Sunday, July 29, 2012

Toddler Spanglish

So, for the past 23 months, I have been speaking to Desmond primarily in Spanish and Billy primarily in English.  We have had only Spanish-speaking nannies and caretakers for Desmond and read him a nice mix of Spanish and English board books.  I was lucky enough to have a foundation of Spanish (having spoken it first) before I moved to the United States, but after moving here and learning English (mostly via Sesame Street), English became my primary spoken language and I unfortunately have lost a considerable amount of Spanish throughout my 28 years here. 

When we took Des to his 18 month well-child checkup, the doctor kept asking us milestone questions, like does he eat a variety of solid foods and can he play by himself for five minutes (not sure if those were the questions exactly...refer to the ages and stages questionnaire for more info).  I had answered "yes" to most questions he said, puffing my chest out like a proud bird mama, until he asked me the following question: "Is he communicating with you using words?"  Ummm... "How many words does he know?"  I racked my brain for the words he did use...hurry, hurry, Scarlett...the doctor is looking at you! 

"Um, he knows how to say Mama and he says his dad's name, Bill...but he says it like Bewwww."  "Anything else?"
"Um, his favorite word is 'bah' for ball."
"Is that all?"

Shit.  That was all.  I felt like Des and I failed the test.  I nodded my head yes as I tried to see what the doctor was writing in his chart. 

"Is that bad?  Should he be speaking more at this age?"
"Well, every child is different, but 90-95% of all children have at least 5-10 words that they are saying by now, so the lack of words worries me slightly.  We'll have to have a hearing test just to make sure."
"Wait!  Did I mention that I speak to him in Spanish full-time?"
A-ha!  I knew that would explain it all.  The pediatrician thought for a second and said, "well, yes, there could be a minor delay but not by much.  Let's order a hearing test just to make sure."

As we sat there waiting patiently for the hearing test, I looked down at Desmond and took in his beautiful blonde hair, his double chin (inherited from my mother's side of the family), and the fat roll above his knee and tears started welling up in my eyes.  Now I understood why my mother would exhort me to dress and act nicely around strangers I could care less about...Des is, just as I was at that moment, an extension of myself and anything that any stranger thinks about Des is a reflection on me.  Was I a bad mother for talking to Des in Spanish in an English-speaking environment?  Was I confusing the heck out of his little mind?  Of course I hoped that the hearing test would show that his hearing was fine (I was confident it was), but the tiniest little smidge of my pride wanted there to be something else wrong so that my choice of parenting methods wasn't proven wrong.  Silly, right?

Fast forward six months later and Des is communicating very well.  I've seen toddlers his age who are able to communicate fluently and others that are not able to do it so well.  We haven't met any toddlers that are being raised bilingual, so we can't really compare (not that we should...comparing kid to kid is a no-no, as many a parent would tell you).  What is fascinating as I watch Des develop his language skills is that he hears two versions of a word for the same thing and then chooses the easier word to name that thing.  For example, he chooses to say ball instead of pelota and bird instead of pajarro, but will say "ass" for gracias instead of thank you and espuma (spuma) for bubbles.  He also says pan for bread, gato for cat, "boooos" (bus) for bus, etc.  And then for some English words, he'll say with a Spanish accent, like "mahn" for man, and "Dahn" for his uncle dan.  He doesn't even blink an eye when I inadvertently switch from Spanish to English (like when I'm translating an English book into Spanish). 

In a Colombian supermarket, teaching him what a papaya looks like.

It'll be exciting to see how his language will develop.  Hopefully, we'll be able to spend more of our lives living in countries where Spanish is the primary language so that Desmond (and Billy and I) can incorporate it more into our daily lives and Des could come out of that experience having a firm foundation of the language that someday he could pass on to his children as part of his Hispanic heritage.

Desmond, running through the streets (sidewalks) of Bogota. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Coffee, summers, and a toddler

Wow.  How time flies.  This time last summer, we were just saying goodbye to our life in SLC and heading out to the great Midwest.  Des wasn't walking yet, had a monk-like hair growth pattern, and could barely say mama.  Now here we are (well, Des and I), back in SLC for the summer and he's running around, has a snazzy little-man haircut, and says some freaking cute words.  Although we are staying the summer with my in-laws (Des's lovely grandparents Donna (Mimi) and Bruce (Boos)), it has been quite difficult living our lives without Bill, who is currently in Wisconsin doing a marketing internship for Kimberly Clark. 

At a park in Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin.

Real life Silence of the Lambs...freaking Desmond out. 

