Author Archives: Firenze Mom

About Firenze Mom

Founder of the Firenze Moms 4 Moms Network

FIRENZE IN ROSA ONLUS: AMBASSADORS AND VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!

FIRENZE IN ROSA ONLUS

The 5th Edition of the IBCPC Participatory Dragon Boat Festival is just around the corner

The IBCPC Dragon Boat Festival  is held every four years under the auspices of the International Breast Cancer Paddler’s Commission. The Festival is an international non-competitive participatory event targeting Breast Cancer Survivors teams who engage in Dragon Boat activities as post-operative rehabilitation.
For the first time since its institution in 2005, the IBCPC FESTIVAL will take place in Europe: in FLORENCE, ITALY!

AMBASSADORS AND VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!

Imagine Florence bathed in pink!

Come one, Come all  Let’s hold hands and join together to support the International Breast Cancer Festival, July 3 – 8, 2018.

FIRENZE IN ROSA Onlus, the Organizing Committee of the 2018 IBCPC Dragon Boat Florence Festival, will welcome 4,000 to 5,000 people with 120 teams of breast cancer survivors from across the globe.

www.florencebcs2018.org

www.facebook.com/florenceBCSfestival2018/

In order to support FIRENZE IN ROSA Onlus and make this event successful, we need your help!

AMBASSADORS: 120 ambassadors, who will be the point-person for each visiting team. The visiting teams come from Singapore, Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and many from English-speaking countries, and they’ll need help with translation. The ambassador will contact the captain of the team before the event and welcome the teams when they arrive.

VOLUNTEERS: We need lots of hands to help stuff Swag-Bags, sell T-Shirts, direct people to various locations, and coordinate booths.

PLEASE COME TO THE FIRST ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING TO LEARN MORE. THERE IS NO OBLIGATION.

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR ALL THOSE WOMEN WHO HAVE SURVIVED BREAST CANCER AND WHO PADDLE AS A SIGN OF HOPE.

The Meeting,  organised by AILO Florence,  will be held at the :

British Institute
Sala Ferragamo
Lungarno Guicciardini, 9
50125 Florence
 
Monday, 23 October
Time 17.00 – 18.00

Dominique Coindre: Working Mom Stories

Dominique Coindre, a French Canadian with many degrees, chose to change careers so she could start a family by adopting her beautiful daughter. She wanted to explore the world and travel, giving her now 10-year-old daughter opportunities she could cherish. Being a translator and a single mom has given her the bases to pursue this dream of travel.  At times, it can be tough being a single mom in a new country, but she takes this with determination and passion. She continues to show her daughter that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. Dominique’s story is an inspiration to many single moms out there who are trying to live their dream of building a life in Italy.

At the age of 44, Dominique became a single mom when she adopted her “snow girl”, from Kazakhstan, in 2009. Her life with her daughter is made of the usual child raising difficulties, as for all mothers out there, but “Seeing her smile, seeing her becoming her own person, how she is starting to think on her own with the right values, makes me proud of her, and what I have accomplished so far with her.” Dominique had always envisioned “”to share” the world with her daughter, and living in Italy became of the plan”. They arrived in Italy, with their two cats and entire household, two years ago, when her daughter was 8 years old.

Dominique states, “It is not easy to be a single mom, because the burden lies on just one pair of shoulders, being in Italy does not change that reality”.  She has no break from parenting and no network to help in raising her child, as many others have with parents and close family members.  “Between work and being a mother, there is not much space for being a woman. I sometimes long to have more time to nurture old interests and develop new ones, but at the same time, I know this is our only time together and is short-lived. Soon enough, perhaps even too soon, she will go off on her own path”.  It is a constant struggle to balance being a single mom, but there is a positive aspect: nothing gets in the way of Dominique’s own version of how to raise her daughter.

