, every time I waved goodbye to them here, it was with tears in my eyes. I am not given to public displays of emotion but, quite honestly, I felt like my heart was breaking. My husband’s posting shouldn’t actually end until next October, but I knew with absolute certainty that I couldn’t do another year here. Have I cried myself to sleep every night for two years? Of course I haven’t. Have I been depressed? No. Although I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate and drunk a lot of Gruner Veltliner to see me through. Have I made my husband’s life a living hell? Probably. Sometimes. Do I regret agreeing to come here? Actually, no.

Over the past six weeks, I have felt an over-whelming sense of relief every time I thought about how close I was to moving home. I felt as if I was crawling towards 19th December on my knees. I even planned what I would put as my last Vienese Facebook update at some point in August.

And yet…

I would be lying if I said that I don’t feel a sense of loss. And actually, it’s quite a strong sense of loss. How can this be? I’m flabbergasted by it. I should be excited. I should be deliriously happy.

It all comes down to change. I don’t like change. I don’t embrace it.

 

Last week, I was washing Noah’s sand toys in the bidet (what else is it for, after all?), when I had a bit of a moment. I looked at his buckets and spades and diggers lined up to dry on a towel on the bathroom floor and I felt winded, I felt bereft. The sadness I felt surprised me. Where had it come from? I am not sad to be packing up our things and moving back to England. As I took a deep breath, I realised that I was sad about what those sand toys represent. They represent a part of Noah’s childhood. The park that we live on represents a part of Noah’s childhood – all those hours we have spent there being cooked by the sun or being frozen solid in the winter. I felt the same when I got his pram and his highchair out. These things are obsolete. My Noah is done with them. He is not my baby anymore: he is my clever, strong minded, curious little boy. When we moved here, Noah was 20 months old, he spoke in nouns, he beat up any child who came within a mile radius of him, he had a little white rabbit comforter called Booby that he took everywhere, he couldn’t scoot or ride a bike. Now he is nearly 4, he loves Star Wars, he doesn’t know who Booby is, he wants to have conversations about what happens when you die. The fact is, Noah has spent more of his life in Vienna than he has in England. It feels a little bit as if, when I get on that plane on Saturday, I will be leaving a part of Noah’s childhood behind. Ridiculous, I know. But sometimes emotions are.

 

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January 2014, at our park

The other thing which makes me sad about leaving is that I am taking my Noah away from the life he knows. I am taking him away from the kindergarten he is happy at, from the friendships he has formed, from the enormous flat he can ride a bike around. Of course, even if we stayed until the end of my husband’s contract, we would still have to take him away from these things. I think I am seeing this through my own eyes rather than a three year old’s. I know what it feels like to leave your home and I am projecting those feelings on to Noah.

“How do you feel about moving back to England?” I ask him frequently.

“Alright,” he says. “I can’t wait to go to my new nursery! It’s great!”

I realised just how often I must have spoken to him about this when he turned to me yesterday and said, “So, Mummy, how do you feel about moving back to our little house?”

Noah is 3 years old. His language is developing every day but it is by no means advanced. He isn’t capable of telling me how he feels about moving back to England. He isn’t capable of understanding it himself. He pooed in his pants every day last week which is something he never, ever did whilst he was potty training well over a year ago. Is that relevant? Is he channelling his uncertainty about moving back to England by pooing in his pants? Or is he just being a sod? He certainly isn’t doing very much of what he is told at the moment. Even phone calls to Father Christmas and threats of him losing presents doesn’t seem to hold any sway with him. He’ll be okay. I know he’ll be okay. I know this experience won’t damage him in any way. But I still feel sad on his behalf, especially when I see him running home from kindergarten every day, hand in hand with his best friend.

 

A few weeks ago, one of my friends asked me, “What are the top five things you’ll miss about Vienna?” “There aren’t five. I will miss absolutely nothing about Vienna!” I exclaimed. But that’s not true. I will miss living on the park, I will miss my husband being home in time to play with Noah, I will miss the wine, I will miss the Sachertorte, I will miss the public transport, I will miss that most things are within walking distance, I will miss the space we have in our flat. I will miss the lifestyle we have been able to afford. I will miss my friends.

 

I know I am doing the right thing going home; I couldn’t bear to imagine the alternative. I have had a hard year in lots of ways. We all have them. Going home is faced with its own challenges: unpacking, cramming all of our stuff into a two up, two down cottage, finding myself a job. I am surprised to realise that I will have to adapt, to settle back in. But I am looking forward to starting up my life again in my beloved Essex. I have not liked living in Vienna but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it as a place. There is a grace and a grandeur about it. I respect it. But there’s no place like Essex.

Auf Wiedersehen Vienna, from my Noah and from me. Over and out.

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There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.
My Noah and Me

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101 Things I Have Done to get Noah Asleep

When I say I have tried everything to make Noah sleep, I really mean it. Here is a list of everything I can think of that we have done since he was born. There are not actually 101 things, but this sounded good as a title. If you have a child or baby who doesn’t like sleeping, maybe you will get some tips…at least tips of what not to do!

