Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Even MORE responsive

For the last week or two, I've noticed how much more responsive Kaya has been when I tell her information or ask her questions. For example, lately, I can tell her that I am going to get her milk and that I'll be right back, and I can leave her in her crib to wait for me until I come back...key difference: she doesn't cry every time like she used to when I would tell her the same thing! So exciting. I find that when I ask her questions now, like "Willst du zum SwapnPlay gehen?" (Do you want to go to SwapnPlay?), she nods her head or shakes it, depending upon her momentary preference. Before, she would do it now and again, leading me to believe she either didn't understand me, or she didn't have a preference. I'd say that now, about 80-90% of the time, she lets me know, with a nod or shake, how she feels about the questions I ask her. It's really made a big difference in our communication, not to mention our time together!

In addition to answering my questions and understanding my statements more consistently, she's also being more communicative about what she wants on her own. This morning, for example, we were on a run with the dogs, and we were running by the park. In the middle of the park is a play structure that we've played at before. Kaya motioned to the play structure by pointing and grunting a bit. It was clear to me that she was doing more than just showing me that she recognized it, because when I asked her if she wanted to go play on it, she got very excited and did her cute little head nod/body shake. When I decided to go around to enter it on the other (always trying to avoid flat tires on the BOB stroller!), she got a bit stressed out, making the beginnings of her "fire engine" whining noise. I told her what we were going to do, however, and that seemed to help her. She was QUITE excited when we got to the playground!

I also forgot to mention that Kaya signed "EAT" about a week ago for the first time. Granted, we haven't seen it since (as is common when these new signs and words finally emerge for the first time), but I know it's in there! She saw a tupperware full of her snap peas on the recliner, crawled over to the chair, and stood up at it. She pointed at the box, made her "uh.uh" grunt, and made the sign for "eat" by touching her fingers to her mouth. We've been using this sign with her for probably about 8 months. It's fascinating to me that with some signs, all she needs is a day and she's got it--like with dog--and with other signs, like water and eat/food--it's been a much longer process time.

Slipping into Native Language

As you may know, after reading a previous post about Trigger Language, I have been speaking with Kaya in English (my native language) when I am too overwhelmed to operate in German. As I stated in that post, I was, and continue to be, very satisfied, and even happy, with that decision. Her tantrum-time (per 'event') has continued to decline, and both of us are much better off, both in the moment and in the end.

One drawback that I have noticed, however, is that English words have been slipping out of my mouth with her now and again, whereas before, that never happened. It seems natural, and a point to which some people might respond with concern. However, for me, it is merely an observation at this point, as I feel SO strongly that I need to have English available to me, or rather, I need to be OK with speaking English with her in those challenging moments. It's not an option, at this point, though with this observation of the intermittent slipping of language, it serves to remind me of my goal to, one day, speak only German with her all the time...as unrealistic as that may feel right now.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our "Cooh" Little Landscape Architect

I'm sitting here, at our desk, listening to the cascading of water outside of our (closed) window. It's not raining. And we didn't move to the Gorge.

For those of you who have been to our house, you may recall that we have a small water feature below the windows of our office. If you've looked at it in any detail, you may have noticed that the water generally flows up and out of the hole in the basalt, cascading silently throughout its entire journey from the top of the hole to the bottom of the rock. Key term: silently.

This afternoon, as Kaya was playing with her Dada in front yard, she went about her usual business of playing with the river rock around the fountain. This time, however, instead of creating a brown ring around her lips from sucking on the dirty rocks, she went to college, completed her architecture degree, and re-designed our water feature by adding a pile of rocks to and around the hole, causing more of a fountain and thus, an audible 'splash' onto the river rock below.

We'll be taking orders starting tomorrow. Should you be interested, leave your name and number with the secretary. She'll pass the message on to the builder.

