Friday, August 9, 2013

Bilingual Baby Friday- Notes and observations

In an effort to give this little mish mosh of a blog of mine more direction, I'd like to try to dedicate Fridays to writing a bit about my linguistic adventures with Jack and Nora.  Did you know that babies can discriminate all the sounds of their language, including languages foreign to them? Little babies, Nora's age, are "taking statistics" on the language that they hear. Ok, I stole that from a Ted talk I listened to.  Watch it here:

Bilingual people keep two sets of "statistics" in their brains, and learn to switch between the two.   Patricia Kuhl, a reseacher in early language and brain development, ran some experiments where monolingual babies about six months old where exposed to a second language via three methods: human interaction, video, and audio.  Not surprisingly, gains where only evident with the babies that had human interaction. I think this directly ties in with Stephen Krashen's theory of comprehensible input-- the messages delivered to the listener must be made comprehensible, and we do this by making them interesting. Jack and Nora are going to benefit more from me talking, singing, and reading to them in Spanish then me clicking on some radio TV show and walking away. Although, don't get me wrong-- it has been done-- I just know that there aren't going to be much of a linguistic stride made during those thirty minutes.

Teaching Jack and Nora my second language has opened up a whole world for me. Yes, I consider myself a linguist but when studying for my Masters, my linguistics classes were by far my least favorites.  I just didn't "get it" and quite frankly was more interested in other aspects of my language learning journey. As a high school teacher for nine years, my interest in second language acquisition and how the brain really works really ramped things up for me.  I became obsessed with learning everything I possibly could about, specifically, about the theory of comprehensible input and in turn TPRS, or Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. This was years ago, but it revolutionized the way I taught and to this do is still something I'm proud of.  Fast forward to present day-- I have two little munchkins that are my little experiments, and I'm quickly learning that babies brains are these absolutely incredible little things!  In another post I'll get more into what Jack is saying and do, but I'll end the post with this linguistic- related observation.  We had a visit this morning from a friend and former colleague, who is also on the bilingual baby train, so to speak.  Megan and I speak English to each other, but I was carefully observing Jack to see what language he would choose to speak to her, even after telling him that she spoke Spanish.  I could see him stumbling for his words as he kind of muddled his way through his decision- making process. Kind of like his little brain was saying.."What do I choose?"  Naturally he is going to choose the language he hears her speaking, English, but he continues to speak Spanish to me.  Isn't that cool?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Terrible twos? No, just a little nutty!

What do I have to do to make this blog more of a priority?  It's 1:17. Jack goes down for his nap at 1, but he's really been fighting it lately. He's not asleep yet.  Nora-- well, she's all over the nap map right now but she happens to be snoozing.  Of course I have things to do, which mostly involve cleaning (It's bathroom day- fun!) and prepping tonight's meal. But- -I have given myself permission to sit her, update my blog, and perhaps try to finish The Great Gatsby.  

I was telling my mom on the phone this morning that I am slowly, slowly learning that I simply cannot do things the way I used to when Jack was younger, or when it was just him.  For example, yesterday I thought I could load both kids up and head down to good ol' IKEA. We'd get there when it opened, I'd throw Nora in the stroller, Jack would stand up on the back, we'd cruise the showroom, and maybe I would pick up a thing or two. Oh, Nikki.  I am still so naive, aren't I? The problems started at 9:30 in the café line trying to get breakfast.  I have a two year old that hates strollers and likes to run away from me. Fast.  Chaos ensues for the first time.  That soon turns into me wrestling him into the bench portion of the stroller, strapping him in, which leads to him turning around and whacking his baby sister in the head, over and over.  Sigh.  I suppose one of the more frustrating parts for me is I feel myself losing patience. I feel out of control, sometimes, like I want to scream.  Then I realize. I'm that mom, which the wailing infant and the two year old on the lose.  Lesson:  Just do NOT take your two young kids to a place like IKEA by yourself.  Just don't.

All is well over here. This past weekend we celebrated John's birthday. Aunt Ann came into town, and Jack absolutely adores her. Why? Because she plays with him, of course!  All weekend long Jack asked about daddy's queque y helado and we did not disappoint.  It was so nice to have Ann in town-- not only for the company and fun times, but an extra set of hands!  It made getting around with the two kiddos a bit easier for me. Thanks, Ann!

Here are some pictures from the last month.

Nora on the fourth of July in the Antietam battle field
Henlopen State Park, Delaware

Riverbend Park, Great Falls, VA

Visiting with Aunt Ann, Barrel Oak Winery, Delaplane, VA

Happy 33rd birthday, John!

