Saturday, February 27, 2010

Up yer bum !!!!!

Am I the only convert to suppositories ?

Not for my bottom you understand.

Its cultural heritage is utterly ingrained and it would go into permanently lock down if I tried to shove medicine up there.

It is still sulking from the unannounced enema nearly decade ago when I was I labour.

But for kids, hell yes.

The first time a really teeny tiny Son of Thor got sick at about ...oh I dunno six weeks old, the ped prescribed paracetamol in little bullet form.

I was about to try shoving it down his throat thinking the these Italians were mad insisting on big pills for tiny babies when the Sock Dropper moved the fastest he has ever managed in his life, yelling "Not that end !!!!"

Half and hour later I was still dithering trying to make an approach, pulling faces, making gagging noises and having a general cultural breakdown.

So the Italian of the family (who had no reason to get all superior on me seen as he acted like a swooning Victorian maiden whenever presented with a nappy that needed changing) lost patience, unwrapped a new one (since mine had half melted and was making a break for the crook of my arm in semi liquid form) and popped it in faster than you can say "bum".

I got the hang of it in the end to the extent that I've been known to beg for antibiotics in bottom form. (They don't make them, the gits)

With the other route to health, there is no extended tussle on the floor trying to get a sticky liquid into a spitting, hissing, kicking and raspberry blowing horror who not two minutes ago was passive and wan on the sofa.

My clothes never get sick, probably cos over the years they have had more medicine spat or spilt all over them than has ever reached my son's gullet.

The other boon is that, when child is in full projectile puke mode, you don't come away from your epic battle to get the meds in only to get it given straight back, at gale force ten, in your eye.

The downside is when you are faced with hurricane strength emissions at both ends you are fighting a losing battle whether you head north or set off south.

Still, overall I think they are my preference despite my high octane reservations in the early days.

They are absolutely Son of Thor's preference.

I only have to mention medicine and the next thing I know a naked bottom is coming at me in defensive, crab style with his mouth pressed resolutely against his knees and muffled exclamations of "only in my bum though, only in my bum".

You know how men expect their future girlfriends and wives to nurse them through the mildest malady ?

Do you think I have set him up to be a serial monogamist, as the women in his life run screaming for the door the first time they ask "do you want to take something for that minor headache/slight sniffle that you have been whinging mightily about for the last four hours ?" and get a big, hairy arse shoved in their face to indicate a response in the affirmative ?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Breaking news for anybody interested in HE Italy

There is a meeting/conference in BO on Sunday. I only got the info this morning so it is too late in the day for me cos I have plans that can't be shifted, but if anybody else is interested might be worth looking into.

28 febbraio 2010

L' AltraScuola

educazione libertaria, scuola famigliare
conferenza ed incontro per genitori e bambini

Dalle 9:30 alle 17:00

Sono previsti momenti di dibattito e confronto tra i partecipanti sui vari aspetti trattati, racconti di esperienze di AltraScuola da parte di chi la vive, raccolta di proposte e opinioni.


.Monica 051 6510109 (eventualm. lasciare mess)

Maura 333 4700945 (pomeriggio)

Pranzo al sacco o preparato dal Ristorante BIO-vegetariano del “Dulcamara” (adulti 12€ - bimbo 7€ )


l'incontro si terrà presso la Cooperativa DULCAMARA

Ozzano (BO)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"No Going Back" is a big fat lie !

"No Going Back" is a a big fat lie I tell you !!!

They waggle picturesque farmer's markets and stone houses restored to their former glory with a budget of thruppence under the nose of an unsuspecting viewing public, with nary a sodding word about the dead cheetahs with hard to locate vaginas.

If they put my life on that programme I can guarantee that the "expat" immigration would drop to single figures within a week.
There are days when I loathe being married to an antiques restorer/dealer.

Aside from the fact he keeps trying to sneak horrible, dark ugly furniture into the house that takes up half a room yet proffers the same storage capacity as a very small teacup.

Also aside from the fact I have to nag for a year solid before he'll take me to IKEA and then he whinges the whole time there unless I distract him with salmon every five minutes.

This is one of those days.

Any normal person clearing out their dead maiden aunt's house would chuck most of it in a skip.

But, oh no, he has to bring it home, into the house and spend hours prodding everybody into admiring it with him.

