Shocking Everyone at the Pool with Our Phoques.

The haiku of blog posts in honour of this month’s Raising Multilingual Kids Carnival. The Carnival will be out around the 24th. Sign up at the link above to get it while it’s hot!

Edvar Munch's The Scream

Edvar Munch’s The Scream via Wikipedia

There were times I thought I couldn’t possibly embarrass myself linguistically more than accidentally telling my boyfriend’s mother that I was muy embarazada or ‘very pregnant’. Her genuine excitement put her in my good books forever. Anyone who can set aside religion to embrace an accidental baby is my kind of gal. And now she takes everything I say in Spanish with a grain of salt.

Embarrassment-babies aside, I did manage to take my verbal gaffs to a whole new level — this time involving my kids to boot!

Here’s how we became total social pariahs at the pool. Was it my penchant for topless sunbathing? Nope. I packed those babies away after they decided to go South for the winter and never return home.

It was the little seal toy Pea and Plum were given in Singapore by their swim teacher as a parting gift. It’s also a toy Pacifique wouldn’t leave the house without, a toy she loves to cradle and calls: Phoque-y which is pronounced FUCK-Y.

Picture a lovely crystal blue pool, sun shining, kids splashing happily. And then imagine an argument break out between two sisters over a toy:

“Give me back my FUCKY!”

“No it’s my turn for FUCKY!”

Blah blah blah Fuck, blabla bla fucky. One ends in tears, the other holds the prized possession.

“Oh my sweet little fucky. I love you little fuck. Isn’t he cute?”

Un phoque in French is –as you’ve probably guessed by now –a seal.

And that lovely happy scene I painted? It turned to an expat poolside version of Munch’s Scream. Me? I was left nervously laughing and mumbling about the joys of multilingual parenting whilst packing the pool toys, cradling my boobs, and glancing around for a guard to call me a tuk-tuk home.

What painfully awkward moment would you like to share? I promise, it’s feels good to let it out. And yes you should trust the woman who vlogged about diarrhea and car journeys.

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This month’s Carnival is hosted by The European Mama. She is a rock star on so many levels, I don’t know where to start. Not to mention the incredible Annabelle from PiriPiri Lexicon who revived the Carnival. If I didn’t like and admire these women so much, I’d cower in a corner, yellow with envy at their unbelievable productivity and kindness. Please check out all their hard work showcasing a bunch of great entries!

Teachable Moments: Pillow Math & Other Opportunities Abound.

We are finally back from our big adventure at PunPun, a sustainable farm one hour north of Chiang Mai. Our stay was spectacular in so many ways and I will be writing a more comprehensive post about our time there. Here’s a sneak peek: Photo by my 5-yr-old

PunPunFarm Kids CC

While I am still catching up on the backlog of emails and commitments after an amazing break from wireless and unlimited kbps lands, I want to share an important lesson I re-learned during our trip.

Teachable moments are everywhere.

Sometimes as homeschooling parents –based on my vast experience of stalking online groups– we worry we aren’t giving our kids enough, that we aren’t prepared enough, that we don’t have all the things we need in order to teach them what they need to learn. When I started out this year, I was obsessed with lesson plans, curriculums, and having the right manipulables. I worried how I would manage with a limited budget. (Read anyone who wants to donate or gift me a Montessori moveable letters set, don’t hold back!) But in truth I was worrying for nothing; some of you may already have realized I could get paid for worrying, I am such an expert at it.

When I stopped trying to bring school home and let go, things naturally started to happen. Once I was fully oxygenating my brain instead of panicking about how much I was covering and just watching my kids play, I could jump in when they asked and see where I could naturally fit in letter, number, language learning among other things.

Here are a couple examples:

1. From a morning chat to vocabulary building & basic math concepts.
Mondays are French days in our house and I was talking with P while halfheartedly trying to make my bed. I am not sure how, but I used the word plus in French, meaning which means both more and “+”. My daughter asked me to explain the word. I used moins or less as a contrast but it wasn’t enough for her to understand. Finally I looked around and grabbed the four pillows I was fluffing. We divvied them up a few times, with her having more and then less than me.  We talked about adding them to her pile. We also had equal amounts. I then talked her through other verbal examples of more or less things, like who got to hold the chicken more at the farm, etc. Finally we found a pen and paper and looked at the + and – signs and wrote out the basic pillow additions we did. Ending the lot with a small pillow/tickle fight.

Teachable: Pillow Maths

2. I wanted to review some letters with something other than paper letters. As I was re-organizing toys, I came across a travel scrabble set we have yet to use. The girls loved grouping similar letters. Then counting how many of each they had and then putting them into order. Yes the star and pink boxes distracted them briefly, but hey, it’s all a work in progress.

Teachable, Scrabble Letters Alphabet

And yes, we always play scrabble in pink ballroom competition dresses. Don’t you?

I’ll put more examples in the comments as they crop up. I am just so tired I can’t think of them now. And please share your own!

Living with Pigs. Taking Media One Step Too Far.

peppapig muddy puddlesThis post is written the October Multilingual Kids Blogging carnival hosted by one of my favourite blogs The European Mama . The theme this month is Media. I see various forms of media as tools. And like all tools, they can be wielded skillfully and help you build something, like using a hammer to mount a blackboard. Or à la Trinity killer, you can use it to crush someone’s skull.

