Thursday, August 25, 2011

Contradiction’s and comparison’s…and gabbys first taste of italian gluten :-(

Ok, I lied, I said I would not compare… an ideal world that would be the case …. But alas, I am imperfect and I have sucombe to the temptation of comparing cross culturally!!!! Eeeek!!! I know not glamorous, but unavoidable sorry…..
I am not completely to blame though…. I like to think I have been culturally pressured into contemplating the differences…. Especially when it comes to the children’s local park….
Yes… the park … of all places… this is where I am having to dig deep for blending in purposes….by profession I research in childhood injury prevention and am well aware of the many dangers that threaten our youngsters…. BUT I have always let my children run free in the park – unless they are strangling each other – it is a chance for them to explore and mingle without there mother looming over there shoulder, and in my opinion of my children, they are more than physically capable….The benefits of growth this has on the children are fantastic: there confidence to do things independently both physically and socially (they socialize much better without me around) is far too great to be wasted on being “precious in the park”…. So as you may have guessed, my three rambunctious little aussies are causing a bit of a stir at the park, as I take a blissful opportunity to relax on a park bench and watch my children play.  Here at least the local Italian mamma’s and nonna’s are close beside there children (as old as Gabby) for there duration at the park….. and if the inevitable spill occurs, it is such a drama!!! Here comes the comparison….eek… “with my children…” a simple spill does get acknowledgement, I just say “dust it off – you’ll be right!” and they generally carry on… In Australia this form of acknowledgement is acceptable – but not on your nelly, here in the lucca parks,  a simple spill gets almost park shut down…..

The contradiction:
This may sit more comfortably with me if for instance, these families attending the park rode off wearing helmets. It is a rare sight to spot a bicycle helmet in this town and formal bike restaints even less.
If we take it futher afield… a complete ignorance to safety of the road and with driving…. Children are seemingly treated like precious crystals at the park but everybody drives like lunatics on the road – again often improperly restraining children….I know this is just a small sample size but I am getting over the evil eyes and gasps of exasperation at the park…. Next Tuesday I am meeting up with a new crowd at a new park and hopefully we fit in better….

New friends…
On a brighter note we met up with a family from Gabby’s school whom we did not know previously until we decided to come to Lucca.  Jane and Laurie had 3 kids in Gabby’s school and have been here in Lucca for 12 months… all three of there children are now fluently speaking in Italian. We spent a lovely afternoon and evening with our new friends and with twin 9 year old boys Jane didn’t blink twice at the style of my children playing…. Jane had an abundance of local tips and tricks, and Laurie had some great bargain tips….. We ended up staying for dinner the took a stroll with gelati, we inherited a few old hand-me-down bikes and we finally arrived home at 11.30 pm for bedtime….
Gabby’s first Gluten run-in
Yesterday Gabby accidentally consumed one of the boys slices of pizza at lunch time and as per usual she started throwing up. I mentioned this to my landlady and she insisted to take us to their third generation pediatric homeopathic dr. Only catch was she could only meet us outside the city walls…Gabby was still throwing up ferociously…and the boys were in the middle of their afternoon nap!! So against the grain again, I shook the boys up told them it was an emergency, and carried a vomiting Gabby downstairs… The boys lept to attention and were on a mission, with scooters under foot they were off… With Gabby flopping around on the back of my bike …. Vomiting all the way…. You can imagine the spectacle we caused on our way out of town….
In the end we saw the lovely Dr and he prescribed a plethora of homeopathic remedies…. We usually can do nothing in these gluten-crises moments so it felt good to think we were doing something…. But I have to say, Gabby has recovered very quickly today much faster than usual! So we will keep this remedy close to us at all times…
In fact she has recovered so well that this afternoon we are off to see our friend Flavio at the horse riding school for lessons right now!!!

Ciao amici!! 
a late night stroll and gelati with new amici :-)

.... and speaking of comparisons... park attire.... my birkenstocks are a world away from platform wedges an a mini ruffle skirt :-)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Family politics.....