Nearly more exciting than the soothing sounds we now have at our doorstep (and certainly more pertinent to the focus of this here blog), is what she said after she was done: "Wau.Cooh." Ok, granted, this was in response to Geoff's response of, "Wow. Cool!", but still...the exciting part is that she's mastering her "k" sound--a very important one considering her name. =)

Which reminds me...(how I could forget this, I'm not sure!): a couple days ago, she finally said her name, clear as a bell, though the K sound was a bit softer than one might normally pronounce. (Here's where the proud mom says, "But who the hell cares about soft Ks!!!) We were looking at the photographs that hang above her changing table (an idea that I still love!), and I asked her, as I often do, "Wo ist dein Dada?" (Whose yo daddy!?...I mean, where's dada?). She pointed at Geoff. Then, I asked her, "Wer ist das?" (who is that?), pointing at her in the picture, and she said, quite definitively, "Kaya."


Similarly as exciting: our daughter can now repeat to me that she has "caca" (German AND English equivalents) in her pants; is eating a "Crecka" (also German and English equivalents); and, as mentioned above, that her landscaping job is "Cooh" (Cool...ALSO coincidentally a German and English equivalent!).

And not surprisingly (because of her affection towards the letter B), she came out with the term "Bubboh" (Bubble) tonight as she and Geoff were playing in the hand-washing bowl after dinner. Apparently she said it a bunch of times before he busted out the video camera--at least he caught her saying it once! It's on a DV tape, so I can't share it here yet, but it's the cutest little sound you ever did see.

Anybody know what "bizu" means? She's been enjoying this 'word', and though we love the sound of it, neither of us can figure out the mystery to the puzzle. If YOU can, there's a complimentary consultation in it for you by the landscaping master herself...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Learning my Limits: Native Language as my Trigger Language

At the Cabin, playing "Kuckuck" (Peek-a-boo)

Late last week, I started talking to Kaya in English as she would start to ramp up in her frustration level. Up until this point, as you may know, I've been using exclusively German with Kaya--regardless of my or her mood. Lately, however, I'm finding that when I get "triggered"...meaning, when she starts screaming and fussing and I feel overwhelmed and/or helpless as to how to help her...it's becoming more and more difficult for me to speak German in those moments. In part because I hear myself speak and I find that I am incredibly judgmental of what comes out of my mouth and how. I find that I start worrying about how to say things to her, and whether she's really understanding me (even though at other times, it's clear to me that she is). So, in those moments, instead of focusing on what she's needing and how I can help her get that, I end up focusing on me and my insecurities. Not good. For either of us. Instead of helping her calm down by saying what I think will help her, I shut my trap in reaction to the negative feelings I described above.

I enjoy playing with the language, looking up and learning new words, and trying on new expressions when life is easy and comfortable. Add a screaming child to the mix and it's no longer my first choice.

I'm learning to be the kind of parent I want to be. It's not good enough for me to go with my gut all the time and act from what comes naturally. So, I'm finding that it's hard enough to get these new expressions to come out of my mouth when I'm overwhelmed or anxious--in English! It's seeming impossible, lately, to do it in German when I don't have my pre-frontal cortex available to help me do the processing.

So, for now, I'm speaking to Kaya in German all the time, EXCEPT when I'm feeling that come-on of overwhelm. And I'm finding that the results are VERY positive for both of us. I turn on my empathy knob full blast and tell her how I truly wish I could give her or offer her or help with what exactly what she's wanting or needing in that moment. I don't stop adding details to the mix until she calms down, which generally takes about 20-30 seconds. Sounds a bit like this: "I hear you, Kaya. You sound SO frustrated, like you REALLY want out of your carseat RIGHT NOW! I SO wish I could unbuckle you RIGHT NOW and bring you up to my lap, and sit you in front of the steering wheel and you could drive with me! That would be SO fun. (she stops or quiets down while I'm saying these things, generally...if she doesn't, I keep going)...I hear your voice getting louder like this '(model voice)', and I see you arms flailing too. You must be SO frustrated. It's HARD to sit in your seat when you want out, isn't it?" After she's calmed down, I'll ask her, in German again, if she sees the tree, or the red car, or the 'whatever it is' that we've seen together many times in the past.

