Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dada, Done, Mimicking and Music

Tonight, we went to a parenting class--the first in a series of 4 classes over 4 weeks. We had our friend Greg ("Uncle Greg") babysit Kaya, which, as I realize now, was the first time she'd ever been put to bed by anyone other than family. All in all, it went well, though she wouldn't let him feed her a bottle, pushing it away with both hands. She ultimately fell asleep, as she used to do, with a mere 20 minutes of tears beforehand. When we got home, she cried out a bit, and I went in to make up for lost milk, so to speak. She drank like a champ, as would be expected, and let me put her back in her bed, no problem. But then, something I'd never seen before: she cried out for "Dada", having heard him outside the door. Often, she will point him out when she sees or hears him, but this was a VERY clear, "I want my Dada" tone. =) SO sweet. Granted, no NEW language development there, but something worth noting in this process, nonetheless. =)

There have been a variety of new developments since I last wrote 20 days ago (!!), however. A few are easier to pinpoint than others...here's a few stories to illustrate:

This morning, Kaya and I were taking a bath. She LOVES bathing, and will normally stay in the bath until we deem bath time over; at which point, she gets out without fuss and the moments move forward. This morning, however, she told me very clearly that she was "duh" with her bath by raising both arms (her sign for done) and saying a very definitive, "duh". Neither this word nor sign are new in themselves (she's been doing both for at least a few months it seems), but generally the word and/or action accompany mealtime and nothing else. Today was the first time (at least that I had witnessed) that she signaled that she was done with something OTHER than eating. This seems like new brain development to me! =)

The other story represents my surprise at how closely she listens to song lyrics (and that she's now signing water consistently and has been for 2 weeks). It doesn't surprise me that she listens to the lyrics of the songs that I sing directly to her. This became clear to me one day as I was singing a German ducky song to her ("Alle meine Entchen") in the bath one day. When I got to the word "Wasser" (water), she made the sign for "water" very soon after I said the word. This was about 2 weeks ago when she started to sign water on a regular basis (instead of the 3-fingered W tapped in front of her mouth, she taps her whole right hand against her mouth, sometimes seeming like she's hitting herself). But what does surprise me is that she listens and responds to the lyrics in songs being played through the stereo! Today, as we were driving to sing with Mister Ben (www.mrbenmusic.com), I heard Kaya say "Babah" twice. Knowing that "babah" is her word for Baby, I looked around our surroundings for something that might tip her off to saying it. But then the chorus of the song on the radio was sung again, and at the end of the verse, he said "baby, baby". I was shocked (and overjoyed, of course!).

Signing Water along the Willamette River

As I mentioned above, her language continues to develop, but not in a way that has her saying particular words with any greater clarity. She continues to "tell" us about her world in the signs that she knows:
the wind blowing (right arm moving in front of her body);
the birds chirping (pointer finger of her left hand bending to touch her thumb);
the sun shining and casting shadows on the book that she's reading with Gramms (sign for light--open/shut fist);
fan and animals (same sign for her, as she has an animal mobile above her crib)...

And she still has a few solid words that she can says clearly on a regular basis: Mama, Dada, Nana and Bye-bye in English
Ja, Da (here/there), und mehr (more) in German

But her vocabulary is expanding to include concepts that she can't quite pronounce but can say clearly enough for us to know what she's talking about:
Ma = Milk
duh = done, door
Dah = dog or da (here/there)
Baba = baby or bottle
Bah = Book
Breh = bread
Berbah = Birne (pear)
recka = Cracker
reh = Greg
ramm = Gramms (hard to create the exact sound she makes for Gramms, but it's close enough to the word to be clear).

There's surely more that we're forgetting, but the point that I'm wanting to make (and remember) is that she's got a few words solidly; lots of little words without their endings, as she still struggles to mix different consonants in words. She said "Baeume" (pr. boymah) (trees) that one day that I wrote about, but since then, she hasn't said it, even with lots of prompting.

She also continues to recognize more words than I could ever take note of...in books, for example. Geoff was shocked the other day as the three of us sat down to read a book written in English and she was able to recognize a bunch of words in German that he had know idea she knew (Auto, Fuchs, Elefant, etc).