As a baby:

  1. Rocking in arms. Success was hit and miss. Mostly miss.
  2. Rocking in moses basket. Noah wasn’t a fan of this.
  3. Singing. The boy has always loved a song. His particular favourites were Rockabye Noah (where I changed the lyrics so he didn’t fall out of the tree), Amazing Grace and Make You Feel My Love.
  4. Patting. Worked if the patter was persistent and patient and had nerves of steel to persevere through all the screaming.
  5. Shushing. Worked if shusher was persistent and patient and had nerves of steel to persevere through all the screaming.
  6. Walking up and down. Worked if walker was persistent and patient and had nerves of steel etc…
  7. Swaddling. Worked until the health visitor rocked up when Noah was 10 days old and informed me she didn’t recommend swaddling as babies can get too hot. To me, too hot = risk of SIDS = no more swaddling.
  8. Breastfeeding. Noah’s particular favourite. The only method he submitted to willingly. Unfortunately, it meant me sitting up most nights just so Noah could sleep.
  9. Dummy. Before Noah was born, I was adamant he wouldn’t have a dummy. I was dummy prejudiced. By the time he was a month old we were doing anything we could to get the boy to keep a dummy in his mouth. Were we joking? Fools! Did we think the boy wouldn’t know the difference between a boob and a dummy? No dummy for Noah.
  10. Baby sleep CD. Waste of money.
  11. Pushing pram around the living room. Never worked.
  12. Take for a drive in the car. Worked 50% of the time. Unfortunately, when it didn’t work, Noah would scream his little head off relentlessly for the whole drive. I’d be a shaking wreck by the time I got home.
  13. Take for a walk. This didn’t work at first because Noah hated the carrycot bit of the pram where he was laying down flat. At three months I swapped to the upright pram and he loved it. After this, Noah would be walked for hours at a time. As soon as you stopped, his eyes would snap open. So we didn’t stop. I took him for two hour walks every weekday. My husband or dad did it at the weekend. When we went on holiday when he was 4 months old, he was pushed around the shade in a figure of eight for hours by my husband and dad.
  14. Lie on floor with hand in cot. Made him stop crying but didn’t make him sleep.
  15. Dream Swing. This was the second most successful tool in the early days. Sometimes Noah just couldn’t resist the dream swing. And sometimes he could. The main design fault of the dream swing was it had a timer on it that had a maximum length of 15 minutes. Every time I heard the music cut out, I had to leap across the room to turn it back on, otherwise Noah’s eyes wouldn’t fail to snap open. A more organised (or less sleep deprived) person would put the swing next to the sofa so she didn’t have to move in order to restart it.
  16. Slept with his bunny comforter down my top so it would smell of breast milk and hopefully substitute the real thing. I christened the bunny Booby. Booby didn’t make Noah sleep any better but he was Noah’s first friend and this friendship lasted until well after he was two. He used to take Booby to nursery with him. It had been washed several thousand times by the time he started nursery, though.
  17. Baby sleeping bag. This helped because Noah moved a lot in his sleep (still does) and this stopped him getting too cold in the night.
  18. Baby massage. When he was five weeks old, Noah and I did a baby massage course. He spent most of the hour screaming or being fed. Forget baby massage.
  19. Gave him Infacol for colic. “He screams a lot!” I informed the health visitor. “Try Infacol. It sounds like he’s got colic,” she said. He didn’t have cholic; he was just furious at us for trying to get him asleep.
  20. Moved into his own room so he couldn’t smell the breast milk. Either he could still smell it, or the memory of it was enough to keep him screaming for it all night.
  21. Harrassed the health visitor. Many a time did she come around at my urgent phone call to check Noah wasn’t ill. Once she noticed he wasn’t sleeping because he had thrush. Never be afraid to harass your health visitors.
  22. Made a contraption out of the car seat, a ball of string and a human toe. This was all my Mum. When we were all on holiday when he was four months old, my Mum would get up and take over to give me and my husband an hour’s sleep in the mornings. She’d put Noah in the car seat, attach it to her toe with a bit of string and rock him with her toe whilst she read her book.
  23. Changed bedtime. Made no difference.
  24. Changed cots. Made no difference.
  25. Stroked his face in between his eyes and down his nose. This had a calming effect and sometimes worked. It ached my arm, though.
  26. Sprinkled lavender oil around his pillow. Didn’t work.
  27. Humidifier to ease mucus in his throat. Waste of money.
  28. VICKS plug in to ease mucus in his throat. Didn’t work.
  29. Got out every book in the library about babies and sleep and read them from cover to cover. Not much of the information was helpful. The books were based on normal baby sleep problems, not sleep demons with special powers.
  30. Osteopath. This cost a fortune. It didn’t help him sleep any better but it did fix his jaw which was out of line. He’d dropped from the 75th to the 9th percentile within ten days of birth and stayed there because he wasn’t feeding efficiently. I didn’t know this until I took him to the osteopath when he was 11 weeks old. After that he rocketed back up the percentiles until he was in the 98th. He also cried a lot less. It was worth every penny.
  31. Consultation with baby behaviour expert. The time arrived when I could take no more. Noah was nine months old. My husband had reached this point months before me and we were locking horns over “crying it out”. Someone told my Mum about a baby behaviour expert who fixed his daughter’s sleep. I phoned her up and she talked a lot and lectured me about what I was doing wrong. It cost £50 for an hour’s consultation and she changed our lives dramatically. She gave me a routine. Within three nights Noah was sleeping through for 12 hours and having two daytime naps IN HIS COT. Since then, his nights have gone through good and bad phases but the daytime naps continued. It was a gift, a beautiful gift, and I cannot recommend this woman highly enough.
  32. Stuck to a rigid daytime and night time routine. See above.
  33. Sleepy Bear Sweet Dreams. This is made by VTech. It is a musical thing that straps on the cot and projects a lightshow on the ceiling. When Noah woke up in the night and started crying, it would react to his noise and start up with its singing. 80% of the time it worked and Noah went back to sleep. We took this everywhere with us for at least two years. Once we were half way to the airport and had to go back for it. But then Noah started waking up in the night and pressing it constantly driving everyone crazy including poor sleepy bear who conked out for good soon after.
  34. Didn’t talk to him when he woke up in the night. Sometimes this worked but then sometimes Noah could be soothed by our voices.
  35. Prayed he would sleep. All I can say is that the Lord works in mysterious ways…

