Saturday, 17 December 2011

Long post on my environmental conscience and a new year's resolution

I probably haven't spoken enough about the fact that I try to make environmentally conscious choices. I am not perfect, but I am constantly trying to improve myself. But I'm not one of those militant greenies that's always attacking people that aren't doing their bit for the environment. Of course it really upsets me when I see rubbish left lying around or shop assistants using 5 plastic bags to pack 10 items, but I just don't have it in me to go hassle others to do better. Many people don't genuinely realise that what they're doing is having a negative impact on the world, and sometimes the best thing you can do is to set an example, or to just talk about what you do, rather than criticising and attacking others for what they do/don't do.

Probably my environmental conscience is stronger than I realise: after all I stop and think about EVERYTHING that has to go in the bin. I call it Mother Nature guilt...
I am very concerned about not creating too much landfill; and I do try to use and reuse before I recycle. Having said that, some days the house is so cluttered that I have to clear out and make a choice between being kind to Mother Nature and being kind to myself... So I end up having big bags of goodies for the op-shop, and lots of bits and pieces going directly from our "useful box" to the recycling bin. After all, the kids are 2 and 4, there are just so many toilet rolls, bottle lids, jars, containers you can use for craft...

Clearly we are buying or receiving too many things, if I am so concerned about our impact on the planet. But even cooking from scratch, you still need to purchase everything in packaging that will end up either recycled or in landfill. My dream would be self-sufficiency, but we are still so far away from it... I need a bigger block of land where I can grow all our fruit and veg and grains... One can only dream...

In the meantime, I am being very aware of our choices. These are not things that I've done from day 1, I'm still working on improving myself and our family's choices.
If I'm buying staples at the supermarket, I check the country of origin and purchase the one that has travelled the fewest miles.
I never purchase out of season produce.
I purchase the items that have the shorter lists of ingredients and the least amount of chemical additives (this is both a health concern and a stance against the manufacture of dubious chemicals).
I buy at farmers' and local market frequently and I'm trying to fully boycott big supermarket chains.
At the moment I'm using biodegradable nappies and cloth wipes (have a full stash of cloth nappies for Casi but haven't been able to keep up with the washing for a couple of months).
We frequent op-shops, which is just a great way to buy and to teach kids the value of re-using and donating/passing on to others. And our money is going to good causes.
We don't buy battery operated devices and limit the use of those already in existence in the house.
I use natural or environmentally friendly products in the home; D uses Jif to clean the toilets, and that is the only harsh chemical in the house. Except for a can of Mortein that gets used once every 6 months when there's a redback hiding in a tight spot in the garden. All other insects get the Vegemite jar treatment (put them in the jar, release them in the garden) or the fly swat, but as a European who grew up in a country devoid of highly venomous arachnids, I do get very edgy when I see redbacks near my kids' play areas!
And whenever I make a choice I'm not completely satisfied with, I always buy more edible plants or sow more seeds: I figure, if I'm adding so much to the landfill, at least I'm also adding more oxygen in the air :)
archive photo: my 2007 bean crop :)

But remember how this year has been one of deeper understanding? I decided to really put my money where my mouth is and be true to my beliefs.
So for Sosi's birthday party I decided I wouldn't purchase any disposable cutlery or plates or cups, as we'd done in the past, instead I purchased dishwasher-safe plates/cups that will be reused at our next parties. I really wish I'd purchased an old dinner set from an op-shop, but one also has to think about the practicality of transporting lots of crockery to a park for a 4 year old's party. As I said, I'm still a work in progress, one day I'll be able to throw a fully environmentally friendly party :)

And the other big thing is Christmas. Now, I'm not going to get into the whole Christmas thing in this post, suffice to say that for D and I it's just a day to spend with the family. But for the rest of our families it is a big deal, and we still feel an obligation to be giving presents.
But I'm tired of feeding capitalism and purchasing useless trinkets just for the sake of it.
So this year we are making food hampers. Mostly goodies that I will bake. And many yummy things purchased from the markets. So local farmers/producers/crafters will be getting our money.

But next year I want to be better. Next year I want to make the kids and I more clothes. And I want to make sure we buy less and less. All this stuff we end up needing to donate makes me really think that we purchase far more things than we actually need. And I also want to rip out half the grass in our backyard and grow edibles there! Still negotiating that one with D....

What about you? 
Do you feel guilty every time you throw out something that could be reused?
Do you have an environmental new year's resolution?

Monday, 12 December 2011

To market to market

We have lots of markets in Italy, it is a much more traditional way to shop there than it is here.

You can essentially buy everything at a local market: hats, shoes, haberdashery, pots and pans, fresh produce (loads of fruit and veg stalls), deli produce, meat, poultry, toys, jewellery, underwear, plants, I even remember stalls selling small appliances.

image source here

I worked in one in my hometown when I was in my late teens; it was held every Saturday afternoon and I was employed at a leathergoods stall. We all knew each other at the market and there was a great sense of camaraderie.
It was my first real job, which I held for a couple of years, and was an invaluable experience: that's where I learnt what REAL customer service is. You are building a true relationship with all of your customers, most are local and you will probably see them week in week out; you are the face of your business, no hiding behind the anonymity of a big employer; you must provide a courteous service and good quality goods, as word of mouth is the only advertisement that stallholders can afford.
My boss was a lovely guy with exceptionally polite manners; he had a young family to support (a sweet wife and a little daughter); often his elderly father would come to market too, mostly to get out of the house and meet people, he was such a pleasure to talk to. We became good friends, and I felt a bit like I was extended family, you do when you work the markets together.

