Thursday, 6 March 2014

Isabel's Golden Nuggets

Philosophical: "I am me"

Rage-filled: "Mummy, you're NOT my friend!"

Pensive: "Old people are gonna be dead"
(shortly followed by)
Worried: "But those ones which are alive, they aren't dead ...?"

Soppy: "Mummy, I love you so much, I want to marry you"

(at the traffic lights)
Curious: "Why has the green man got no clothes on?"

(thankfully in English)
Scathing: "That girl has fat legs"

Mature: "I used to play with that/wear that/watch that when I was two!" (she's now three)

Italian: "I want tortellini for dinner"

Totally un-Italian: "I want tortellini for breakfast"



(This post was actually inspired by 22 month old little bro Jack who, this evening, said "moon mana". Loosely translated from toddler-speak, this means: "Look, the crescent moon is the same shape as a banana". This struck me as such a genius flight of imagination that it got me thinking of all the other odd stuff his big sister has come out with recently)

(It is also inspired by my dad, who consolidated his role as King of the One-Liners on a recent visit by coming out with the absolutely corking: "Are chickpeas called that because they're for girls?")

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Friday, 7 February 2014

Pass the bucket

Ah, the delights of the vomiting toddler. He was sick in his bed, on the floor, on three towels, on the sofa (not the one with the washable covers), in our bed, on my pyjamas, on my dressing gown, on my face and in my hair. At one point in the night, desperate and delirious, I mopped it up with the first thing to hand (one of G's t-shirts) and then collapsed asleep on a huge seeping damp patch. He's had two baths and several washes since then, and yet he still smells faintly of eau de puke (the toddler, not G - he just smells as pleasant as any fully-grown man who believes deodorant to be unnatural).

Now the sickness has passed, leaving a tsunami of washing in its wake. Obviously it's 5°C and pouring with rain outside so you can be fairly sure that if you stand still enough in our house then I WILL drape a sheet on you to dry. I yearn for an airing cupboard.

No-one mentions the unbelievable quantity of washing you will have to do once you have children. Staying on top of the washing is, at best, a part-time job. And you will wash your own clothes only about once a year, your jeans never. Unless you actually get infant poo on them. Once, whilst having temporarily abandoned the slopes of Mount Laundry, I noticed a chocolaty stain on my jeans. Poo or chocolate? I thought. Only one way to find out. Oh poo, I thought. It still took me three days before I got round to washing them. And I carried on wearing them for the rest of the day. Motherhood has made me such a scummer.

Anyway, an innocent tummy bug has pushed us over the laundry tipping point and we're now wading in the stuff. It doesn't help that G seems to get through a minimum of three t-shirts and one shirt a day (not counting ones with vomit on them). I also can't get him to understand that by the end of the day, a damp towel left in a pile on the floor will smell just the same as that half-eaten slab of gorgonzola we're cultivating at the back of the fridge. On top of this, the kids seem to know that the big sofa has washable covers (no matter how much I yell at them) and treat it like a giant etch-a-sketch. I'm also trying to get Isabel out of nappies at night with only a 50/50 success rate.

Shall we talk about ironing? Most of the mums I know in Milan have armies of Filipino women working away in broom cupboards who take care of this steamy task. I like to do my own. By which I mean I don't do any. By which I mean I FOLD everything and squash it down and that seems to work quite fine. Having a scruffy husband is an utter blessing at times. I may not appreciate him picking at his toe nails all over the living room floor, or his terrible aim (I can't believe he is actually going to teach little Jack how to pee one day), but I can at least rest assured that he will never complain that the pillow cases aren't ironed* or the scatter cushions are asymmetrical.

So, as the washing mounts and the smell of disinfectant lingers, I quietly count my blessings. And try not to think about the lack of deodorant.

*this is apparently a deal-breaker for at least two friends' husbands. Maddness. Our household policy is never to iron something that someone will probably end up drooling on.

