Posts Tagged ‘children’

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Last year, around Lorenz0’s first birthday, a mom I’d met at the park and I set up a playroom area at the local library.

In winter or in bad weather it can be a bummer to have to stay inside the house the whole afternoon, or the whole day if you are an SAHM. It’s nice to invite other mom’s and kids over to your place but that means cleaning up before and after and it’s not always practical, particularly if you don’t know them very well.

We thought it would be nice to have a “neutral” place where the kids could play together and the moms could hang out. I’m sure moms out there in blogland agree on this one, having someone to talk to that you can relate to it’s very comforting.

The mom I met at the park is a teacher, but she didn’t know how to go about it. I told her I knew the Mayor and I could ask if he could give us a room. He sent me to talk to the librarian and she came up with the idea to have the playroom right above the library in a sort of loft.

At the beginning it was just a few moms, a couple times it was only me and Lorenzo, but little by little other moms with kids started joining and now we a have a big group that gets together every Monday afternoon to hang out, play together and have tea and snack.

It’s funny how things just kind of grow by themselves, it takes a small initial effort but once it’s rolling it just keeps going.

It’s the initial effort that makes the difference, I wonder how many moms in this town before us sat at the park and thought

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place we could go to where the kids could play together and the moms could chill and talk…”

It was the right time and the right place of course, still I think that if we want some things to happen we have to make them happen.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” J.F.K

How are you making a difference in your community?


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It all started around September last year when my Italian sister-in-law (devoted mother of two of the rowdiest nephews in the world) asked me if I could teach the boys some English. That way they could, if ever the opportunity arises, talk to their cousins in Canada and communicate with people that every now come to visit who might not speak Italian.

Every Friday afternoon we meet at 5pm for an English lesson at my place, right in my livigroom. At first it was only us, then a friend with two children started coming, another mom came with her little girl for a while, and we had our newest entry in December last year, Laura and her mom. Of course Lorenzo is a regular and sometimes Tony, my sister’s kid comes too.

We go over the days of the week, the months of the year, the colors, the numbers, some verbs, we read a story and we sing a song. Then we have a snack, the moms take turns to bring the snack, and later the children play together.

I started getting some English children’s books and one of the moms lent us hers. Claire had sent me a few for Lorenzo and we are using one of them to learn the ABC’s. The local libraries don’t have English books, and if they do they are far from where we live. So the idea of having a little library with English books  for children was born.

“The Little Library” because when we started out we had 4 books.

One thing led to another and I thought it would be nice to be able to teach English and read stories not only to the 7 children that come to the lesson on Friday, but also to children who can’t afford English lessons or don’t have the opportunity because their parents work or they don’t have the means to get around.

It’s still in the works but the idea is to take Lorenzo, a few books, some flashcards and a blanket and go to the park and have a little English lesson right there and then. For no other reason than to create community, offer a service, spend time outdoors and do something different.

I told Loris about it and he laughed. He always laughs at me but then he said it’s a good idea. He even offered to make me a little wooden wagon to put the books and educational materials inside. I’m very excited about this project especially because it’s something I can do with Lorenzo.

Oh and I discovered that there are some wonderful people who go around with their bookmobile and promote reading. Take a look at some of the stories. I liked the one of the man in Colombia who goes around with his two donkeys to brings books to people who live in remote areas.

My project will be a sort of bookmobile with storytelling combined. Here are some of our favorite books:

“The Curious Garden” by Peter Brown

“Our Dog” by Helen Oxenbury

“We’re Going On a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle

“Toot and Puddle: Puddle’s ABC” by Holly Hobbie

If you have any book suggestion for our little collection let me know!

I’ll keep you updated! 

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I’m building a school in Bolivia.
Just like the little girl in the story who took her father his lunch at the site where a cathedral was being built, and when she announced that she too was building the cathedral a man scoffed her saying
“Whatever you mean by helping to build a cathedral, you are nothing but a little girl”
“Yes, but my father is building the cathedral and I bring him lunch every day and so I’m also helping to build it.”

My dad’s dentist is from Bolivia and a few years ago he started a grass-roots project as a way to give-back to his country. Together with his wife he started taking baby clothes to donate to hospitals; then he sponsored school bags for school chidren and now together with a group of donors he is building a little school for the families of the poor, rural region of Kewiñal

My mom told me about it and ever since I’ve been helping to fund this project. I help with a small ammout each month but it’s so wonderful to be able to say that I too contribute towards the education of children in the other side of the world.

I’m passionate about education and about people who make it possible for children (and adults) to get an education. It’s every child’s right but sometimes due to poverty and other circumstances education is often neglected. Some families are so poor or live so far away that they cannot affort to send their children to school, or to buy pencils and notebooks.

How easily we forget how lucky we are, helping others is a good reminder.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela


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Back in April when I was budgeting for my future stay-at-home months I came up with the idea of spending only 30 euros a month on myself.

This idea was born because I heard of an organization that builds schools in Bolivia and with only 1 euro a day (365 a year) they can send a child to school. By saving what you would spend on a coffee a day, a child can get an education.