winter does get nippy in Northern Italy

Life of a "vagrant" stall-holder is tough, there are so many more variables and hardships than in a shop.
You have to set up your stall every day (or twice a day if you go to two different markets). It takes a long time to set up the stall, it takes a long time to pack everything up in the van at the end of the day (particularly if you haven't sold all your goods, which happens most weeks).
I remember the winter markets, with extra woolly socks and thick boots, the cold in northern Italy really bites at your toes when you're standing for hours on the pavement.
Livelihood is dependent on the weather as most markets are not under cover: many times we had to pack things earlier because of particularly inclement weather; sometimes we wouldn't even unload the van if the weather was that bad, like a lasting thunderstorm. Thankfully that didn't happen often, but when it did, it was such a big loss: it meant zero income for the stall, and only losses because the boss still had to pay for petrol and my "wage". Which used to be around $50 cash in hand, some days more depending on the takings. I was happy with that sort of arrangement, it made me work harder at my sale skills... 
But because of the closeness to them and the fact anyway I had nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon, on the bad days I really couldn't bring myself to pocket the whole amount knowing he hadn't earned a thing himself: he was supporting a family, I was a 19yo uni student living at home and just working for pocket money for booze ;) So if it was one of those really bad no income days, I just told him not to worry about and "see you next week and let's hope the weather's better". 
I know he felt awful about it, but he also really appreciated the gesture. So on those days, we'd just call it quits and go to the cafe near the markets, with all the other stallholders that just like us could not work with the downpour. And we'd have a panino and a beer or a coffee, which he'd always pay for because even if he couldn't afford my wages, he was always a decent person. 
It was sad having to quit but Australia was calling me...


I love farmers' markets. I love all the fresh produce. I love seeing products that are someone's labour of love. I love talking to people that are passionate about their job and produce, because really, if you're selling at markets you're not really doing it to get rich...

It is just so much more human than some establishments where the shop assistants seem bothered by your presence, and a much better shopping experience than supermarkets. Particularly if you have kids: no over-crammed shelves full of items that mummy has to put back every 2 seconds, no trolleys to watch out for, no stupid trinkets and treats neatly positioned at a toddler's eye level...

The market has a slower pace, a bouncier rhythm about it, it has enticing smells and colourful people, and often has a child-friendly entourage of petting zoos or bouncing castles.

The kids and I have made it part of our routine. Our first market was a bit daunting, but I soon realised we were onto a winner: the kids were so happy with the open spaces, they felt free to explore everything (and of course, because there are less restrictions, there are fewer temptations to touch everything!) and they were overjoyed in sampling produce and products, and most of all they loved talking to all the stallholders.
petting zoo at the market, back in April: how little does Casi look!

We've now become market pros. The kids are always excited to be going to market, regardless of which one it is. There's always something interesting to see and do and eat. The only downside is that Sosi has an obsession with handmade soaps, possibly inherited from me, and every market has a handmade soap stall, and she always has to buy at least 2 soaps every market we go to... Guess what all our family members are receiving for Christmas? ;)

If you've never been to a farmers' market, you should! These are Victorian websites I check out regularly to see what's on, have a look to see which market is nearest to you, and then start venturing out and trying new markets.    this is a great website if you're in greater Melbourne and further: you can select a date and it'll bring up almost everything you can do around town, from markets to exhibitions to festivals, museums, fetes, sport, arts, seminars, tours etc etc

Don't be shy, come say hi if you see us at some market stuffing our faces with lemon tarts :)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Hello again from a very unreliable blogger

I'm a bad blogger. I don't write enough, I'm not working on improving my blog's appearance and usability at all, I take crap photos, I'm not good at commenting on other blogs, I am so slow at completing posts in several parts, and when I'm depressed I just disappear for lengthy periods of time, so that my followers totally forget that I even exist.

Hello again world. Today's been better. Yesterday was still a little crap. The day before I wanted to die.
I understand how a series of circumstances might upset me or give me the blues, what I don't get is spending one week on autopilot being a shit mother and a below average human, knowing that at the back of my mind all I'm thinking is the peace of death (not suicide though), then waking up one day and the world is suddenly sort of ok again?
I've been having more of these episodes, they seem to be connected to my headaches and my periods. Has been like this only for a few months now. Maybe I should get some help... I'll see how I feel next month.

So for today, the Black Dog is gone. Now I can get busy and enjoy the season's celebrations: Casi's bday on Friday and Sosi's bday in 3 weeks, then my parents visiting from Italy (again! I know! they just can't stay away from the grandchildren and our beautiful country!) then Christmas. And we are also celebrating the birth of a new family member, but I might write a post all about her :)

baby R aka Precious Baby

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Melbourne Museum and a rant about "disabled" toilets

We recently got our Museum Victoria membership (more info here, do check it out if you live near Melbourne!), but I had been too chicken to go until today.

Maybe I make it sound like I'm tough and have it together etc, but the reality is that doing something new with the kids can be a little bit daunting for me.

I do have some sort of anxiety disorder (I didn't think I did, but saw it written on my hospital file back when Casi was born, and thought about all the psychologists and counsellors I've seen over the years, and then realised yes, I am a little bit on the not-so-balanced side...) which makes me worry in advance about NEW circumstances in which I might struggle physically.
I stress out with stuff like "it'll be a big day so probably I should pack the kids in the stroller. But what if the place is not stroller friendly? How am I going to push the stroller and the kids separately? And what if I don't pack it, will the kids have to walk lots from the car? How am I going to carry the bags we need? How am I going to carry our bags if one of them wants to be picked up?" those sort of thoughts.