When Dominique moved here, she did not have the Italian husband or family to help with settling into life here. She recounts, “I was psychologically prepared for the bureaucratic hurdles, but still found it all very daunting. The language barrier, of course, did not help, though I had some proficiency with Italian prior to moving. Simple things such as transferring the phone line, water supply, electricity, gas, to my name, getting the Internet, became protracted exercises in patience (and in  frustration…)”  The astounding amount of paperwork to get permission for her and her daughter to stay in Italy was confounding.  She recalls, “It was very tiring, if not exhausting” and this tortuous bureaucracy might well be a major factor in her future decision on whether to stay or leave Italy.

However, because of the Italians’ love of children, Dominique and her daughter found it relatively easy to adapt to the way of life here in Italy. Her daughter goes to the International School of Florence, where her main schooling is in English, and learns Italian as a second language. However, the school does not really provide for a social network, and not being able to rely on one certainly would make it harder to adapt. She says this is because of the fact she works from home and lives outside of Florence and therefore it restricts their ability to make closer friends. However, this is well satisfied, by the pleasures of living in the Tuscan hills, among the olive trees, and enjoying that oh so priceless cool breeze in the summer!  No matter what, both mother and daughter are so very happy to discover the country and to learn about the “Italian way of life”.  “That is why we do these things: to learn other ways, see how other people live and think, and this way we broaden our experience and understanding of the world we live in.”

In order to succeed in being a single mom and provide an income, Dominique changed her career from tax lawyer to translator, this way gaining flexibility with her working hours for raising her daughter. She acquired a University degree in translation and slowly started to build her practice. She was fully self-employed by the time she adopted her daughter. “I am bilingual in French and English. I had always done some translation work at various work places, so it sort of fell into place. I started with technical and creative writing, and then naturally moved to translating, which proved to be the more practical way of earning a decent living. This is what I did, and still do, which allows me to have the lifestyle I want (that is, working from anywhere in the world).”

Dominique’s practice, which is still in Canada, is her main source of income while living here in Italy. She first got her clients through networking. “I leverage my previous training and experience, that is being a tax lawyer, and therefore specialize in financial, legal, tax, etc. translation. I research the market, finding potential clients both in Canada and internationally, by sending my CV, sometimes having an introduction, most of the times not. There is fortunately a lot of work out there for good translators. Especially in Canada, where French and English are both official languages.” In the near future, Dominique plans to develop her European clientele, enabling her to earn Euros instead of Canadian dollars.  This would help sustain the cost of living here. “I am not sure if it is the living in Italy as much as the living in Tuscany/Florence which makes it harder, financially. It might be easier in other parts of Italy, where the cost of living is not so high.”

Because of Dominique’s schedule being flexible, she is able to participate more in her daughter’s life. She is able to go to school meetings, pick her up and drop her off at school, go to afterschool events, medical visits etc. In order to do so, she has to work longer hours at night, which does limit the time she can interact with other adults.  Because of the conversion from Canadian dollars to Euros, she has to work harder and longer hours to obtain the financial support needed to stay in Italy.  At times, this has “led to overworking, lack of sleep and having very little time to devote to my daughter.  Achieving the opposite effect of my desired outcome. It is at those times that I reconsider this whole decision of self-employment: getting a “regular” job, with stable hours, medical insurance and a retirement fund would have its pluses!”

I asked if she plans to stay here in Italy. She responded, “I don’t think we will stay here for as long as I had initially thought. I wanted to stay here for the rest of my daughter’s primary and secondary schooling but I do not think this will happen. We are going to stay one more year for sure, until she gets to middle school. Then, we shall see. I do like it here, and consider ourselves very lucky indeed to be here. I am not prepared to leave yet. Work opportunities will likely dictate our next move, but I am not there yet. I am not done with Italy. Will I ever leave? Is one really ever ready to leave?”

Expat Mom Birth Stories: Elsa Rich

Elsa Rich, a French expatriate, married her American husband 9 years ago. When she was pregnant with her third child, she thought all would go easy like with her first two children. That could not be any further from the truth.

