Kids, Food, & How to Kill a Chicken, Improvised.

Poultry chart via etsy

My kids, overall, are good eaters. I won’t go into my philosophy in detail just that I take a French-mother/Man Who Ate Everything approach to feeding them. It seems to be working for us –despite the occasional protests.

One thing I have always tried to do is make sure my girls know where their food comes from. I do not want to find myself, burger in hand, facing my kid around 12 suddenly stricken with a look of horror saying:

Wait you mean burgers and cows are the same thing? So what was the animal we ate last night?

Me: Well we had venison so you could say we ate Bambi, well probably her mother.

Living in Thailand has made this pretty easy. Granted, we have not passed Daisy the cow on our way to ballet class, but we have waved hello to many other edible friends. I knew I was succeeding  with my mission when upon seeing new animals, SweetPea would point to the creature going by and ask first:

What is that

followed closely with

Can we eat it?

Both girls love chicken but for SweetPea, it’s an obsession. She will choose chicken over any other food including sweets and cake any day so chicken features pretty regularly on our menu.

While eating chicken for dinner the other night:

P: Maman why can’t I see the chicken’s blood?
Me: Well they remove it before they sell us the chicken.
P: How do they remove it?
Me: They cut the chicken’s head off and hang him upside down.
(At this point I know that chickens get heads cut off and pigs are bled so I am just trying to piece this together)
P: Like this? (Showing me with her dragon piggy bank conveniently located next to her).
I nod in agreement.
P: Maman can I please do that next time we have chicken for dinner? And how do we catch a chicken?
Me, quiet worrying about a Dexter in our house.
P: And I want the chicken blood.
Me, thinking it is time to redirect this conversation: Well how about some boudin noir which is blood sausage?

Close call.

The next day, I worried as we head out of the house. There’s been a trio of scrawny birds hanging out by the front of our mobaan –a cluster of houses, like a little village. I didn’t want SweetPea getting any ideas. Fortunately the chickens were so scrawny. They were like the Kate Moss of chickens: breast-less, always in black, and in need a good meal and long night of sleep. I figured she wouldn’t find them appetizing enough to want to make the kill.

Right, I must brush up on my art of butchering skills. Til the next time readers.

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?

Karambolage: Factoids and Language Learning Bliss

Karambolage: Factoids and Language Learning Bliss via Slate.

Forget naff exchanges about the weather and where the bank is located. These dull as dishwater language basics may be tried and tested, but the end result, as far as I can tell, is a big fat FAIL.

Instead, check out this fabulous program Karambolage. It is made up of superb animations and covers fascinating topics like the origins of Cordon Bleue or how bunnies and eggs became associated with easter.

Drawbacks? You need to sit patiently through the annoying 40 seconds of disco beats and a dismembered head floating around a black screen. Seems like a short amount of time but trust me when I tell you it feels like an eternity. (Disclaimer: part of this could be my sucky wi-fi connection). It is also only available in French and German.

Enjoy!

Tartines et Lait au Chocolat

We recently returned from France, which is one of many reasons my blog has been dormant. During the first breakfast after we arrived, I suddenly realized that this trip to France was going to be about much more than having an opportunity to immerse my girls in French for a place influences so much more than simply language.  For me France switches off certain parts of me or at least triggers some sort of hibernation while other parts turn on. Where I am can definitely affect how I think about things, what I want to do, whether I gain weight when I eat porc fat on white bread and what I crave for breakfast.

My eldest is definitely an oatmeal/cereal girl for breakfast but when we found ourselves the first morning at my aunt’s kitchen table, it seemed simply wrong to feed her such a thing. I mean, we were in FRANCE! Cheerios in Normandy? Sacre Bleu Non! This is the land of seriously good bread. This is where you ignore the warnings of white products and you gorge yourself on an endless supply of baguettes morning, noon and night!

I told her she would be having ‘tartines et de la confiture aux groseilles’. She liked the word ‘groseilles’ so that went down well.Groseilles is one of those words that remind me how my vocabulary is seasonal and that I typically know the names of plants and fruits in French and everything else in English. Sometimes I know the words in both languages without knowing they are the same thing. So for the last 20 odd years I’ve thought that I liked ‘groseilles’ but not currants when in fact they are the same thing!

I was also determined for her to have a bol de chocolat for no reason other than I used to have it as a little girl during my summers in France. (A total milkaholic kid, the chocolate was the only way I would tolerate U.H.T milk). Drinking your coffee or hot chocolat out of a bowl is as far as I know extremely French.

Seeing her sit there holding the two little handles with a serious chocolate Dali-esque moustache, it dawned on me that I didn’t just want her to speak French, I wanted her to identify with what I perceive as some of the quintessential French experiences I grew up with during my long summers at my Grandmother’s.

I couldn’t wait for her to experience her first real ‘pain au chocolat’ straight from the ‘boulangerie’ whose incredible selections of fresh-baked patisseries always seemed magical. So much of French culture revolves around food and in my case, having grown up in an urban center, France was also my grounding in all things nature related especially the connection between land and plate. It was also such a nice change to be able to walk through the gardens and countryside and not need my pocket dictionary but just have the names of flowers and fruits to hand, to recognize the wild blackberry bushes, and have her pick her own strawberries from the ground, still warm from the sun – never at a loss for words.