Missing part of an arm isn't that difficult really, but some things are tougher: carrying extra weight (you know, the 50 million things you need to pack when you have kids?), not being able to hold hands with both kids at the same time, pushing a stroller in a straight line, just little things like that...

So with the excuse of Romp and Stomp at Melbourne Museum, I decided today was the right time for our first visit. I figured, if it is an event for kids, they must be stroller friendly etc.

So we went, parked at a bit of a distance, enjoyed the walk there in the stroller (gorgeous day in Melbourne today!), and had an awesome time at the Museum!

In the end it was a bunch of organisations showcasing what they can offer and they had a few nice
things to do for the kids, but probably nothing out of the ordinary for us... But I was really stoked we went because now I know my way around and it means I'll be taking them so so often! Stay tuned for our future adventures at the Museum :)

On a side: the aftermath of our holiday were 3 shitty days with huge tantrums/meltdowns, both Casi and I... So getting back to our normal life yesterday has been fabulous!

So we had a marvellous day, I averted one of Casi's tantrums, and even if Sosi was knackered, nobody ran off by themselves, nobody yelled, pinched, snatched, hit etc, the 3 of us were back to how I like things, all happy, doing interesting things, enjoying each other's company and enjoying life.
sand table organised by Toy Libraries Victoria

one of the art areas

But I did walk away with a couple of reflections.
One of them being on the slap in the face that services for the disabled can be.

Today we used a "disabled" toilet because a) it had a baby changing area b) it's bigger than the normal female cubicles c) I thought it would be easier pushing the double stroller through the door of a toilet for differently abled people. How wrong I was! It is clear that whoever designed the door on that toilet had never pushed a wheelchair or a stroller or had to carry kids and bags. It is clear that whoever designed that toilet does not have a disability nor a child, and might not care much for people like us.

The toilet door was quite heavy and there was nothing to hold it open, on the contrary, it had a hydraulic closing system! Which is so handy if you can't be bothered closing a bathroom door.
Not so handy if you have to open the said door. Particularly if you're pushing a double stroller (made heavy by the 2 growing kids) that hardly fits through the doorway. I backed in the door with my bottom, held the door open with a foot while trying to wedge in the stroller, and at the same time manoeuvred and pulled in the stroller-beast with the one hand I have and the other little elbow joint that I use as a hand. I'm sure every mother/parent/carer had to do this at least once in their pram-pushing life.
This was really not that tough for me, I am used to doing things differently.
But it would be really tough if I was in a wheelchair. I can appreciate a small restaurant or local amenities might not have these things in mind when building toilets etc for their clientele, but Melbourne Museum? This is one of the most visited places in our city.
And I thought about this post at Selene's Memo To Self, I just found her blog and already love her writing style and her guts.

People in wheelchairs might be a minority, but when you add them up to mothers with strollers, and people that have all sorts of physical challenges, surely there can't be that few of us that you can't properly plan and build to include us? We don't need a special treatment, but why bother making special toilets for people with special needs if those toilets aren't easily accessible by the intended crowd?

I am appalled. What should be such a simple service for other fellow human beings in our community is in fact quite challenging and would constitute such a big struggle in someone's day.

I know it's only one minor thing in an otherwise easily accessible building, but it does really make you think. How patronising and condescending the mentality behind this is, "we'll build it for you because you are disabled and you need our help", but without really caring about what the differently abled person needs. It almost felt like an after-thought, "oh bugger we forgot to make a toilet for those wheelchair people".
That toilet was definitely more disabled than the people using it.

And my other thought was about the bad attitude so many mothers have with their children... but that's a whole other post for another day when I'm fresh and well rested :)

What about you, are there any places or things you find challenging in your errands with kids?

Friday, 21 October 2011

Things I know about our first family holiday (little kids included)

Good morning world! Back from our first family holiday, 5 days in Launceston, Tasmania. We wanted to go somewhere by plane to see how the kids would go with that (since I want to take them to Italy next year and thought I might get them used to a plane before hitting them with a 24 hour flight...), so we chose somewhere close where we'd already been (we went to Tassie back in '03 when we were childfree...) so we knew our way around a bit.

So here are a few post-holiday things I know:
  • we had a nice time but it was sooo challenging
  • Sosi actually enjoyed the plane: I was expecting Sosi to stress out because of the air pressure (remember her hearing "issues"?) or maybe throw up (the child is blessed with random bouts of motion sickness), but she actually enjoyed the whole experience (even if her ears were hurting a little after 1/2 hour)
  • Casi enjoyed the plane... after the first 5 minutes when he was screaming at the top of his lungs "MUMMY GET OFF PLANE". Thank goodness for D putting on a show with finger puppets on the way there. And thank goodness for Talking Tom on the iPhone which stopped the screaming on the flight back....
  • kids used to living in a house with garden really struggle confined in a small holiday apartment for 5 days: cabin fever started early on day 2... I have never had to break so many fights between the kids as on this holiday
  • the holiday was 1 day too long; Sosi started day 4 asking "when are we going home?" and D and I wishing we didn't have that extra day to go...
52 holiday activities: squeeze daddy's face when bored
  • Casi particularly struggled being out of his home environment; he had 2 of the most massive meltdowns he's ever had (you cannot call them tantrums, he was like a crazed banshee)
  • it's not really a holiday if you're the parent, it's much more fun if you're the kid and there's someone else doing the organising of the whole thing...
  • taking young children to a cave tour was a dumb idea
  • there are so many beautiful spots in Tassie, it's always so nice going there
near Mole Creek caves
City Park in Launceston
blue gum honey ice cream, yum!