Naked babies are the best

Birthday brunch at Caboose Cafe, Del Ray, Alexandria, VA

Thanks for visiting, Ann!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Mi bella sonriente

I'm sitting here in my living room, reveling in the silence of a sleeping toddler and an almost always smiley almost four month old staring right at me.  John would say, "Careful, she might smile at you". As I recall, Nora's big brother was pretty stingy with his smiles at this age, but Nora just loves to be talked to. She coos, laughs, and is just a bundle of sweetness. She truly is the perfect addition to our family, and we love her to pieces and beyond.

A recent family outing to Burke Lake Park

This is kind of a mish mosh of a post.  I really want to give this blog some direction, and besides being an occasional family update, I really want to blog more about this adventure in raising my bilingual babies.  Jack has made some strides that just blow my mind, and I feel like I need to write them down so I don't forget, but this should be a separate post. More later...

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rain, rain, go away..

Actually, the rain is kind of nice. Two sleeping children. a snoozing pooch, and the sound of the rain. I'll take it, as it certainly is short lived.  Just wanted to pop in to saw a few words about last weekend. Last Friday we headed out as early as we could get all of of us out the door en route to Ohio for cousin Chad's wedding and baby Nora's baptism.  I was so excited to see my family I actually could not sleep the previous night, but I was also anxious wondering how both kids would do for such a long car route.  My low expectations paid off: they were both fantastic.  We rolled into Mansfield about 4 pm on Friday and took it easy that evening. Seeing my family, as well as John's, the next day was so nice. We took the time to drive by Grandpa and Grandma's old farmhouse. I was nervous, as I didn't know what to expect from my own emotions. As I have said, this beautiful place is the one constant in my life. It's where my dad spent his childhood. It's where my parents brought my sister, brother and I countless weekends, Christmas days, and Easters. It's where I spent more than one summer and spring break. It's where I learned to just sit under and tree and do nothing. It's where I learned the sound of silence, especially at night, accompanied only by an occasional bull frog croak. It's on those sacred grounds my Grandpa would take me "exploring" into the woods, or on a drive down those country roads. Sometimes we would go into "town" for a cup of coffee. Sometimes we would go nowhere, and Grandpa would tell me stories. Many, many stories. It's in the walls of that house where I can still hear, see, and smell all the sights and sounds that go along with it.  I could go on forever, but I'm kind of getting away from my point.  I visited my grandparents beautiful grave on June 1st, their 67th wedding anniversary. I know they were watching over us.

By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was again a ball of nerves. Really, what's new?  I've learned something about myself as an adult-- I get nervous when it comes to herding large groups of beautiful to a specific location! I am an excellent follower-- perhaps not the best leader.  I was nervous because I knew I wanted to say something before we baptized little Nora. I knew I wanted that everyone that didn't already understand just how sacred the walls of Sacred Heart Church of Bethlehem , OH could understand.  Well, I said a few words. Were they perfect? Far from. However, I could tell that my point got across. That's all that matters. That, and the fact that along with her godparents,my sister Rene and John's good friend Joe, baby Nora was baptized into the Catholic faith. She was beautiful, and so was that day.  And I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

We're on Spanglish Baby!

I like to joke that I "stalked" my new friend María Jose of Very Busy Mamá. I first read her posts over on Spanglish Baby and realized that she was a local mom!  We recently had a blind mom date and luckily she wasn't weirded out by my idea to meet up.  I quickly discovered that we have a ton in common and probably could have chatted it up a lot longer than our combined four kids would allow us to.  Not only is María José dedicated to raising bilingual children, I absolutely love her blog. Her focus on real style as a mom totally resonates with me.  More on that in another post.  I was so thrilled when she asked if she could feature us on Spanglish Baby! Of course I was much obliged.  Check it out here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A week to forget

A week ago today I blogged a bit about our weekend, and I mentioned that Jack had been feeling feverish, but how I thought he would be fine with some rest and back to normal in no time. Never in a million years did I think that just that afternoon everything would turn upside down-- and not just here in my house.  That afternoon, while two young men were changing the lives of many forever by exploding two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, my boy suffered what I am fairly positive was a febrile seizure. While lying on the couch, he sputtered, and then proceeded to go stiff and twitch.  What remains with me most a week later was the look in the eyes-- or lack thereof. I can't describe it any other way but to stay that he just looked empty. Like there was no one inside.