Elsa met her husband in Paris through a dating website. She states, “Never thought I would meet my husband like that.” They moved around a lot and before moving to Italy, they lived in Switzerland. The differences between Switzerland and Italy are, “like day and night!” The move to Italy organized and paid by her husband’s company, consisted of their two children at the ages of 18 months and 1 month old.  The move to Italy affected her negatively, for many reasons. First two days after arriving, her husband had to fly to London for 5 days leaving her to handle their two children in a new country.  She also experienced postpartum depression after the birth of her second child.  She needed to find some help in dealing with the move and the depression to tolerate living here. When I asked about support system here in Italy, she stated, “If I really need help I fly my mom from Paris. I can ask help from friends but they are also busy with work and kids, so not so easy” She still finds it hard to live here but with each year it has been became easier. Their plans are to stay here because of her husband’s job. “FMs4Ms Network surely helped me to find some friends and support. The network has also very good tips/ explanations on how life works here.”

About 2 years ago, Elsa found out she was pregnant and was going to have her third baby delivered in Italy. Because she wanted to have a wonderful experience with her pregnancy and delivery, she got a referral of a private OBGYN but also made appointments through the ASL public system found here in Italy. She was very happy with her OBGYN and continued to have an uncomplicated pregnancy. She just had only the small, annoying normal pregnancy symptoms. Since this was her third pregnancy, she did not feel she needed to go to the prenatal classes

Elsa had a smooth sailing through the third pregnancy until she went to deliver five days before her due date at Torregalli Hospital.  She states why she chose Torregalli hospital, “I wanted the epidural and my doctor told me that was my best shot was at that hospital. was terrified of not having it. I had epidural for the first two and it really helped me.” At Torregalli, the rooms are old looking with old fashion beds, without remote control to adjust the bed head. As for the eating utensils she states, “I had to bring a mug and cutlery. I really thought it was a joke when my friend told me I had to bring those. I had my first meal (pasta) with a piece of bread replacing the fork.”

Because it was very crowded that day, while she was in labor she was placed in the hallway. When she finally arrived in the room after delivery, she was with three other pregnant women that were not in labor.  She was the only one with a baby in that room. One patient in the room was very sick and dehydrated as for the others; she was not sure why they were there, but none with babies. She explained her horrible labor experience with her third child in detail.

“Labor was short: 2h30, but very intense. I was in a corridor, as they had no space for me. No one was talking to me or looking me in the eyes. I was in labor and had perform the check in process of lots of questions. An example of those questions is, “What does your husband study and for how many years?” The same questions for me as well. I was thinking, “I am in labor, any chance you can ask me that at another moment?”

I asked for an epidural and they gave me the “yeah the anesthesiologist is coming soon” speech. He never came, of course. I made them call another one, but when she finally arrived, she only said, “you’ll have to push in 5 minutes so it’s not worth it”.

The head of the maternity ward arrived a bit before and literally, slapped my leg and said ” well, open your legs otherwise it won’t come out!” As if, I was the most idiot person in the world.

Because of the pain and the “French attitude “I yelled he should leave or he will get hurt.

Then my husband got mad and said it was outrageous that they make women suffer like this for nothing. I was scared they would send him out so asked him to calm down.

Every time the doctor, who did not look at me or talk to me, would check my dilatation it would give me horrible contractions. I got to the point where, I told her not to touch me again. I told her, “I will tell you when I feel the need to push”. The midwives acted as if they did not want to be there. I had to go to the bathroom by myself while in labor. Once I was seated, I screamed that I needed to push. They screamed, “don’t push!” Like I had any control of this! I asked for a wheel chair since the pain was paralyzing my legs. The nurses went on and on about who had the wheel chair, and where it was located. They were so unorganized and ridiculous.

I had to walk to the table. I looked at one doctor and said, “I’m scared, I need a 5 minute break from this pain.” She did not even respond or even say something encouraging.

I began pushing. My husband was cheering and supporting me like a champion, but I felt something was wrong. I was scared and no one was telling me anything about what was going on. I bent over and tried to reach for my baby to pull her out myself, as I have done for the other two. Three people held me back on the table.  I began to kick and scream, “Let me go! Do not touch me!” I am sure I hurt some of them and I saw the head of the maternity ward jerked back. I think I kicked him in the stomach. If I did, I feel he deserved it anyway! No one talked or comforted me while all this was happening.

