Monday, October 29, 2018

Major news!

Well well well... in my last post I mentioned about the dream job that was shortlisted for but that unless of a miracle I was just not the best candidate.
Would you believe it, last week I got an email and I immediately recognised the sender of course. I was at a very important meeting in Brussels and thought "oh crap.... I so don't want to read this now..." but then I thought "ah what the hell, I better get this over with and focus on what I have rather than on what I don't have". The email read something like this:

Dear Fran,

it's been a while. I have some good news, unofficial as of now, but better to talk on the phone, can you take a call?

I was completely blocked for the whole day and it was only 9 am!! I could not leave or take a call, it was nerve wrecking..I though Ohhhhhh shit!! This can't be happening, this can't be happening...
I texted Mike and my parents, and of course emailed back to say I could only talk in the evening.
You can imagine my level of concentration for the rest of the day.

The call was amazing. I ranked as top candidate unanimously!! So while there is a set of technical procedures, the job is mine if I want it. IF I want it?? Can I sign a contract now??

So anyway, today I spoke with my group, they were all thrilled (I can take them all with me if they want to move), and I also mentioned it to my Head of School. I know most people will just pretend nothing is happening and they will just resign when the have to. But there are several things going on in work and my HoS is a great person that deserve honesty. He was great, he knew he could not compete with such an offer, it's not just my dream job, it would be a dream job for half the academics I know...

So onwards and upwards, new adventures on the horizon!

Monday, September 17, 2018


All of a sudden is already my birthday. Hello my virtual friends!

I wanted to post a nice update about the house renovation with pics etc, but we are still living in a building site without a kitchen... fun was gone by the time we came back from holidays a month ago and we won't have it for another 2 weeks...but we are nearly there.

Children have started school back again and they are delighted (I promise I will update soon on Oliver's saga which, would you believe it, it's still dragging on).

I went for a dream job interview during the holidays but while I would sell a kidney for it, I was not the perfect match and two other candidates fit better the job description, so unless of a miracle that is gone (but the process is very long, I won't hear for while a definite no). There's another good position going that I will apply for, and I'm also going for promotion this year. Work has gone quite well, one of those years where planets align and several very ambitious things have succeeded. So I'm going for it because it was really what I should have been offered 2 years ago when I joined this new Uni. I am telling myself that if I'm again caught in the bureaucracy of a broken system (not enough budget for the School, too soon to be promoted, etc), I'm packing up and enrol into a medicine degree which is what I should always have done. But that's not without other major consequences (assuming I'm not too old already and eligible).

My feelings in general are still very troubled. I feel very conflicted with Mike (who is his usual self, great person, great with the children, but zero ambition or drive to do much at all), I feel stuck, I day dream of other lives most of the time, but at times I dream of moving back the clock to when I felt happy with what I had. I need projects and plans...I'm one of those.

Health-wise we are all doing well, I had my usual anxiety about whatever, did all my checks, all is good. Till the next bout of anxiety. I am doing much better from that point of view but when anxiety strikes it's a beast. The one who is doing worst is Carlito the cat, who has not settled much in this new neighbourhood, the other cats are giving him a hard time, and on saturday he was hit by a kind neighbour took him to the vet where we found him today. He should have (one very expensive) surgery tonight, poor pet he looked miserable...but should be ok.

I read all your blogs, you that are still writing, but sometimes my messages to you don't get posted and I don't know why. Know that I'm there for you.

Friday, May 11, 2018


I am sorry to have left you without updates for a while, I know this is not nice, specially when there are children involved.

So things have gone quite well since the visit, we went to speak with the Head Master who was very nice and said he was going to follow up with the other children and let us know. He never did really and we should go back to him again.

Oliver is no longer playing with those girls and would you believe it, there has not been a report since of bad language or overly sexualised behaviour... which to me it says it was just them.

We received yesterday the report from the social worker (effectively closing the case), so now we really would like to know what has happened with the school and the other children (I suspect nothing at all, which annoys me a good bit given what they put us through). But Oliver seems very happy and is playing with other children which is very nice. In fact he seems to have taken it very seriously the not playing with the girls and he was told off by a teacher for being too dismissive of them... seriously....he is seven...7!! anyway...

In other news, we bought a house! Yes I know, totally not what we were planning, but rents are higher then mortgages so that decided it for us, even if we move in a couple of years it would be worth it. It's a bit of a project which we love.

I will be back soon, I promise!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The social worker visit

All in all it went great. I wasn't in the Country actually but Mike gave me a very detailed report. We had talked together a lot about how to best explain how it all developed.

