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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You Baby Me Mummy

The Adventure of Playing Vets

This is the new Vet, Junior Doctor Noah:

20150627_120546It’s very busy in the waiting room today. Dr. Noah welcomes his patients. He has a lovely bedside manner and makes them feel at ease:

20150627_115239He also has a gentle touch:

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Senior Vet (Me): Hello, Mr. Fish. What seems to be the problem today?

Fish (Noah): I have hurt my fin.20150627_115539

Senior Vet: Oh, dear. How did you do that?

Fish: I cut it on a bit of glass.

Senior Vet: Dr. Noah, please could you take the patient’s blood pressure?

Junior Vet: It’s a bit high.

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*

Senior Vet: Hello, Mr. Meercat. What seems to be the problem today?

Meercat: I have hurt my tail.

Senior Vet: Oh, dear! How did you do that?

Meercat: I cut it on a bit of glass.

Senior Vet: Dr. Noah, please could you bandage Mr. Meercat’s tail, please?

*

Dr. Noah is very thorough. He listened to Pirate Pooh’s heartbeat (cut his paw on a bit of glass), gave Peppa an injection (cut her snout on a bit of glass) and put Giraffe on the operating table (cut his hoof on a bit of glass).

20150627_124903Some animals needed to go to hospital. The hospital got quite busy:

20150627_120606What a good little vet you are, my Noah!

This Week I've Loved


The Adventure of Spending Pocket Money

Noah loves money. He loves getting his money box, emptying the coins on the floor, then putting them back through the slot. If there is spare change lying around, he will take ownership of it and put it in his money box. If your wallet is left in sight, he will empty it and you will wonder what happened to all of your change. My husband calls him Ebenezer.

Apart from theft, his money comes from two sources:

  1. From us. He gets pocket money. When I am organised, he has a star chart. The number of stars he gets dictates how much pocket money he gets (between 1-2 euros a week), but it doesn’t really work as a behaviour management technique. He doesn’t understand the correlation between eating his dinner up or behaving at bedtime and getting a star for it and then, at the end of the week, getting money for it. The star chart is a work in progress.
  2. From my Mum and Dad. These are direct quotations from my Mum: “If you let me cut your fringe, I’ll give you two euros.” “Eat some more dinner and you can have a euro.” “Stop crying and I’ll give you some euros.” Last time we were at a restaurant, Noah nabbed the change after we had paid the bill. He crawled under the table and slotted the money through the slats in the deck – FYI, we were eating outside. On our last trip home, my Mum found 7 euros in her purse and handed them over to Noah. I reminded her of the restaurant incident and said Noah shouldn’t be given money for no reason. She reminded me that Noah had been watering the plants all week. Hmm… My Dad’s currency is chocolate, but that’s a whole other story in itself.

Yesterday, as I was struggling to get a clean duvet cover on to the duvet in our bedroom, I heard a big smash from Noah’s room. I went running in (as you do). He had dragged his bedside table over to his shelf, climbed on it and retrieved his money box which was now an explosion of china and coins all over his bedroom floor. After I had made the room safe, I counted Noah’s money as I put it into a makeshift moneybox (aka a bit of Tupperware). The boy had over 70 euros!

So today, I put 20 of these euros into his Postman Pat wallet and took him to the toy shop after kindergarten. The very last thing he needs is any new toys, but it is his money (mostly) and what else is he supposed to spend it on? He’s hardly going to start saving for a mortgage at three years old (although my husband probably was by Noah’s age).

When we got to the shop*, Noah got himself a basket and headed to the toy section. He saw a little boy holding a Jake and the Neverland Pirates toy and decided that he, too, wanted a JATNLP toy. He settled on a skate park. It was a bargain, reduced from 30 to 13 euros! He also bought himself some bubbles to take to the park.

(*The shop is called Muller. It is the Austrian version of Wilko. When I first came here, it was the middle of winter and we hadn’t found Noah a kindergarten yet. The days were long and lonely. Noah and I went to Muller every day because it was the only shop that reminded me of home. I could always find something I needed to buy).

We got home and unpacked his JATNLP skate park. He went and got his JATNLP pirates and his JATNLP pirate ship and set about playing with them nicely. This is one conversation that took place between the pirates:

Pirate 1: Hello, sister.

Pirate 2: Hello. You are my best friend.

Pirate 1: Do you want to come to my house?

Pirate 2: Okay, I will ask my Mummy. Mummy, can I go to his house?

Pirate 3: Yes.