Then I felt a horrible excruciating pain; it was the doctor’s hand scrapping my pelvic bone to free the baby.  I still did not understand what was happening. Then at last, I saw my sweet baby, but I was panicking and shaking, I did not get to enjoy this birthing experience. I could not hold her. I kept saying, “I’m sorry” over and over again, I was in shock and was trying to acknowledge what had happened, but I couldn’t. All I saw was bright lights and so many doctors.  My husband was against the wall. I was trying to see my baby, but everything was blurry.

The doctor told me I needed two stitches.  I jumped when she tried to make the local anesthesia. She rolled her eyes and said to the anesthesiologist “Just put her under will you. I had enough.”

Therefore, they gave me general anesthesia for two stitches but no epidural. This did not make sense, right?

When I woke up the baby was not with me. I was, again in the corridor, alone. I was wondering what had happened. Then a nurse arrived to tell me that they had to check the baby’s shoulder. She mentioned that she would be brought to me soon, because we needed to make a latch on as soon as possible. This was without asking me if I had made the choice to breastfeed or bottle feed.”

Since in Italy it is very big to force breast-feeding, I asked which she had chosen to do with her third child.  She tried to breast feed again with failing attempts, because that was what the hospital demanded. When she asked for a bottle, the nurses told her that she needed a consent from the pediatrician. “They treated me like a neglecting mom and they didn’t offer any support for helping me breastfeed. They gave a five minute lesson on how to make the baby latch.”  Her overall experience was, “It was the worst of all my three giving birth experiences. It really felt like women must suffer and must breastfeed as if we were in the 19th century’s. In addition, the way men doctors would talk to my husband and not me and women doctors would talk to me and ignoring my husband because “men don’t do these things” (like changing diapers etc…)”.

Elsa now pregnant with her fourth child has decided for obvious reasons that she will not be going to Torregalli to give birth.   She claims, “For this baby I’m going to try the Margherita center. At least I know that I will not get the epidural, but I’m hoping for a bit more humanity and support.”

Author: Kimberly Vanzi

Working Mom Stories: Kate Whalen

Kate Whalen, an Australian expatriate from Melbourne, living now in Prato with her husband and toddler son, has overcame the dilemmas that many face in finding a job in Italy. After arriving in Firenze, 7 years ago on a holiday trip, she met her Italian husband one night at a pub in Santa Croce, which would be changing her life forever.  Like for most Italian families, a dual income is the standard for family living and for Kate’s family there is no exception.  Through the 7 years of living in Italy, Kate, an aspiring woman, has attained a job she loves and is also in the process of creating a new startup business adventure.

Kate left behind her job as a restaurant manager, working for a celebrity Australian chef. Though she really enjoyed that job, she was not able to continue that type of work here in Italy. Those similar jobs require extensive Italian language, something that Kate did not have at the time. Kate earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Archaeology, but focused more on her Bachelor in English in her search for a Job in Italy. It was not long after she completed a TEFL course at a learning center in Firenze, that she was hired by the same center to teach English to local students. After 2 years at this teaching job, she developed enough experience to go out on her own and teach courses in Isolotto at a community center and elementary schools.   Three more years later, Kate started a freelance business with partita iva teaching Business English. She only works for companies on a contract-based salary conducted through a training agency or the company itself.  Because of bad work experiences with schools, Kate strictly conducts all her work for companies. Concerning her contracts, she has her “commercialista” draw-up the documents between the hiring companies and her. She states the terms of the contract and having this kind of document gives her a sense of security needed when dealing with an independent owned business.  Sometimes she gets a “lettera d’incarico” from a training agency where she has her commercialista check over its legitimacy.  How does INPS affect her contracts?

“INPS HURTS…..it’s expensive and I honestly hate paying it. Having said that, I did receive five months of maternity payments plus three months of half-maternity payments because I had paid so much in INPS the previous year. That’s the only positive thing I can say about my relationship with INPS at this point.”

