Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Cathartic Bolt Hole"

Last Saturday, I received a particularly meaningful comment on my Talker at Two post.
It went like this:

Hi Tamara

Serendipity definitely brought me to your blog this morning.

I have very recently embarked upon the non-native adventure myself and vacillate between confidence and doubts. This morning I awoke extremely doubtful as to whether I could do this and whether i should carry on.

I had set up my own blog earlier in the week to try and inspire me and keep me on the positive path. So i Googled it on my cell to try and read it whilst in bed this morning. I didn't find my blog... but i did find yours. I have started reading from the beginning and feel bouyed once more.

I have been extremely surprised by how up and down you can feel on the non-native journey. This morning when i was doubtful, to just happen upon your blog and read about your initial doubts too - somehow that made me feel stronger and focused once again. So thank you.

I will be following your blog from now on.

I highlight and share this comment here because, when I read it, I got shivers throughout my entire body.

As you may know, I started this blog on Kaya's first birthday, 13 months ago today, in the hopes that I could not only find support for me in this journey, but in hopes of being able to offer support to others in a similar position.

Maman's willingness to respond so honestly leaves me with that epic 'dream come true' feeling, and for that, I am SO thankful. Knowing that someone else is out there, "following in my footsteps" and feeling, as she added in a later comment, "safer there than [she has] for a good while," makes my heart skip a beat and my blood flow a little faster.

Suddenly, in the past few months, I've begun to really see the value of community, particularly, the value in declaring the communities that are most important to us. Bilingual and multilingual parents, and in particular, those raising their children in their non-native language, are very important communities for me. From them, I find a great deal of support, as 'distant' as everyone may be. Despite the physical separation, I feel incredibly connected to so many of them, to all of them really, knowing that we are in this together, doing what we believe will make the world a better place, for our children and ultimately, for all of humanity.

It's like feeling connected to my mom even though she's gone. She doesn't have to be here for me to feel that connection. It's all about what's inside, the feeling of oneness that I allow and nourish in my soul.

Yes, it definitely helps to hear from you parents. Without a doubt. Despite my focus on this particular post, I appreciate hearing from all of you. Every one of us is doing this for a reason, and I'd imagine (despite my fear of assumption), that all of us have had our fears and doubts somewhere along our journey. That's part of being human, right? And that humanness, esp. the willingness to accept it, allows me to feel connected to all of you.

So, thank you.
Thank you, Maman.
Thank you, Sarah.
Thank you, bilingual and multilingual parents so willing to share your language with our children and your thoughts with me.

And thank you, friends and family, for all of your support in this process. Without you, I'm confident that I would have given up LONG ago! With your help, Kaya is really bilingual now, speaking more and more German EVERY day, much to my delight (the English is a given, being the community language, the language spoken between Mom and Dad, as well as the lovely language of the frustrations that she hears me spew all too often at the dogs!).

The sun shines on Portland and brings much light to this amazing adventure in language!

p.s. Cathartic Bolt Hole?!! Bonne Maman used this phrase in her last comment to me, saying that she wants to use her blog as such. I fell in love with the phrase, and had to 'borrow' it for today's title...because clearly, my blog, over time, has become that, too. I love the internet...a personal hole (of the bolt hole style) just isn't quite as cathartic! By the way, check out her blog, Our Non-native Bilingual Adventure, and let her know you're out there! She'd love the support, I'm sure!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Visions of Mother-tongue

It's been a big week. Not only did we see snow AND a possible melodic recognition, but Kaya spoke MORE German with me yesterday than I've heard her speak in a LONG time. And this is AFTER she'd spent 2 days and 2 nights at her English-speaking grandparents'!!

There's hope.

Thanks be to the light and love of language!

Last night, during our nightly rocking ritual, Kaya and I were giggling harder and longer than we've ever giggled before. I was ecstatic to hear her speaking so much German, and it created in me such an elation that nothing else mattered. I was there, I was present, the giggles were feeding my soul. I thought, for a brief moment, about how nice it might be to write down some of the things that she was saying, to clearly illustrate the change. But I stayed in that thought long enough only to remind me to write. No sooner was I back with her smiles, with our game of Schnulli-spitting and nose-bopping. And back to this vision, that I used to have months ago, where Kaya and I are connecting, we are talking at length and laughing like loons, in her mother-tongue.

Moments like this remind me, like with all the challenging things in life, that the apparent sacrifice is well worth it, and that it's simply a matter of patience and possibility to stay on the path to the next milepost...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Snow Falling on Singing Birdies

Yesterday morning, two very beautiful things happened.

First of all, it SNOWED--big, fat, fluffy flakes of white! It never snows here. Well, almost never. I was so excited, and so eager to share my excitement with Kaya, that we just sat in front of the window and watched the flakes fall.