As a toddler:

  1. Most of the above.
  2. Slithering out of the room on my tummy so the floorboards wouldn’t creek and wake him up. This might work on the fourth attempt.
  3. Gradual withdrawal method. Read about this in a book. The idea is you start off sitting by the cot when they go to sleep and then move your chair a bit further away each night until you are outside the door. Forget that.
  4. Blackout blind. This was very helpful in regards to the 5am start. Unfortunately, the windows in Noah’s room in Vienna are almost floor to ceiling. I’d need three blackout blinds and a ladder to get that room in darkness at this time of year.
  5. Get into bed with him. Made a rod for my own back here.
  6. Changed from cot to bed at 19 months. Didn’t make much difference.
  7. Put ‘friends’ in his bed. Lots and lots of stuffed animals to keep him company if he woke up at night.
  8. Took ‘friends’ out of bed as he was having incomprehensible conversations with them at 2 o’clock in the morning.
  9. Got him to go to sleep by himself. I managed this when he was sixteen months. He would cry when I left the room, but I realised that his cries weren’t always real. I would leave the room and only go back in if his cries became real. This worked for over a year until he became a threenager.
  10. Developed the crying scale: only going into the room if Noah’s cries were 7/10. This worked because he’d usually give up and go back to sleep.
  11. Stopped him eating anything containing sugar. Made no difference.
  12. Hold his hands still. This works if he submits to it, which he usually doesn’t.
  13. Read books in the middle of the night in hope it would signify sleep time. It didn’t.
  14. Drugged him with Calpol and teething powders. He frequently seemed to have a temperature of about 37.5-38 degrees. I put it down to teething. And then it carried on once he had all his teeth…
  15. Pre-empt any distractions he can think up e.g. needing a certain toy, wanting a drink. Works when I am organised.
  16. Milk before bed. He stopped having his night time drink when he was about two. He simply stopped drinking it. I tried to reintroduce it a few months later as I read it was comforting to have a hot drink before bed. Noah refused to drink it.
  17. Left his door open. Don’t do this if your sleep demon is a light sleeper.
  18. Calm down time. Noah tends to be bouncing off the walls when it’s bed time. Literally.
  19. Let him get in bed with me. He tosses and turns, kicks out, thrashes about, pokes me in the eye, puts his finger in my ear. No one gets any sleep.

As a threenager:

  1. Most of the above.
  2. Sleeping bunny light. This is a clock that tells Noah when he should be asleep and when he can get up. We tried it a few times but eventually ruled it out. It was bright enough for him to feel like he could get out of bed in the middle of the night and wander around his room.
  3. White noise app. This has an array of sounds but I used the waves for Noah. I think it helps to get him asleep but doesn’t help him stay asleep. He appeared in our doorway at 4 o’clock yesterday morning telling us the waves had woken him up. He sounded quite put out about it.
  4. Changed duvet. Made no difference.
  5. Changed pillow. Made no difference.
  6. Change dinner time. Made no difference.
  7. Tell him I am going to the toilet and never come back. Sometimes he stays awake longer if I’m there because his little brain is busy trying to stop me from leaving. Sometimes I tell him I need to go to the toilet and I’ll come back in 5 minutes to check him. Of course, I leave it at least half an hour by which time he’s soundo. This only works when he doesn’t try to come to the toilet with me.
  8. Read books in a slow and sleepy voice. This is hard when reading The Dinosaur Who Lost His Roar which involves a lot of roaring.
  9. Lie across his legs so he cannot move. Works if he will submit to it.
  10. Ignore him when he cries or shouts at night. He’s very strong willed and can go on forever. Ignoring him works over a longer period of time. You have to ignore the following: “Mummy! Muuuummmmyyyy!”, “I need a drink!” (FYI he always has a beaker with him), “I’ve hurt my foot!”, “I’ve got a tummy ache!”, “I can hear a banging noise!”. Within three nights he has usually given up.
  11. Get rid of the monsters. Look under the bed, behind the curtains and in all of the cupboards to check for monsters. If you find one take it out of the room and put it in the bin.
  12. Star chart. Noah’s pretty indifferent to the star chart.
  13. Keep him in nappy at night. He’s been out of nappies during the day for almost a year. It really is time to encourage him to be dry at night too. He isn’t keen on the nappy at all. But telling him he can get up to go on the potty at night? Surely that can only end in disaster. He doesn’t need any more excuses to get up?!
  14. Threaten him with no iPad/phone/TV. This doesn’t work at the time of the threat but when it is carried out, he thinks twice about it next time.
  15. No TV after 5pm. Makes no difference.
  16. Hold my hands over his eyes to block out the sun. Doesn’t work – he thinks this is hilarious.
  17. Repeatedly put him back to bed saying only, “It’s bedtime.” This always ends in disaster. He either ends up irate or thinking it’s all a great game for us to be chasing around his room at 3 o’clock in the morning.
  18. Drop the afternoon nap. It was with deep sadness and regret that we dropped the afternoon nap just as he turned three. I am still mourning it. But it had to go. While it lasted, he wasn’t going to sleep until 9pm and still woke up at 5.
  19. Do everything in my power to keep him from falling asleep during the day. This is exhausting (and the rest of it isn’t?!) but it works. If he sleeps for fifteen minutes, that’s at least an hour later he’ll fall asleep that night.