She claims it is easy to get a Partita IVA, but the hardest part is paying the INPS and taxes associated with having a freelance type business.  She started with the ‘regime minime’, so she only paid 5% in tax the first 4 years, but that was when her yearly income had to remain under a certain amount. She states, “The problem is, people with the partita IVA don’t only have to pay taxes and INPS in June, but also another payment in November which is an estimated part payment of what you will be paying for the following year….. Confusing and annoying and sometimes a shock to receive.”   Though she has these contracts, most invoices are paid after 60 or 90 days, so budgeting and planning is important. With more ups than downs in her freelance business, she claims: “It’s the best decision I made regarding my teaching career here, and I haven’t looked back.”

I was curious as to how working has affected her family life.  Kate considers it as one of the best jobs in the world for my family, as it has flexible hours, no weekends, and no evenings.   Kate and her husband decided to place their child in “Asilo” at 5 months for two mornings a week.  She states her infant son benefits from going to the Asilo, “He loves it. He plays, learns and socialises, plus he eats incredibly well. And now that he is 17 months, he is happy to go every day.”

She might have her career of choice, but that has not stopped her from pursuing other business type adventures.  Kate is in the process of designing and implementing another wonderful startup business, created from her expat experience living and giving birth here in Italy. Kate had to go around and collect special items to have when she was going to be in the hospital and at home after delivery.  She says, “pads, nipple balm etc….the things no one really wants to buy and no one really talks about!”  She realized that it was many trips around to get the right items instead of a one stop bag with all the items needed. Kate states, “So I came up with the idea to create a pre packed hospital kit for mums to be. They exist in Australia, the UK and the US, so I’ve decided to give it a shot here. It isn’t a baby kit, this is just for mums and I think it could make a nice baby shower gift from friends or family.  Many of the products I have chosen are certified organic, biodegradable and recyclable. Much of the packaging has been recycled and has low C02s, so are more friendly on the environment than other products on the market. From my research, most people would prefer to throw away the items they use in the hospital, rather than bring them home, therefore it became apparent to me that I needed to create something with as little negative impact on the environment as possible.  In addition, most of the products are produced in Italy. So I’m going to give it a try! Watch this space!”

Kate Whalen came to Italy on a getaway vacation not realizing she would find the love of her life and start to raise a family all while being a motivated woman enjoying her career and creating another one with hopes to help other moms with their births in Italy.  She is a woman many expat moms could learn a lot from in their search to expand their career here in Italy. Just reach out your hands and go for it, it will happen.

Author: Kimberly Vanzi

 

I want to share my story:  Click here to submit to be interviewed.

Our different Groups of FMs4Ms Network

Our many Meetup groups that have been offered for years. Most are done by email through the sign up list and some posted on our facebook page and discussion group. Through these meetings it is great way to meet some other moms and have your children meet other children.

Our Meetup group: Mom’s Mingles other Big Events (Like holiday parties other information that goes to all members): run by volunteer Sheila Corwin and Kimberly Vanzi We post some mingles on the public Facebook page but if you are not on that one click: http://eepurl.com/b1QIaT ****Note The Moms mingles are just moms, but the holiday events are whole family events

Our Meetup group: Toddler Group (ages 1 to preschool): run by volunteer member Vicky Hallett to sign up click: http://eepurl.com/b1QHSr

Our Meetup group: Expecting Moms and Moms with Newborns (pregnant moms & children up until 1 year) : run by volunteer member Aida Musai These meetings are done by email and some events posted in the closed discussion group.  to sign up click: http://eepurl.com/b1QHIL

 

Tiramisu: The way I like it!

There are many Tiramisu recipes out there. It ranges from cake like to pudding
texture, very chocolaty to alcoholic. Well, I am big on the pudding-like texture with a
touch of chocolate and a splash of Vin Santo.

Ingredients:
bag of Lady finger cookies
1 cup coffee/espresso cooled (you can use decaf)
1/4 cup Vin Santo or Marsala (optional)
4 fresh eggs separated
500 grams Mascarpone whipped
1/2 cup sugar
dash of salt
cocoa powder to sprinkle on top

First you are going to want to beat the egg yolks with sugar, then add in the
marscapone and salt.

