Monday, February 11, 2013

"Morto un Papa se ne fa un altro" or simply "Life goes on"

The world is stunned by the breaking news announcement of Pope Benedict XVI resigning. Italians newspapers and critics are defining it an event of massive historic proportions.

Leaders across Italy and Europe define it as an admirable, courageous and respectful gesture.
I am however perplexed, irritated and confused by it.

Under canon law it is apparently in a Pope's right to resign. But this is the first time since the XV century. Why?

Assuming that the physical difficulties are indeed slowly incapacitating him and preventing him from enduring his ministry adequately, I can see how resigning and allowing a fitter Bishop of Rome to take the lead, may be seen as an admirable and honest gesture.
Possibly even an extraordinary innovative one that could mark the future of the Catholic Church.

But why would this be a courageous act? Who is the Pope saving by doing so?

For me, like for many others, a Pope is a Pope until death.

Even Dante expressed this very clearly in his " Divina Comedia":

« Poscia ch'io v'ebbi alcun riconosciuto,
vidi e conobbi l'ombra di colui
che fece per viltade il gran rifiuto
» (Inferno canto terzo)

If we define his "gran rifiuto" (act of resignation) courageous then we must play devils advocate and ask: could this be a gesture of viltade (cowardness) instead?

I can't help indulging in the comparison with Giovanni Paolo II,  a Pope who I hold close to my hearth, and a Pope who remained "Servus Servorum Dei" until the very end, despite an assassination attempt, cancer, severe arthritis and Parkinson.

How do we reconcile John Paul's incredible life journey with Ratzinger's resignation? Some say it is not our place to question the decision, simply to respect it.  Perhaps they are right.

A decision with enormous historic and political consequences, too complex to fully understand or rationalize with simple speculations such health issues, or possible political pressures.

I am saddened and I am left hoping some of our Italian Institutional leaders are inspired to follow suit!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Drilling for Dollars

Pediatric dentistry is the biggest scam of all in the US! I am determined to do everything I can to expose and bring attention to this passively accepted and rapidly rising malpractice!

I got a first taste of this phenomenon when my 5 year old was suddenly diagnosed (from one visit to the next) with 5 tooth decays. Not one or two ...FIVE!

We had been with this  practice for less than a year.  We were told it was urgent and he had to return within two weeks to get them filled.

I remember the assistant lips unemotionally spelling the sentence, I could not think clearly. I knew I needed to regroup and ask some important and intelligent questions, instead flustered and overwhelmed all I could think of was  HOW? HOW is this possible?

My kids do not eat candies, do not drink any kind of juice, brush regularly ... HOW?

 It must be genetic and if so  it must be from my husband's side of the family has proudly paraded perfect dentition for generations.

In a temporary and induced state of confusion, I remember managing to grasp enough breath to ask if we really needed to do these fillings so urgently. The dental assistant  replied that it would be dangerous to wait as the decay can grow deeper and they would then need to do root canal, a procedure that would be much more traumatic than a filling for the child.


I left feeling hopeless and defeated. It is only after I have returned to the car that my brain cells started firing the appropriate connections again. It occurred to me that baby teeth do not have roots ...what was she talking about?

We decided to leave the practice, collect all records and X-rays and send them to my dentist in Italy for review.  My dentist verdict confirmed perhaps there was the beginning of a decay in one place but could really see no evidence for the rest of the impending decays. In fact, I was informed that in Italy they usually would never treat at that early stage anyway, as progression rates vary and baby teeth fall out eventually!

I went back to our Brookline pediatric dentistry, and shared the information I had received from my dentist. Following a three day communication hiatus, an administrative assistant finally gets in touch to inform us that the doctors reviewed my son's records once more and stood by their decision. They also concluded Italians most likely could not read the Xray properly because they needed more sensitive equipment.

The ultimate insult and the straw that broke the camels back!

I moved to a second practice in Brookline as per recommendation of my regular dentist.
After careful review, they concluded he did not really need FIVE fillings but only THREE! and once again we had to get it done within two weeks.

"FIVE urgent fillings needed for five teeth, another dentist came looking and then there were THREE"

I did not return within two weeks.

However two weeks later a letter from the practice informed us that  both of my children will be denied further  visits with the dentistry for failure to comply with treatment. Clearly it was evident from the beginning that they would make very little money out of us so why invest any more time?

I am happy to report that a year and half later my son is doing well and it has not had any fillings!
I read with great interest this article about the rise of tooth decay in toddlers and young children.