Then I came across a story of four guys who set out to Guatemala to live first-hand the 1 dollar a day challenge. There are about 1.4 billion people in the world that live with only 1 dollar a day and these young people challenge helped raise awareness on the conditions and struggles of poverty.

When I was thinking on my own personal challenge, a friend posted on FB the article about Gwyneth Paltrow trying the food stamp challenge and failing. And I thought “Oh great,my idea is as silly as Gwyneth’s and I’m not even doing it for any worthy cause.”

Still I went for it, I can spend on myself only 30 euros a month. 10 euros go towards my phone’s credit, and that leaves me with 20 euros. In a whole month I cannot spend more than 20 euros. For instance, on Saturday my sister came with me to visit the girls at the foster home and before going home we treated ourselves with two cannolis. I’m left with 17 euros and 60 cents.

I was going to try it for 3 months to see if I was able to do it. And guess what? it went so well that I will continue for a whole year. I’m not trying to prove a point, or trying to emulate really living on 1 euro a day. I’m not at all struggling to make ends meet and I don’t have to worry for my next meal, I live in a house, I have a car and I can even afford to go on holidays. I’m aware that my little challenge might seem incosiderate to people who live in extreme conditions and poverty and I might sound silly like Gwyneth Paltrow after all.

Although my experiment is silly and I’m not in any way raising awareness, I have become more responsible when it comes to spending money. I think twice before buying anything. I ask myself “Do I need it? Do I need it right away? Can I borrow it from someone? Can I make it myself?” and most of the time I end up not buying something that I might have bought without a second thought a few months ago.

When I started I was convinced it would have been very hard but actually it turned out to be sort of liberating to spend less on things I don’t really need, and get creative with what I already have.

Last month with my 20 euro budget I got some seeds for the garden, gave my share to buy food for the chickens, went out for a coffee twice, and I even saved 1 euro and 20 cents  that went to help a man at the end of the stairs who was asking for money to help his family of three children.

The plus side of this whole experiment is that I reached my goal and got to save up enough to be able to stay at home with Lorenzo until he is 9 months old.

Wanting less is a better blessing than having more

Mary Ellen Edmunds

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Lorenzo is a month old and it seems only yesterday he was born. He grows so fast; some of his clothes don’t fit him anymore. He stays awake longer now and he stares at the window, at the light bulbs and sometimes at people’s faces. He recognizes my voice if we are in a crowd and I’m not the one holding him. He holds his head up and it doesn’t bob like a poppy like it used to.

Some people have mentioned how having a baby changes your whole life. And it does, but I was lucky to have lots of brothers and sisters to take care of and it prepared me for having my own baby. I was born to be a mother, it comes very natural to me.

But it’s true that some things change. It takes forever for me to get out the door, I have two bags to carry and then I have to make sure I feed Lorenzo before we leave if the trip will be longer than half an hour. I also fret if it’s too hot, too cold, if there’s a bee, if it rains, if there’s wind and if we are driving too fast.

Some days Lorenzo just wants to be held and I don’t have time to do anything. When he sleeps I don’t sleep with him (like they say you should in order to get all your sleeping hours), instead I try to get the most done: the laundry, clean the bathroom, wash the dishes, start preparing lunch (even if it’s 9 o’clock and we eat at noon)…
If somehow I can’t get anything done by 11 o’clock it’s time to pick up the phone and call one of my sisters to come help hold Lorenzo so I can have lunch ready for when Loris comes home.

Time for wahing my hair, cut my nails, check my mail or blog is out of the question. My FB page faithfully reminds me “you haven’t posted in 18 days” “you haven’t posted in 19 days”… making me feel guilty for neglecting my blog. But with such little time on my hands I have to focus on the priorities.

I make it a priority to water the garden but lately it happens around 10 pm when Loris can hold Lorenzo for 15 minutes and I can run out and tie the tomato plants, weed the strawberry patch, harvest the zucchini and water the veggies and flower pots. The good things is that I’m getting really good at getting things done using only one hand. I even went back to typing with only one finger and I’m still pretty good at it.

One day Loris came home and said “My mom’s neighbor ladies told me you shouldn’t hold Lorenzo all the time otherwise he’s going to get spoiled”. I fell like a bull in full charge as the red flag was being waved in front of me. I told him “Tell the neighbor ladies that I only have one child and I’ve waited 35 years to have him, so with all due respect I will hold him whenever I please.” I told my mom about it and she said children don’t get spoiled if you hold them. And if you think about it in a couple of years Lorenzo might not want to be held at all, so while he’s little I will hold him, thank you very much!

There we go, that’s as far as I go being a lioness with my little cub. A friend of mine told me that once Lorenzo was born I was going to be very protective over him, I might not like people holding him or touching him. Actually that’s not a problem, I don’t mind if he goes with other people. But I mind if some random ladies whom I don’t even know, tell me how to bring up my son. My mom is wonderful, you would expect her to be telling you what to do 24/7, after all she’s had 10 babies and knows something about raising children, but she doesn’t. She’s very respectful and makes little useful suggestions every now and then or only when I ask her.