Which accounts for the slightly stuffed, real live dead cheetah, reformed as a moth-eaten rug, on my living room floor.

Other wives who have been sick for ten days solid get bunches of flowers.

I get a dead cheetah.

It's just not the same.

Whiskers, who has just discovered his (soon to missed) "marbles", is trying to hump the head.

My son is running around yelling "that isn't the Virginia !!!!" and trying to push him down to the tail end.

Oh yes, come live in Italy and be immersed in culture.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Educational site of the week (Italiano)

This is for the other parents with kids in Italy at elementary school level.
There isn't the wealth of online resources for the Italian curriculum compared to those available in English, which is why this site stands out. It collates links from all the scattered, limited sites, added to resources created by the blog owner.

I particularly liked the editable interactive games for Italian. They take some of the sting out of the slightly over the top focus on grammar analysis at such a tender age.

Sorry this short and not very informative, I'm as sick as a dog, but the Italian Sock Dropper has a sore arm, which takes precedence due to penis ownership. So I'm ill, knackered form trying to run the house due to several levels of Sock Dropper disability and fed up to the back teeth of incessant male whining.

Ciao Maestra

Easiest way to navigate the blog are the two tables at the bottom of the first page, look at the second table to find the downloadable, editable games for Italian.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Subscription site review 1

Nothing hacks me off more thinking I am reading a real customer review only to come away with the sensation that actually I am reading an advert. So for the record

1) I do not not do reviews upon request. I do reviews based only on my personal motivation (out of glee or buyer's remorse) to comment, positively or negatively on a service/product I am using.

2) I only review educational products and services that I found by myself without any prodding from the producers, that I have paid for in full and that I have used/am using, genuinely and extensivly, as a teaching aid. I do not "test drive" for the sake of writing a review as blog fodder.

3) I would not accept payment/discounts/freebies from providers for reviews...even if anybody was offering them.

I'm starting on a positive note cos overall this series is not going to be pretty. I have more cases of buyer's remorse than wotsherface from the Philippines has shoes. I signed up to a goodly number of subscription sites thanks to a strong Euro and a sense that I needed all the help I could get...and if I am honest, bearing in mind that before Chianti got me pregnant I was a TELT (Technology in English Language Teaching) consultant as well as a teacher, there was a fair bit of "kid in a sweetie shop - gimme gimme gimme" going on.

My outright favorite, winning by a mile or ten, is Maths Whizz

Review for Maths Whizz

Grades awarded

Dead chuffed
No buyer's remorse
Will renew

If there is one area where I am concerned about my ability to transfer my teaching skills and have a solid enough grounding in the subject, it is maths. Given the trials, tribulations and tears we had with the subject when Son of Thor was at school I wish I had found this service at least a year ago.

I coughed up to use it to supplement our programme, but very quickly it became obvious that it was of a quality that lent itself beyond supplementation and it became the core of our maths curriculum. It acts as the spine if you like, upon which all other activities hang off as a response to a visible need for further practice or additional concept teaching/checking.

What's cool about it

It allows ME to see what a concept is, what the processes are and how to present it to the learner as I hover behind him while he is working on it. So if he does get stuck I know how to help him go over the interactive teaching stage again with some hand holding and targeted questions to aid comprehension, or sort him out with some supported off-line work.

This was a bit of an issue before as I would end up diving into "Maths for Primary School Teachers" and emerging dazed, half asleep and mainly unenlightened an hour later, convinced that I was damning my son to lifetime of maths illiteracy.

It teaches. It actually teaches. Clear, well presented, carefully staged, truly interactive (i.e. they involve and engage the learner) instruction to guide the learner into getting to grips with a new or expanded topic.

An awful lot of services, free or otherwise, replicate what a lot of text books do, a short dry passage of explanation and you are on your own mate. If that was teaching we wouldn't need teachers, just text book writers, plus what it the point of utterly failing to exploit technology just to replicate a text book with a few pretty animations.

I'm really impressed with the amount of thought and work that has gone into ensuring that the teaching aspect is complete, effective and truly a two way process that engages the learner,rather than just lip service. Practice I can organise myself, this was the elusive element I was paying for. I have got my money worth and then some.