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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Charm offensive

Someone stole my shopping today. Two courgettes, pine nuts, walnuts and a packet of pasta. I was only in the Post Office for 10 minutes - which is a miracle and in itself worthy of an entire paragraph really. In my excitement at seeing there was only one other person there, I shot inside faster than you can say 'don't worry, I have my own pen', stupidly leaving my shopping in my bicycle basket outside. I suppose I should be grateful that they didn't cut the lock and take my bike too (wouldn't be the first time. Or the second).

The real story is that today, while some scallywag was sizing up my veg, I made the Post Office lady laugh. She actually chuckled at a joke I made. Of course, she doesn't realise that she is my arch-nemesis and that in my head the PO has come to represent everything that is rotten in the state of Italy and generally the reason that it will never become the truly great country it deserves to be.

She doesn't realise any of that because to her, I, customer, am lower and more insignificant than a speck of dust on that ink pad she wields so mightily. My envelopes are the wrong size. How dare I only have a €10 note - she's going to have to ask her colleague ONE WHOLE METRE AWAY for some change. Her computer has frozen at the very sight of me and she can't even sell a stamp now. She needs a coffee. It's all my fault. People keep asking her complicated questions. She can't understand my accent and I'm too NICE.

Being nice is, in a stolen walnut shell, part of the Great Cultural Divide encountered by many of us Anglos. We say lots of pleases and thank yous and sorrys and often (spoiler alert: I'm about to make an offensive sweeping generalisation based on a shallow national stereotype) this excessive politeness is taken as a sign of embarrassing weakness. That, or a sign of guilt - in which case, what do we all feel so guilty about? What have we done? (apart from interbreeding with the locals and infiltrating the supermarket with our baked beans and our sweet chilli sauce).

Anyway, somehow, I made her laugh and for a second she was on my side for once. All was well with the world. But then my nuts were nicked and I had to go back to the supermarket feeling totally daft.

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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

What they don't tell you about living in Italy

1 You will, sooner or later, become trapped inside a building because you can't find the switch that opens the front door to let you out.

2 Nobody is scared of eating seafood. And nobody has heard of salmonella.

3 Everybody is scared of the rain. And everybody knows the fatal powers of a cold draft.

4 You will feel fat

5 You don't have the right hair. Or shoes. Or bag. If you live here for a hundred years, you will still look foreign. People will tell you this.

6 The Post Office doesn't sell stamps, or indeed provide any kind of service beyond selling those brightly coloured kids' books with padded covers and being a cosy warm place for elderly people to gather in winter.

7 Your children will be the only ones in the park allowed to play with sticks and dirt.

8 Italian women clean their houses EVERYDAY. Your house is filthy. A bit like your children.

10 If you drink a really cold drink on a really hot day, something dreadful will happen.

11 Good customer service is as easy to come across as Hawaiian pizza.

12 If you (female) dare to eat out by yourself (say, to spend some time updating your blog or something) then women will stare at you like you have some kind of disease and men will stare at you like they want to give you some kind of disease.

13 People will tell you that you're beautiful. You will bask in this. Even when it's that creepy mechanic guy or the ancient barman up the road. This will make up for no.s 4 & 5 above.

14 Strangers will literally swoon and gush at your children. They will stop other complete strangers to point out the beauty of your off-spring. You will bask in this A LOT. Then they will tell you that your children are under-dressed.

15 The concept of an over-dressed child doesn't exist in the Italian psyche.

16 There's no Hawaiian pizza. The food is better than you can possibly imagine. Especially the seafood.

17 In the winter, the weather is shit.

18 Your family doctor will refer you to a specialist. You will never have a simple cough again: you will have bronchitis.

19 There's nowhere to park.

20 Despite, and indeed because of, all of the above, it is the very best place to live.

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Park rules

It's midnight, but I can't sleep because I'm contemplating stealing a scooter from the playground. It used to be that I couldn't sleep simply because my children had made a secret pact that the sun should never set on the Morozzo family. I can now happily say that we've come a monstrously long way since my last blog post and I'm now the mother to a three year old and an 18 month old who sometimes both (both!) sleep right through the night. Of course, I'm not used to being able to actually sleep at night so there's nothing left for me to do in the wee small hours but browse vacuum cleaners online and figure out the best moment to nab that scooter.