We've been singing a lot lately, mostly in German, so naturally the song 'Schneefloeckchen' [Little Snowflakes] came to mind as I watched the winter wonder out front. I couldn't remember all the lyrics, so I ran to Kaya's room to grab one of my favorite little songbooks, "Alle Meine Entchen" [All my Little Ducks] von Bernhard Oberdieck (I love that it's a board book with 9 common German songs and is small enough to fit in my pocket). I was excited to find FIVE verses of the song, all of which I sung to Kaya at least twice, if not three times.

After about 5-10 minutes of singing, Kaya grew weary of the repetition (I so confidently assume...) and encouraged me to sing a different song with a very adamant, "nudder Wied" [another song]. Also eager for something different, I grabbed another song book off the shelf, "Zehn Liebe Fingerzwerge, die schoensten Fingerspiele" [10 Dear Finger Dwarves, The Favorite Finger Games]. I flipped through the book, looking for songs or rhymes that I knew, and started in, once again, with the vocals.

As I'm singing 'Alle Voegel Sind Schon Da' [All the Birds are Already Here], Kaya climbs down from her perch on the armchair and waddles quickly over to another bookshelf where she pulls down her favorite songbook, "Unsere schoensten Kinderlieder" von Xenos [Our most beautiful Children's Songs by Xenos]. I think it's her favorite, in part, because it's a huge book, probably 10 x 12 in, with fun, bright pictures. But the true draw, for both of us, is the push-button music box. What the heck, you may wonder, is a push-button music box? Well, this very technical term, which my husband and I struggled to formulate, refers to a long plastic piece glued on the topside of the back cover, to the right of the pages. On this box are a series of 10 oval pictures, each referring to one of the songs in the book. The first song, for example, is called 'Alle Meine Entchen', and on our aforementioned push-button box, is a cute little picture of a duck wearing swim goggles (in the song, it describes how the ducks dip their heads under the water and wag their tails in the air). When you push each picture, the melody of that song is played, facilitating a sing-along for any of the songs in the book. It's especially great for those of us who didn't grow up singing about swimming ducks or goose-thieving foxes--it's great for both learning the melody AND practicing the lyrics once you learn the song well enough.

But, back to our waddling Kaya...I turn around, as I'm singing about all the birds, and notice that she's grabbed this big book off the shelf. I stop singing and ask her if she wants me to sing from that book. I wish I could remember what exactly she said, but the clear notion was that, no, she wanted me to sing from my book and she would sing from hers. Accompanied with her words, which I think were something like, "Mama sing--Kaya Buch" [book], was that hand-motion that I was referring to in yesterday's post: the outstretched arm after a deliberate shotput motion. This motion often means, "go away!" [weg], but this time, it clearly meant "turn around, put your nose in your book, and keep singing, woman!"

So, I follow her direction and keep singing about spring, and how the happy birds sing and whistle and chirp. I turn around again, hoping I won't get scolded, and notice her on the floor with her book, flipping through the pages. In her big book, there are four songs about birds, not even counting the one about ducks: Alle Voegel, Kommt ein Vogel geflogen [A Bird Comes Flying], Kuckuck, Kuckuck [Cuckoo], and Ein Vogel Wollte Hochzeit Machen [A Bird wanted to Get Married]. What's up with those krauts and their birds, I must wonder?! I turn back around, to check my lyrics, and suddenly notice that the melody is playing to the song I've just been singing. Of all four bird songs in this book, Kaya picks the one that I've been singing? I was shocked, and impressed, to say the least, and thus inspired to sit down and write.

It's quite possible that she pushed the button to that song because it is simply the first bird song that comes along--something I just noticed now. Flipping from the front, this theory would make sense.

I'm not sure what her method was, though, so I'm naturally left wondering...does she know that song better than I initially thought she did? Have we sung that song enough, together with the push-button music box, that she knows the difference between the four bird songs? Can our daughter read at age 2? (ha, ha, just joking!!)

Whatever meaning any of us may choose to assign, the moment was beautiful. Snow falling on maples, child discovering her world.
I feel lucky to have been a part.

After the fact, I grabbed my iPod, hoping to recreate the scene...didn't exactly happen, as I couldn't get her to play that song again, but for those with a good imagination, or just a penchant for cute toddlers and fluffy snow, it's a fun few minutes.

Sweet Everythings

Kaya has been my little 'mama's girl' lately...crying when I drop her off at 24hr fitness, and even when I leave her with Daddy in the evenings. Tonight, I was going to run a quick errand on the way home from the store, but when I went to hand her off to Geoff, was struck with a very definitive, "Mama! Mama!", arms outstretched.

I took her with me.
Who doesn't enjoy the sweet love of a toddler in a mini-Walgreen's shopping cart?