The SW was a young girl and Mike said she definitely didn't have any bias one way or another and that was great. First she spoke with Mike while the children were playing in the garden, he told her how Oliver never had a problem in Dublin, how his introduction in this school went, how the isolation was really affecting him etc. She was listening and taking notes, she asked about his access to the internet and television (virtually none, certainly never unsupervised) and she seemed very happy with that. She disclosed to Mike a few more phrases the school had flagged to her (apparently Oliver said to someone what he will do on the the first wedding night, with words worth of a sailor...) Mike was doubly shocked...first of all Oliver never would have had that type of conversation at home, and second, how did the School decided not to tell us!!! We are going to have a meeting set up asap.

Anyway, she then spoke with Oliver (alone, but then told mike) and asked him if he new the PANTS rule which he knew by heart, and also if he knew what words should not be used (he listed a few). She asked him also where did he hear those words and Oliver admitted for the first time we think that they came from a girl in school.

She also spoke with Martina (again alone and referred back), who is as happy as possible and the most upsetting things she could come up with about Oliver was if he pushes her. So all good there.

She said she will talk to the school and get back to us next week (school holidays are finished).

In relation to this we discovered that it is in fact a cultural thing here to constantly tell on people. Whether it's in school or in work, that's how people deal with even minor issues with friends or colleague. I assure you for us this is a major shock and we were raised with "do not tell tales" and "try and talk it through and solve the problem" approach. I see it here even on the playground, if we are out with friends with children...those children are back to the parents every 2 minutes with "Oliver said thiiiiiisss.." "Mark did thaaaaat" it's absolutely unbearable, the most ridiculous things are being reported and the parents have to intervene. So obviously our children and certainly Oliver don't have this approach. Martina is totally laid back and just at the end of the day doesn't give much of a crap about what people say or do if she can still have fun, but Oliver suffers and feels constantly under punishment and judgment. We just have to leave this Country, this is no way to grow up happy.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Children will be children, right?

I'm back! can you believe this? It's only been a few weeks!

So I want to talk about Oliver and school. I said everything was well but in fact two days later or so I got a call from the school that the school principle wanted to have a meeting with us about Oliver's behaviour.

Background: when we moved here, Oliver started after the summer in year 1 (which is the second year in school in the british system). He had done the foundation year back in Dublin and we never had so much as problem, he was the perfect child, very well behaved (not so much at home at that time but in school he was an angel), the most the teacher ever said to us was that Oliver should try and not to intervene if two children are arguing (to help settle the argument) and call an adult instead. I thought that was pretty amazing as a complaint actually...that's my boy I was thinking.
Anyway we move here and Oliver joins a class of children who have all known each other for at least a year, some of them two years. Unfortunately the teacher in charge of his class was completely incapable of dealing with young children (she always taught older children). Within 3 weeks we knew he was not happy, his behaviour at home had changed, never seemed to play with anyone, nobody was including him in their games, and his break time were spent climbing up metal structures....alone. He had abs that would have made a professional athlete envious. We of course immediately mentioned this to the teacher, that we were concerned he had not settled and children were not really helping. She said she will keep an eye on it. Three more weeks and the situation got only worse. At that point Oliver started becoming "that child" in school, the one that pushes you in the line, that throws something at you, that kicks another boy for looking at him the wrong way...come on...I'm no expert but to me this is a clear sign that he is tired of being lonely and is trying to get any sort of attention the wrong way. We started getting reports from school that Oliver did this and said that, I'm not exaggerating...probably weekly if not more frequent.

By Christmas the situation had escalated, despite us talking to the teacher again, there was no action on her part, I was devastated. Oliver started wetting the bed again, acting out at home again, everyone was miserable. I posted on a local facebook page for advice and I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the community. Many people had of course children in the same school, they organised play dates and birthday invitations, we started to see some light. But in school they had at that point initiated this behavioural chart: every day Oliver was assessed for his behaviour EVERY HOUR, with a sad/neutra/happy face. The stress of it all was unreal. We had taken him to the doctor, in case this was a sign of something more sinister, but no, the doctor thought he was absolutely a normal child. Thankfully the teacher changed and the new one was a life saver. She understood Oliver, established a good relationship, and by then Oliver had a few friends in the class. Mostly girls.

A few reports still arrived but of a different nature: we were told a couple of times that Oliver was "touching girls inappropriately" that he tried "to kiss a girl" etc. When Oliver was questioned on this he would say that they were playing a game of catch and that he had tapped a girl on the bottom, and the kissing yes she was her friend, in fact this girl was saying she was his girlfriend (at the age of 6), was kissing a girl on the cheek forbidden? Girls seemed to be doing this the whole time and nobody ever made a big deal. We talked to him, explained these are the rules in school etc.