If you can think of anything I haven’t yet tried, please let me know!

Sweet dreams, my Noah.

Good old dream swing. Note the rejected dummy on his shoulder.
Good old dream swing. Note the rejected dummy on his shoulder.

You Baby Me Mummy

How to Make Butterfly Cakes with a Threenager

Noah and I are working our way through Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. We can only make about 40% of the cakes in there because many of the ingredients are difficult to get in Vienna. There is no such thing as self-raising flour in the supermarkets and Mary is very partial to this over plain flour.

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Here are the steps you need to take if you are planning on baking with your three year old:

  1. If your child is anything like mine, they will interpret the term “naked chef” literally. If you are lucky, you might be able to get a child’s apron over his/her naked body, but probably not.
  2. You and your child need to wash your hands. You will have to have a comeback ready for comments like, “I don’t need to wash my hands because I haven’t got any wee-wee on them.” What about the fact you trailed your hand along the wall when we went outside earlier? What about the sticks and leaves you picked up when we walked through the park?
  3. You (parent/guardian) be in charge of the measuring of butter, sugar and flour and let your child be in charge of tipping it all into the bowl. If you want the flour to be sieved as Mary suggests, you will have to be super quick to whip the sieve out of the cupboard and over the bowl in time. Actually, don’t expect the flour to be sieved.
  4. After your child has enthusiastically cracked the eggs into the bowl, pick as much egg shell out as you can. Expect the cakes to be a bit crunchy.
  5. Allow your child to get his/her mini mixing spoon out and have a good go at the mixture. Once they declare the lumpy, sticky, eggy mess is ready, divert their attention in any way you can whilst beating the mixture yourself. Beware! If your child catches you at this, he/she will be mightily offended.
  6. After you have spooned the mixture into 11 cases whilst your child is working on the final one (which is flat and dripping), you might want to let him/her lick the spoon. This is a bit controversial nowadays and I am always worried about Noah licking cake batter because it has raw eggs in it. But what is a childhood if you can’t lick the spoon? Also, he wants to eat the cake before it goes into the oven and surely a few licks is better than a whole uncooked fairy cake?
  7. Make sure you have spare ingredients because there are bound to be spillages or droppages. You may find yourselves in an icing sugar storm. Quite a big storm. There may not really be enough icing sugar to make your buttercream anything other than pale piped butter.
  8. The kitchen will be one almighty state. You will not have help tidying up. Also, you will probably be blamed: “Mummy, why have you made such a mess?”
  9. Allow your child to stand beside you (at a safe distance) while you remove the cakes from the oven, then distract them in a different room so they are out of the way and not determined to eat the cake whilst boiling hot. Creep back into the kitchen and add the finishing touches to the butterfly cakes (i.e. attempt to cut the top of, cut it in half and stick it back on with buttercream). This, of course, is virtually impossible. The cakes will look a state and nothing like butterflies. But that’s ok: you can blame the threenager. Forget dusting them with icing sugar afterwards (see point 7).
  10. Don’t make cakes when you are on a diet. Or when you have recently been on a diet and lost a total of 6 inches off your body and half a stone. Avoid the left over buttercream. If you don’t, you probably feel a bit sick by the time the cakes are ready, but will have one anyway to keep your child company. Or is this just me?
Beautiful Butterflies
Beautiful Butterflies
Delicious!
Delicious!

Mums' Days

The Adventure of Dealing with Playground Bullies

Between the ages of eighteen months and two years, my Noah was the biggest bully around. He could not be in the company of other children without attacking one of them. He would push, smack, bite, pull hair and, most baffling, grab a child’s face in his grubby little paw (usually around the mouth/nose area) and try to pull it off. On playdates, he would invariably pick up the heaviest object he could find and smash the other child on the head with it. In the park, he would casually walk up to a child and push him or her over and then stride off as if he hadn’t a care in the world.

Is this the face that launched a thousand toddlers off their feet?
Is this the face that launched a thousand toddlers off their feet?

He made no allowances for age or size: a new-born baby was as likely to be his prey as an eleven year old boy. Going to a friend’s house was a nightmare. Going to playgroups was a nightmare. Going to the park was a nightmare. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t make him stop. All I could do was permanently hover around him anticipating his next move and launch myself at him if I thought he was about to strike.

And yet, the irony was, he absolutely loved being with other children.

Soon after we got to Vienna, I joined an English speaking toddler group. They would sing, have a story, do a craft activity, have a snack, play with toys and then have more singing. I paid for a block of six sessions. It wasn’t cheap (€14 for a session), but I only ended up going to four. I just couldn’t bear it any more. Before we went go in to the hall, I would crouch in front of Noah and remind him no hitting, no pushing, otherwise we go home. I remember the last session we went to. Noah had taken his little toy giraffe with him, his favourite comforter at the time. A little girl, about eighteen months old, kept coming over and trying to snatch it off him. I told her not to and even found another toy to try to fob her off with, but she was determined to get Noah’s giraffe. Not once did her mother tell her not to try and take it, she just looked on, amused. But I knew what was coming. When she finally got it off him and refused to give it back, Noah finally had enough of her and pushed her hard. She went flying backwards and smashed her head on a table leg. Everyone gasped. I helped the girl back up and then turned to remonstrate with Noah, but I was too late. He grabbed a baby’s face from behind, one hand on each cheek, and just pulled. The baby’s mother screamed. I walked out and never went back.

