Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fun. Bilingual. Literary. Life.

This post is being written for the February Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, which, for this month, is being hosted by Jen at Perogies and Gyoza. For those of you who are new to the carnival, it was initiated by Letizia, at Bilingue per Gioco, and serves as a spectacular community for those of us interested in and embarking upon raising our children with more than one language. 

From time to time, topic suggestions are made for the carnival, primarily to serve as inspiration for those in need of ideas. This month's idea was literacy. As much as I love the topic, Kaya has been supremely sweet over the past week, and I'm finding that, other than one little literary anecdote, most of what I have to share has nothing at all to do with reading. Instead, it's a little snapshot of our budding bilingual at 3, and similarly serves to demonstrate how much fun life really is with her these days...

I'll at least start with the suggested topic. Last week, she and I were in the rocker reading "Ferkel kann nicht Schlafen," [Piglet can't Sleep]--a story out of the collection called Winnie Puuh, Geschichten zur guten Nacht [Winnie the Pooh, Good Night Stories]. We'd read half of the first page, and as Pooh begins to advise Piglet that honey may be the answer, Kaya cuts in to share her insight: "Das ist Ferkel," [That is Ferkel] she says, pointing at Piglet. "In engwisch ist das Pigwet." [In English, that's Piglet]. That's right, I tell her, smiling proudly. Even though she's made it clear in the past that she's aware of the difference between the two languages, I'm still shocked every time when she brings it to our attention--esp. as often as she's mentioning it these days. At the table the other day, I said something, in German, in regards to what Geoff would say if he were there with us. "Aber das wuerde in Engwisch sein," [But that would be in English], she said.

As I mentioned a few months ago, one of the pieces of her bedtime routine is telling Kaya a story after we read her a book (or two). She loves this part SO much, and will often request which story she wants us to tell her. From Dada, her favorite story of late is "The Mischievous Troll"--a little ditty that Geoff created about a rascally troll who lives under a bridge and delights in scaring the animals that come his way ("he's really just lonely," Geoff adds, "and is trying to get them to play with him."). I noticed that I was dreading this part of bedtime, and would attempt to either pass it off to Geoff, or skip right to singing our songs. She has come to love hearing these stories so much that it's no longer an option for me to get around it. The other night, I realized that I didn't have to use the creativity that I felt I was lacking--but instead, could tell her stories of my childhood. Excited about my epiphany, I began to tell her the story of my 8th birthday, when I had a sleepover with my closest friends. The highlight of that party, from what I recall today, was attempting to make ice cube soda pops. We poured all the soda into the trays, put them in the freezer, and while we waited for our delectable treat, got foot massages from my mom. Later that evening, when we went back to check on the popsicles, I discovered that my sister, and her best friend Lisa, had drunk ALL of the soda from the trays. "Ich war so boese auf meine Schwester," [I was so mad at my sister] I explained to Kaya. "Ich war traurig, und aufgeregt, und so wuetend." [I was sad, and upset, and angry.] On the second night that I told her this story (the night that she requested "die Geschichte von deiner Geburtstag" [the story of your birthday], Kaya cut me off as I got to the part about my feelings. So eager to help make it better, she calmly told me, "Du koenntest sie fragen, 'Bitte nicht meine Soda trinken.' " [You could ask her, Please don't drink my soda.] Hearing her interjection makes me realize how much problem solving Kaya does lately, especially when it comes to working out emotional challenges. Lately, I've been focusing on applying strategies that I'm reading in The Whole-Brain Child--an amazing parenting, book by Siegel and Bryson, which I can't say enough about (there's another literary point for my post!). Kaya's comment leads me to believe, among other actions I've seen in her lately, that their suggestions are working, and that her brain is becoming integrated...(yes!!!).

Now that Kaya is growing into some independence, there are certain aspects of the day that have become pretty blissful. First of all, with the ability and willingness to entertain and 'take care of herself' for long periods at a time, sleeping in a bit is somewhat of a possibility when I'm lucky enough to help it happen. Of course, some serious support is needed from Dada, in the way of getting her the milk that she's been insisting on first thing. I didn't know if it would extend the time that I could lounge in bed, but when it hit me that Geoff could pour a sippy cup of milk and have it ready for her when she wakes up, I definitely jumped on the idea to see if it would do the trick. Indeed, it did...and on those wondrous mornings where she actually wakes up before he leaves, and he has time to get her some lounge time is even longer. (Ahh, the beauty of being at home with evening work hours. I know how fortunate I am--have no fear. I don't go too long without recognizing how much of a wonderful thing I have going here...!)