Then, what's really new is her ability and tendency to mimic. This feels a little (no, a lot!) scary for me now, as I hear my voice starting to echo in hers. I yelled at this dogs this morning, for instance, and she mimicked me in intonation and basic word structure (rounded out of course). Yikes. The time has come for me to REALLY be careful. Granted, she's been hearing all my foibles this whole time, but now I'm being reminded a lot of the time it happens. Good thing we started this parenting class tonight! =) But it happens in the happy moments, too. There have been many times in the past week where I "swear" she just said something, but it only happens once, and I can't really put my finger on what she said...it just sounds INCREDIBLY similar to the word that one of us just said. It has me feeling that much more excited for this next stage where she'll be completing more of the words she can say partially, and adding new ones to her repertoire.

Well, it's getting late and this here post is growing long. But I feel good. Relieved to have gotten some details down so I can make more room for the new ones that will surely fill the space.

As always, thank for reading! =) Tamara

oh. p.s. To go along with this latest language development, she's currently cruising like a pro (along furniture and with her walkers) and can walk with us with one hand held. It won't be too long, I think, before she's really moving on those 2 feet all by herself!

This video is of a conversation she and I were having at breakfast about the wind and the birds (which she couldn't hear so she wouldn't sign!):

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ever MORE communication

It's hard to put my finger on exactly what Kaya is saying these days, but the communication is SO much clearer, I suddenly feel like our baby is becoming a communicating toddler...! I ask her questions, and most of the time, she responds with "yeah/ja" and a clear head nod. Either that, or she says "nuh", and slaps or throws whatever is in or near her hand down to the floor, including her beloved "schnulli" (pacifier).

One cute story that illustrates this clear communication happened yesterday, as I was sitting in her room, and she was crawling around between there, the bathroom and the hallway. After I hadn't seen the likes of her for a few minutes, I call her name and ask her to come to me. A few seconds later, I see her in the doorway with a diaper cover in her hand (it had been in the bathroom, on the shelf). I told her that I noticed she had a cover in her hand, and asked her if we should put a new diaper on her..."yeah" she says, definitively! I couldn't believe it. To make matters even more impressive, she lets me roll her over and change her diaper, with narry a fuss...quite the rare occasion these days. I still can't help but think, was this coincidence, or did she really bring me the cover b/c she wanted me to change her??

She names SO much more now that she sees or hears (used to only be "dah" (dog)), even if only in partial words: pah (pear); meh (mehr/more); bird/s (as indicated by chirping she hears or pictures she sees; she does baby sign for bird); wind (one hand moving around--as we made it up); mama/dada (we've always made the cut, but she identifies us so much more often now, and even asks for each of us if the other isn't there, or identifies us if we walk in the room); "baaah" (ball); "babah" (Baby); and possibly her favorite, second to dog, "bah", meaning book.

She LOVES to look at books, and will hold a book up for us to read to her. There's not much that makes me happier than when she picks a book off the shelf, brings it to me, crawls in my lap, and turns the pages while I read to her. Just as Dr.Joe said, too, she's starting to become much more interested in the stories, as opposed to just the pictures. Her favorite used to be "Pat the Bunny", but it's morphed into Puppies at Play, which she always hears in German from me. The book is strewn with pictures of babies and puppies, but she doesn't usually say much until we get to the middle of the book where there's a puppy that looks a lot like Kahlua: "dah" she'll announce, with glee!

Today, while Gramms (Geoff's mom) was taking care of her, she swears she heard her say Gramms or Gramma. I'm eager to hear that one again! She's come close to saying the sound of Greg, her "uncle", and has also come close to saying "Grampa", though the GR is not very well defined at all. OH, and she's been clearly asking for bread with a "bruh" sound. SO fun, and so cute.