I hated that other parents would look at my child and dislike him and think he was naughty. I hated that I was so helpless to stop him and that other parents looked at me and thought I was weak and ineffective. I hated the traitorous thought worming its way through the back of my mind: would my son grow up to be a bully? Does he have behaviour problems, I wondered? I thought about all of the teenagers I had taught. Was he going to be one of those? Was I going to be one of those parents constantly called up by teachers and summonsed to the school?

I phoned the health visitor. “They all do it,” she said. But not like Noah. She said it often happened when a child’s speech was underdeveloped, especially if the child was intelligent and had a good comprehension of the world around him. It was often a sign of frustration at not being able to communicate. And Noah’s understanding was far superior to his speech. In fact, it was when he started being able to put words together, just before he was two, that he finally stopped being a bully. Well, stopped being a bully to other children at least. He still lashes out at me and my husband.

Looking back, I also think it had something to do with moving to another country. It started when my husband moved to Vienna. Noah and I moved in with my parents for three months before joining him: I had to work out my notice.

Whatever excuses I am making for him, it was a phase and it passed.

“Would you rather your child was the bully or the bullied?” someone asked me at the time, when we were having a conversation about Noah’s behaviour. “The bullied,” I answered straight away.

And yet.

Twice this week alone, we have encountered playground bullies. The first was in a small soft play area in our local shopping centre. The little boy was about eighteen months old. Noah happily landed at the bottom of the slide and the other little boy lunged at him. He grabbed Noah around the collar and shook him. “Hey!” Noah said, outraged. Then the boy started pummelling his fists in Noah’s face. “Leave it, Noah!” I warned as I leapt across the room. The boy was half Noah’s size. If Noah wanted to, he could have floored him. But Noah didn’t lift a finger. He was simply outraged that the child was allowed to hit him without anyone telling him off. His mother was sitting at the side, looking at her phone. I tried not to judge. I have been that woman, after all. But still…

Then there was a little boy of about five in the park yesterday. He was a skinny thing with a blue checked shirt and a Luke Skywalker hairstyle. His grandmother was supervising him, but she was no match for this evil little Jedi. Noah was climbing up a ladder which leads to a log walkway which leads to a slide. Evil Luke positioned himself at the top of the ladder so Noah couldn’t climb up. “Hey!” Noah said angrily and tried to get around the boy. When Noah eventually got around him, he made his way to the log walkway. He’s a bit nervous of it. It’s a walkway of logs chained together, so it isn’t very secure. Noah likes to crawl under the logs to get across, but yesterday, he decided to be brave and climb over each log. Evil Luke ran over the logs backwards and forwards, making it impossible for Noah to move. Then he jumped up and down making Noah’s log sway dangerously. I went charging over. “Nein!” I shouted at him. “Nein, bitte!” This is as far as my German extends. Evil Luke smirked at me and stood there watching as I helped Noah across the logs. I went to sit down as Noah whizzed down the slide and then ran back to the ladder to start all over again. I wasn’t sitting down for a minute before Evil Luke was back tormenting my son. I glared at him and glared at his grandmother. I didn’t like the boy. He was old enough to know better. But still…how do I know what is going on in that boy’s life to make him behave that way? Are some children just not very nice? And what if my Noah decides to pick up his bullying mantle once more and becomes that boy when he is five?

So would I rather Noah was the bullied or the bully? I still say the bullied. For I have been the mother on both sides and there is nothing worse than someone looking at your small, perfect, beautiful child with disdain.

May your bullying days be fully behind you, my Noah, and may you always stand up to bullies.

May the force be with you, Noah, and not with any bullies
May the force be with you, Noah, and not with any bullies


Mummascribbles

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

 dad3

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P1000339

Easter 039

IMG-20150621-WA0000[1]

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

If Noah Ruled the World

If Noah ruled the world, there would be no bedtime (obvs).
When he did sleep, it would be with me.
It would never be too early to get up. Not ever.

If Noah ruled the world, we would make Nutella pancakes for breakfast every single morning. Then he would have his usual of porridge or Weetabix afterwards.
He could rock up to kindergarten any old time he liked.
The kindergarten staff would not be allowed to tell him off. Neither would anyone else.

Breakfast
Breakfast

If Noah ruled the world, his friends would live with us.
He could beckon them and dismiss them as he saw fit.
They wouldn’t be able to touch most of his toys.

If Noah ruled the world, there would be cake every day. Lots of times a day.
His mini Easter eggs (of which there are now 2 left) would not be on the top shelf of the fridge but stored within his reach. Ditto the Jaffa Cakes.
Dinner would be optional. When he did partake, it would be in front of the TV.

If Noah ruled the world, he’d have his own mobile phone.
And iPad.
In fact, one wall in every room would be taken up by a giant television screen which would be on all day long. Playing Toy Story 2 over and over.

If Noah ruled the world, he’d live in a tent in the park.
His front garden would be a snowy mound for sledging.
His back garden would be a swimming pool. Or maybe a beach.

Playing out front
Playing out front

If Noah ruled the world, cherries would not have pips.
All dogs would be stuffed.
Anything that’s mine would also be his…oh, hang on…it already is…

If Noah ruled the world, it would always be Christmas.

Rudolph would come every night and eat his carrot and drink his milk (Noah much prefers Rudolph).

Jingle Bells would be the national anthem.

I prefer Rudolph, actually
I prefer Rudolph, actually

If Noah ruled the world, it would be very loud.
There would be lots of music.
And dancing.
And laughter.
And happiness.
And stories.
And fun.
And love.

