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(YHQLQJ (FKR Wednesday, May 26, 2010

ROOT canal work. Meeting the bank manager. When the Garda steps out onto the road. All incite a feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach. And the children’s birthday party, let’s not forget that one. Even better, let’s have two of them to attend in one day and really ramp up the anxiety! A few years ago, I bounced the baby on my knee and watched bewildered as friends with older kids started on the birthday party trail. I watched as every weekend became a mad dash to a play centre or a frantic search for a playschool chum’s house with a sign that said ‘Freya’s party this way!’ I watched as the weekly shop included several birthday gifts from the toy section as they would “always be needed�. A plethora of age cards were purchased and put away. One wise mum-of-girls I know stocks up every time she sees a special offer on hair bobbles and pencils with fluffy tops. A child’s social life is very expensive! God, I sound like The Grinch. I don’t mean to; the kids always have a brilliant time and where else would you get to wear all those beautiful outfits Granny buys? But it can be hard work. Last weekend, we had two parties on Saturday — 2-4pm and 4-6pm. The first was at Davina’s who has three kids and that renders her unflappable. My problem was going to be getting Zoe to leave that one in time to make the second one for 4pm. We had to be on time because a) I was bringing the chocolate marshmallows (my new party piece) and b) it was my lovely god-daughter’s big day. The previous week saw Zoe getting more and more excited. “I wear my pink dress Mama!� she yelled. “No way,� I growled “you’re wearing the new orange outfit I paid a fortune for (and waited months for occasion to wear). We shopped for pink trampolines, pink beads, pink outfits...lots of pink. We rearranged grandparent visits and shooed Zoe to bed early on Friday so I could melt chocolate. The fridge was a shrine to marshmallows. Saturday arrived and with it, the predicted heatwave. Having won the battle to keep freshly washed hair out of the sun cream, we negotiated hard for the orange outfit and relented on the shoe choice (I wanted sandals, she wanted trainers). I threw on washes and attempted all the jobs I usually do at weekends. Then, we did the grocery in record time and loaded up presents and marshmallows before heading to for Granny’s for an early lunch with me screaming at the girl to stay out of the sandpit and not to get dirty. Having gulped lunch, we took off for Davina’s house and arrived a mere 10 minutes late. Very few cars were outside. A small girl definitely not dressed for her birthday party answered the door, looked at us proffering gifts as if we were mad and informed me that I had the wrong day. My heart stopped. Racing through the house, I found Davina breaking her heart at my mistake. Having laughed at who got the dates mixed up, we spent a pleasant hour chatting, while birthday girl opened her present a day early and my daughter poured bubble solution all over her new outfit. The mix-up also meant that I was early with the rapidly melting marshmallows to my god-daughter’s party, which soon descended into toddler chaos with mums trying to keep control as the dads sunned themselves and talked sport. The weekend of parties was both lovely and exhausting. I got to see people I only ever bump in to occasionally and Zoe got to wear pretty dresses. You have to be in the mood but I might as well get used to it, she will have plenty in coming years. And I have it easy. At one party was a tired mum-of-four. Her husband was away and daughter had performed in Feis earlier. Then she had to get them all to a god-child’s Holy Communion and then on to this birthday party. The four children (under six) then had to be changed for their third event of the day — another Holy Communion up the road. At one stage, I was cooing at the baby, while mum changed one and two others waded in to change the others. An adult female with no kids yet accidentally strayed into the melee. Horrified, she backed away, mouth agog, whispering “Oh my God, how does she do that every day?� Yes, kids’ parties are wonderful, but spare a thought for the mums!

(YHQLQJ (FKR Wednesday, May 26, 2010

EW1 - V1

Family friend Eva Day is shown how to wrap a Syrian scarf by Abdul in the desert at Fayoum.

Ailbhe and her visiting friend Isabella Day show off their Syrian scarfs at Fayoum, Egypt.

Cliodhna and Sheilagh enjoying early morning in Bahariya oasis, Egypt.

Cliodhna leads a singing session with lots of children at The Valley of the Whales, Fayoum.

Ailbhe, Sheilagh and Joe Noonan off on safari in Bahariya, in Egypt.

M in Ireland, Ailbhe Noonan, aged nine, who has lived Egypt — so far!

Romania and

“We sat around the lovely Fanus (the Ramadan lantern) and told stories in the cool sunset.�

and their guide enjoy a tea Cliodhna (in black), Ailbhe, Sheilagh sylvania. break in the snow at Miklosvar, Tran