I came home from a blissful two months in the UK this summer to a broken hoover, which is, on the plus side, proof that G did actually attempt to clean the floor at least once in my absence. The scooter situation is a bit more complicated. Let's just say that someone nabbed Isabel's fab yellow scooter and left their own crap, broken and generally forlorn-looking yellow scooter for us take home. I have identified the thief with the cunning use of those eyes in the back of my head (they must put them in at the hospital while you're still a bit zoned out from giving birth). I've also noticed that the thief's mother doesn't even have eyes in her - well - eyes, as she's only scraped off one of Isabel's name labels, before hastily scribbling her own child's name on the handle bars. I should have grabbed it, but Jack suddenly set off on a high speed trundle to the gate and I missed my chance. I haven't been this mad about something since I caught Isabel dragging a gurgling newborn Jack by his legs into the bathroom - to do what I dread to think.

The scooter theft just represents a horrible lack of respect for park rules. If someone accidentally takes our €3 Disney princess ball home, I'll shrug my shoulders and be all peace and love about it*. However, take my €75 scooter, positively laden with a year and a half of sentimental value (not to mention name labels) and I'm swapping my Birkenstocks for steel toe capped boots.

Anyway, here's hoping that all the other mad mums/frazzled mums/going-a-bit-loopy mums/haven't-washed-up -the-dinner-things-yet mums out there get some sleep tonight eventually. Except the scooter thief mum, of course.

*although, to be honest, we wouldn't mind it back sometime. Thank you.

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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Bathtime

Isabel's drinking bath water from a little pink plastic watering can, Jack's ignoring all the fun bath toys and is chewing on a ratty old shampoo bottle and I've just realised that I've left the pyjamas in the bedroom.

Me: 'Oh, sugar ..'
Isabel: 'Oh, fuck it.'
Me: (Quick, what would Super Nanny do? Decide to ignore it, just like the bath water drinking - despite the fact that at least one of them has more than likely done a pee in the bath)
Isabel: Mummy, fuck it! Fuck it!' (laughing)
Me: (distract, distract, distract) 'Izzy can you be a big girl and wash your tummy?'
Isabel: 'Mummy?'
Me: 'Yes Izzy?'
Isabel: 'I got willy.' (points downstairs)
Me: (Quick, what would Super Nanny do? Call Social Services probably. Forget Super Nanny.) 'Have you? I don't think so sweetheart. You're a girl, not a boy.'
Isabel: 'Yes, got willy,' (quite determined now) 'inside. I got willy inside.' (more laughing)

Oh Lord.

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Thursday, 15 November 2012

You'll never walk alone

I'm so freaking tired that the other day I forgot I live in Italy. I was walking down the street and was surprised to hear a woman talking on the phone in Italian. Seriously. I thought I was in England. Of course, I say I was 'walking down the street' and you imagine me strolling down a sunny Corso Vercelli, perhaps pausing to admire some simple yet glamorous scarf in a shop window. Think again. The last time I 'just' walked down the street was over two years ago. I'm usually lugging/pushing/cajoling/dragging a combination of baby, toddler, push chair, shopping bags, nappy bag, toys, dirty tissues etc etc and not quite managing to simultaneously hang on to a few remaining grains of sanity. I'm loaded up like a mummy mule and usually either chasing Isabel as she flies round the corner on her scooter or yelling that no, she cannot lay down in the middle of the pavement outside the supermarket and pretend to go to sleep. It's not big, not clever and probably won't be funny for at least another 15 years. So no, I never 'just' walk down the street. In fact, I popped out to get takeaway pizza for G and I a few nights ago when both kids were in bed and realised that I no longer know how to walk without a pushchair to hang onto. I stumbled all the way there and back like Bambi with concussion. I felt dizzy, lightheaded, like I was going to just float up into the sky with nothing to keep me anchored. It was a relief to have to carry two large, awkward pizza boxes back home.