If my Noah ruled the world, it wouldn’t be such a bad place (apart from the lack of sleep). Maybe he will grow up to be Prime Minister. He has many of the attributes a PM needs – determination, resilience, fabrication, intelligence, charm. Reach for the top, my Noah, the world is yours for the taking.

The choc-ices are on me!
The choc-ices are on me!
Mums' Days



The Blood Boiling Adventure of Noah Going to Sleep

Noah has fought sleep since the day that he was born. I thought newborn babies slept all day for the first few weeks of their lives. How very wrong I was about that. I used to call him Cat Nap No: his usual daytime nap was a mere 20 minutes. All the rest of the time he was wide awake, looking around, taking it all in. Nothing much has changed.

Sometimes (occasionally) Noah sleeps for 12 hours. Days when I wake up before Noah are so rare that, when they do occur, I find myself hovering outside his room to see whether I can hear his breathing through the wall. As Noah starts his bedtime routine, a little bit of dread always settles in my heart. The only thing my husband and I can predict about the experience that lays ahead of us every night, is that it will be unpredictable. It wasn’t long ago that I wrote The Endless Adventure of Bedtime. Things have changed since then…

Noah’s sleep regularly involves one of the following adventures:

  1. Waking up at 5am. He sometimes does this for weeks at a time. Then he stops. There’s nothing we can do but wait for this torture to pass.
  2. Waking up in the night for two to three hours. And he is wide awake. If we are in Vienna when he does this, we ignore him. It wakes us up, of course, because Noah is never one to not make his presence felt, but if he gets no response, these night time interludes usually pass within a few days. When we are in England it is a different matter because I am in the room with him. There is no escape.
  3. Even though he is tired out of his little life, he refuses to go to sleep.

All of last week while we were staying in England, Noah opted for adventure number 2. The first night, I was angry at him because I knew he would be like it for the whole time we were at home and I felt exhausted at the prospect of it. “Go back to sleep! If you don’t go back to sleep, you’re not watching television ALL WEEK!” I bellowed at 4am, after he had been awake for two hours. “Stop waking me up, then!” he shouted back.

Adventure 2 is hard, but it is adventure 3 that really, really gets me. It is the worst thing. When Noah refuses to go to sleep, I feel bubbles of anger rising from my stomach to my chest. These experiences have made me fully understand where the phrases “blood boiling” and “steam coming out of my ears” come from. I feel like a kettle.

After the first awful night last week where Noah and I woke everyone up by screaming at each other, my Mum told me about the White Noise app she recently discovered. It plays sounds like waves, white noise, a hair dryer, wind, a heartbeat, all sounds that are allegedly supposed to make it easier to sleep. Seeing as I have tried everything to tackle Noah’s sleep, I thought I may as well give this a try too. I believe in miracles, after all. I opted for the ocean waves. I put it on when Noah got out of the bath so it played whilst he got his pyjamas on and read his books. To my astonishment, amazement and disbelief, Noah fell asleep while we were reading books, at 6.30 with all the lights blazing! It must be the white noise app, I thought. It’s wonderful! But six days later, this dreamy bedtime experience came to an abrupt end.

On Saturday, my husband (who arrived in the UK in the early hours of the morning) took Noah out for the day whilst I had my hair cut and went out for a birthday brunch with my friends. They arrived home at bedtime and my husband then had to disappear off to work. Noah was hungry. A boiled egg was produced. He had some toys from my husband’s family which he wanted to show everyone. The bedtime routine was delayed by half an hour. As Noah was getting out of the bath, he demanded his doggy, a Dalmatian toy which he had taken to for the previous few days. I called down to my husband, just as he was walking out of the door. Then he dropped the bomb shell: the dog had been left behind at my husband’s parent’s house…

Noah went berserk. He was beside himself, doing that awful crying that children do where they stop breathing properly. I put the screaming child into my bed, gave him Becky (a rabbit I have had since I was Noah’s age – he’s usually not allowed to touch her) and started reading a book. He calmed down, stripped Becky of her new outfit which my Mum bought her at the village fete, and snuggled under my arm.

We read three books. That’s the rule. That’s always the rule. Noah’s books are getting more sophisticated and it takes a good fifteen minutes for me to read three books. But when I told him no more books and turned the lights off, Noah howled like a wounded beast. I tried cuddling him. I tried singing to him. I tried rocking him like a baby. Nothing would appease him. I thought he would cry it out, eventually tiring himself so much he would pass out. I was wrong.

Forty-five minutes later, he was still crying. I gave up. I took him downstairs. No matter how awful the bedtime routine has been, I have only ever given up on it once in the past three years, and that was when Noah was 8 months old and I had eaten an entire box of chocolates in a day. My breast milk was evidently full of sugar and Noah was bouncing off the walls.

It’s a one off, I told myself as Noah got his cars out and lined them up in a traffic jam all around the conservatory whilst watching The Hobbit, an entirely inappropriate film for a susceptible three year old to be exposed to.

But the next night, although he wasn’t crying, Noah was equally as determined not to go to sleep. Two fingers up to the white noise app. Once he was in bed, he talked to himself, sung nursery rhymes, flung over from his back to his front and back again, lay upside down on the bed with his feet dangling over the headboard, constantly bashed his beaker on the side of the bed and did many more things that were so traumatic to remember, I have probably blocked them from my memory. I didn’t want him to get into the state he was in the night before, so I spent time trying to settle him. But when he took his pyjamas off and refused to let me put them back on, I stormed out of the room. I couldn’t carry on for

one

more

minute.

