November 16, 2014

Parlez Vous Francais?

The other day I was signing Aiden up for daycare (again) and two of the questions broke me out of my typical form-filling-out-trance:
1) What languages are spoken in the household?
2) What languages are books read in?

The first one I was able to answer with a reasonably clear conscience: English and French!  I know about the same amount of French as a Madewell t-shirt (ie none) but it's David's first language and he tries to speak it to Aiden whenever they are alone together.  There are so many amazing benefits of learning languages as a young child; better critical thinking skills, increased creativity, delayed onset of Alzheimers, the list is pretty staggering.  Plus, French is such a beautiful language and bilingual just sounds so cultured!  But calling ours a bilingual household is a bit of a stretch and the second question exposed my fib.  Aiden is read to in only one langue, at best.  (It's so hard to get the little guy to sit still!)

Damn.  Are we missing this opportunity and failing him already?!?

Before Aiden was born, while we were still oblivious, well-rested, dewy-faced, soon-to-be parents and I was looking for things to worry about (it's required of new moms, right?), I asked David if he thought Aiden would learn to speak French.  "Of course!" he said, clearly thinking my question was ridiculous.   "It's my native language- why wouldn't he?"  But alas, it is not so easy and the little guys claim to bilingualism is tenuous.

Language is such a strange creature.  Like, for example, that it is possible for an adult living in a different country to forget their native language.   I mean ....?!?!!  This blows my mind- if I could forget English then I could forget literally anything (and I do mean actually literally not just as pop-culture vocab).  This started to happen to my high school ski coach- he was from Macedonia and, after 10 years of speaking mostly only English, he was slowly losing his native tongue.  So hard for me to comprehend!  And even weirder- his English wasn't perfect at that point so, in some ways, he was without a (perfect) form of expression!  Language seems so permanent and basic and un-influential but it's really fluid and underling practically everything we do.  It even influences the way/things we think!

I have a friend whose Spanish-speaking parents purposely didn't teach her Spanish- they joked that then they could then have a secret language for "adult-talk."  But I've heard of several parents doing this because they want their kids to fit in and not seem like foreigners- so sad, on many levels.  It also probably happens just because it takes a surprising amount of concerted effort.  Which is exactly what's happening with us.

Aiden's favorite book BY FAR- we just look at the pictures and say them in English but I'm try to start saying them in French too
But all is not lost by his first birthday, either.  Many years ago I attended elementary school in Japan and went from zero to conversational in just a few months.  Months!  (Caveat: conversational for a 10 year old is somewhat limited.)  There is something amazing about kids' brains.  I have this distinct memory of standing in the middle of a giant train station on a weekend trip to Tokyo and wondering why my mom couldn't understand the elderly Japanese man trying to give us directions (in Japanese).  Four hours later after missing our original train and waiting for next one, I realized I understood better than I thought and should have translated.  When I think about it now, it amazes me- in maybe half a year, I easily spoke Japanese with the neighborhood kids, went to school in Japanese, and could read (except for Kanji).  I wish I could still do that today!

It's such an amazing gift to be able to give Aiden with more wide-ranging and additional, non-intuitive benefits than I can name.  Plus, I really want to develop that skill myself- it's fun and opens doors and, really, it seems only fair to David.  Plus, did I mention I find it romantic?

I've tried Rosetta Stone and really like it and also have been meaning to try Duolingo (which looks cool and is free).  I'm even considering Little Pim for Aiden, although it's not free and it feels a little over the top in a tiger-mom-ish way.  I'm also really excited about the baby books I got recently.  They are for Aiden obviously, but also for me in a way- I heard somewhere that reading familiar children's books in a new language was good way to learn (as an adult).  Sounds lovely.  I really hope it's true so maybe we can learn together, Aiden and I.

I should be able to keep up with a 2 year old, right?

November 9, 2014

California Knows How to Party

And by party I mean sleep in, take long walks on the beach, eat-eat-eat, and relax in the sun.  My kind of party!!

We are in LA for a little R&R and if I really consider it, I think this is the first Real Grownup Vacation we've taken as a family.  You know the kind: where it's not to visit family, you plan it in advanced, take an airplane (no road trips), rent a car, don't stay with friends/family, and go somewhere sunny and warm to decompress from your busy-yet-ordinary 9-5 lives.  Quite exciting stuff here.