Of course, this is utterly irrelevant because I AM NEVER WITHOUT THE CHILDREN. Until you are a mother, you can't comprehend the concept of never being alone. This brings to mind a text conversation I had with my mum when I was pregnant with Isabel. G and I were in a restaurant but he had stepped out to make a phone call and left me by myself so, instead of looking like a lonely abandoned pregnant lady, I texted my mum.
Me: Hi, the scan went well, all's ok. We're out for dinner. You alright?
Mum: Great news. We're fine. What are you eating?
Me: Ribollita [yum]. G's just outside on the phone, left me on my own - typical!
Mum: You're pregnant, you'll never be on your own again!
Me: Ha - lovely :)
Now, three years and two babies later, I can't believe how sweet I thought that sounded.

Last weekend I actually managed to convince G to look after both children (both!) for a couple of hours so I could get my hair cut. It was as if I'd asked him for a kidney transplant. I had to 'book' him a week in advance and then send daily reminders. On the day itself I had to get both children up, fed, dressed and the nappy bag restocked while he sauntered around in his boxer shorts munching on an apple - all of which left me exactly 15 minutes to shower and dress myself, have breakfast and literally run to the hairdressers.
It goes without saying that he doesn't really like my haircut.
'It's very short,' he said 'but as long as you like it, that's all that counts.' (he should enter the diplomatic service)
'Do you know what?' I replied 'I've given my body and my sanity for this family, the least you can do is leave me my hair.'

I've been either pregnant or breastfeeding for THREE years. My pre-children jeans and tops look like doll's clothes. Even my feet have got bigger. When the kids go to bed I sort the laundry and I haven't had an uninterrupted night's sleep for over six months. My hair is quite possibly the only thing I still exert any control over. The least he can do is leave me my hair.

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Friday, 5 October 2012

The Playground Wars

I've absolutely had it with the other mums at the park. Today my daughter tried to join a group of kids doodling on the ground and they instinctively closed ranks, snatching up their measly little stubs of chalk to stop her from joining in. Apparently, this kind of cliquey behavior extends well beyond the age of five. Some mums are in and some of us would definitely be the last ones chosen for the rounders team.

The Converse trainers + Armani bag mums are totally in. They're the kind who are rolling in dosh, but who like to keep their footwear casual to show how young and 'street' they really are. Except, that is, for the €200 designer wellies they wear when it's wet. Their children are all obviously made of sugar as - despite the wellies - they all disappear as soon there's the merest hint of the possibility of a sniff of rain. I've seen the whole playground empty in approx. 33 seconds, mums and tots tearing at their hair and wailing 'it's raining, it's raining!' before I've felt even one drop. Not since the Wicked Witch of the West has anyone been so utterly terrified of water. Curiously, these mums often let their sons' hair grow really long which causes me to mistake them for girls and which may be the actual reason why I'm not allowed in their gang. Other potential reasons include:

1) I spend too much time hurtling round the playground yelling 'Isabel, get down from there NOW/Isabel stop that NOW/Isabel come back here NOW' etc etc for anyone to have a chance to make friends.
2) it's a foreigner thing. Too much hard work to get to know a foreigner. Foreigners also steal our men and don't use the bidet. Shudder.
3) I'm not friendly enough. (I just put that one to show how fair and unbiased this post is. Actually, I do have some friends at the park, they just happen to be nearly all other non-Italians).
4) their conversation is sooooo boring that they're embarrassed to let me join in.
5) they're just bitches.

I mean, come on. We all go to the same playground every afternoon, see the same faces, we're all suffering from the same sleepless nights and terrible twos and flippin' awful fives etc. A little mummy-solidarity, per favore. I'm forever smiling and saying 'hello' and 'how are you?' and 'hasn't she grown! I mean he, of course I meant to say he..'. You'd think I was asking them to donate a kidney, not pick their brains about bikes with stabilizers versus bikes with no pedals and other such burning childcare issues.