And the cherry, on top of the sweet-love pie, came this evening, as I was rocking her before bed. We'd read our books, drunk our milk, brushed our teeth (yes, both of our teeths), and were preparing for the time of the evening where she asks for her beloved "Schnooey und Affe" [binky and monkey] and soon thereafter, "Bett" [bed]. Tonight, however, she deviated a bit from the recent norm.

First of all, Affe got the boot tonight. Not from the bed, but from the rocker. As I handed him to her, she rejected my offer, shooing him away with her whole arm (like she does when she's telling us to go "weg" [away]). "Bett, Bett," she said, encouraging me to put her monkey back.

As we were rocking, relaxing to the soft glow of her Santa-light, she snuggled in deeper, making no indication that she wanted to go to bed anytime soon. When I asked her, she clearly verified my assumption with a defiant whine and a "Schaukel..." [rock] request. As eager as I was to head to the kitchen and adorn my brownie with the melting vanilla ice cream on the counter, I couldn't pull myself away. It's so rare that she requests to snuggle with me at night, and even less often that she nuzzles into me in a way that makes my heart melt like my ice cream. So, I stayed, stroking her hair, her cheeks, her sweet little nose. I whispered that the sandman would come, would bring her sweet dreams, and leave behind sand in her eyes for us to find in the morning. She whispered back: yeah. I told her, once again, how much I love her and how she's my "allerliebster Kuschelbaer" [most favorite snuggle bear]. Then, suddenly, I noticed her hand on my face, gently stroking my cheek, running through my hair, around my ears, over my nose, back through my hair and down my cheek. I couldn't believe it. My two year old daughter was stroking my face in way that calmed my soul. I closed my eyes and took it all in--every caress, every stroke, every ounce of love that she was sending my way. When I opened them again, I couldn't help but smile. She was looking right at me, as she had been before, a smile beginning to brew on her lips, too. "Haare," she said, running her hand through my hair.

"Was ist das?" [What is this?] I asked her, pointing to my nose.
"Nose," she said, with a big grin.
"Ja, Daddy sagt 'nose'. Was sagt Mama zu 'nose'?" I asked her. [Yeah, Daddy says nose. What does Mama say for nose?]
She paused a second and then replied, "Nase."

Ultimately, she pulled her hand back from my face, nuzzling her head into my arm once again. I didn't want to go, but knew that I couldn't put bedtime off forever. I explained to her, naturally in German, that it was about time to sleep and that I was going to put her in her bed soon. "Schaukel," she responded again. This time, I pulled an old trick out of my pocket, telling her that I would put her in bed and leave, but that I would return after a bit to rock later.

"Verstehst du?" I asked her. [Do you understand?]

She didn't say anything in response, but I knew she understood.
After rocking for a few more minutes, I heard a quiet little "Bett" [bed] escape her lips.

I satiated her Mama need for the moment, and she, my need for love and connection.
True symbiosis, this mother-daughter thing. True biology at work.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I just went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. It's clearly time for bed.
As I'm brushing, Geoff says to me, "Kaya just kicked me out of her room..."

"What?!" I ask him, despite my understanding that this is completely within the realm.

Apparently, he had gone into her room because he heard mumbling. She came home from grandma and grandpa's tonight with a fever, and it was about time to change her diaper. Some checking was in order.

"I'm gonna give you a new diaper," he told her.
"New diaper," she responded, eager for a dry bum.

Then, Geoff stood next to the crib, looking lovingly upon his sweet little babe, red-cheeked and feverish. She needs me here, he thought. She's sick and surely doesn't want to be alone. He really wanted to go to bed, he told me. Didn't want to get stuck there rocking so he couldn't get some sleep himself. But he also really wanted to be there for her, to comfort her in her sickness.

"I'm gonna rock, OK?" he asked her, rhetorically.

She looked at him from behind the bars, snuggling her monkey.
"Out," she said, simply.

"You want me to go out?" he asked, despite the apparent clarity.
"Yeah," she replied.

Our daughter just kicked my husband out of her room. At 2. While sick.


It's a few weeks later now, Feb. 19th, and a few days ago, I heard Kaya calling "out, out, out..." while Geoff was in there, changing her diaper. I felt awful for him, his daughter telling him to leave in the wee hours of the morning. When he came back into the room, he told me that he thought she was saying "out" because she wanted to be out of her crib. I, admittedly, had my doubts...I still feared that she was telling him to leave. After he had come back, she was still upset, crying and carrying on. I went in there to see if I could calm her down, and within a few seconds of my being in there, too, I heard her say it again: "out". Maybe she did want out of her crib after all. So, feeling hopeful, I asked her:
"Willst du aus dem Bett?" [Do you want out of your bed?]
"Yeah," she replied, sweetly.

So, there's no guarantee that she meant either, as she often answers "yeah" to questions that really deserve a 'no'. But, perhaps, just perhaps, she didn't really kick my husband out of her room...