Sosi zooming down the middle slide
  • Sosi summed it up well on Wed when she said "going on holiday is nice but it's nicer being home"
testing marble run I whipped up during breakfast...

marble run has become car ramp:
ambulance just rammed school bus....
So, what do you all know? Share your wealth of knowledge with the lovely Shae at Yay For Home and all the other lovelies over there :)

Friday, 30 September 2011

Things I know - Sosi's hearing

Good morning world! It's Friday again, this week instead of being my usual witty self (LOL), I'll share something about my daughter with you.

Since she was a baby, Sosi has been a bit particular about certain sounds, some noises always seemed to bother her more than others. And by bother I mean freak out, she'd be totally scared by the thing making the noise.

Around the time she was 1, these sounds bothered her: fake animal sounds, particularly horses (like battery operated toys); any toy that moved while playing music; coffee grinder, vacuum cleaner, hair drier, blender.

Most of these can be quite unpleasant sounds to the buddying ears of a baby, so we just thought it was a phase, something she'd outgrow. Now, 3 years on, we are not so sure, as there are other sounds that freak her out so much they have started affecting decisions we make and activities we do.

So, these are some of the things I know bother her at the moment:
  • dogs, because they might bark and the noise freaks her out
  • nearby lawn mowers 
  • miniature railways, partially because of the train whistling, but mostly because of the kids yelling when the train enters a tunnel
here's Kid enjoying a miniature train ride...
I have many many many photos of S covering her ears tightly
  • the electricity meter. I'm not kidding. Sometimes you can hear a vague tick tick noise from our study, if she hears it she panics. But she's fine with clocks.
  • the newest: many people together singing Happy Birthday 
  • we used to go to rollerskating classes but can no longer go, she started getting so freaked out when they turned the music on and people sang (we are talking Wiggles, not heavy metal!) that she would just cover her ears (see above photo), scared, totally petrified, and freeze in the middle of the skating rink. The only thing I could do was pick her up, take her off the rink and cuddle her, then she would relax after 10 or 15 minutes, but still wouldn't go back on the rink if there were kids singing. Which is such a shame because she LOVES rollerskating.

Now, this isn't easy if you also have a very clingy little boy to deal with. Sosi's upset so Casi gets upset so I have both kids in my arms (and remember I have 1/2 an arm less, so carrying a combined 28kg is exhausting) and I'm desperately trying to console and soothe both while trying to keep it together myself. 
So we started avoiding situations that we know will trigger her. Which is really limiting us A LOT.

  • I don't know if it's just a certain frequency or pitch bothering her. 
  • I don't know if she has super hearing that makes some sounds disturbing.
  • I know she can hear the word "chocolate" whispered in another room, so there definitely isn't an issue with hearing loss!
  • I don't know if there's a hearing processing disorder.
  • I don't know if it's something else, because she does have other quirks.
  • I know that in less than 2 weeks she's having her hearing tested and I cannot wait for the results!

Hopefully together with our GP we can shed some light on the matter and help her enjoy her life to the fullest :)

What do you know this week? Go over to the funny Shae at Yay For Home and share your knowledge :)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

My daughter is a self-published author ;)

Casi is still learning colours. He still confuses some. But one he has never confused is orange. Which coincidentally (or not?) is the colour of his favourite food, carrots. 
There is no doubt that orange is his favourite colour: he'll point out anything that's orange, will let you know if there's any orange present in the room, will always pick it in a line up of pencils etc etc.

So in his honour, D and Sosi co-wrote their first book... 

It was a great activity for father and daughter to do during "quiet time" (when Casi is sleeping and Sosi doesn't feel like resting), D tried to come up with things that he knows Sosi likes drawing. She really enjoyed creating her own book and was pretty stoked with having a full story as an end result.

And she really loved giving it to Casi to read when he woke up from his snooze!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Things I know

I'm in a particular frame of mind this week, I both feel extremely knowledgeable and ignorant... but here are a few pearls of wisdom for you ;)

  • The Enchanted Maze Garden in Arthurs Seat is expensive ($25 per adult, $15 kids over 3) but it's a great place to take the kiddies. We went there for a surprise birthday lunch for my cousin's wife and it was a LOVELY day. 

running around the turf maze
sandpit inside the children's maze
fairy garden
  • I know Casi is a chocoholic. Like his sister and his mother and grandfather and great-grandmother... 
utensils are slowing down my cake consumption, hands are so much faster...

  • I know that hot days and buckets of water and paintbrushes and sponges are a winning combination 

  • school holidays start next week. Which of course doesn't mean a lot for us since we learn from life, only that our usual haunts will be overcrowded... the only good thing is that we'll be able to catch up with family and friends who are usually tied up to school commitments
  • a catch-up has been organised by my mothers' group for next week. They are lovely women. I really mean it. But I soooo do not fit in. Never have. I'll be the wallflower again. Listening, not having much to bring to the conversation, feeling left out. I know I'll end up making up some excuse not to go. Which is a shame. 
  • I know I'll end up catching up with each of them singularly because I like them but I just don't function with them as a group
  • I know it's going to take me hours to read this week's know-it-all posts, the Yay For Home link up has become so overwhelmingly popular! Well done Shae :)

What do you know this week? Head over to Shae's to share your wisdom! 

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Apprivoiser - on translations and friendships

Growing up I had many career dreams: vet, doctor, teacher, missionary in Africa, movie director, mathematician, book writer and another couple of hundred more short-lived aspirations. 
I didn't really pursue any of them, the world is so full of possibilities that I really was at a loss deciding what to do with my life. 
I did my schooling in Italy, which meant that after middle school, which you finish at around 13yo, you have to choose from a variety of high schools, some more academic (lyceums) which prepare you for university, some more technical or practical which prepare you for a job. Things might have changed nowadays, I really haven't kept abreast of many social changes in Italy since leaving. 