I may follow in Isabel's size five and half Tesco's plimsoll footsteps. After being snubbed by that group of children, she sauntered off and stole some kid's tricycle. Then, when she got bored with that (about two minutes) she casually got her own massive chunky chalks out and made the others really jealous.

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Thursday, 27 September 2012

An ordinary afternoon

Little Man is a film star at the tender age of 4.5 months! The other day I took both kids on A Big Adventure to the centre of town (more of which later..) where G was filming a promo video for the Milan Bicycle Film Festival. I'm officially a Bicycle Film Festival widow, by the way. Thanks to the BFF, G and I have spent approx 7.5 mins together since Little Man was born. The BFF is responsible for G almost MISSING the birth altogether. I love the BFF. Not. Anyway, in a kind of Mohammed/mountain way, G had this great idea to involve the whole family in the festival by filming a teaser video featuring a super cool guy doing scary BMX tricks while carrying Little Man in the baby sling.

Just kidding. He actually had a fake baby on his back and just carried him for real in the last shot where he cycles away from the camera, Little Man chewing on one of his blond dreadlocks
'It probably tastes of camomile,' he cooed afterwards, tickling Little Man under the chin, 'I use camomile shampoo for blond hair.'

As if this wasn't enough excitement for one afternoon, I then had to ride the tram back home before both kids turned into pumpkins. This is Italy, so about 10 people helped me get on the tram. Terrible Toddler looked aghast when smart man at the tram stop put down his briefcase and lifted her and her scooter up the steps. I was thrilled. The tram was also wonderfully empty - I must have accumulated some good Mummy karma, I thought. Half way home, the karma ran out.
'Mummy, wee-wee.'
Oh no.
'Do you really, really, really, need a wee-wee?'
'Hmmm...'
'Can you wait?'
'Hmmm...'
Silence.
'Mummy?'
'Yes Izzy?'
'Wee-wee. Now wee-wee. Wee-wee here?' (points to the floor of the tram)
'Noooooooooooooo - we're getting off!'

And that is how I found myself crouched in the road between two cars, in front of Milan's poshest private school, with the tram thundering past, holding Terrible Toddler's legs out of the way - Little Man lolling precariously from the baby carrier and the scooter slowing rolling away - while she did an enormous wee in the gutter.

And it was in that moment that it occurred to me that I've never seen an Italian mum dangling a toddler awkwardly over a drain. Do Italians have some amazing potty training secret? Do they just keep their offspring in the house till they're 100% watertight? God knows there's only about three public loos between here and North Africa. It's a mystery.

So there you have it. Film stars and weeing in the gutter: just another ordinary afternoon in the Morozzo household.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Wakey wakey, rise and whine!

So my kids are in training for the Babylympics. Their strongest event is the Wakey Mummy Relay. They pass the Wakey Wakey baton back and forth all night sometimes. They have perfected the smoothest of change-overs. Goodness, I'm so proud of them. The Terrible Toddler is also in training for the Whine-athon, at times she manages to keep it up all day - and that takes some skill.

Honestly, I think they just worry about leaving me on my own at night and want to keep me company. Bless. I've always been anti co-sleeping but have to admit that recently I've just plopped the Terrible Toddler in bed with me to shut her up and get some sleep before the Little Man revs up. Of course, I say 'get some sleep', what I really mean is get whacked on the head with Flopsy Bunny and kicked in the guts for an hour while I pretend to be asleep. She eventually gets bored of pinging my ears and dozes off, managing to take up far more room than a person only 89cm tall ought to be able to take up. Then the snoring begins.

And there I was just the other day actually defending co-sleeping.
'Nobody,' I proclaimed in my best Mother Nature voice 'would tell a lioness to not sleep curled up with her cubs because they need to learn to fall asleep independently. What nonsense.'

Sod that. Sod Mother Nature too.

If I needed any further evidence against co-sleeping, a couple of nights ago, just as the Terrible Toddler was falling asleep she wriggled and... I can barely admit it... she fell right out of my bed. Woke up hollering, Little Man woke up wailing, the neighbours were dialling 999, the whole house was pandemonium for the longest 2 minutes in history of motherhood.
The only good thing was that it threw the Wakey Mummy Relay right out of sync and they both went on to sleep for hours.