Well we survived the return journey home from Lampedusa, but to say the least I was exhausted!! Happy, so happy to have had the experience but the constant child wrangling took it’s toll on my psychologically…L
Luckily for me when I returned to Lucca, I was met at the train station by a very dear Aussie friend, Emma.  Emma and I became close friends about 3 years ago after discovering that we had both suffered the tragic and untimely/unfair loss of our husbands….It is not common to find such young widows and even less likely to have so much in common….or more specifically mutual understanding of some ridiculously outrageous / irrational thoughts!! Enough said…she is a fantastic friend who turned up at the perfect time, as she has done before!
After a month of moving around and discovering new things, I realized that I was leaning to heavily on bribery to coerce the children, rather than getting them to do things “because I said so”.  The first few days after our return from Lampedusa I was swamped with “mum if I tidy these toys can I have a euro”, “when is pay day mum?”, “can we have a gelato mum”, “I want, I want , I want!!!!!”…….ENOUGH!!!!! It was literally driving me crazy … The negotiation is over!!! I will say what goes – end of story!!! Money is not only confiscated – it is banned from conversation!! After some lengthy conversations with Emma and my Italian friend Giovanni, I felt that something had to change ….drastically….. One of these being that I need to feel more free to raise my voice at the children…..  For so long I have tried to compose myself with poise and dignity, in a sense to prove to “whoever” that I am ok….we are ok….we are coping……well as it turns out, pretending I am ok doesn’t mean that I am “ok”.  So, over the last few days I have been putting my lungs into practice at yelling at the children…..and enforcing my newly found “authority”…. It’s early day’s, too early for judgment…but the lines that have been drawn, have been drawn clearly, loudly, boldly with no room for misinterpretation… Without doubt the battles will continue but I see clearly now that what these children need more than anything is a mother that can provide limitation’s and boundaries. A mother who can offer them strength by simply saying “no” or “no more”! Lord knows I have given them strength in love, patience and kindness, and this will continue… but I see now that this is alone is exhaustive, boundaries are required and the time is now for this family to find them….draw them….and build on these….

Ok, I need to leave you on a positive note…..the week has not been completely terrible – don’t let your hearts bleed for me – I am in Italy after all J

Some of you may remember that it was this time last year that I was in Positano with my friend Emma….it was then that I was thinking, geez it would be great to bring the kids to Italy for a holiday….. and so here we are again…. 12 months on, in Italy again with Emma….with the kids!!!

So I wanted to show Emma some local attractions and surrounds… We have cycled around the walls, climbed the two main towers, eaten and drunk bucket loads of good food and grog, visited the villa for a swim….but two highlights (for me at least) were:
1)   Visiting the “Grotta del Vento” in the Garfagnana region, unfortunately we were unable to take our cameras inside the grotto to capture the crystal-like formations on the inside of these mystical caves that offered me a plethora of inspiration for my newly found “storytelling/bullshit spinning” with the children. After our cave exploring came the highlight for me when opened up my packed picnic (which is consistently packed full of local delights of olives, salame, artichokes, and various chopped veggies).  After polishing off the picnic the children roamed free in the surrounding mountainous bush ranges and rocks… they love the feeling of freedom to explore and after carrying a scared Malachy through the caves for 1 hour,  I was happy to have the space…. Rest assured, there was JUST enough space, I could still hear and occaisionally see the children to know they were ok. They were happy as pigs in mud!!
2)   Cinque Terra: I first visited le cinque terra in 2003 with Nicko, after a tip off from my big sister as a must do in Italia.  When Nick and I visited we loved it, even though it was winter and swimming just was not a possibility.  We did the walk with relative ease and absolute delight.  We both mentioned that it would be a great place to visit in summer (not really thinking the possibility would ever eventuate) ….. Well, this time around the opposite occurred, in the height of summer, any temptation to walk was immediately quashed on our arrival and the intense desire to get into that ocean was impossible to ignore….As soon as our train pulled into Monterosso we headed straight to the beach – paid the ridiculous 30 euro for an umbrella – ripped off our clothes (into undies for the kids – travelling lightly is my priority at the moment) ….an ahhhhhhhhh submerged into the Ligurian ocean!!!!!!  I felt jubilant once again – after our drive to LaSpezia – finding a car park – literally running across train tracks – sweltering on the unairconditioned train – we were in Italian heaven once again.  The extremes are so broad, the efforts seem greater – but the rewards so much sweeter – which is something Nicko used to say regularly, it’s so true. It was a beautiful time in Monterosso, the kids collected rocks for about 2 hours and I was chief rock classifaction….. the kids found “rock eggs from dinosaurs to snuffleuffigus’ to gruffallo to platapus’”….. this was topped off with a granite di fragola for the kids and a lemon daiquiri for the adulti!!! The happy travellers felt confident to try out the next town along and caught the train one stop back to Vernazza… it was about 2pm by this stage, the day was sweltering, and the village was packed full….. within 5 mins of our arrival, I lost Malachy completely!!!! F#@K!!!!! How could this happen?!?! I walked up and down the hill yelling out his name ----NOWHERE!!! People around me could feel the intensity of my desperation and helpers quickly came to my aide…. Only a total of 5 mins had past and finally I saw my white haired baby walked back up the hill …..sad faced…saying “why did you lose me mum?”!!!! I immediately broke down in tears, telling him to never do this to me again…. Once we regained strength after our scare we decided it was time to make tracks home again…..
We have decided to stick to Lucca in the recent days and with my newly found disciplining structure/dictatorship; I think this has been a good decision…  One evening we spent a pleasant time at one of the bar’s on the city walls.  I managed to captivate the children with a story about trolls and fairy’s in one of the local duomo’s whilst I delighted in yet another daiquiri in the perfect Italian dusk…. I guess on of the recipes to our ongoing success of being here is the compromises… there is no way the kids are going to tolerate traditional tours (that I would love to indulge in)  but the structures and architecture are inspiring regardless of your age – and evoking my inner storyteller……. Sure they are full of fiction but… the best stories always are!!!