The first person that comes to mind when I practice this process is my former roommate, Rachel. She told me about this on the phone a few months ago, as something she used to do with her son, and it really made sense to me as a GREAT parenting tool. It gives me something to do and say while she's getting upset, and ends up having the effect of her feeling heard and understood--which is what we all want when we're upset, right?

In addition to Rachel's advice and support, Geoff and I took a parenting class on Mindful Parenting, by Sheri Louis (www.mindfulparentingpdx.com) which is similar to Positive Discipline, which you may have heard about. The basic premise is the focus on empathy, as well as the importance of dealing with our own "baggage" so that we can model the behaviors that we want our child/ren to exhibit.

I've also been reading a lot of Daniel Siegel, who not only has a lot of great things to advise about parenting, but about brain research and development as well. He advocates for "mindsight parenting" and has been monumental in helping me 'deal with my own baggage' so that I can be the parent I dream to be.

Active empathy is a learned skill. I thought I learned it growing up, but as it turns out, I still have a lot to learn and apply effectively. Trying to apply this new skill in a language I never learned it in is proving very challenging...particularly when I'm stuck in my limbic system! =)

There's a big part of me that wants to be that "perfect" bi-lingual parent and speak to Kaya in One Parent One Language (OPOL) like so many professionals recommend. They say, pick the rules and stick to them. Kids need the structure. I'm finding, however, that more important than structure, rules and even learning a second language is relationship. Without the strength in relationship, we have nothing (in my opinion). That's what matters to me most with my daughter, is that she not only has a strong relationship with me and her Dad, but that she's capable of forming positive relationships with others throughout her life.

At this point, I'd love to be able to "do it all"--meaning, speak to her in German all the time, regardless of my emotional level. But, the reality is that I have limits and in order to be the kind of parent that I want to be, I have to operate within those. It feels really, really good to be learning that--and even better to see the efforts paying off.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Small changes at 15.5 months

Looks like it's working out best these days to update monthly...my days of daily updates are behind me, at least for now. =) Perhaps once things "speed up" in the language department, I'll have more to report...but at that point, I'm sure that there will be THAT much more going on in life...leaving that much less time to jump into cyberspace to leave our legacy.

At this point, as I implied above, there isn't TOO much new language development happening...at least that's very easy to report on. She's much more likely to mimic the intonation and often the actual sound of the various words that we say...sometimes I swear that I hear her say certain things, but think to myself, "There's no way." Of course, I know that there is...but admittedly, I found myself doubting regardless.

About three weeks ago, she spend a good part of the weekend with her grandparents, my in-laws. The language report that came back from that trip was that she was saying:
Bemba (Bamber) = Amber...the family dog)
Tante (Aunt) = Aunt Jules
Bempa (Granpa) = Grandpa Crackers (Staton)
Gamma (Grandma) = Grandma Bev (staton)

Today, while she rolled off the mattress on the floor, she said "off" for the first time. This was after Geoff said, "You rolled off."

As Geoff says, her language output is "about the same, there's just a lot more of it." She's babbling a LOT more, and making new sounds in these babbles than she's made before.

Last week, she was pointing definitively at the kitchen. I got up and held up thing after thing, asking her if it was what she wanted. At one point, about 30 seconds into the process, she made the sign for "water". I thanked her, brought her water, and we went happily about the rest of our morning (at least for the next little bit!).

It seems to me that Kaya would really benefit from being able to communicate more clearly more often. She gets SO frustrated these days, kicking her legs and arching her back, often at things that she wants but can't seem to communicate about. Granted, it's often just a matter of wanting and not being able to have...but it would be helpful if she had more words and signs. All in due time, but we'll continue to add both to her vocabulary list as we can!