This weekend, Geoff was in Vegas, so he naturally wasn't available to play waiter for me and Miss K. As she awoke at 7:15, I glanced at my watch and hoped I'd squeak in a few more winks before she uttered the expected request. Keeping my eyes closed, I offered my hand so she could climb into the bed to snuggle in close, as she often does first thing upon waking. Blanket over us both, I did what I could to keep my mind from hearing, and thus creating, what I knew would soon leave her mouth. Quiet mind, quiet mind, Tamara. Focus on what you want. This worked for at least two minutes, and then it came: "Ich wiw Miiiiiusch..." [Ich will Milch = I want miiiilk.] Sometimes, with the advent of that morning whine, I say nothing, hoping that feigning sleep will trick the closest 3 year old (sometimes it does!). On other occasions, however, I attempt to guide her into a more gentle request process, coaching her in how she might ask without whining (thank you, Siegel and Bryson!). On that fine Friday, however, I thought I'd attempt to teach her to say 'good morning' before making her initial request of the day. Being super sleepy as I was, I recognize that my teaching strategy may not have been optimal, which may account for what she said in response:

Kaya: Ichwiw Miiiiusch...[I want miiiiillllk]
Mama: Sag bitte, 'Guten Morgen' zuerst [Please say Good Morning first...]
Kaya: Bitte Guten Morgen zuerst. [Please good morning first.]

The best part: there wasn't even a hint of sarcasm in her little 3-yr-old voice.

The day before, Kaya was lying in bed next to me, snuggling in with her face to close to mine. She began to gently stroke my face, which, of course, made me beam inside. As soon as she asked me, "Magst du das, wenn ich dich streichele?" [Do you like it when I rub your face?], I couldn't resist taking her in my arms and kissing her all over. Our mom used to stroke our faces like that, too (and kiss us all over, too!)--a point I tend to forget since it's become such a habit of mine with Kaya. When my sister came to visit in November, however, it was such a wonderful reminder to see her stroking Kaya's face in the exact same way that our mom used to do to with us.

Speaking of Mamas, this little story was shared with me last week by my sister-in-law, 'Tante Goolie'. In August, she's going to have a baby, and we're all very excited. "...After the ultrasound, I took the pics over to show Mom...I showed Kaya the pictures and she could see the picture of the baby's hand really clearly. I told her it was a picture of the baby growing in my tummy. Then, as I was showing mom the pictures, Kaya came over, stood in front of me, and very gently and lovingly put her hand on my tummy. I thanked her and told her that was a really nice love for the baby. :)"

There are a couple more conversations that I'd love to share before wrapping up this rather random post. Last week, while at Swapnplay, Kaya approached me with a computer keyboard in her hand. She'd found it in the 'big kids room' and ended up bringing it out to play with it (it's intended purpose). "Willst du computen, Mama?" [Do you want to compute, Mama?] she asked me, clearly unaware that she'd just created a new verb in the German language.

And that afternoon, while she and I were eating lunch at the table, she engages me in the following conversation:
Kaya: Ich bin fertig. [I'm done.]
Mama: OK, steig runter. [OK, climb down.]
Kaya: Nein, ich muss zuerst fragen. [No, I have to ask first.]

I can't help but smile. We've been "working" on her asking before she leaves the table.

Mama: OK, frag. [OK, ask.]
Kaya: Mama, darf ich runter? [Mama, can I get down?] (Can you hear the sweet tone?!)
Mama: Ja, natuerlich. [Yes, of course.]
Kaya: Danke. [Thanks.] (beginning to roll off her tongue now, yay for manners!)

Reliving all of these experiences here reminds me of how much fun we're having with Kaya these days. Thinking back on my days when I'd get so upset to hear her speak English (because she woudn't speak German with me!), it's so wonderful to be in this place now where I truly enjoy listening to her speak in both languages. I continue to be amazed at her fluency, how she flips back and forth effortlessly, and how, to me, she kind of seems like a different kid in each language. Sometimes I wonder if her English is still a little stronger than her German--her sentences seem a bit longer and like they may roll of her tongue a little faster, especially when she's creating complicated sentences (like this one that she said to Geoff last night during dinner: "Could I have a towel...a wet of the orange I can wash my hands?"--she hates having dirty hands...can ya blame 'er?!). But who knows...that's just my subjectivity speaking. Either way, she's fluent. Mission accomplished. All those months, those years of doubt, of wanting to give up, of wondering if it would work, and did. Thank you is what wants to come out first. Without you, blogging community, I really really wouldn't have made it. Without a doubt. 