Again much love to all and don’t be concerned… I will continue to give the children lots of cuddles and love regardless of my newly found autocracy!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Extra pictures from Lampedusa..

summer holidays (part 2- Lampedusa)

So, I  last left you from the boat on my way from Civitavecchia (near Rome) bound for a town in North Sicily called Termine Immerese (near Palermo)…..This boat journey was a 12 hour trip but overnight from 8pm to 8 am – it was a pretty easy as we had a cabin to ourselves and our own bathroom. Very civilized and we arrived in Siciliy pretty well rested. … Once arrived we needed to head to the south coast of Sicily to Porto Empodocle (near Agrigento – a significant archiological site).  This was about a 3 hour drive in total  (as Ken the Navigator predicted). I just wanted to get from A to B as fast as possible and kept on pushing on without stopping – this worked well and we arrived to the Port with about 2 hours to spare prior to our next boat trip to the Island of Lampedusa (a 4 hour passenger ride). So I decided to find a safe but free car park close to port…..this was as easy as expected!!!! Not clear at all, and when I did manage to articulate a question in Italian? I had no hope of understanding the speed and dialect of the returning reply’s. So ultimately I had to wing it and parked the car up a hill about 1 km from the port…. With the car parked  I felt safe to head to the port terminal to collect our tickets….but it was 1pm and naturally the terminal was closed for siesta…. So lunch was our next major concern and as always I have to negotiate a gluten free option for Gabby – unfortunately in this circumstance I chose risotto….. which I later found out was a 40 min preparation!!! The restaurant did not seem to feel my urgency to finish eating and paying and took over an hour to get us fed and out of the restaurant!!!! By this stage I was in a hurry to get back to the port and  collect tickets and board the boat….. By this stage it was 42 deg Celsius, the kids were tired and ready to rest on the boat with our freshly purchased Sicilian summer fruits. Arriving to the terminal I soon realize that A) there was a massive line and B) I had left the passports and documentation in the bloody car!!!! You can imagine the expletives that involuntarily lept out of my mouth….with the welling of tears in my eyes and the weight of our luggage increasing with the increasing temperature – Gabby piped up and said “it’s ok mum, we can do it together, lets all run back to the car really fast – ready boys?!?!” in her most enthusiastic voice! It quickly snapped me out of  “defeatedness” into motivation and away we flew  - sharing the load of luggage and courage!!! Sure enough we galloped back through the village up the hill collecting more than just a few glances on our way – you have to imagine southern sicily/ sole fair mother/ three small children / all sprinting with luggage!!!
Sure enough we got back to port waited in the painfully slow moving queue to wait for ONE HOUR in the melting sun – but needless to say sitting down in that chair on the boat felt like heaven and I felt so incredibly proud of myself and the kids for getting this far together.  Our journey on the boat was easy and managed to salvage some of the Sicilian fruit that got squashed in our last minute frenzy…
Arriving in Lampedusa we felt jubilant to have finally made it almost 24hours after departing…. We were met at port by Giovanni who was full of energy/fun and games which I was depleted of …. Giovanni drove us to our resort where we were greeted by the rest of the clan and setteled ourselves in to our holiday apartment…. That night we were fully cared for and dinner was fantastic…. Risotto, insalta,  fish, pasta we were all welcomed with open mouths… J
Malachy at this stage was again unsettled – he seems to be the one that acts out his feelings… The poor little fellow has been moved around a bit and is obviously needing to find a way to let his crazy mother know!! So we settled in to bed to get a fresh start for our first full day in Lampedusa.
If I didn’t mention earlier… Lampedusa is actually closer to Libia than it is to Italy…so as the white skinned / sun avoiding person I am you can imagine my hesitation as Lampedusa as a suitable destination in the middle of summer…. There is no denying it was hot but humidity was not in the equation at all and the sun was no where near as scorching as the Australian sun.. We found ourselves lapping up the italian beach culture – which I might add is my idea of beach hospitality …… granitas, alcohol, coffee, cafĂ©, umbrellas that are hired and catered for …. It was heavenly and the beaches themselves… crystal clear with a brilliant azure colour so intense you thought you were diving into a picture….
This land of this island though is harsh and tough and at a glance in inhabitable but somehow it has been turned into a paradise – one that I indulged in in many ways…. The building resembled more morrocan / African style but the food was unique blend of Italian/Sicilian/Lampedusa…. My most memorable gastronomic experience was a bar called oscia (a former fortress of the armies) this bar was seemingly in the middle of nowhere but it had the vibe of the slickest of inner city bars but the family friendliness of  the best parks in Brisbane  - with 2 (real pirate ships, a light house and brightly coloured clapped out vespa’s included in the play area – I was ready to move in permanently – and so were the kids. It was the most beautiful evening with a sky boasting a setting sun with an almost full moon the light was fantastic, everyone was happy and we hadn’t even reached the bar for food…. Awaiting us was an amazing array of local delicacies and cocktails to boot!!!!
The following day we were taken around the island on a motor boat and we visited various little beautiful “boat only accessible” areas where we frolicked and snorkeled our day away…..I have to add in here that the friends we joined added an extra 4 children (aged 18 to 11) to the group with….  I am afraid that I have imposed on my children an irreversible desire of everything Italian … this was even seen in their interaction with the other children…. Spencer in particular fell in love with the two Italian 11 year old girls (massaging 2 at a time at one stage whilst they were sunbaking in their bikini’s) and Gabby followed 13year old Francesco around in a daze of 6 year old flirtation.  All in all the children got along famously as I did with the adults, although for me I would say communication was slightly more challenging – making it increasingly important for me to work on my language skills…..
The trip was so well worth the effort of getting to and from Lampedusa ….. my landlady said today …”never let the difficulty of a journey get in the way of something you want to do – the memories of the location and experience is what you will remember”. This is so true but I would add that the difficulties I encountered during this journey confronted me in ways that were unexpected and from this I have learnt so much that I am so incredibly grateful I took the plunge and had the chance to experience this beautiful slice of paradise….
P.S it is too late to peruse for editing so please excuse errorsJ

