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!


  1. Love the success story!!

    Only thing I like better than books is snuggling in bed with my kiddos!

  2. This story made me smile as we have the exact same bedtime routine in our house of a story after books! My girls LOVE this part and just like you, there is no getting around it anymore. I'm lucky if I get away with one story as usually I have to tell at least 2-3. Like you, especially on nights when I was tired and not feeling creative, I was not in the mood to tell a story. I would stretch into the recesses of my mind to find one and try to tell a two-second story they were never satisfied with. I love this idea to tell stories from my own childhood-I'll have to use that one- thanks! The other thing I discovered that makes it easy is to tell them stories about themselves but give the characters new names or make them animals. Lately their favorite story is about the giraffes who snuck into the drawer and ate gum (not allowed) when mama and baba were in the other room.

    1. Stephanie,
      I forgot about the fact that my sharing of my experience, at least in regards to my bedtime story challenges, could actually make a difference for someone else...thank you for reminding me about that! I love your idea, too...also, a huge added bonus for sharing my experience. I'll have to try that with Kaya...I'm eager to see how obvious it is to her that it's about her! The giraffe story is especially close to my heart, as my late mom was really into them, so it's a special animal in our family (did you know they have the biggest heart of any mammal!). I'm not sure this has any giraffe references, but here's a cute post about my mom and kaya's relationship with her, should you be curious...
      thanks! Look forward to seeing you around again! IS that your amazing magazine?!!?

  3. It's great to hear more stories of Kaya! And so many responses...
    I think we have the same Gute Nacht Geschichten. I think Aleksander is a little young for it still, but I'm looking forward to reading the stories to him. When he was born, I decorated his nursery in Pooh Bear :) He still has the mobile above his bed that his Opa made for him with all the Pooh characters. So we talk about Piglet and Ferkel, too!
    Okay, I'm not only impressed by Kaya's attempt to console the child in you and problem-solving for you. But get a load of her use of Konjunktiv II!!! (subjunctive) Yes, yes, I'm a grammar geek to the end :)
    Hee hee - love the "Bitte Guten Morgen zuerst" :) I can just hear her saying it! They're so literal sometimes, aren't they? Adorable! And what a polite little thing she is, too!
    Thanks for the tip of the Leo books. I've heard of them but haven't tried them yet. Looks like you can order them from ABC-Kinderladen, if you're looking.
    Your perseverance with Kaya is really an inspiration! I haven't started insisting on Aleksander speaking German with me ... yet. But I know it will be worth it when the time comes!
    Looking forward to more stories!!

    1. Hi Kate!
      I don't know how it happened, but somehow your message slipped through the cracks. I'm sorry I'm not getting back to you until now! Your comments always make me smiles, always so validating...thank you! It's also fun to hear a snippet of your life...I'm eager to have more time now so I can be out in our community more, reading more bloggers' experience to add to our own, too.
      Thanks for the point about the books at ABC...I'll have to check that out!
      Glad to know I'm making a difference for you--always my goal.
      Thanks!! Talk to speak...=)

  4. Hi from Sicily Tamara,

    I've been reading from the beginning every now and then your blog. It has been quite inspiring. I say "quite" only because my little Diego is exactly the same age as Kaya and I had made up my mind about nonnative bilingualism (Italian-English) before getting to "know" you.
    I recognize so much every aspect and anecdote of Kaya as well as the uncountable phases of dismay, struggles, disappointment that go through a parent mind.
    So it's just by chance that I'm writing here, I could have posted on any article, so much the same things happen to us down to the trifles with Twinkle Twinkle or repeating "Say good morning", just to mention the latest.
    I'm just surprised how she's not mixing languages up. Diego does it all the time and I sense in his case the minority language suffers much more from inevitable overexposion to Italian... Just a couple of hours ago, by the Saturday's in-bed cuddles, he surprised me with "Nascondiamo under blanket! Mummy non ci see us!" (Let's hide under the blankets! Mummy is not going tu see us!) which left me laughing (inside).


I LOVE reading your comments, they make such a difference! Thanks for sharing!