I have colleagues and friends with toddlers who have been under anestasia several times for several fillings before even reaching the age of 3.

While it is true that in daycare the widespread excessive and absolutely unnecessary use of fruit juices, particularly to infants and toddlers, may be contributing to some accelerated tooth decay, it is not the sole and primary reason.

 And while I am sure that some children require prompt attention and intervention from a young age, sadly this has become a money making business at the expenses of young healthy children. There are no regulations in place to monitor this malpractice and it is getting very serious in certain places in the country.

Share your experience too! I interested in hearing from you!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy New Year

Christmas came and went like a tsunami this year! So much joy, so much fun.  Myself and the terrible trio, who is becoming true to the word "terrible" every day that goes by,  have endured all traditions!

Once again I let myself indulge in all the painful inventions our capitatilstic society has so succesfully inflicted on mothers:
1) our very own ginger bread house (made from scratch),
2) Christmas cookies, and
3) a night at the theater to see the Nutcraker.

Oh repeat that sounding joy!

1) our very own ginger bread house (made from scratch), 
2) Christmas cookies, and 
3) a night at the theater to see the Nutcracker

 Every year we enter Christmas full of joy and come out of it full of stress, as we quickly come to the vivid realization that there is very little magic and joy accompanying some of these traditional Christmas activities. Yet we do it over and over again!

In the middle of making our gingerbread house, stress levels reached a record high. The children started to cry at the sight of the house slowly collapsing. The royal icing was not so royal after all and way too thin and drippy to keep the pieces together.  While trying to keep the house from falling apart with all my fingers strategically positioned, I also had to fight my 5 year old urge and compulsion of licking off the drips of icing using any available body part I had left...consequently more melt downs and temper tantrums.
The straw that broke the camel's back (or the house in this case) was when my 9 year old and, most capable and trusted helper in this endevour, dropped the entire side of the house on the kitchen floor...suddenly a tired and flustered mummy turned into the wicked witch from Hansel and Gretel.

My only choice was to turn to a Martha Stewart recipe book or to the Witch's guide to cooking (with) children! (No need to tell you which one was my preference).

In the end Daddy saved the day with a special trip to the supermarket!

Shaken by frustration and anger and with my nose glowing, not due to the Christmas spirit, I recomposed myself quickly and decided to access a more positive and dignified state of mind....

So my 9 year old and I pondered a better solution by turning our sideless gingerbread house into an open plan construction!

The Boston performance of the Nutcraker was a much more positive experience, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was indeed my yearly punishment for 3 out of the 4 boys in my life.
They loved it at first!  Fritz and Clara and the fight scenes kept them very alert, but then the Enchanted Land of Snow and Land of Sweets slowly but surely lost their interest. My 5 year old passed out, my husband slowly retreated in his sit and my nine year old summed up the whole evening quietly whispering in my ear  "So many dances...sigh"
I just could not help laughing, his comment was so timely and so hilarious, his expression so serious yet so comedic at the same time.... tears streaming down my cheeks ...I could not contain myself ...that made my evening!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Who is the fittest mum of all?

It turns out a day at the beach, mid-week, is the perfect time to get inspiration for my blog.

I decided to go with my three children and our aupair to cope with the horrid heath wave that is currently plaguing us and the lack of central air conditioning in our house.

As I rapidly and efficiently scan the area to identify the best spot to settle on, I find myself catching my breath at the sight! Oh  mid-week !  I was going to have to sit next to all the Stepfordy mums from the surrounding areas, who decided to spend the day at the beach with their friends and their children. On hindsight not such a relaxing day after all!

Still the hot breeze from the sea was relieving, and cooling down by the water was just what everyone needed! With a temperature of 39.5 degree Celsius outside, even the very cold waters around here, which normally give you leg cramps, became soon very appealing.

I am sure our arrival disrupted their day at the beach just as much they disrupted mine!
With a parenting style that can be spotted from a mile away: no fancy frilled hats, no beach coveralls (someone has to explain this one to me), no vitamin water, no superfluous snacks, no accessories, no useless toys, no picnic blanket. Our spot is bare and uninviting, nachos (a favorite for the ferocious local seagulls when left unattended) are replaced by a sandwich and a piece of fruit or a yogurt, and for mommy vitamin water is replaced by diet coke (with evil caffeine)!

But what really preceded us is of course the yelling, the cursing, and the threatening that could be heard from miles away,  an attempt on my part to scare the hell out of the terrible trio, so we could at least hope to get to the end of the day.