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer holidays (part 1)

Horse riding….
During the week we had a few sweet things that happened…. The first was that the kids had their first horse riding lesson (well at least Gabby did). Her teacher Flavio, runs a humble horse riding school, set in probably one of the most picturesque places in the world. There is something about the trust between man and horse that makes me weak in the knees and I was in awe at this man for his capacity to teach this little Australian girl who didn’t speak Italian – and he spoke very little English….But watching the teacher – student – and horse get to know each other was such a the pleasure… for so many reasons….but the most profound being the pride Gabby’s father Nick would have had to have been watching this unfold….In fact I was sure he was there with us watching it all. Nick had a deep respect and love of horses and was determined to offer the children at least the opportunity to experience just a little of the joy that he experienced during his childhood.  I had no expectations of how the kids would go, as they are all so young – they all had a go and loved it.  Gabby was the only one to have a “proper” lesson and she was trotting by the end of her lesson… This was a magical experience and we will be back to see Flavio and Sheila (the horse) when we return to Lucca….

Aussie Friends…..
On our last night in Lucca we were joined by two VERY dear friends from Australia, Bez and Teen. Their friendship and company has always been dear to Nick and I and this was no exception.  The kids were thrilled to have some aussie accents in the house and I was happy to have some adult company, albeit brief.