At 13 I had no fixed idea of what to do. I was clearly keen on mathematics and a scientific lyceum (emphasising on maths and sciences) seemed a perfect option, but did not open many doors at 18 in case I didn't want to continue to uni. 
But I loved reading. And writing. And I dreamt of travelling. So my mum talked me into enrolling in a linguistic lyceum. Over the course of the 5 years I studied: Italian, English, French, German, Latin, geography, history, maths, physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy. A wonderful smattering of so many interesting subjects!

I picked up new languages easily, which is definitely due to my being bilingual (thanks Mum!), and the best part of that was being able to read books in their original language. Because translations often don't do the original book justice.
I have worked for a while as a translator, and it is a tough job. Some words and some expressions are so intrinsic to a country and a culture that a translation can merely give the gist of the idea without giving an insight of what the author really meant. Languages are fully impregnated with their People's history, traditions, habits, ideologies, customs, and so much of that is lost in translation.

One such word that comes to mind is the French verb “apprivoiser”, which does not have an exact translation in English. It’s sort of like “domesticating” someone.
I mention it because it’s a crucial word in one of the chapters of The Little Prince, Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which I had the pleasure of reading in its original language.

Instead, the verb “to tame” has always been used for the English version. The difference is well expressed by this critical note on SparkNotes: 
The episode with the fox requires a note on Saint-Exupéry’s use of the verb “tame.” In English, this word connotes domestication and subservience. But the French have two verbs that mean “to tame.” One, “domestiquer,” does, in fact, mean to make a wild animal subservient and submissive. The Little Prince, however, uses the verb “apprivoiser,” which implies a more reciprocal and loving connection. The distinction between these two words is important, since the original French word does not have the connotations of mastery and domination that unfortunately accompany the English translation.
image from here

This is a short excerpt from Chapter 21, taken from here
"Who are you?" asked the little prince, and added, "You are very pretty to look at."

"I am a fox," the fox said.
"Come and play with me," proposed the little prince. "I am so unhappy."
"I cannot play with you," the fox said. "I am not tamed."
"Ah! Please excuse me," said the little prince.
But, after some thought, he added:
"What does that mean--'tame'?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. “It means to establish ties."
"'To establish ties'?"
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . ."
"What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince.
"You must be very patient," replied the fox. "First you will sit down at a little distance from me--like that--in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . ."
The next day the little prince came back.
"It would have been better to come back at the same hour," said the fox. "If, for example, you come at four o'clock in the afternoon, then at three o'clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o'clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what  hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . ."
Here’s an online version if you wish to read the book. I highly recommend it as it is the vessel of much wisdom and wit. Read at least Chapter One, which is a single enlightened page.

I always loved this passage. If you read it bearing in mind what I told you about “apprivoiser” and in your head replace “tame” as you read, you’ll realise how true it rings.
Friendships indeed are about domesticating each other, about studying each other from a distance, about learning about one another before being able to create ties.
So many times we rush into friendships, we meet someone we like and start doing so many things with them, seeing them often etc. And often these friendships fizzle off, because there hasn't been the time to "apprivoise" each other.

When you don't give the friendship enough time to grow of its own accord you end up not appreciating the differences of "language" that you and your new friend have. You end up having misunderstandings because you are indeed talking two different languages: you each have your own history, traditions, habits, ideologies and customs.

I have often thought about this passage with regards to blogging. How much do we get to know about a person through their writings. Our true self is exposed to the world and so many meaningful connections are made here. A bit like we used to do in the old days when we had pen pals. Through our writings we get the time to know each other’s languages.
I have recently met a fellow blogger. She is just as lovely and affable and interesting and inspiring in real life as I had expected from her writings. She welcomed me and my busy kids in her home with arms open, and having learnt much about each other’s “language” before hand, I didn’t feel much of the awkwardness of a first meeting, I truly felt like she was an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years.
I like blogging, I like the people I'm connecting with, I like being inspired by others. And I love that all the things I'm saying are not getting lost in translation.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

I'm back (again)

Wow, I turn around and I have 16 followers? Thanks ladies. Or guys, I don't know who the 16th follower is...

I've fully embraced the beginning of Spring: I have been very busy organising/tidying up/decluttering, the house will soon be decent enough for me to share photos without shame... ;)

So between the tidying up and our usual life (lots of social engagements, playing, outdoor play, indoor play...), I'm often falling asleep with the kids... at 8.30pm!!!! And, of course, writing the best posts in my head at 2.30am when Casi wakes me up for a feed... hence the absence from the blogosphere this month.
So, apologies to all for not reading, commenting, writing, engaging, thanking etc, I haven't been ignoring, just a little bit absent.

Today I decided to be "selfish" and take some time out. As I write, the kids are watching some annoying phonics video on YouTube on the left hand side of the screen while I use the right hand side for my blogging. This is what it looks like:

pulling silly faces...

So if you'll bear with me, over the next few days I might end posting lots because I have such a big mental backlog.

Hope you're all well, and I'll endeavour to catch up with everyone else's blogs.


Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Big Mistake - part 2

So I was finally back in Melbourne, and I was happy happy happy. It was summertime. I was living with auntie Cynthia (my mum's cousin) and going out often with my cousin Ann (whom I just adored, we got on like a house on fire since we first met in July '07).
I wasn't working yet and was having the time of my life doing touristy things which I hadn't done the first time around. This time I knew my way around town, I started visiting parks, museums, beaches, moving around wherever public transport allowed. And walking lots and lots. I started attending adult education classes (breadmaking, cooking classes, Japanese language classes) and started making friends of all ages. Things were good.