As many of you may know, living with and raising a toddler is not for the faint of heart.  Do you know that I, who have been up to this point strictly a tea drinker and who almost has a heart attack any time she even sips on coffee, is now drinking at least a cup of day?  My son, who isn't even 2 yet, has more energy than I have ever had in my entire life.  And yes, it has driven me to drink coffee every single day, even though it makes me sweat, makes my heart beat so fast, and pretty much sends me straight to the bathroom as soon as I finish drinking it if you know what I mean.  I don't understand how some people can tolerate more than a cup of this a's heavy stuff.   

However, the coffee does keep me alert and ready to keep up with Des for the day.  But you know what else it gives me?  A pounding headache by the time 4pm rolls around.  Which, fascinatingly, coincides with the time of day that Desmond just goes absolutely nuts and starts running around screaming (like, the type of screaming where you could feel your eardrums actually vibrating).  It gets intense.  Another scream inducer?  My cell phone.  The minute I pick it up to answer a call, his weird cell phone sense perks up and he drops whatever he's doing to come running over to me.  He pats his ear (his way of asking for the phone) and the second I shake my head no, he pouts and then starts to wail and scream.  Makes for very short conversations.  He also knows how to work my phone, too, and scrolls down the contacts list and looks for people's pictures and then calls them, usually unbeknownst to me.  This provides me with the opportunity to talk to people I hardly ever talk to and to apologize for my son's unruly behavior.  Thankfully, they all think it's cute.  That is, the first or second time he calls.  By the third time, they don't even answer the phone anymore.

Self portrait.  Taken while hijacking my phone.
He is also becoming so very bossy.  To everyone.  We all have our certain chairs we have to sit in in the living room.  He won't allow his grandpa Bruce to look at anything he's looking at and one time, when Des was bathing, Grandpa Bruce took his shoes and socks off and stepped into the tub behind Des.  Des looked at him with such terror and incomprehension and bolted out of the tub like kids bolting out of a swimming pool when it has been discovered that someone couldn't hold it in.  And he's very protective of his Grandma Donna.  Anytime Bruce even goes near her and, God forbid, touches her, it is the gravest injustice that has ever occurred in Desmond's lifetime and he proceeds to make it known to all of us just how wronged he has been.

But, as trying as it may be day to day, I remember my mantra: the days are long, but the years are short, and I think back to this time past year (and how very quickly this year has gone by), and realize that my beautiful baby boy is becoming a beautiful little guy.  On top of that, as I was thinking about how I hated hot summers, I realized that I only have 15, MAYBE 16 summers left with Des. 

And then my heart grows heavy. 

I realized that 16 years are going to pass by in the blink of an eye (I mean, I was in 10th grade 16 years ago and it feels like it only happened a few years ago) and so I take a deep breath, have another sip of coffee and remind myself that even though it could be trying and frustrating and yes, even boring, to be a mother to a crazy little toddler, it is also such a beautiful time in my life.  A time that he probably will never remember and so I have the privilege and the gift of carrying these moments and memories within me.  As long as I keep having my cup of coffee a day, since now studies show the positive effects caffeine has on memory.

My Dream Backyard

We were lucky enough to have a pretty nice backyard in St. Louis, with enough room for Desmond to frolic (ha!) and to throw a couple of balls around with his dad.  However, it wasn't very kid-friendly as far as backyards go and he would get pretty bored after a while (which means, he would start to do things that were bound to get him into sneaking into our neighbor's yard or trying to figure out how to open the gate that leads to our driveway).

In our backyard with our very own "sandbox": Flour mixed with baby oil.  Feels osfter than sand and can be easily molded into balls and sandcastles. Plus, it leaves your hands extra soft and smells nice. 

Because we didn't have a kick-ass backyard, we were so lucky to live in a neighborhood that has access to a community gym and rec center.  We are able to drop Desmond off at a great childcare service right in the gym while we go workout.  There is also an indoor pool, with a kiddie area, a library, and, best of all, a beautiful eco-friendly playground.  If we owned our own house, this is the kind of backyard I'd love to have for Des. 

The playground was made from recycled plastics, used steel rods, and tires. 

Everything in the playground was made out of reclaimed and repurposed materials, mostly wood.  I love the idea of reusing materials or buying sustainable ones to make a play area for Des, partly because of the feel-good-for-helping-mother-earth factor but also because a lot of these structures (for lack of a better word) encouraged Desmond to interact with them and have open-ended play (as much as a 1.5 year old can).  He can feel the different textures and climb on all of the wooden objects and see how things can be reused in different ways for different purposes.  I'm sure it hasn't dawned on him how awesome that is, but hopefully my enthusiasm will rub off.d

I remember being so excited for the plastic swing and slide set that my parents had bought for us when we were little.  We used them for maybe a summer and then "outgrew" them and they just sat there, bleached pale pink and green by the sun.  Even if Des does outgrow a backyard like this, I think it could be repurposed for other, more grown-up uses as well (like to finally have my own vegetable garden, replete with compost and rainwater collector!  And maybe an adult tree house.  And a hammock.)