Holidays in Follonica……
Shortly after our arrival in Lucca and my attempts to join clubs/lessons/groups,  I soon discovered that very little organized educational activities are available over summer (or at least august) due to the transient population during this period…..
So this, in addition to my newly found love in Ken (the GPS navigator), and a number of generous offers from very generous Italian friends, I made the decision to hit the road (and ocean – explanation a little later…)…

About 2 weeks ago Giulia e Andrea offered us to join them at their family beachside penthouse for three nights…..For those that don’t know Giulia is the genius that recommended Lucca as the most suitable place for the Griffins to stay for 6 months – and I am sooo happy she made this suggestion!!!!! So we arrived to the warm embrace and welcome of Giulia - we caught up and the kids explored this amazing new space with breath taking views north and south  of the coast and across the ocean was Isola d’Elba. By the evening we decided to go for a stroll along the fabulous walkway that appeared to go on forever – and the weather was begging us to lap it up…. The kids and I went down the lift first as it was tiny lift that accessed the apartment …. this was fine by me as the kids needed a good run around…..instead….we got stuck in the lift on level 7 to be exact!!!!!!!!!! Supprisingly the kids and I were pretty calm about it but the inhabitants of Level 7 were terrified that a woman with three small children could perish in their lift….It was hilarious and I felt guilty for finding this funny instead of frightening!!! All we could see was about 8 pairs of hands trying to prize open the doors….to no avail…..again the superb Vigili del Fuoco came to our rescue and the Griffins were free once again….The inhabitants of level 7 almost broke down in tears at the joyous outcome of this terrifying episode and we giggled all the way homeJ
Yesterday Giulia and Andrea organized a day in the country side to visit some very close family friends (generational friends – to those who know of our family- similar to the Wall/Griffin family friendship).  This was to me one of my best days here yet…It took me completely by surprise and this family (nonna, nonno, 2 daughter + husbands and 7 grandchildren 18-11 years) created the most loving, warm, welcoming hospitality that was beyond my imagination of possibility.  We started off with a long play in the gardens / vineyard and orchard. Everyone in the family spoke English and for our benefit they spoke English for the entire day to make me / us feel included…. We all stumbled to the very elegantly set table to fill up on some amazing traditional Tuscan / family recipes… As tradition goes I was expected to eat everything …and in abundance…those who know me know that I am prone to eat like this anyway and eat I did!!!!!

After lunch we all retreated to a bed or couch that scattered this beautifully restored typical rustic Tuscan villa.  We all rose again at about 5pm to take a drive through some of the historical sites of the areas…. I unfortunately was grappling with a 3 year old who had possibly the most miserable afternoon of his life … and he let me know it….. As a result I didn’t get to absorb as much of the detail as I would have liked but what I enjoyed the most was moving around in the company of this family who were so beautiful with Spencie and Gabby – who were in heaven with the attention and affection of their new friends…
We returned back to the villa at about 9.30pm for dinner which was all laid out and ready for us (thanks to nonna) when we returned home….Kids being kids finished dinner before the adults and the Italian children delighted the adults with a plethora of theatrical , lyrical and musical performances……It was hilarious, charming, sweet, warming, inspiring and all full of family fun…. When the adults finished dinner one of the children announced that they would like to dedicate a song to the Australian guests as we had bought them so much joy and many members of the family (children and adults) played their various instruments to the tune of  “ode to joy”……Can you imagine!!!  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, hearing or feeling – how did I get here?? How am I this lucky???
By the end of the night we had all exchanged numbers and details and I was sobbing like a baby in the arms of my new friends – slightly embarrising – but it was truly an overwhelming experience. I truly hope I share more moments with this family as they hold the true spirit of family so preciously close to their hearts….
With so much gratitude and love in my heart from Saturdays experience we said our farewell to Giulia, Andrea and Marco and head to the Port of Civitavecchia (Near Rome) and we are heading to Lampedusa (via Sicilia) on a boat… which is where I am writing this blog J    In Lampedusa we will be welcomed by Andrea’s brother Giovanni, family and friends…… More adventures await us and I will be sure to fill you in when we return to Lucca…..
Lots of love to my family and friends 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Romance in Italy....

Tuscan romance….