But I was really having trouble falling asleep at night. Too many thoughts I guess. I could always hear voices or a buzz in my head.
Until one night I realised I was scared. I couldn't sleep because I was worried that someone might break in my auntie's house. I didn't realise then, but that was my first panic attack.

Then one day I made myself a hearty breakfast, and after eating it I started having strong palpitations. So strong that I told my auntie I needed to see a doctor. Who couldn't figure out what was wrong with me. It was then that I noticed that the buzzing was still there. Louder than ever.

Then one day I went to visit another cousin who worked in a CBD building. As I was going up the elevator to get to the 7th floor, I started getting dizzy. It was only when I sat down and started chatting to my cousin, that I realised the building was swaying and I was getting sea-sick (for lack of a better word). I don't recall if it was a very windy day, but it didn't seem right that I should be able to feel the swaying on such a low floor...

I started doing some research, and seeing various doctors, and discovered I had tinnitus. But Wikipedia didn't exist back in 1999... So there were a few trips back and forth to the library trying to figure out what the cause was.
I came to the conclusion that decrease in circulation (caused by cigarettes) was a very likely cause.
Now I know it could've also been a side effect of aspirin or nimesulide (which I used to take liberally for my many headaches), or also of head injury like whiplash (remember how in Part 1 I mentioned the drink driving? I did once have an accident, broke the whole axis of my car hitting a wall. In hindsight, I was very very lucky to get out of it unharmed) or depression/anxiety.

But I also noticed that some foods tended to make the buzzing worse... And this is where the fun journey into food sensitivities started. I'm not going to bore you with all the details, there's more to this story later..

So as I was getting these "attacks" of palpitations and dizzy spells and the constant buzzing in my ears that was driving me nuts, and I was talking to my boyfriend on a weekly basis and I did feel a bit lonely... And I guess I was still in love though quite disillusioned.
And he (the Big Mistake) started telling me he'd been clean because he really wanted to join me and start a drug-free happy life with me in Australia etc etc. You can probably join the dots...

So dumb me said "ok, come down here and we can start a life together, I'll get an apartment for rent and then we'll see what we need to do with Immigration". And that, my friends, was my biggest mistake.

He left his grandmother's house, and with my mum's help (visa, ticket, airport etc) he boarded a plane to come here. And while he was on that plane, I received a phone call from his grandmother... who wanted to ascertain that he'd have good work chances in Aus etc etc. You know, like a good parent figure would. And then the bombshell "I'm glad to hear Australia is so wholesome so he can get healthy and you can look after him, because, you know, he started using again while he was here with me".
I hated her. How about calling me and telling me before he's on the effing plane and there's no return? My world crumbled. Not so excited to see him as much as I had been, now I was just looking down the barrel of the prospect of more drugs, more withdrawals, more lies.

We were happy to see each other, and in my youthful naivety I had convinced myself that I could make it work, that in our beautiful country I'd be able to get him clean and build a wonderful life for us.

Bear in mind the guy spoke very little English when he arrived. Yet within 3 days of being here he'd already managed to find a dealer where he could score some heroin for $10.

So, after a couple of months of getting a flat, finding us both jobs, filling in methadone prescriptions and discussing visa options with the Department of Immigration, it was clear that the only way to make him stay would be getting married. Which we did. Nobody knew about it. The witnesses were a waiter from the pizzeria where Big Mistake was working and his wife. First time I saw them, haven't seen them since... We got married in the celebrant's sitting room, then had a delectable lunch at The Street Cafe in St Kilda with the witnesses.

After an idyllic 30 hours of married life, we had our first fight when he asked for money to go buy heroin. Please be nice to me, just 10 dollars, just one last time and then I'll stop... That's when I knew our marriage was over. We would never be on the same level, we would never be a couple building together towards a common goal. We'd always be the adult and the child if you will, where one is in charge of all the decision and the protection and looking after the other. He'd always be the sick one and I'd always be the one looking after him.
But now things were trickier, I couldn't just plonk him on a plane back to Italy. I'd have to stick it out until I found a way for him to stand on his own two feet.

To be continued...

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Big Mistake - part 1

Some of you might remember this Maccas ad from 1999:

I always watched that ad with a smirk on my face.

And this, my friends, was my Big Mistake:

look at my wrinkle-free 22yo face...
Excuse the dodginess of the picture, I had to take a photo of a photo because I can't work out the scanner (never trust a printer-scanner that comes free with the computer...).


We started going out at 19. We've all been there haven't we? The passionate romance, the first true love, the extreme drama that accompanies teenage love, girl's father hates the boyfriend, a forced separation (military service which was compulsory in Italy until 2005) that makes the relationship even more tragically romantic, the conviction that this will last forever etc etc.

Then at 20 I was in a really bad space, making very bad choices, drinking way too much, mixing with dodgy people, losing friendships, quit uni etc. I needed a change, so I came down to Melbourne for that change. My Mum was born here, so I had some contacts to rely on (extended family and my mum's childhood friends) and a very handy dual citizenship that opened all sorts of doors in Australia for me.
I stayed here for 6 months, and I just loved everything about this beautiful country of ours: the spaces, the air, the food, the people, the extreme weather...

But I had left the boyfriend behind. So, being 21 and lovestruck and a little homesick and dumb, I decided to go back to Italy. Which was a mistake in itself because after a short while I was back in that deep hole. My mum talks about me in that period as a flower who gets one drop of water per day: just enough to survive, but not enough to flourish. I was constantly droopy. I missed Australia soooo much.