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Road Trip #5 or 6

Desmond has more road trips under his belt than years of life.  A long time ago, I would've told you to your face that road trips sucked and that I'd much rather get to my destination sooner rather than later.  I guess the old mantra "life is in the journey, not the destination" didn't sit well with me.  However, having flown on more flights than I can remember with Desmond, I am happy to report that I have fallen in love with that old American standard: the road trip.

This love affair, as with any great love affair, happened quite by accident and when I was least expecting it.  We moved to St. Louis and were set up in our landlord's furnished apartment as our house was being readied for our arrival.  We took the opportunity to go visit some friends and family back East.  We thought we were in a prime position to travel everywhere, with St. Louis being in the middle of the country and all.  :)

Now, 10 hour trips are like a walk in the park.  A walk in the park with a toddler strapped to your back while carrying a diaper bag and walking two dogs, but a walk nonetheless.  10 hours is the max we think Des can get through (it probably takes us 12 hours with stops to eat and let Des run around).  He is awesome in the car.  I can't wait until he's a little older so that we could start playing road trip games.  Someone mentioned to me that they used to tie a string from oh shit bar to oh shit bar (what are they called?) with marks on it for places of interest or exits.  The kids would color and cut out car shapes and would then tie them to the string, moving them along the string as they hit another marker.  Genius, huh?  But I think Desmond is used to the long rides and sort of settles in to his seat once he realizes it's not just a short jaunt to the supermarket. 

For Spring Break this year, we decided to visit my brother John in New York.  It was so much fun to see Desmond connect in such a different way with family than he did almost a year ago. 

One of Des's many books...we get new ones out of the library so that he has some new material and pepper it with some of his faves from home.

A psychedelic glowing cup given to Des by his Aunt Christine on our stop in New Castle.

Magnetic etch a sketch wasn't a huge WIN as I'd hoped it'd be.  I don't think Desmond gets it yet.
My FSIL was so excited to push Des around in a stroller.  I was happy to walk unencumbered, hand-in-hand with Bill.

On my brother's rooftop in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. 
In Carlisle, PA, visiting with Kseniya, Bill's sister.

My "little" brother John.
All dressed up for a nice dinner.
We stopped by some random park in Yellow Springs, Ohio and came upon this miniature wooden doll house.  Desmond was sitting on the dining table.

Releasing some energy.  Essential!
 We love traveling and although it is much easier traveling without him, it's so much fun when he tags along.  Although we were a bit hesitant to start going on road trips with Desmond (and we are doing more of it because flying with a toddler on your lap is harder and because when he turns 2, we will have to start paying for him), we have so enjoyed the journeys and backroads we have taken with Desmond and to get to show him parts of this country that he might have never seen if not for driving through it is so amazing. 

So, don't let a few hours in the car scare you.  Everyone will get used to it.  Remember, it's not the destination, it's the trip.  Or however it goes.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Open Letter to Desmond: 20 months


Des, oh, Des, oh, Des. 

You are one crazy little man.  Your personality is exploding all over the place.  It's thrilling to see how you are developing these little idiosyncracies all on your own (because God knows Mami doesn't jut out her lower jaw like you've been doing and Dada doesn't walk around with his hands down his pants all the least not in front of me).  Where do you pick these things up? 

You are starting to be more communicative with us.  You are so smart (seriously!): you know which English/Spanish word is easier to say and you focus on saying that one.  For example, you say "bah" for ball instead of "pelota" and "loo" for "luz" instead of light.  Your first complete word in Spanish was "pavo" (turkey).  Yeah, I wish it would've been something cooler, too. 

Des loves birds, so naturally, we would take him to the World Bird Sanctuary near St. Louis for Eagle Day.

I don't think Des gets it.

You get so frustrated when you want to do something and we can't understand what it is that you want to do.  You sort of grunt, "uh," and point at things that you want or sometimes, you just say "mamamamamama" and look at me with these beautiful brown eyes, begging to be understood.  And if we get it right, we are rewarded with your version of yes: a big grin and a breathy/laughy "yeah."