All of the pirates are male. There is a token girl pirate on the television show, but she doesn’t seem to come with any of the toys. I noticed this with Noah’s Playmobil pirates too. I thought about buying him some Playmobil fairies to play with the pirates. I am still thinking about it. In this day and age, why aren’t there any girl pirates?

This is another conversation that took place between the pirates when I gave Noah a Babybell:

Pirate 1: Oh, look, Noah has got some cheese. I am going to watch Noah eat his cheese. Do you want to watch Noah eat his cheese, sister?

Pirate 2: Okay, sister, let’s watch Noah eat some cheese.

After the short break where the pirates watched Noah eat his cheese, he continued to play for five minutes and then asked the inevitable, “Mummy, can I watch something on your phone?”

Yo ho ho, my Nono.

Noah is most drawn to the Captain Hook figure
Noah is most drawn to the Captain Hook figure


Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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

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

You win, my Noah.

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

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

An Hour in the Life of My Noah and Me

A rainy afternoon…

2.30pm

“That’s enough television for one day, Noah,” I say, switching off Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as it finishes. “Let’s play with your toys.”

Noah decides to play stickers. He has a Melissa and Doug sticker book where you can make a meal on a big plate, including drinks and desserts. He sticks some scrambled egg on top of a fried egg and tops it off with two spears of asparagus. Dessert? Ice cream. Drink? He isn’t thirsty.

And that’s the end of stickers.

2.35pm

“Shall we play Duplo?” I ask.

He agrees. I spend ten minutes building the new Duplo castle he got for his birthday while he pelts me with the Duplo cannon. It stings. He starts to play happily, engrossed with the knights and the horse and the drawbridge. He refers to the knights as “sisters” which I find a bit strange but don’t want to interrupt the rare flow of his independent play in order to question him about it. I stretch out next to him (because if I left the room it would be game over) and prepare myself to enjoy a few moments of peace while I scroll through Facebook. I manage to upload a photo of him in the park before the knights are having a rowdy sword fight. The fight moves from one knight attacking another knight, to one knight attacking the whole castle. Before I know it, there are Duplo bricks flying around the room.

That is the end of the castle and that is the end of Duplo.

2.50pm

“Shall we get all of your cars out and play with your garage?” I ask.

I get the box of cars and he arranges them into a very precise line along the edge of his rug. Then he picks each one up and lobs it in a different direction. One of them just misses my head. Instead of telling him off (which I have been doing constantly since 6am today) I pretend the car has really hurt me and fall to the ground with a moan. I close my eyes and go still. He comes over and pries one of my eyes open with a grubby finger. He peers into my face. “Do you want to build a snowman?” he asks.

And that is the end of cars.

3.00pm

While I am collecting the cars, he lines his dinosaurs up in a similar military fashion. I expect they will go the same way as the cars but at least flying dinosaurs cannot break the window. I am wrong: Noah gets his new birthday digger and drives it over the dinosaurs.

That is the end of the dinosaurs.

3.05pm

He wants his CD player on. Unfortunately for the people in the surrounding flats, the CD player seems to be stuck at the highest volume. I sing along with the nursery rhymes at the top of my voice. Who could resist? But Noah shushes me and tells me to go and sit quietly on his bed. He dances around his rug for at least three songs, kicking whatever toys get in his way. Then he gives up on dancing and just wants to spin. Unfortunately, he is spinning holding the tail end of his slinky dog meaning the top end of slinky becomes a weapon of mass destruction: all of the toys that were neatly arranged on his shelves are now on the floor.

Wind the Bobbin Up comes on the CD and I will not be silenced. I stand up and do the actions. Noah gives up on telling me to be quiet and goes and gets his guitar to add to the mix.

Then he starts swinging the guitar over his head and that is the end of nursery rhymes.

3.15pm

I write an N for Noah on his Megasketcher. He attempts to copy it and doesn’t do a bad job. Then he starts stabbing the Megasketcher with the pen and that is the end of Megasketcher.

3.17pm

“Shall we colour in a picture from your Peppa Pig colouring book?”

“No.”

“Shall we dress up as Pirates?”

“No.”

“Shall we fix something with your tools?”

“No.”

“Shall we read a book?”

“No.”

“Shall we play with your train set?”

He picks up as many pieces of his train set as he can possibly carry and dumps them in his fire engine tent.

And that is the end of trains.

3.25pm

“Let’s watch Frozen,” I say.

Thank goodness it’s nearly the weekend, My Noah.

Being naked on the bottom half as often as possible is a toddler thing. Right?
Being naked on the bottom half as often as possible is a typical toddler thing. Right?

*PLEASE NOTE: No sugar was consumed prior to the events in this blog.*