Then after a couple of months, the bombshell from the boyfriend. "Sara, I have something to tell you..." in my head I'm thinking "you f***, I was faithful to you while I was away" but the sin he committed in my absence wasn't an adulterous affair.
"I'm staying home from work for 3 days, and I might need your help. See, while you were away I missed you so much, I needed something to keep me happy. I started shooting up. But I want to stop, because I know it's wrong, and I'm earning good money now, and I want to save up to get us a place together and have a lovely life together".
At first I had no bloody idea what he was talking about. I had smoked some joints in my late teens but anything heavier was for me just so inconceivable, it was just a barrier that "good girls and boys" from my bourgeois upbringing just didn't cross, an option so unfathomable that I thought only people from poor or ignorant backgrounds took. How much I learnt since then...

He was going to stay home to withdraw. He thought he could do it cold turkey because he hadn't been injecting that much. It would take 3 days to get out of his system and then he'd be fine. Free from heroin forever.
I was flabbergasted. I was frozen. I didn't know what to say or what to do. I wasn't even sure he was talking about heroin. I wanted to ask more but simply couldn't. I was suddenly changed. It felt like the rosy carpet of promises of my private school upbringing had been taken away from under my feet. It felt like the wonderful experiences had in Melbourne had never happened. I felt guilty for my overseas stay. I felt like I was standing on the brink of a cliff at nighttime, totally unable to see the depth and size of it.

That was the beginning on 1998. That was the crappiest year of my life. It was the year where I saw who I thought was the love of my life sinking as low as he could get. Begging for money. Stealing money. Blaming others for his choices (one has to say though that his mother's choices did have a bearing on his bad choices, but that's another long story for another day...). Some things my memory has somehow erased. Others I remember. The drug dealers, the madness in his eyes, the sickness, the multiple car accidents, the spaced out look in his eyes, the cold sweats, the happiness when he had the stuff flowing through his veins, the fresh marks on his arms, the fear of an overdose, the armchair he pushed upstairs all by himself during a crazed withdrawal. Because of course I didn't know at the time of that conversation, but heroin withdrawals aren't a walk in the park. And quitting isn't easy at all. And it never happens on the first go.
Like any addiction, if all the factors that caused it are still present (in his case, low self-esteem, inexistent family support, boredom, bad influences, easy to access dealers, uninspiring environment), there's nothing to prevent a relapse. And every time there's a relapse, the next withdrawal gets worse.
Then trying to get him in rehab, learning all about methadone and naltrexone, doctors, nurses, clinics, counsellors, case workers, finding out that so many people I knew where affected by this terrible addiction, seeing a horrid side of life that I never imagined, hearing from his therapist that he had relapsed, over and over and over again. And after months of no progress and losing his job and being 40 million liras in debt (which converted in current Aus currency would be around $60K) and being evicted from his rental property and thrown out by his relatives, big changes had to be made. So it was decided he was to go and live with his grandparents in Sicily, 1000 kms away, so he could get clean, away from his daily temptations. I went with him, still so in love but getting quite over it, to make sure he was going to be okay. I flew back to my parents and I started seriously thinking about coming back to Australia.

All this happened with my parents not knowing a thing about it. I had to find in myself the strength to drag another human being out of his own pit of nightmares, without having a confidant or a shoulder to cry on. So I returned to good old booze to help me out. As I was helping him out, I was falling deep into alcoholism. And very dangerously, driving while very intoxicated. And mixing with highly dubious characters. And I started cheating on him. I did feel obliged to be with him, I felt I couldn't just dump him, but in my dazed state I somehow justified the cheating, thinking that if I fell in love with someone else that would be a more honourable way out than just abandoning him to his own destiny.
I was deprecating myself, putting my life and others' in danger, doing things I was ashamed of, not living truly to my values, wasting my life an ultimately once again withering away. I was the little flower who's not given any water at all.

I don't know how much longer I would've lasted had I not finally opened up to my mother and shared my burden. And like me she felt sorry for this boy who hadn't had the easiest family life.

But then he came back from Sicily. High as a kite. Because heroin is there too. Because heroin is everywhere. Just like all drugs are. Because before all this I was quite naive and cocooned in my little world. Because the world is full of unhappy people that choose one poison or another. Because the world is full of scummy dealers and pushers that will give weak youngsters freebies to get them hooked quickly.

I didn't dump him because I still felt I had an obligation, kind of like a wife.
But this little flower had to come back to Australia. It was all too much. On a one way ticket.

I arrived in Melbourne at 6am on 12/12/1998. I walked out of the doors at Tullamarine, smelt the air of the beginning of a hot summer's day (ended up being 32 or 39 that day, can't remember well, I slept all day...), and uttered those words. "I'm home".

And I truly was. And it was so exhilarating and uplifting and I felt alive again and wanted to live and not drown myself in alcohol.
I always loved Sorrento backbeach

Now, you'd think that would be the end of the story.

See, the big mistake wasn't using one year of my life to help a loved one get out of drugs. In a way, that made me grow, I made many sacrifices, stopped being self-centred and by trying to save someone else's life became a better person.
No, the big mistake is what happened next...

But that'll have to wait for the next post, kids are awake and screaming for attention...

Friday, 12 August 2011

Things I know

Linking up again with Shae's Things I Know. I'm a bit scatterbrain today, so most of these things might not make a heck of a lot of sense.

Things I know

I know that last week I was deeply depressed. Then I had a migraine on Thursday. Then I woke up a new person on Friday. I'm starting to think there's a connection between my depressive moments and my migraines. 

But I also know that the weather has a bearing on my moods.