You love balls (mind out of the gutter, people)...all kinds of balls, but your favorite is the basketball.  I love watching your little face light up when, all of a sudden, on a neighborhood walk, your eyes get wide, you turn to face me, and you point at some yard out in the distance.  I ask you what you see and you say, "bah, bah."  And then I try to find the basketball.  You notice them everywhere: on t-shirts, supermarket sweet 16 signs...everywhere.  And to calm you down when we are out to dinner, your dad puts on a basketball game on YouTube.  This fascination of yours isn't thrilling to me by any means (having never sat through an entire game of basketball), but it does make me smile from ear to ear when I see you clap every time a player makes a basket at the gym and every time you try to steal said player's ball when they throw it out of bounds.

Des helping out with the gardening.

You hate it when we try to brush your teeth and your signal to go outside to play in the backyard is to put on your green froggie boots (and you can almost do it by yourself!)  Although I tried to hold out until you were 2 (as per the American Pediatric Association's recommendation), it was so much easier to get dinner ready or get myself ready for the day if you were busy doing something else (i.e. watching TV).  You never liked anything that I tried to offer to you (mostly Sesame Street), but you did latch on to Curious George 2.  And you love to watch it as you sit and eat your breakfast (and as I get ready for the day).  We try to limit it to 30 minutes of George a day, lest you become a zombie in front of the TV and get a major crick in your neck.

You love playing with your friends Dunnen (Dun-da) from across the street, and Joshua y Lucas, the two boys who live in your nanny's house.  You try to keep up with the big boys in the park.  They mostly ignore with your little legs and arms pumping as fast as they can to catch up to them...and it makes me want to scream at them, "Hey, kids, don't you see that my little boy wants to play with you?" but I take a deep breath and realize that kids have no peripheral vision outside of their own boy sphere and that at their age, I wouldn't have noticed a little rugrat trying to tag along either.  But it still breaks my heart.

Even though some of your other "peers" are saying and vocalizing more than you, and some people might question our method of trying to raise Desmond in a bilingual household, we firmly believe that you will eventually filter out what's Spanish and what is English and that you will take your time in communicating in your own way, whenever you feel ready to do so.  Already, you will listen to your dad and I while we are simultaneously speaking to you in both languages and understand what we say. 

I've had my mind blown before (in good ways and not so orthodox ways), but nothing can compare to seeing what you have accomplished in your little lifespan.  And to think that just 2 regular old people like your dad and me could have created not only a creature who has a heartbeat and eats and moves around, but one that has developed the capability to communicate, emote, and make jokes. 

Ah...You're growing on me, Des. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bing Bing

This is what Desmond calls his penis.  Actually, this is what I grew up hearing my own mother calling my little brother John's penis when we were really young, so naturally, when thinking of a word to call Desmond's penis (other than, well, penis), I used this one. 

We started using this word when Desmond became aware of his penis.  Maybe 12 or 13 months?  We would give him a bath and he would sit there and look at his penis with so much concentration and just tug and tug on it.  And then he started noticing that Billy had one, too, when he would shower with him.  He would point at it and shrug his shoulders, as if to ask, "So, you have one, too?"  He then became interested in whether or not I had one, too.  He would point at my crotch and shrug his shoulders.  I would tell him that mommies have chai chais and daddies have bing bings.  (Laugh all you want...I know I shouldn't really use baby terms for things with my toddler, that penis and vagina are the proper names for these body parts, but they really are such awful-sounding words.  Hopefully, by the time he is old enough to start talking about his privates, I could find it within myself to say penis and vagina with a straight face to him and not make him feel ashamed to say them, either). 

Well, beyond wondering what daddy's dangly thing is and how come mommy doesn't have one, Desmond basically stopped having anything to do with his penis for a few months.  But then, just a few weeks ago, it's been all about the peen with him.  He has figured out how to tug on it in such a way that makes it pleasurable for him.  So pleasurable, in fact, that he spends about 30% of each day with his hand down his pants.  It's gotten to the point where I think it's replaced the function of his binkie (which we got rid of ages ago).  So, now, as he's falling asleep, he struggles to get his hand down his pants, and fusses until he gets a hold of his penis.  And once he does, he smiles, sighs happily, and whispers "bing bing." 

We've caught him putting his hand down his pants at the little tot care at my gym and are trying to be vigilant about making him aware that touching his penis in public is not really kosher, but we aren't going to make him feel as if touching himself  in private is something he shouldn't do ever or something he should be ashamed of doing.  There will be no hairy palm discussion in my household :)  Although what kind of discussion we will have when the time comes to really have a discussion, is completely up to Bill.

Ahhh...the joys of parenthood. 

I made him take his hand out of his pants for this picture.  Just kidding.