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Saturday, 4 August 2012

I wanted a bicycle

Just to clarify, this post has nothing to do with cycling. In fact, I'm so sick of playing second fiddle to a load of Bromptons, Pendletons and pelotons (G pedals in his sleep*) that I really don't care for bicycles at all any more. No, the title of this post refers to something my neighbour recently said to me. It was 8.30am, I'm outside trying to wrestle the Terrible Toddler into the pushchair. She's howling and doing that crazy toddler contortionist move where they somehow seem to dislocate all their joints, making it impossible to pick them up. Little Man's stuffed into the Baby Bjorn and crying his strangled little newborn mew. I'm looking fairly tragic with my pyjamas peeping out from under my tracksuit and the haunted look of someone who's slowly realising that they're not going to sleep again until the kids are at university. Tina, my neighbour, totters out to water her plants on our shared balcony.

'Good morning!' I shout over the general din as I finally manage to secure Houdini Junior into the buggy.
'Morning, off for a walk?'
'No, we've got to be at nursery by 9' I reply (we have this exact same exchange every morning, I think she's a bit dotty). 'Sorry about all the noise, I'm too knackered to care to be honest.'
'Well dearie, [this is a VERY loose translation from Italian, btw] you wanted a bicycle - time to start pedaling!'

Well, at 12.30am last night (and again at 3.40am, 5am and 6.20am)I decided that I'd like to get off this bicycle now please.

Only I can't. Ever.




ps: I love them really, I'd just like to love them from a distance every now and again.

* he's organising this: www.bicyclefilmfestival.com/milano and this: www.bicyclefilmfestival.com/firenze as well as running this: www.ecopony.it and being involved in this: www.cyclingnews.com/news/florence-to-host-2013-road-world-championships.

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Monday, 11 June 2012

Double trouble

Ignore the hype, having two kids is awesome. Mainly because it makes looking after just one of them a walk in the playground. When you've got both of them hanging off your boob/demanding the Pooh Bear sippy cup or I'm-going-to-cry-so-loud-they'll-hear-me-in-Azerbaijan/pooping with such a force that they're practically propelled across the floor and out the door (delete as appropriate), then it can be a little tough. These days, I love it when it's just me and the poster girl for the Terrible Twos. We play quiet, constructive, age-appropriate educational games (or watch Peppa Pig on the sofa). Equally, when it's just me and the little man, we have long mother-son bonding sessions (while I sip cappuccinos in the bar) and I literally bask in the cooing compliments he gets from all the local grannies. Bliss.

When they're together, however, they're already conspiring to give me a nervous breakdown. Yesterday Isabel managed to fall down the stairs while Jack was howling on the sofa (if you're reading this mum, she's FINE). Not my finest parenting hour. No bones broken, although she nearly burst my ear drums with her crying afterwards (mum, stop panicking and get off the EasyJet website NOW, she's absolutely FINE). As for sibling rivalry, the worst of it so far has been Isabel informing me in no uncertain terms that no, Kacki (that's Jack in toddler-speak) doesn't want any milk and that mummy ought to put him in his bouncy chair please. As she can't form sentences yet and has a limited vocabulary of about 7 words*, this communication involves pulling my T-shirt down while shaking her head and doing her 'cross face', and pointing at the bouncy chair while repeating Kacki, Kacki, Kacki. Even the maximum cuteness moments have a worrisome sinister edge to them, like when she stuck her thumb in his mouth for him to suck and nearly choked him.

Anyway, the sun's come out so I'd better fire up the pushchair and get on down to Accessorize where there's a pair of earrings with my name on them. I strongly believe that surviving this double-motherhood lark is all about incentives. And if I'm going to have a nervous breakdown then I want to look good doing it.

By the way, I'm serious mum, she's FINE.




*Not counting animal noises. She has about 50 of those, all in Italian - not a 'woof woof' in sight, only 'bau bau'

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