He cried and called me. I left him for 20 minutes before going back in. We were both calmer. He let me put his night clothes back on and held my hand while he went to sleep. That’ll teach him, I thought with relief. He knows I’m not going to stay with him if he’s being naughty.

And then he did it all again tonight…

I have heard from other parents of sleep demons/insomniacs that their children started sleeping properly as soon as they went to school. Only another year and three months to go then. My Noah, perhaps school will do what the white noise app, the sleeping bunny light, the baby behaviour expert couldn’t do. Until then, we live in hope from day to day that tonight’s gonna be a good night…

6am. The morning after the night before. Lights on, cot dragged out of the way so I could get to the wardrobe, calling him, but he remains unconscious.
6am. The morning after the night before. Lights on, cot dragged out of the way so I could get to the wardrobe, calling him, but he remains unconscious.

My Noah and Me

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Noah: A Short Autobiography

I have seen a questionnaire going around on some people’s blogs and on Facebook: people ask their children questions and write down their exact answers. They’re quite amusing. I tried doing it with Noah but I gave up at question 7 when he said, “I don’t know. Do you know?” to every question. But I thought it would be interesting to find out how he perceives his life, so I interviewed him and this is the semi-cohesive version of what he said:

My name is Noah. Sometimes I am called Pickle or Naughty. Mostly, I am called Noah. I am three years old. Am I still three, Mummy? Mummy says yes I am and I will be three for a very long time.

My house is in Vienna. It’s very big and I can scoot around or ride my bike from the kitchen to the front room to my bedroom. At our house, we have to get in a lift. One day we got stuck in the lift and a man had to come and let us out. I like my park at our house. It’s my favourite.

My other house is Nana-Papa’s house. We get on an aeroplane when we go to Nana-Papa’s house. I like my new pool with the slide and my trampoline and my garage at Nana-Papa’s house. If you take your shoes off, you can go on my trampoline.

There is another house that Mummy says is our house. People are living there. Mummy drives very slowly when we go there. She says I lived there yesterday when I was a baby.

I live with Mummy and Daddy and sometimes with Nana and Papa. Mummy reads books and puts me to bed and plays games with me. She is not good at having races with my diggers. Daddy is good at diggers and at football. Daddy likes Football Palace. Daddy plays with me.

I don’t like going to sleep. I don’t want to be on my own. When I wake up in the night, it is because of the big Buzzes. Lots of Buzzes. They wake me up for a very long time.

In Vienna, I go to nursery. I like seeing my friends at nursery. At nursery, we have to put our glass next to our plate like this. Sometimes I am sad at nursery. I want my Mummy to come back from shopping. And bring me a bun.

I know the letter ssssssssssss for snake and a for ant.

Sleep? Sleep is for wimps!
Sleep? Sleep is for wimps!

*

On the subject of letters, and of Noah’s autobiographical details, I am trying to teach him the alphabet at the moment. I have devised an alphabetical list of things he likes to help him, although, as he says, we have only done two letters.

The A-Z of Noah

a is for adventure (every morning he asks, “What are we going to do today, Mummy?”)

b is for Buzz Lightyear

c is for choc-choc

d is for dressing gown cord

e is for Euros (although that’s more of a u sound!)

f is for friends

g is for Gruffalo

h is for happy birthdays

i is for ice-cream

j is for Jingle Bells (which we are still listening to in June…)

k is for ketchup

l is for lolly

m is for music

n is for naked Noah

o is for ordering food in restaurants (Noah doesn’t like people ordering for him)

p is for phone (mine)

q is for quiet time … (which only happens when he is watching telly)

r is for running

s is for scooter

t is for tent

u is for Uncle Matty

v is for Vienna

w is for willy

x is for xylophone

y is for Youtube

z is for zoo

That’s my Noah in a nutshelll.

C is for choc-choc
C is for choc-choc

My Noah and Me

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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

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The Adventure of the Prater on the Boiling Hot Afternoon

The Prater is a big park, about 5km wide. It includes a fairground, a big outdoor swimming complex, countless restaurants, multiple playgrounds and many more things I probably haven’t discovered yet. It’s my favourite place in Vienna. One of Noah’s beloved haunts is the bouncy castle area where there are bouncy castles of all different shapes and sizes. This morning I promised him we would go to the bouncy castles today. He was very excited and sang If You’re Happy And You Know It all the way to kindergarten. I say sang, but what I actually mean is bellowed, jumping off his scooter every time he had to clap his hands.

What I didn’t count on was the sweltering 30 degrees heat…

I stuffed my bag with snacks for Noah, suncream and drinks and picked him up from nursery. As soon as we got on the tram that would take us to the Prater, Noah wanted a drink and a snack. This was when I discovered I hadn’t put the lid on his beaker properly and everything in my bag was covered in apple juice, including the briochekipferl (sweet bun) I had bought him for a snack. I was also covered in apple juice after attempting to remove the unfixed lid. What annoys me about this is that I have done this same thing SO MANY TIMES. Why have I not developed a natural instinct to CHECK THE LID every time I fill his beaker up?

When we got to the bouncy castles, the place was deserted. There were literally no other children there. I asked the man for an admission ticket and he told me to go and check they were okay because it was very hot. They were fine. It was hot but the sun was sheltering behind some clouds.