As we round the corner into rain and are staring down a solid 6 months of dark (ie winter in the Upper Left), both David and I were both in need of some sunshine.  So we decided no better time than now (actually there probably is- we're moving) and headed south.  And it is literally the best.  We are staying just a few minutes walk from the beach and had just enough foresight to bring the jogging stroller so Aiden and I are doing daily morning jogs followed by a stint at what has to be one of the most scenic playgrounds ever.  I mean, the first day we saw dolphins.

Aiden is talking up a storm, loving sleeping in our bed, and inthralled by the feel of sand on his feet.  David is on cloud nine with the LA style and I've completely forgotten what it's like to be on a computer all day.  Other than that, we are mostly trying to absorb our weigh in sunshine and eating our way through the neighborhoods.  It's everything I imagined and more.

November 2, 2014

Moving and Cleansing and Things

So... we are moving!  Just a couple neighborhoods over but still.  While we are pretty pleased with the situation, I almost completely avoided talking or even thinking about it right up until the very last minute.  Probably partially due to wanting to ignore the bone weary logistics of physically moving but also because I wasn't thinking of is as an exciting, moving-up-in-the-world sort of move.  It is more a oops-didn't-plan-that-well, lateral kind of move which is exactly what we swore we would stop doing... alas.

But perhaps I gave this process an unnecessary bad rap.  Besides it being clearly the right choice for all the practical and logical and boring reasons, it was also exciting in some ways.  Commence the count-your-blessings portion:
  • I'm ecstatic for a "real" kitchen with a respectable amount of cupboard space so we can actually keep food around for multiple days at a time.  A big simmering pot of soup or the smell of something baking wafting through the rooms are key in my make-it-through-the-winter strategy.
  • Being even closer to my brothers family.  Hope you guys are ready for a sharp increase in uninvited dinner guests!
  • Redecorating.  Yesssssss.  Of course undoing/redoing everything is exhausting and our old place wasn't half bad but I'm looking on the bright side here, remember?  
  • Noise.  It's such a relief to have slightly diminished the constant sounds of the city scream-whispering in my ear.
  • Exploring a (mildly) new area
  • Purging crap.  Also reorganizing.  I've been itching to do both of these for a while but can't seem to overcome the inertia of All The Things.  Now, with the necessity of packing/loading/unpacking All The Things, inertia is in my favor.
With regards to that last one, there may or may not have been several life changing trips to the container store and some equally life changing trips to Good Will.

Why am I organizing before we move, you may ask?  I guess I'm trying to determine what can be given/thrown away.  Also, I just can't help myself- literally, I cannot stop.  This feeling of wanting to purge and organize my belongings has been weighing on me for a while and I can't seem to quite pin it down.  I mean, if it was purely logistical I should be able to figure it out by now, right?  In all honesty, we don't have that much stuff.

It's almost certianly related to my fascination with capsule collections.  How awesome- to have a tiny wardrobe of only amazing pieces you absolutely love.  Sounds like perfection to me.  I would kind of love to do that with everything in my life- my house, my diet, my reading list, of course my clothes.  I'm starting to feel like 'more choice' is often an illusion that creates more noise and more stress and that it's so easy to end up with ten ok things when all you wanted it one amazing thing.

David's antique toy cars from the half-bath- I'm glad to see he finally fully accepted it as his man cave.  Don't plan on getting so lucky this time around, babe!
But I've also been thinking that maybe my obsession of clearing my house (head) is just that: an obsession.  There is no finish line or 'done' point so trying to get there is starting to feel like a waste of time.  At some point I'm going to have to accept the state of things and move on.  I did my best and (in this arena) that's almost certainly good enough.  Besides, I don't want to be too caught up in that to miss out on all the magic little things happening around me:

(Don't let the jogger fool you- I haven't been doing nearly enough of that.)

I don't really have a conclusion as I'm still in the thick of it and pretty undecided.  I'm sure it will eventually boil down to "it's a balance" though.  So to complete this somewhat scattered post, I'll leave you with our obligatory (and horribly grainy) halloween photo: we were a lazy Skywalker family.  I wore braid buns and white, David had a Darth Vader mask and black, and Aiden was in a tan sweatshirt with lightsabers.  Dexter didn't have a costume but he vaguely resembles an ewok so there you go.  Close enough.