Summer came, we thought we had moved on from all of this. Back to school in september, all is good, he is still playing only with a few girls because the Alpha-male in the class does not let him in his circle of friends but he is ok with this. He plays these games with the girls like mom and dad and children and cousins and even though it seems a bit odd we  don't say anything. After January reports start again: Oliver tried to kiss a girl (the same), Oliver was lifting a girl's clothes (same girl), Oliver tried to go in the bathroom with a girl (same girl), Oliver called a girl "big bum" (the girl didn't hear but apparently that is not important and still this is reported). We are also informed that there is now a file on Oliver in school, with all the things he said and did "wrong" since he joined the school. We are told by the good teacher that he is a lovely child in class, that she thinks he has a target on his back and people are just waiting for him to do something wrong to report it. The teacher also said that some of the girls seem to use a language which is inappropriate (one girl was seen bumping against Oliver and apparently said "oh I might be pregnant now"...thank god it wasn't Oliver who said this).

But then a big incident happened. I tell you how we were told and also will tell you that Oliver has quite a different version of how things went. We got a call that Oliver had threatened to bite a girl on her nipples and privates. This was reported to the school as an official complaint from upstanding parents (though we don't officially know this but we had very little doubt about who would go to the school rather than picking up the phone and call us) and there had to be an investigation. Where is "Oliver getting this language from?" I don't know, I speak to him only in Italian but I'm sure you can imagine Mike shouting these things at all hours, it must be it (FFS). We had a meeting with the school where we described all the events the way we lived them since joining the school. We said we have never had a problem till joining this school and we felt the school did very little to help Oliver actually. And now here we are, with a folder on him, a very distressing situation and no idea how to get out of it. On one thing we all agree: if there are rules they have to be respected and Oliver has a serious problem with this. There will be a visit with a social worker next week, I think the plan is to have something in place for us and the school to make sure this is resolved.

We already spoke with the social worker, we told her that at home the children have no access to internet at all, and they watch television only supervised (movies or cartoons from netflix which are age appropriate) and that we have no idea why he is acting this way in school. We are quite confident that Oliver just thinks that boobs and bums are funny, and says things to make someone laugh, only does not realise that children are reporting these things to the teachers and this is noted down. We have no problem with nudity at home (children shower with us regularly), we have the rule of not touching and that what is private is private. But this has gone unreal really.

I will update next week after the visit with the social worker.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

This and that

Hello cyber people... it's been so so long.

So I thought I'd update you (and me's probably more for me, if I ever one day will read all my blog again) on how things have gone since last summer.

Researchwise, things took a better turn towards the end of the year, I got two international grants and a couple more papers which was very nice and will hopefully help moving onto the next step in the ladder. In the new year a few more things have worked out also so I feel much more appreciated and positive I can make the most of this job.

The children are well, completely settled. Martina started school last September and she loves it, they are both avid readers (at their levels of course) which we are delighted with. Oliver turned 7 in January and he is much better, still has the silliness shining through more often that we would like but what can you do, hopefully he will grow out it in another little while (then he will be a teenager soon...I'm aware we will have another set of issues...). Martina is 5 in 6 weeks... she is so much more mature though, could just be 7 and you wouldn't blink. Both of them are very sweet actually, they mostly play together nicely (which includes brother/sister fights and the like fo course). I want to post here a pic we took at Christmas, it's one of my favourites!

Other than this life at home is ticking along, I'm very sad to say that that's about the level of excitement I can report. It's been like this for a good while unfortunately. The plan would be to move to the continent but it has to be Mike making the move this time, and it's not happening. He says he really would like to move of course...since January 2017...he has not applied for a single job yet. This inertia is killing me, in all honesty....I would have found it impossible to stick around if the situation was different...but that's how it is and I am stuck, no point in hoping it will change, it won't. 

Finally, we went skiing in February and it was fabulous, oh my god...I so so love the mountains, I could happily live in a hut if this was my view from the window...I will do all I can to make it happen.

I'll try and be back a bit sooner, I want you know that I still read you all. Hugs to all.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Still low

It seems this blog has yet again taken the role of holding my sorrow...
I am not doing much better than the last time. Sometimes I think I am and then... bang! another rejection  (two would you believe it since the last time I wrote) another sign that my ship has sailed and now they are investing in younger researchers, those that probably will have a much brighter future.

I don't know how to snap out of this status, I feel the institution where I work now has lured me in, got me on the cheap, and now not really investing in me. Why would they do this I wonder? And how can I change it? And more importantly, where do I find the energy to keep smiling and act the Rachel "gracious loser face"?