Y SON was born in Romania. My strongest memory from the hospital is the piping hot sweet fruit tea that seemed to be constantly on tap. In fact, there is a tea for every ailment and situation in Romania and I spent many mornings marvelling at the tea aisle in the local supermarket in Dorobanti, spoilt for choice! Being an Irish mum however, and more than a little fussy about the strength and taste of my black tea cuppa, I have never found a substitute abroad for the Irish tea bag. I always have a supply in my cupboard, very coveted by my friends at mother and baby mornings chez nous. Living in Romania with three small children certainly had its challenging moments when we arrived. Until the opening of the supermalls during our third year there, good quality cotton children’s clothing and leather shoes required a small mortgage and shopping for baby vests involved being shepherded around the store by a personal shopper on commission. But over the course of our four years in Bucharest, life changed on a daily basis and all sorts of high street stores can be found now. You miss strange items when you live abroad — fresh cream, juicy pork sausages, cheese and onion crisps, tea bags and green food colouring were our staples. But there are a million new tastes to enjoy — local tomatoes and strawberries ripened in the sun, fresh corn on the cob, stuffed vine leaves and spicy sausages. The children learned to choose the ripest fresh fruits from the market and they quickly became accustomed to the daily trip to the park which invariably involved being admired, touched, blessed and even spat at. Don’t panic! This is a local custom against the evil eye and is a compliment. As an early years arts specialist, I look for new cultural experiences wherever we go for the newborn to six age group. We were spoilt for choice in Bucharest. Sunday mornings provided a wealth of arts experiences, from state puppet theatres to large scale theatre productions of fairy tales and children’s music sessions at the Atheneum concert hall in the historic area of the city. We did them all! We rarely missed a craft fair at the Peasant museum and everywhere we went, children were welcomed. They learnt to paint eggs in the traditional style, they tried painting on glass and mosaic work, they sang traditional carols and learned to dance traditional dances. They attended a mixture of schools according to age. The eldest went to the American International School and the youngest went to a local gradinita, or private kindergarden, where she learnt to understand and speak Romanian. The baby was at home with me but picked up Romanian from daily contact with the housekeeper and outings to the shops. The girls learnt about Martisor, the Romanian custom of giving women and girls a little gift wrapped with red and white thread on March 1 every year. They found clay whistles and made mosaics at local craft sessions. They stood on the balcony every year on December 1 (Romanian National Day) and waved their flags at the passing parade. These are their treasures today. The International Schooling system exposes the children to every culture. Our children have celebrated and learnt the history of Divali (Indian festival of light), Hannukah (Jewish festival), Ramadan and Eid (Muslim festivals with excellent cakes!), Santa Lucia (Swedish festival) and Christmas. As the Irish population representatives at the

Welcome to some family postcard memories from Romania and Egypt where Corkwoman CLIODHNA NOONAN has raised her three young children for the past five years — but she still yearns for a good cup of Irish tea! school, we added our own special St Patrick’s Day to the list of celebrations. Around March 17 every year, I become an expert at designing costumes (thank you to those local retailers in Ireland who provide “Irish Girlâ€? and “Irish Dudeâ€? t-shirts every year, and the grannies who send us the hula skirts, green card, face paints and zogabongs with flashing shamrocks. Not to mention the Leprechaun hat!) The children enjoy their sense of pride in being Irish at this time and the celebration of their heritage with their friends. We usually end the badge making and storytelling with some cĂŠilĂ­ dancing and a parade to the tin whistle. We now live in Egypt. When we told our eldest, eight at the time, that we were moving to Cairo, she said: “Oh great! So we will learn Arabic, sail on the Nile and learn to read hieroglyphics!â€? I was astounded at her geographical and historical awareness. We arrived during Ramadan. We spent many evenings on the balcony of the hotel listening to the Iftar call to prayer and smelling the food that is prepared for this time in the evening to break the fast. We sat around the lovely Fanus (the Ramadan lantern) and told stories in the cool sunset. Although we live in the international community area, I have found my youngest daughter “prayingâ€? with her forehead to the floor on the rug in the living room and my little son (Joe, aged four) says “Le-Ah!â€? (Arabic for No!) with gusto. It is amazing what children can absorb. When you live abroad, you seek adventure. Weekends and visits from home provide the perfect opportunity to hire a local bus and explore. While in Romania we attended arts festivals in Sibiu, we toured on day-trips to Bran (home to Dracula’s castle!), Rasnov and Brasov, medieval and snowy Sighisoara and the count’s estate in Miklosvar, Transylvania. I still recall with a shiver (it was -20 degrees) the black raven that met us at the wooden bridge on entering the village and then silently

swooped down over the snow-covered fields of the estate — the hot sweet tea and the traditional donkey and cart ride! Since coming to Cairo, we have collected coral in the Red Sea, visited ancient pyramids at Giza, Sakkara and Meidum, walked on ancient Roman sites at Karanis in Fayoum, hired feluccas on the Nile at sunset and slept for a night with Bedouin guides under the stars in the desert. The children wear silver necklaces with the scarab beetle and their names in hieroglyphics. And at 10pm, we hear the gentle bell-like sound along the street outside of the security men’s spoons in their mugs as they prepare the evening shay (tea). Must go and put the kettle on. � Cork County Library and Arts Service, in association with Belfast Children’s Festival, Cork HSE and Acting Up! Early Years Arts present: Ivica Simic and Story About The Cloud — a puppet show for two-five years. This is on Saturday, May 29 at 11am and 3pm in the Briery Gap Theatre Macroom. Admission is free. Come on an adventure to remember. Travel the world with a little cloud and hear the amazing stories it has to tell about the life that’s all around us. Using a simple, magical form of puppetry and with five suitcases acting as deserts, rain forests, meadows, mountains, rivers and seas, the little cloud travels through them all. Following this, on Sunday, May 30 there will be a workshop for teenagers interested in puppeteering at 11am and a discussion session for theatre practitioners and performing arts students from 3-4.30pm. Bookings: Sinead Collins, Library Arts Officer (021) 4346210 or � Cliodhna Noonan: Acting Up! Early Years Arts Consultancy —;

Noonan children Joe, aged four; Ailbhe, aged nine and Sheilagh, aged six enjoy the snow at the Count’s Estate, Miklosoara, Transylvania, Romania.


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