The thing about holidays is that the days are so jumbled, I don't know where I am in the week or month! Luckily instances pop up that demand me to re-orientate , and I refocus….
As some of you know, our dear friend/family member/au pair Ceci left us last week to continue on in her journey of life (University in Madrid).  We could not have been luckier than to have had Ceci in our lives over the last 12 months, she will always be in our hearts. The logisitics of Ceci’s recent departure has demanded another recalibration for me, so over the weekend I tried to keep things pretty quiet. 
But I have to admit during the course of last week I think I feel in love……with a man called Ken….. well to be precise………. a Tom Tom navigator with a voice named Ken. With the confidence and reassurance of Ken by my side I feel like I can go anywhere.  This impounded with the never ending temptations of Tuscany in summer made staying home impossible.  I decided to head for Collodi which is the home of Pinocchio Park (the authors home town) first thing Saturday morning.  It was a winding, green, old road to Collodi from Lucca. This little town was beautiful and we were so happy to be a part of it. However if I am to be completely truthful I have say that between all three children, we must have spent 50% of our time in the toilet… for some reason this attraction/park has only one set of toilets… and between all 3 kids, we took no less than 6 visits!!!! You can imagine the stern lecture I gave them on the 6th visit…!
With sufficiently emptied bladders and bowels, we headed out of Pinocchio park to the Il giardino garzoni (the garzoni gardens).  With three kids who are partial to an enchanted garden this place and space was not wasted on us.This historical garden is framed with pristine symmetry, yet still integrating so many fascinating textures, shapes, plants, trees, water features and of course an abundance of sculptures!! Oh and it also included a butterfly house which was heated to a tropical Australian summer to optimize the temperature for the Australian butterfly inhabitants…..we almost all passed out it was so bloody hot!!! But the butterflies were beautiful, it was just the end of a long day at Collodi…..

With the help of a round of lemon granitas under our belt (and some chuppa chups for persuasion to walk back to the car in the hot sun) we settled back into Ken and hit the road again…. Any sensible mother would have considered this enough for one day and taken her weary children home for a sleep….. but no…. I decided to make a stop in at Paola’s spare villa for a swim on the way home.  The gardens at the villa provide endless entertainment and inspiration for the children to play, no plastic or bikes or toys…. Just one very grand villa, a garden that any fairy would cut of her left arm to call home, and an every growing sense of adventure….You can see what I mean when I say the Tuscan temptation are just to much…..When I am sitting in the gardens of this villa I imagine the life it has had and the people that have called her home. For a place that is 500 years old, she would have seen some changes but her structure remains the same….

This beautiful villa is not just any old home, it started out as one of the 300 original Tuscan villas that was the summer retreats for wealthy Lucca residence to retreat to.  As they spent so much time in these places they had to build it to meet all there needs. This villa encapsulates 4 levels of grand opulence, gardens that we only dream of achieving, a chapel, an orancherie (where they stored the citrus pots in winter)…. The list is growing every time we visit….All day satuday we were passing bridal parties and churches with family and loved ones gathering to celebrate nuptuals…. Inside the city walls there are 52 churches (Australia would be counting how many pubs would be inside;-)) So you can imagine the attraction of getting married here, and many people succumb to the temptation of the Tuscan summer and the charm of Lucca….it does make a pretty awesome backdrop to photos J

So after another long day we headed home, not withstanding the children were exhausted and our little challenge is that we have about 700mt walk from the car park to our house…. Spencie cried all the way home saying “why are you doing this to me mum!!!” I haven’t used the pram once since being here, this was the only occaision where I regret not taking it… but we made it and again another easy night of putting kids to bed….

Today, Monday, we had a more simple start and with so much sugar orientated bribery going on the weekend I realized I needed to detox the children… This was easier than expected as in a piazza close to home they have just erected a merry-go-round, this is fantastic timing and the discovery of a fantastic fruit and veg shop made a sugarfree day a piece of cake (pardon the pun) .

This afternoon took a drive out to Paola and her families farm, a working olive grove, the kids had a swim and I lapped up the breathtaking views. Luckily I have gained a new baby sitter in Paola daughter, she is great and this afternoon I got to do the groceries kid free and then Aurora (the baby sitter) helped me home with the children and groceries. The children were so happy to have some new company, and we will see Aurora regularly for Italian lessons for the children/babysitting/time out for me J Either way it’s a win win for all.  Just near Paolas house is a horse riding school that we will attend tomorrow…. So much is happening every day it is like I am in a spin…. Today we booked at trip to Lampedusa for next week to join friends for a week at the beach…This involves a boat to sicily then a boat to lampedusa…. See what I mean…..a lot happening but so far, so good…. I think of how much I would love sharing this with my nearest and dearest and I hope you get a little piece of this by reading these scrambled words I managed to write tonight …..