And I know that every time Casi feeds during the day I get seriously gloomy. At 21 months, the breastfeeding relationship is wearing thin. Also because I don't like having his feet shoved in my face every time he feeds. Really, toddlers can be so annoying.

I know my house is a bit messy at the moment.
Just now, the kids are practicing long-jump on a pile of dirty clothes that needs to go to the laundry.
Rewind to this morning: we made mini-volcanoes with little juice bottles, bicarb, vinegar and food colouring (of course followed by bubble bath to remove stains from hands...)
Ok, so maybe I should spend more time cleaning the house than doing cool things with the kids?
Just kidding, already plotting the next crazy craft activity ;-)

I know that if any of the grandparents makes a supposed-to-be-funny comment about my parenting during a family lunch out, it usually is something D will hear ALL about on the car trip home...

I know I'm getting pizza delivered for dinner, and that makes me happy :)

Things I don't know

I don't know how the wind moves by itself

I don't know where my kids' other tennis racket is

I don't know why bread-crusts are so repulsive to 3 year olds

I don't know why a cat dress-up kit wouldn't include a tail

I don't know why Ikea had to spoil our idyllic relationship by running out of stock of Expedit just when I needed it.

**warning: this section contains a big rant and a bad word...**
I don't know why the most hated man in the world is Sam Moran: people, he didn't kill Greg, ok? The man got a job and is doing the best he can at it, he may not be perfect but he sure is a much better singer than most people I know. Of course Greg was so talented and the soul of the Wiggles etc etc, but is there a need to write nasty comments on every bloody single Wiggles video that's on Youtube? These are kids' videos for f*** sake, get a life you grown up morons!
**end of rant**

Let's go have pizza now, and may you all have a fantastic week :)

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Dear 11 followers (+ not sure how many on Facebook, I still can't understand all of its workings...),

thank you so much for tuning in. Even if you don't get to read all of my ramblings, I really, really appreciate it a lot that you took the time to show some interest. Thank you for the love :)

My mum has been here for a week, my father for 4 days. I've had many thoughts about parenthood in general since they've been here. When Sosi was born I thought there could be a deeper connection to my parents, like I was finally starting to understand them. Now I am feeling so disconnected from them.

And ageing, and when does it happen that your parents suddenly become "old"? In the head I mean.
I know it's not strictly connected to age, I know it's connected to attitude and also environment. They live in a small town in northern Italy, where everyone knows everyone else and where fitting in is difficult if you're not born there or aren't related to somebody... which kinda explain why I fled when I was 21...

When you live so far away from your family of origin you tend to forget that they drive you nuts when they are with you...

So instead of the happy person most people expect I'd be as my parents visit, I have found myself down in the pit again, I've lost my appetite again and I don't think I've smiled a heck of a lot over the past few days. And this is what I wanted to write about for the next few posts: I want to write more about me. 

Because, really, even if on the surface I might appear to be a composed and balanced person, I don't really think I am. I'm good at putting on a brave face, that's for sure. So when I mention words like depression, suicidal, panic attacks, etc, I get the feeling people think I'm exaggerating. Life is good now, I am happy with where I'm at, but the head sometimes wanders back into a dark place. And I don't know if this current gloom is just circumstantial, just a passing period of "the blues", or if there's a big storm at the horizon. 

I just want to write more about me and my life and family history etc, so that if I do go through a storm, you'll all know where I'm coming from. Also because I realise that I've been blogging for months and, in my usual attempt for perfection, I've bothered writing only on days where I thought I could write a good post, and not on days when I needed to write a post. 

Hope I made some sense with this. Just writing because I need to.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Things I know about my mother

It's been a very busy week for us, D was working the late shift so the kids and I kept ourselves extra busy. I've been hanging to write lots but passing out in bed with the kids before 9pm... So many thoughts, too many for this one post, so I'll just focus on the main event: in 45 hours my Mum arrives from Italy for her yearly visit!

I'm linking up again with Shae, and sharing with you all just a couple of things I know about my mum:
  • my Mum's name is Louise, which we chose as Sofia's middle name
  • she was born in Melbourne but went to Italy on a holiday in 1969 and never came back....
Mum and Grandma in the late '40s...
  • she loves Violet Crumbles but never indulges in more than 2 bars while she's here (it sticks to her extensive dental work, consequence of her sweet tooth as a child...)
  • she loves liquorice but hardly ever eats it because of her high blood pressure
  • she's a dog person
  • she loves looking at cows, something about them looking relaxed...
  • she has taken on board her job as a grandmother very seriously: maybe she's very zealous also because of the distance and being able to see the kids only once a year, but she likes knowing everything about them and studying them and tries to remember the name of all of their toys and all the things they like
  • she was here for the birth of both kids, and she was the first person (after Dan and I and the midwife) to welcome them to the world
  • she loves them both so so much
with Sosi, Dec 07
with Sosi, Nov 09

with Casi, Dec 09, when he was in NICU

with Casi, Aug 10
  • though she might not agree with all of my parenting choices, she always respects them and has always respected me and my opinions
  • she has always let me do things my way, and never let me use my handicap as an excuse not to do things: which helped me become the strong independent woman I am today
  • she's a bit of a wallflower and a bit too accommodating (there have been many people walking all over her throughout the years), but she is an absolute tigress when it comes to protecting her cubs: she has ALWAYS stood up for us (my brother and I) and always protected us when we needed it and we have always felt safe with her and she was always there for us and always looked after us
  • and even if we don't always see eye to eye, she's an awesome mum and I love her so so much
Nov 07, 8 days before Sosi was born

See you on Monday Mum :)