In the cup of espresso add the Vin Santo.  The alcohol is optional and you can use decaf as well.

Whisk the egg whites with a tablespoon of sugar, until they are stiff peaks.

Almost there!

And finished, glossy with stiff peaks

Take a small amount of the whites and add to the mascarpone mixture. Slowly fold
in the rest until you create a nice creamy pudding-like mixture. But try to keep it
light and fluffy, if you mix too much it will flatten.

Assembling:
In a medium size flat casserole dish lay a row of lady fingers, pour 1/2 cup of the
coffee (combined with the alcohol if using) over the lady fingers just lightly soaking
them.

Spread a layer of the mascarpone cream mixture. Take the next set of lady fingers and dip
the bottom of each one in the remaining coffee and place on top of the cream.

Cover again with the rest of the cream and sprinkle cocoa powder on top.
Refrigerate for at least an hour.


Enjoy!

Please donate to keep this Network

This is the monthly reminder that the FMs4Ms Network needs your help in donations to continue this network that was set up in 2004 to help expat moms in their move to Italy.

Thank you to the few moms that have donated to give us 100 euro which has helped to keep a few things going so far. We are completely a volunteer organized network without a collection of a membership fee, but unfortunately we do accrue costs to keep this network going. We lost our holiday events because we could not afford them. So we are asking you for a small donation to help keep this group up and running. The 2000 goal is there so that we can  have the network for the years to come. The money that is donated is going all to the network for all the different avenues we have to give you the information along with events to help you adapt to living here.

If you are a business reading this: We the option to post your business information on our visitor posting section on our Facebook page to our many followers, we are also asking you to offer a donation for this opportunity. For if this network closes down, you would not have it to post your lovely business that is related to the expat moms.

To donate just click the link. Your donation goes through your credit card as the amount you put enter. The charges are all on our end. https://www.gofundme.com/FMs4Ms-Network

Homemade Sour Cream

Sour Cream used a lot in many American foods can be hard to find here in Italy.  The Italian name is Panna Acida. I have found it in the COOP grocery store in Firenze, but recently they changed the brand and I really do not like the texture and taste. So now, I have decided to try to make it. I make my own sourdough starter, so this should not be hard.  Right? It is not hard at all just follow the recipe below. Soon you too will have Sour Cream to use in your favorite recipes.

Now many recipes will call for buttermilk and heavy cream. This seems to be the ingredients used for Crème Fraiche.  That is not what I am trying to make here. You can do the same technique with my recipe, adding 1 cup buttermilk to 2 cups cream, and get Crème Fraiche if that is what you are looking to make.

It is simple get a liter size sterile mason jar. The jars need to be sterile because you only want to grow the bacteria needed for making sour cream.  You can sterilize it in your dishwasher hot cycle or boil water and put the jar and lid in the boiling water for 10 minutes.  Look at this video if you are going to use the boil water method.

Video for sterilizing jars

Next, get your ingredients:

  • Sour cream from store (if you cannot find sour cream then lemon for juicing)
  • Whipping Cream in the refrigerated section (panna fresca) ** do not get anything with UHT it will not work.

That is it. Take 2 cups whipping Cream in to the jar, and then add 4 tsp of lemon juice or 1/2 cup of sour cream.  Stir the mixture well and cover with paper towel or cheesecloth secure with rubber band. Place on your counter and let it sit for 24 hours. This time changes if the temperature in the house is too cold or too hot.

You can check on it and give it a stir.  You will see that it will start to thicken.  I also give it a taste and see how sour it tastes. If you want it, sourer you can add a little more lemon.  You can even add a little Total Brand full fat Greek yogurt, which is, what I did and it gave me the right taste I was looking to get.  When you decide it is the texture and taste you like just place in the refrigerator and use.  It lasts 2 weeks.

ENJOY!!!

Summer Camp registrations end the beginning of May for most places

Take a look at the summer camps I just posted on the Facebook page.

Many of the camps deadline for registration is the beginning of May. I hope you have already been looking.

If you know of other camps for the summer that I didn’t post please comment on the page under this post. Thanks. https://www.facebook.com/FMs4Ms/