Needless to say, this was by far the scariest moment of my life. Without a doubt. Somehow I managed to call the pediatrician office while screaming his name, desperate to get some kind of response. Nothing. He couldn't even look at me.  The office was closed.  After unsuccessfully dialing the wrong 800 number to get the on call nurse a couple of times, I finally got through. Meanwhile baby Nora is screaming and my two year old still looks like a ghost.  I am screaming at the operator, desperate for someone to jump through the phone and just HELP me. That is what I was screaming. Help me, please, something is wrong with my son. I know this all sounds dramatic, but I don't know how to put it any other way. With the help of my neighbor that happened to be standing outside, I managed to load both kids into the car and head off to the hospital. Jack was just starting to come out of this horrible spell, or whatever you want to call it.  It was confirmed in the ER that he had a fever, and most likely did experience a febrile seizure.

I felt the need to share this because I learned from the ER doctor that febrile seizures are fairly common, but many parents have never heard of such a thing.  Well, they need to know.  I have since read that they can be genetic, they are caused by a rapid spike in temperature, and they have no long term affects.    The rest of the week was a challenging one for John and I as we nursed our little man back to health. Not to mention the world's events around us; the Boston marathon bombing, the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion, earthquakes, floods.. I mean seriously: WHAT is going on?

It shouldn't take scary or catastrophic events for us to take pause in our lives, but sometimes it does.  I don't have much time during the day to really stop and think about much of anything, but during little Nora's midnight feedings I do. (If I'm not zonked myself).  I don't pray enough. I realized that as I was pleading with God on the way to the emergency room to fix my baby.  So many people need prayers right now.  My little guy is OK. As a matter of fact, he's more than ok.  We have moved from fevers to tantrum city, and we're learning one day at a time how to deal with those, too. But you know what-- I'll take a tantrum any day over an ER visit.  Here is some photographic proof that we are just fine.

Mami y sus bebés

Monday, April 15, 2013

Two years

My dear Jack-

Today is April 15, 2013.  You turned two years old 8 days ago, but I feel like we have been celebrating for weeks!  I don't take the time nearly enough to put into words how I feel about you-- or ever, really.  Much less do I broadcast my feelings on the internet, so I may surprise myself if I even choose to publish this post.  I'm rambling now. I will try to be more coherent from this point forward.

Yesterday we had a little party for you and four of your friends at a rec center.  You played in the soft playroom then ate pizza and queque, your favorite.  I noticed you seemed a bit out of it and by simply placing my hand on your forehead I knew you were a bit feverish.  You were so quiet on the way home.  You didn't even want your leche, which is so very uncharacteristic of you!  Your dad and I put you to bed, but I worried throughout the night, especially when I was awake feeding your sister.

I use this short story to illustrate my point. I love you so much, baby boy! Te amo! You are my big, healthy, strong little man.  You never get sick, so when you do, all my worries come to the surface.  Then I realize-- your dad and I are too blessed for words.  Every night when I have a little bit of time (what's that?) to reflect, all I know how to do is to give thanks. Gracias a Díos.  I thank God for my healthy baby boy, and now, for your sister Nora Elizabeth.  I thank God for every little thing about you. I thank Him for the way you get so excited about every little thing. You pump your little arms and get this very serious, intent look on your face.  I pray that you never lose that enthusiasm for life's little things-las cositas-for that is what really matters.  I thank God for your gentle manner, for the way you have welcomed baby Nora into your life with the least amount of fuss possible.  You love to lay next to her on her playmat and watch las luces.  You will always love her and protect her, Jack.  I just know that.  I thank God for your beautiful blue eyes and your big round cheeks! I know the cheeks won't be there forever, but everyone comments on them because they are so cute!

I write this note en inglés, because I do communicate better in English. However, over one year ago while we were living in Denver I made the vow to myself to speak to you only en español. I made it a personal commitment, that I would take one day at a time.  I am proud to say that I have spoken only en español  to you since you were eleven months ago. Jack Jack, you are doing so, so well.  You really are talking a lot, both in Spanish and English.  You are already learning who speaks Spanish and who speaks English, and you are effectively learning how to code- switch, or speak the right language to the appropriate audience! It's pretty amazing.  Thank you for not only being my son, but my student!  Raising a bilingual child is not an easy feat, but I continue to hope and pray that I can do my best each day to give you an appreciation for other languages, cultures, and people.  That is my hope.

I love you so much baby boy.  You are so sweet.  I love the way you hug me. You love mis piernas (my legs) for some odd reason.  When you see flores, (flowers), they aren't just any flowers, they are always las flores de mama. That is what you say.  You are fiercely independent, but you sure do love your dada.  Lately you two have spent a lot of time outside with la manguera (water hose) desperately trying to make daddy's grass seedlings sprout.  Your dad is the absolute best daddy. I really think I would be lost without him!  Es todo por ahora, mi amor.  I love you so much.  You are the best.

John Joseph, "Jack", two years old