I thought of one more thing to share on the topic of 'literacy': Leo Lausemaus is the greatest! He's got to be the cutest illustrated mouse in existence, and for our young German speaker, the topics are perfect. The books that we have, which I brought home from Germany, are Leo Lausemaus will sich nicht die Zaehne putzen [...doesn't want to brush his teeth] and Leo Lausemaus sagt nicht die Wahrheit [...doesn't tell the truth]--both of which have made a difference in her actions.  I'm eager to have the others that address other areas of life that have similarly proven themselves a challenge (or soon might): 
  • Leo Lausemaus hat schlechte Laune [ in a bad mood]
  • Leo Lausemaus will nicht in den Kindergarten [...doesn't want to go to Pre-school]
  • Leo Lausemaus will nicht schlafen [...doesn't want to sleep]
  • Leo Lausemaus, Mama geht zur Arbeit [...Mama goes to work]
  • Leo Lausemaus will nicht essen [...doesn't want to eat]
Each of these books addresses these little life dilemmas in a manner that is appealing to both mama and babe. Kaya can't get enough, and when we finish reading Leo, we both linger at the end of the book and woo over the other titles: "Ich wiw dieses und dieses...und dieses..," [I want this one, and this one...and this one!] Kaya will often say. I don't know if these books have been translated, but if so, I highly recommend checking them out, esp. for the younger crowd. Super worth it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Breaking my Silence with her Twinkles and Tantes

It's past my bedtime--as it usually is when I finally find the time to write--but I realized that it's been SO long since I've written...and I don't like being so removed from this wonderful little blogging community for so long, so here I go. Bedtime be damned.

I don't really know what I have to say...I'm racking my brain for something, for some story to share about our sweet little thing. Her language is incredible these days...she continues to speak to each of us in German and English, respectively, and rarely mixes. I'm not sure how it is at the German Saturday School, where she's been attending since we got back from Germany in November--but I assume she doesn't mix her languages much there, either. Every once in a while, I hear her start a sentence in English with me, but she quickly switches over to German as soon as she processes that she's talking to me. It's also really fun that she speaks English with Kensa, our dog--yet another opportunity for her brain to practice switching from one to the next. "Ich habe ihr gesagt, dass sie rausgehen soll," [I told her that she needs to go out], she told me yesterday, as she let her out the front door.

Now I'm reminded of a little story to share. She's been really into naming her "friends" lately--which is fun, because for the longest time, many of her stuffed animals didn't have a name. It's funny because that's often the first thing that people ask her. "What's your monkey's name?" they'll ask, seeking a reply. She often remains quiet, however, causing them to rephrase the question: "Does your monkey have a name?" Until my family came for Thanksgiving, her favorite monkey (the stand-in for most girls' baby) was nameless. Now, however, he's Marvin, named after my uncle and dad's brother in California. And there's Ellie, the giraffe, who was named by Craig when he came to visit. I think he helped name both giraffes, though the other name is escaping me at the moment. The names that Kaya comes up with on her own aren't your run-of-the-mill Suzie or Bobby, or even Tigger or Stripes. Instead, she names them after people in her life that are important to her. The other day, for instance, Kaya told me that "Tante Gaymie (she still struggles with her j sound) schlaeft noch." [Aunt Jamie is sleeping still]. I thought it was a bit strange that she not only knew that our neighbor was still asleep at 11am on a Tuesday, but that she would bring it up so randomly while we were in the bathroom. I passed it off, probably partly in my own world at the time. But when she said it again later, it became clear to me that she was referring to her baby--the one with the eye that won't quite close while it's lying down. Yesterday, while she and Geoff were cleaning out the van (anyone want to buy our '93 Eurovan poptop?!), she was driving him to zoo where they were going to look at the zebras and elephants. I was in the backseat, at that point, as she wanted me to go to the zoo with them. Before driving off, however, Kaya made it clear that she needed to get "Auntie Sara", and she quickly turned from the steering wheel to grab, from the other seat, the turquoise chinchilla (the one that Cannon Beach Sarah had given her last summer). "Auntie Sara" in hand, and Tante Gamie asleep in her room, we sped off to the zoo, with Kaya at the wheel, where we saw not only purple anteaters but the troll under the bridge playing hide and seek with his favorite blanket (Pooh on one side, dragonfly on the other).

In addition to that little story, I took a little video of Kaya singing "Funkel-Funkel" (Twinkle-Twinkle) the other day. I started the video a bit after she starts...but she starts over at one point, so you can hear the beginning, too. Also, if you listen closely, you can hear her say the phrase that she consistently mixes: "Be leise" [be quiet], as she tells me not to sing ("nicht singen!"). At the end, as at the end of most of our videos these days, you can hear her eagerly asking to see the video ("I wiw den Video sehn").

So, for now, I'll leave you with that, and swear I'll be back sooner next time. Writing rocks.

Funkel, funkel kleiner Stern, 
Alle sehen dich so gern
Sendest Licht in unsere Welt, 
Ein Diamant am Himmelszelt, 
Funkel, funkel, kleiner Stern, 
Alle sehen dich so gern!

(for another version, with different lyrics--and not quite as mellow:)