Noah started climbing up the gigantic inflatable slide. The problem is, he loves a mate. If he is around other children, even if he doesn’t know them and doesn’t speak their language, he is happy. As I watched him flit solo from one castle to another, I realised that this is why people have children close together: to provide a 24/7 friend for the first born. I have friends who have fallen pregnant again less than a year after having their first child. When Noah was a year old, I was flabbergasted by these people. I was still of the mind-set that I was never, no way, absolutely not, going through pregnancy, birth and newborn angst again. But, today, as I watched Noah bounce around aimlessly, looking a bit lost, I felt sorry for him. I thought about how all of his toys are “sisters”. I thought about how he pointed at his friend’s baby brother last week and said, “I want one of those.” When he appeared in front of the deck chair I was lounging in and asked me to play with him, what else could I do but gamely make my way up the inflatable slide?

Noah alone, alone, all, all alone, alone on a wide, wide bouncy castle...
Where is everybody?

Five minutes later, all the bouncy castles were scorching hot. Noah stepped on one and started screaming. And that was the end of the bouncy castles.

What I had hoped would take up over an hour of our afternoon, came to an abrupt halt after fifteen minutes. Next I let Noah have 3 euros to go on three rides. He managed to choose the three most inappropriate rides for his age:

  1. A machine where you had to manoeuvre a scoop to pick up balls and drop them in a goal. He couldn’t do it.
  2. A game where you had to shoot water at targets to make parts of a scene move. He couldn’t do it.
  3. A digger that moved sand from one place to another. He couldn’t do it.
Can't do it, Mummy
No can do

We had some ice-cream and then found a playground. It was deserted. Noah called it, “my own park”. Other children had left some buckets and spades in the sandpit. There were also a pair of pink sandals in the sand. My first thought was, Oh my god! Who would leave their child’s sandals in the sandpit?! My second thought was, I am exactly the type of person who will one day leave my child’s shoes in the sandpit…

Chillaxing in the sand. But will he get a stripy sun tan?
Chillaxing in the sand. But will he get a stripy sun tan?

Then it was time for the journey home. This is usually when everything starts to fall apart on our outings and today was no exception.

Impediment 1 – I had allowed Noah to bring his bubbles. Every five minutes we needed to stop for ten minutes so he could blow bubbles.

The lyrics I'm forever blowing bubbles take on new meaning
The lyrics I’m forever blowing bubbles take on new meaning

Impediment 2 – Noah was hot, sticky and tired and I had forgotten to bring the scooter pull. He didn’t want to walk so I had to walk leaning sideways so I could steer the scooter, dragging him along next to me.

Impediment 3 – There is a souvenir shop, aka tack shop, which I decided to take Noah inside because they sold Austrian dressed rubber ducks and Noah’s Nan (my husband’s mum) collects them. Of course, he wanted the ducks too and picked up the Mozart duck, the Dirndl duck, the lederhosen duck, the I heart Vienna duck, the courtesan duck…and any other type of duck they had in the Austrian themed duck basket. “You can’t have all these ducks,” I said. “I want them!” he insisted. This exchange was repeated six or seven times before he had a melt down and I told him he could choose one duck and he had to pay for it out of his pocket money. He’s rich; he can afford it.

Impediment 4 – The duck didn’t appease Noah. He started crying and refusing to wear his hat or get on his scooter. We made our way to the station by me pretending I was walking off and leaving him and him chasing after me, screaming. Meanwhile the sun was beating down on his bare head. I was illogically furious that he wouldn’t wear his hat, even though we have had this battle since he was born, before he even knew what a hat was. I banned him from watching television for the rest of his life.

Impediment 5 – We waited at the tram stop for fifteen minutes and no tram arrived. There was an announcement which I couldn’t understand as, unsurprisingly, it was in German. There was also something in German on the board which usually says how long the train will be. I painstakingly typed it in to my Google Translate app and was told “disability due to road traffic accident”.

Impediment 6 – Back in the train station, we passed a vending machine. I needed a cold drink and reasoned Noah probably did too. The only drink Noah would contemplate was a Capri Sun. I had an altercation with the machine which wouldn’t take any change and then spat two Capri Suns out at me. So I was having a Capri Sun too, then. We had to get down two escalators to get to the right platform. The impediment was that I was now holding Noah’s scooter, his hat, two rubber ducks and two cartons of Capri Sun, as well as gripping Noah’s hand for dear life.

We had to get a train and then a bus. When we sat on the bus, we opened our Capri Suns. I took one sip and vowed Noah would never have a Capri Sun again. I nearly choked on the sweetness. I checked the back and found it contained more sugar than it did fruit juice. And I am supposed to have given up sugar. As well as chocolate. And wine.

Noah calmed down. He informed me he would now wear his hat and enquired as to whether he would now be able to watch television when we got in.

All I could think about was Prosecco. I have stopped drinking wine indoors for fear I was turning into an alcoholic (I so need a glass of wine at the end of the day…), but I knew there was a bottle of Prosecco in the cupboard. If I got in and put it in the freezer, it’d soon be cold. But if you open a bottle of Prosecco, don’t you have to drink it all because otherwise it will lose its fizz? Would it be wrong of me to drink a whole bottle of Prosecco tonight? My husband is working late so I knew I’d have to do dinner, bath and bedtime alone. Surely I’d deserve a drink? But what if something happened and I’d need my wits about me? Reluctantly, I decided against putting the Prosecco in the freezer when I got in. But I still can’t stop thinking about that bottle in the cupboard…

I don’t mean to imply you drive me to drink, my Noah. Really, I don’t mean that at all.

A selfie...It never fails to surprise me how big my nose appears in a selfie...
A selfie…It never fails to surprise me how big my nose appears in a selfie…