I’m a very happy mother even though the challenges are great. I ran across an article on Lucy Scott, the mother who doodled a diary of the first year of motherhood and some of her doodles are so right on that it had me laughing out loud. The doodles are quite funny, because they are true, but being a new mother is not a traumatic event, actually it’s a wonderful new world you get to discover day by day. I love each moment I get to spend with Lorenzo and I don’t want to miss a thing.

My favorite Lucy Scott doodle. This is definitely us 🙂 Me at 2 am “Honey, can you move a little so I don’t fall off the bed?” He moves, I move Lorenzo and I have my space back. At 2.30 I wake up again because I’m falling off the bed…here we go again “Honey? honey?”…

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I picked up French in night school. The truth is that the first two years I didn’t get the language at all, which was strange for me for two reasons: 1) it’s a latin language, like Spanish and Italian and 2) I have an easy time learning a foreign language due to living abroad for a number of years.

But it’s only in the last year that I can actually say that I learnt French. I don’t learn languages the way most people do with grammar books and lessons. I have to “live” the language and this year we started reading and speaking French and that made all the difference for me.

There’s something quite wonderful about being able to read in the original language. Shakespeare is meant to be read in English, Neruda in Spanish and Victor Hugo in French.

For me personally besides being able to read and communicate, knowing how to speak multiple languages has had a practical benefit as well, as a language tutor.

When I lived in Budapest I worked as a Spanish tutor in a private language school. And the way that came about comes with a funny story.

I had just come out of metro 3 at Ujpest and was going up the stairs when someone handed me a flyer. I thanked the person and kept walking. By the time I got at the top of the stairs I heard a guy calling someone, I turned around and realized he was talking to me. I told him in Hungarian that I didn’t really speak Hungarian.

He spoke English and he said “You are the first person that thanked me for the flyer. Can I invite you for a coffee?” and since I had some time to spare I went for a coffee with him.

His name was Lajos and he was an English teacher. When he found out I spoke Italian and Spanish (besides English) he offered me a job at his language school. I worked there for a couple of months until I moved back to Italy.

Here in Italy I tutor a couple of high school students and that adds a little income on the side.

I also volunteer at the Italian School for Foreign Women and knowing both English and French is useful when I need to explain something to the women from Ghana and Senegal.

Knowing a foreign language opens up a whole universe of opportunities, and understanding the culture and mentality is one of the most important benefits you get when you learn another language.

Studies show that after learning a second language it’s easier to learn the third, the fourth, the fifth…that’s why you find people who speak multiple languages as if it was a walk in the park, for them it is.

That’s why Loris and I decided we will speak in Italian and English with Lorenzo in order to give him a jump-start in life from an early age.

I’ll let you know how that works out for us. Any advice on the subject of raising bilingual children is appreciated! 🙂


PS: I liked this particular photo because it has “Jo napot kivanok” in it 😀

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A few days ago I went to visit a family of four children whom I met when I first came back to Italy. It was the Fall of 2010 and we spent an afternoon together in an olive orchard picking olives, that’s how we met. They come from Macedonia and I used to go visit them a lot during that time because I missed Eastern Europe and having coffee and tea with them made me feel less nostalgic.

They live in the neighboring town and I don’t get to see them very often, but last week I knew they were home from school and so I took a package of cookies and went over to their house.

They have a very simple house, tiny and clean, with carpets in every room, even in the kitchen. They made tea and the older girls sat on the carpet at my feet and we talked. They told me about school and friends and what their hopes are for the future.

Hulya is 17 years old. She wants to travel the world, she wants to go to New York, Argentina and London (in that order). She studies Spanish as a second language at school and likes it a lot. She hates Math because she doesn’t understand it even if she tries to. She doesn’t want to have a boyfriend right now because it would interfere with her studies, but she wants to get married with a Muslim guy “it’s easier if we have the same religion” she said. She would love to go to university but doesn’t know if her family can afford it. Next year she will be 18 and can get her driver’s license but she is “scared of driving” she said laughing.

Melek is 15, she is studying to become a hairdresser, she had to pass a test to get into that school and she passed with the highest score, she’s very proud of that! She likes her school and has new friends but like her sister she doesn’t have a boyfriend, she wants to wait.

They both expressed concern over the situation in Syria and the terrorist attacks in France; and we also discussed the possible future of the immigrant refugees from Libya that arrived last week to the coasts of Sicily.

“We don’t even have job opportunities for us, what can we offer these poor people” they said and by “us” they meant “Italians” because they feel Italian, they were born and raised here, this is their country after all.

“When your baby is born can your bring him over? We’ll help you take care of him” Hulya said and Melek nodded. I said I would love to.

Two hours later I was going back home and thinking that if we are really going to work for peace and culture integration, especially now that tension is growing and barriers are being put up between people, the best way we can go about it is by talking and having tea together.

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