I apologise for the graphic nature of the last sentence but that’s really it. In most cases, it isn’t that extreme, it may just be a black and blue fingernail, but one should always think carefully about what the purpose of the media is and what you hope to achieve with its use.

When I first found myself incubating a wee one, I thought “yes, I’ll abide by The American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice and not allow my child any television before the age of two.” Then, as the stench wafting from my un-washed armpits caused my husband to dry heave when he made it home, reality set in and my desire for regular showers led me to rethink my decision. Perhaps a few soothing Baby Einstein videos wouldn’t be so bad. (AND no, I never thought nor cared for my child to be a genius. I am more of an ‘ignorance is bliss’ kind of gal). No more than 10 or 15 minutes top, I swore to myself.

Ha, as if. There’s a reason all these DVDs have a repeat button on them. And we all know kids love repetition!

peppapigblogrepeat

I’ve always been one to rationalise. Our brain’s ability to create reasons to justify what we need never ceases to astonish me.  I convinced myself the one way I could ensure adequate exposure to all three heritage languages was through the use of DVDs, programs, songs, etc.  I knew that providing enough language exposure would be a challenge. And a few “Rue Sesame” episodes seemed like just the ticket. No better excuse to pop your kid in front of the boob tube.

As it turns out, my first child was a late talker and I am a worrier. I know you say all parents worry. But I fall on the extreme end of the spectrum. I cross a street by myself and see visions of an 18 wheeler careening around the corner; I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Secretly enjoying the use of TV —insert whatever gadget you wish here as this all started pre-iPad—  I figured if I only got programs in Spanish and French, then any TV watching would be educational and furthering my goal of language acquisition. This seemed like a big win-win for all parties involved.

With the right discipline, or I should say wielding the tool appropriately, this would have been fine. But I couldn’t stick to this regime.  All sorts of cute programs were on and I couldn’t find French or Spanish equivalents. We got rid of cable television so I would stick to DVDs. This worked for a time. Living in Brooklyn with so many spanish speakers, most DVDs had a spanish option but once we moved to South East Asia, Tamil, Mandarin and Korean were more likely language options than Spanish or French.

Then there was the problem of programs being translated but not really culturally appropriate. Sesame Street in French should really be something like Rue Roblochon. And a Spanish Peppa Pig would not be talking about gardening all the time. Maybe siestas? Or long lunches with chorizo? OK maybe not a pig eating pork sausages…

I simply gave up making an effort for a long time and showed them predominantly English programming.  Perhaps I am also admitting that my house is full of TV addicts. And yes, it’s entirely my fault, along with some prone-to-addiction genes handed down. Hindsight is always 20/20. If I am honest with myself,  I always knew there was a problem but chose to suppress it effectively, as so many other things, for the sake of convenience. Until now.

This is the year I’ve started homeschooling. One of my goals, in preparation for their big summer in Mexico next year, is to ramp up their Spanish. Normally if the kids see anything in English for the first time, it is nearly impossible to persuade them to watch it in another language.  With one exception: Peppa Pig. They worship before the altar of this little pink porcine diva.  So desperate are they to watch Peppa and George jump in muddy puddles, they will take it in any language. A newly created Spanish version is my saving grace, despite the Castilian ‘c’ pronunciation -sacrifices must be made!

With this discovery, I was permitting more TV in order to get the girls hooked. Requests for Spanish programs rose and I heard a lot of I can’t wait to speak Español. Here’s the thing: the Spanish program was great, but too much of it wasn’t. Soon, every morning, before I’d even opened my eyes, I’d feel a little finger jabbing my shoulder and a small whispering voice… “mama, can I watch a movie? please? please? please? please? Some Peppa?”.

Despite my emphatic NOs, she continued, laying on the charm thick and fast. Even saying “but I want Peppa Español mama, pleeeeease?”

One night I was putting C to bed. She’d actually watched a bit of Peppa before her shower and had her bedtime story. The lights were off, we were cuddling, and I asked her, as I always do, what song she would like me to sing. Her response? she whispered sweetly: “A movie mama. Can I have a movie?” After about five offers to sing a song, I just kissed her goodnight. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if she fell asleep the words ‘movie’ and ‘Peppa’ still on her lips.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out we needed a major intervention; that I’d used the idea of media as language reinforcement instead as ‘a buy mama x amount of Facebook minutes’, or homeschool lesson planning or whatever other black hole of activity that seems to be sucking up all my time these days.

Instead of genuinely creating a plan, using all the tools at my disposition to create an enriched linguistic environment, I fell into a classic case of plonking kids in front of TV for some peace.

I normally spend hours, no weeks and months beating myself up about these things, but it’s pointless. Instead, I’ve just instituted a clean break. Time for them to reconnect with other things, like the muddy puddles in the yard from the endless rainy season downpours, while I strategize on how I can use these things constructively and in moderation moving forward.

I’ll leave you with my favorite exchange of the week:

Me to P: ‘ello gorgeous!

C to me: NO! I’m gorgeous!

Me to C: of course, you are both gorgeous!

C to Me: No, P is Peppa pig and I am Gorgeous. (aka George)

Mystery revealed. And time to cut down on Peppa episodes. The giveaway should have been being greeted as Mummy pig a few mornings prior.

P.S. What’s the attraction with cheeky pigs?