Cheeky little monkey.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The mommy guilt in me is getting smaller and smaller...

I always hated to admit that, and always that I was in the minority because, I don't like spending all day alone with Desmond.  I'd rather be doing something more...not more worthwhile...but more mentally and spiritually enriching for a while.  Every day that I have time to do things that are for my sake and interest, I feel better...more relaxed.  Slightly happier.  And, as the saying goes, if mama's happy, then the whole family is happy.  

So, just when I was feeling like a sorry prat for walking around, woe is me-ing about how awful of a mother I am for wanting to be apart from Desmond and wondering how nature didn't figure her shit out and prevent me from ovulating at that exact moment because she should've known I would've been a shit mom, I read this gem:

12.14.11 New study finds working moms are happier and fare better health-wise than their stay-at-home counterparts.
A happy mom is a working mom, and other news outlets report. According to a new study, published in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Family Psychology, moms who work outside the home at least part time report being less depressed and healthier than moms who stay home with young children.

However, "this benefit of working did not extend into children's school years," MSNBC reports. Stay-at-home moms face a higher risk of social isolation than working moms, increasing their chances of developing depression—not to mention the added stress of being at home all day with a child.

Moms who worked part time tended to have fewer work and family conflicts and were more involved in their child's schooling than their full-time peers.

For stay-at-home moms, "the stress may be relieved somewhat when their children start school, which may explain why the link disappeared when children entered preschool," MSNBC reports.

Yes, a mom's job can be stressful and thankless at times (a previous study put a $122,732 annual price tag on the work that moms do at home). However, we're sure everyone can agree that it's also one of the best times in a woman's life that no one would trade.
Kind of makes sense, doesn't it?  I know loads of SAHMs out there who are absolutely wonderful at raising their children mostly by themselves and their children are fantastic (and lucky!)  But for the lot of us who have certain, er, negative emotions that arise when they are caring for their child day in and day out, work provides us with a respite to do something that takes our minds off everything and produces an end product that adds to our self worth. 

Hopefully, this will be added to the burgeoning body of evidence that shows that women are happy when they are allowed to combine her work life and her baby life in a way to make it meaningful to her and contribute to her self worth (and productivity).  Women are more than just mothers and they're more than just their job.  Both are equally important parts of their lives and should be nurtured and cared for by society and not denigrated for choosing any one over the other. 

Growing up too fast

How many times do new parents hear this phrase?  Like constantly, right?  "Make sure to spend as much time with them as you can...they grow up too fast!"  It made me want to rip those do-gooders' hair out from the follicle every time they said something like that to me.  The first year of raising Desmond was no easy feat.  And, I know some people are going to think less of me after I say this, it wasn't terribly enjoyable either.  Don't get me wrong...I love Desmond and I would do anything for him, but, if I lived in a perfect world where I could interact with my baby without doing all of the banal parenting duties, I would have.  I could think of a hundred things that I would rather have been doing than changing him or trying to get him to eat or trying to get him to stop crying (however, when he fell asleep on my chest at night and I could hear him breathing and could feel his little heartbeat against me...nothing is better than that.  Not even the prospect of a massage from a partially nude Ryan Gosling...I mean my fiancĂ©.)

Man Oh Manischewitz

But guess what?  That year FLEW by and now he's basically a little boy who can walk and sort of talk (well, babble) and can think and reason and play.  It's amazing.  I love hanging out with him now.  I mean, even changing his diapers has become more fun (I call his penis a "bing-bing" - in a Spanish accent, it sounds like "beeng-beeng" - and when I ask him to find it, he points at it and grins.  So cute!)  He still loves reading books and is way into trucks, airplanes, bikes, and motorcycles.  He's losing a lot of his baby face chub and his feet are growing into regular toddler sizes now (the kid has teeny feet).  I found myself tearing up when I started putting away his 12-18 months clothes.  When he grew out o his newborn clothes, I rejoiced because that meant that he was getting closer to an age that wasn't so boring.  

Our 3-year-old neighbor's toy.  Desmond idolizes him.

I'll be the one teaching Desmond how to drive since I've only had one speeding ticket in my life and Billy's had like, oh, 5.

 And although anything over 8 hours a day alone with him drives me bat shit, those 8 hours are so enjoyable any more.  So, like the saying goes, the days are long and the years are short.  That was my mantra to get me through those dark ages and voila, here I am, having a blast with a 17-month-old.  Whoulda' thought?

Doesn't he look like he's on his way to his first day of college?  Turned up collar, hipster hair, corduroy pants, ironic dolphin shoes, and the requisite hippie amber necklace.

Let's go shred, bro!