Sure enough not the role model these women were hoping to share their beach spot with. And this morning to top it all, mommy, coming out of a hellish week at work, had forgotten to shave!

With no shame I proceeded to show off an orange bikini "Doctor No" style ! As I sit nearby to cool off in the shallow waters with my son, I involuntarily indulge into listening in on their conversations.

To my surprise (or not), I end up witnessing what is commonly and famously known as a pissing contest. In a not so subtle way, they casually unloaded their judgement first on their friends and then on themselves trying to assert who amongst them was the perfect mum and domestic goddess. Topics varied from "who had the latest bedding from pottery barn and who had spent the most on it" (everyone agreeing 300 dollars seemed a fair price) to "whose kids scored highest on the baby growth charts".

Fascinating, I wonder if there is a unwritten code: "Must have pottery barn everything" !

The contrast deepens.  In a very stern voice I  threatened "eat your sandwich or you will see what happens to you",  while my rival softly and gently moved her daughter away from the water with:"sweetie lets move over here and make sand castles away from the water. Over there the sand castles get very sad when the water gets to them". I paused and asked myself "really?" "do they really get sad?".

Her demeanor reminded me of the female of the crocodile species who is phenomenally gentle at carrying her young with those same jaws which are also known as the "jaws of death".

I quickly return to yelling, nagging and threatening in yet again another desperate attempt to get my children out of the waters; while  doing so I wondered if a fitter approach  by gently and softly suggesting a giant crab is about to pinch their toes would work!

Still nothing beats a "sad sand castle".

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mary Poppins meets Nanny McPhee

Simply overwhelming! A database full of girls aged 18 to 27 (mostly 18).

Where to begin? How to find your Mary Poppins?
There is no simple answer!

For sure, once you find the right girl the experience is very rewarding. As the year slowly unfolds, they become part of your family and suddenly upon their departure a big empty hole is left to fill (or to put it in layman's terms, sheer panic of being left alone at the mercy of the terrible trio finally sets in!).

There is no happily ever after. The road to the attainment of this short lived happiness is full of challenges and compromises and so at best you may get a nanny McPhee, only before getting prettier she may get uglier...

And if you are now thinking you can do better than this because your master/ PhD in management and psychology will surely allow you to make the selection process effective and successful, think again! You can't make it the the Six-Sigma way:
You simply cannot Improve capability and Reduce defects in the process. 
These beautiful and enchanting personalities are unpredictable!

Having said all of the above, if you are still set in making your aupair selection a manifacturing process then here are a few pointers to get you started on this journey or better the " How to choose the best aupair for your family".
Choose a girl who is:
  •  pretty. Honestly, you and your family will need to look at her for a whole year! So if you trust your husband go for it! Note only if you can trust your husband: you all know what happened to the body of host mom Tara Grant when Victoria Secret catalogue-like aupair begun an affair with her husband!)
  • over, over 18. Especially if you have small children and need help. Remember regardless of the age, you will acquire an older sibling for your child. Just like your other children, they will be totally dependent on you, will not clean after themselves, will need your guidance every step of the way, will fight with each other, and will suffer existential crisis from time to time.
  • received an excellent score on the overall profile examination carried out by the agency. Excellent will at best give you a moderately depressed aupair who has personality and self esteem issues :)!
  • fit and healthy so that they will be able to run after your children, and also will be less likely to eat down the house!  And no, I am sorry but considering to hire an aupair with an eating disorder  to reduce your costs, it is not an available option and also unethical:)!
  • of compatible believes with your family or  else be prepared to give her a room that faces Mecca!
  • possibly not an only child,   floating around behaving like the "little princess" may not be of much help!
  • of a similar socio-economical background, just like your own children and common leaches they will suck you dry ...only they were never in your womb!
This definitively hedges your bets but even then I am afraid there are no guarantees :)!

If you managed to find an aupair that fits the bill then you are ready for the honey moon or the brochure experience !

Friday, June 10, 2011

Diaries of a Host Family

We have all thoroughly enjoyed the light hearted and humorous film "The Nanny Diaries", the tales of a college graduate as a nanny for a dysfunctional rich New York family....

...and now I present you with the "Diaries of a Host Mum" the tale of a middle class host family and their dysfunctional aupairs.

In fact even google is of the same opinion. If you run a search using the word "dysfunctional nanny" the top five hits are sites for au pair agency. Who knew! A simple google search could have saved 5 years of irrational and ridiculous.

 There is no more pain now, there is no more feeling, I am ready to tell stay tuned!