Consolidation and review. My child, thanks to nature or nurture, is a bit like me when it comes to maths. We can get it if you hold our hand, but we can't remember it once we move on to something new. At the end of year exam, stuff that was managed fine at the time has flown the nest and one is left high and dry, like the concept has never been met before.

This caused 60% of Son of Thor's issues with maths at school. I knew this was a problem that needed to be addressed in HE and was determined to implement a "regular recycling" model whilst home educating. But it was a damn sight harder than I thought it would be to move from theory to practice in reality. I spent more time stressing over what to review, how often, when and how much, than actually producing anything of substance.

This whole caboodle, maths whizz has taken completely out of my hands (insert gusty blast as hefty sigh of relief escapes). Nothing is left to fall by the wayside and the impact of this constant revisiting has had the most profound effect on my son's ability to retain information and by consequence his enthusiasm for the subject.

Far more than the animated format, this confidence building has been the reason why he chooses maths as the first subject every day (it used to be the last, with some hiding behind the sofa added just to help make me feel inadequate) and why he looks upon it as a fun subject that he can succeed in, rather than the particularly Machiavellian form of boy toture he used to see it as.

Building by degrees. Another issue we had at school was the fairly steep learning curve. As soon as the basic concept had been introduced it was on and up, with little regard for who was falling by the wayside as the complications increased at a cracking rate. Plus increased difficulty would be introduced with only a token attempt at refreshing the swiss cheese memories of the basics upon which the new additions were dependant. I felt like he was being set up to fail.

Whereas I've noticed that, in the Maths Whizz format, the increments of difficulty are personalized based on his results in mini tests and the time it takes him to complete practice games. In Son of Thor's case the programming dictates a steady review of the basics where he has demonstrated that he is struggling a bit, before adding in new information and it does so in "bite size" mode, giving him plenty of opportunity to get his sea legs and gain confidence as the difficulty increases.

My impression is that with Maths Whizz he feels like he is climbing a hill in proper hiking boots whereas at school it was more like trying to scale a mountain in flip flops.

Maybe I am the stereotype cotton wool mother hijacked by the bodysnatcher aspect of the "Italian mama syndrome", but it was deeply painful to see my son call himself stupid and regard himself as a failure. While I am extremely happy with his new found academic progress I am utterly delighted and relived to see him perceiving himself as successful and able. I tried hard to counter his previous poor self mage as a maths learner, but I guess external confirmation of progress means more to him than that of his mum. I think he has clocked on to the fact I am not impartial so my praise is worth less than that of a spider doing a jig powered by java.

LOL, nothing clarifies your place in the pecking order like a weightlifting ant's evaluation being more valid than your own.

I haven't talked much about the animated aspect. To be honest I think while this is what most people think will hold their child's attention and make the subject accessible in my view the reality is that the philosophies and methodologies mentioned above are what underpins the format and makes it so successful.

Having said that the quality of the visuals is impressive. This is no cheapo "pimped Hot Potatoes". What makes this work so well is what is going on under the hood.

Technology cannot compensate for a lack of imaginative, compassionate, principled and effective teaching. The people who created this site get that, they have put the teaching in pole position and made the technology serve it, rather than the other way around.

Overall I have seen startling progress and most importantly enthusiasm and enjoyment, compared to the foot dragging, confused and resistant stance we previously suffered from.

His stamina is improving daily, as is his capacity for mental maths and retention, which was non existent beforehand.

We had a couple of "hot spots" where previously concepts did not seem to "take" at all. All three have budged from their longterm "I'm stuck in quicksand" position and he has caught up with his peers rather than be left lagging behind. In other areas he is now streets ahead.

He is so motivated by seeing his "maths age" go up. That is the biggest buzz for him, going from feeling like he was weaker to seeing himself as "bigger". It's a nine year old thang LOL. He is over the moon that he has overtaken his real age and is now 10 (and a bit) in maths terms, from his perspective it is the next best thing to being 10 (and a bit) in reality.

What I'd like to see added in the future is a side section for parents to be able to use as warmers and coolers, particularly in terms of mental maths workouts and multiplication tables. Not that the programme lacks input in these areas at all, but as a warm up or cool down mini activity I'd rather they were where I could easily find them in a dedicated section. I've banged up some timetables games of my own for daily use, but not only do I have to keep making new games to keep the interest level up I also have to manually keep records to track progress. Having become used to Maths Whizz taking 80% of the maths prep and record keeping off my hands I've become a little work-shy and would much rather they did the slog in that area rather than me.