The key change is that it's SO much easier for me to understand what she wants when she wants it now. The biggest challenge we have is water still...though she has signed it, it still seems like a hard sign for her to replicate or remember, so she usu. points at it if it's within sight. Or she'll look to the kitchen. If I'm too distracted to realize that she's needing water, then she fusses to the point of shoving ALL the food off of her tray with her wild, waving arms; arches her back; and screeches, while crying. We shoulda made up an easier sign, dammit!! =) Fortunately, we're learning, however...when in doubt, give her water. She's clear about pushing it away if she doesn't want it! =)

New Resources

I struck it rich today with some new resources, one of which I'm REALLY excited about. I thought, instead of just adding the names to the sidebar without pomp and circumstance, I'd at least welcome them into my life with some ceremony here:

Lisa kann schon viele Sachen: Kindergartenlieder vom Aufstehen bis zum Schlafengehen

Yeah, some of the songs are hokey, but for those of us non-natives, it's a great CD in that it follows the day of little Lisa, from her wake-up routine to her bedtime one, including bits and pieces of conversations that she has with both her mom and her best friend, Lukas. It's fun to not only to listen to the text of the songs, but to feel a part of their day, too. =)

See how the other ones are before I review them...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Morale Booster

On Friday I had a super-German day, and I want to write about it so I can look back here on those days when I'm feeling much less than super...

Spent the morning at a German playgroup where I usually go from 10-12pm every Friday. This week, we met at a bakery first, then walked around the block to a playground. I met a German woman I'd never met before, who I really enjoyed talking with about a whole bunch of different subjects. While we were introducing ourselves, she asked me the series of questions that I'm hoping will carry me and my German confidence through for a few weeks: "and before California, where did you grow up? In Germany? Your parents aren't German?" YES!!! I mean, no, they aren't, and no, I didn't, but YES!!!, how EXCITED I was to hear those questions leave her lips. How wonderful to be mistaken for a native...YAY!

Similar experience that evening, while I was at a German Stammtisch (conversation group) at a local bar. Met another woman who I'd never before met...a native German woman. Though I can't remember the series of questions she exactly asked me, she too was impressed with my German ability, and took me for a native...SWEEEEEET.

Of course, I have found a way to knock down my high a bit: I am really good at coming across as a native speaker in simple, basic introductory conversations where my confidence is high and vocabulary extensive. True statement. When the conversation deepens a bit, and then a bit more, and my vocabulary starts to falter, my near-native impression wanes. However, I'm growing OK with this concept, and getting better at telling myself that, even if I don't know a word here or there, or can't/don't pass as a native, Kaya can still grow up bilingual and reap the benefits of this experience. This I know. Now it's just a matter of getting myself to believe it more consistently...=)

First German 2-Syllable Double-Consonant Word!!

Today it happened. Couldn't have asked for a more "perfect" specimen:

Baeume. Meaning, trees in English.

She's been close before, but today, interspersed throughout many "boybah"s, she was finally able to make the "m" sound immediately after the "b" sound. Baeume (pronounced, Boymah).

For those of you who know us, you can imagine my excitement at the "choice" of which word to make her "first" big word in German. Those of you who don't, I'll share that it excites me incredibly because both Geoff and I have spent extensive time backpacking and hiking, and plan to raise her the same way. Kaya and I spend a decent amount of time per week in Forest Park across the river (we shoot for once a week at least), and she loves to lean her head back and look up at the trees. She's had LOTS of opportunity to hear me talk to her about the Baeume.

Otherwise, she's been doing a lot more solid "ja"s (Eng: yeah), tonight she said "yeah!" after Geoff modeled it energetically for her while teaching her how to put her books on the shelf. She's mastered her "mehr" (more) when asking for more food, and has been saying both "mehr" and "moh" for that concept.

To put her language development in line with her gross motor skills: she still crawls like a champ (LOVES to play the game where she crawls away from us, looks over her shoulder with a big smile on her face as she waits for us to come "get her"...and giggles like mad when we make the attempt); she has learned to crawl up stairs, and with prodding, can crawl backwards down them; she can slide her way off the couch and the bed, if pointed in the right direction; and today, she started kneeling for the first time on one knee and the other foot--getting THAT much closer to walking upright without our support. She cruises along the couch, chairs, stroller...whatever she can hold on to for support. But not TOO close to walking by herself yet...though I smile to think of that day, I'm in no rush. I'm appreciating what we have here still...she's still pretty content to stay in relative close proximity to Mama. =)