From a "HE within regulations" perspective this desire for something more has nothing to do with his progress in maths, it's more the recognition that this is one area I will put money on him being rigorously tested on during the annual examination he has to do.

Other than that I'd like to see it translated into other languages (in Italy for example parents send a small fortune on tutors to help their kids with maths, often without satisfactory results considering the massive outlay) and expanded, with the the same thoughtful philosophies and methodologies, into other sujects like English, science, history and geography.

I think the site is a excellent value for money and a really good option for both HEed kids and those at school who are losing confidence or struggling. However, all kids are different so I'd suggest doing what I did and signing up for a month (there is a HE discount btw, which I discovered AFTER I paid LOL) and seeing how you go before committing to a year (which is much cheaper than carrying on with a monthly fee). However I feel it was 100 Euros odd very well spent and I wish I had discovered it before I spent a fortune on textbooks, "how to teach maths" books, workbooks and worksheet subscription sites.

Building disaster 1

Well it had to happen, you can't redo your home without some horror stories.
Don't worry, it wasn't San Claudio's fault.

It rained in the house.

I walked out of the living room to find myself paddling in the kitchen which has a slightly lower floor. There were ominous sounds from the downstairs bathroom (not the one being done up first).

I battled the raging waters to the bathroom to find the wooden ceiling raining like a summer storm.

No burst pipes.

Just Son of Thor having turned on the upstairs basin tap on when the water was off at the mains so Claudio plus plumber could change a pipe, forgetting to turn it off again, knocking a decorative stone into the basin thus blocking the plughole, the water going back on and a Niagara situation forming as the basin overflowed into the bathroom below. For an hour.

Thankfully these old, old houses are hard to damage. A lot of mopping, the heating on tropical (that is a lot of wood lugging for the mistress of the caminos). And a humidifier being borrowed and all is well. Plus very, very clean LOL.

Hate to think how much it would have cost had this been a modern house full of plasterboard.

Am bracing myself for future disasters that might not be as simple or cheap to sort out.

And removing all decorative items that have plughole blocking potential while son is still small(ish)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Claudio's fatal flaw

He's a man.

I spent an hour with buckets standing in for loo and bidet, an ex-basin and drawing in the bath with a stick in the rubble.

Yes you can fit in a bath, a bidet, a toilet and a basin.

As long as you don't mind the "crammed in" look.

I haven't just ordered a very expensive polished pebble strip to set off the tiles and the most fabby flooring in the universe to achieve a "crammed in" look. LOL

Not Claudio, nor the plumber nor the Sock Dropper could understand what I was stressing about, but they all liked my solution.

right now the layout in the west wing is like this

But with a little help from Claudio it is going to look like this.

Which means we can go for the full 175cm bath rather than the 150cm compromise one originally ordered (must ring the suppliers in the am actually) and I get to hide the door the leads to the loft from the small bedroom. Which is just as well cos it absolutely sucks warm from that room as well as making it look ugly. and difficult to work out where to place furniture.

I'd rather spend an extra grand and really make an impact with this bathroom rather than save fifty euro's on jettisoning the bidet and spend five grand total for a bathroom that is missing an essential component and has a small bath.

Does that sound reasonable ?

Crash, bang, wollop

Claudio's final quote for the first bathroom (the guest one, unusable as it was) to be done was so good, so complete, so much lower than the ballpark figures (HALF !!!!!) that I spent Monday in something close to happy hysteria in the bathroom shop followed by similar in the tile shop.

He started work yesterday and now where there was a 1950's bathroom there is a blank space.

Despite not going for cheapo on the tiles (much to the Sock Dropper's disgust who nearly fainted when he saw that the floor ones were 70 euros psm, but I only need 2 sm for crying out loud, not like I'm proposing doing the whole house in the super posh stuff, the rest of that floor will be in a toning laminate) our whole bathroom refit is going to cost the same as my ex best friend's MIL paid for the same sized room with the same 1998.

For the sake of a before and after below is a quck vid the bathroom that has been ripped out...let's just say that I can't make it look any worse LOL

My head hurts though, what with measurements and picking things and too much choice and Claudio going hammer and tongs with a heavy duty hammer drill.

but I love him anyway ( :

The ex bathroom with extra, added ivy.....

plus close ups of utter horribleness...

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Both the answer to the universe and everything...and my new age in the morning.
I like my forties more than I thought I would. They came wrapped up in a self-confidence I had kind of banked on getting my thirties, but didn't quite achieve then.

But bugger me, 42 is a big number for somebody who still isn't that convinced that she has achieved grownuphood yet.

Does anybody struggle with the ever increasing numbers ? I mean aside from the grey hairs and the interesting ripples on bits of the body one never knew one could expect ripples on... just the toweringly, huge size of the age.

Am I the only one who doesn't just take it in my stride with a skip, hop and jump but instead feels a little befuddled on how she got here quite so fast ?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bob da Builda M

Bob Claudio turned up today. He is going to be doing all the jobs on my cascina that will take it from habitable to comfortable.

I've waited five years for this.

Being a persona non grata when it comes to credit (small incident with a Debenhams store card in 1986 and an 18 year old's sort of "free money" delusion) I had to wait for the "money in the bank" option.

What normally happens at this point, (over the years, having been through more builders, plumbers, electricians than a stripper goes through thongs, I say this with much evidence to back it up ) is that they arrive, I am happy they actually turned up, they leave .... and I sink into despair about the next bunch of expensive repairs that are botched, half finished, not what I asked for and done in a way to cost me as much as possible whilst leaving me as far as possible from the result I wanted. AND it looks like crap. Worse than when I started.

Not Bob Claudio.

He is careful, thorough, tells me how to save money on getting the end result I want without cutting corners, talks me out of unnecessary work, aims for a perfect finish and takes the rubbish away with him rather than trying to bury it in the middle of my garden.

Nothing "quatro soldi" about this man.

I may just have to kiss him.

But then he would run away and I'd back to square one with the I will resist.

Bob the damn fine builder Claudio il bravo costruttore, exists. And he came to my house.

( :

And no, I am not giving you his number.

He's mine.

All mine I tell you !!!!

At least for the next six months.

Monday, February 1, 2010

What are NON home educating parents THINKING ?

....about the proposals in the UK to introduce compulsory registration and some form of assessment as to whether a home educated child is getting a suitable education (or not, as the case may be).

I have a poll up at the top of the side bar ---------------->.

I'd really welcome any comments from non HEers to see how they view the argument, sometimes I think the voices in the middle, those who fall well between the very pro-HE and very anti-HE get lost in the kerfuffle, but since I don't doubt that the voices in the middle represent something nearer to a majority position of voters, it would be well worth hearing what they are saying.

If this gets hijacked by people with a dog in the race (pro or anti) I will sulk...and then just delete it with many expletives.

Just for once I want to hear what the nice, and typically very quiet on the topic "wouldn't dream of hassling Home Educating parents in the supermarket or in the post office" gen pub thinks and why they think that.

For me this is an exercise of employing my ears. My gob gets enough of a workout as it is, so listening should make quite a pleasant change and might well be more enlightening.

Facially Off-Putting.

All those years of being me a mule and insisting that he spoke back to me ONLY in English may have left their mark.

We were in the planning stage of a realistic account during his Italian lesson.

Me - "Great idea, but can you tell me in Italian since we are doing Italian in this lesson"

Son of Thor - "! ......I can't speak Italian to you. The words come down in Italian from my head but turn into English when they slide into my mouth and they won't turn back into Italian again when they can see your face looking at them !!!!!!" (all said in an utterly outraged tone at my making such an unreasonable request)

He is fine using Italian with me on a word/sentence level when we are working through the masses of grammar and language extension he has to do in quarta, or gong through the Italian books of Sci/His/Geog, but free speaking.....apparently the Italian words have a phobia with regards to my fisog.

He ended up coming up with ideas for the details of the story with me in English and then hiding behind the sofa to write them up in Italian. Presumably to stop my ugly mug scaring the words into translation.

I have a horrible feeling this might make me the "my bilingual baby" equivalent of Joan Crawford.

Which is some feat given that any coat hanger brought into this house gets immediately sucked into some kind of coat hanger black hole the second I put it down, never to be seen again.


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