4.28.2014

in a moment of chaos


As usual, I left 15 minutes late. There was traffic. There were too many one-way streets and not enough parking. A screaming babe in the back seat completed the scene. 

I didn't handle it well. The busyness of the past few weeks coupled with the pressure of the moment came to a head. The tears and curse words flowed. 

As it was happening, I knew it was wrong. That was not the way I normally behave in a stressful situation. That was not the example I wanted to set for my daughter. That was the epitome of blaming outside circumstances for my feelings instead of taking responsibility of my emotions. But I didn't stop myself.

Later, the disappointment set in. It always does, doesn't it? That second donut leads to a stomach ache. The third cup of coffee leaves me dehydrated and crashing by early afternoon. My procrastination leads to frantic late-night preparation. The poor decisions I make come back to haunt me later. And losing control of my emotions was a poor decision. 

Some would say it's understandable! It was a stressful situation. The crying baby multiplies the urgency of any circumstance. 

But it's not ok. Am I going to be the wife who snaps at her husband every time she feels stressed? Am I going to be the mother that lashes out at the children when we are walking out the door late yet again? Am I going to be the sister and daughter who takes her emotions out on her family members, because I know they can take it, even though they shouldn't have to? Is this the person I am going to let myself be?

You can do something right 99 times, and think you're in the clear. But then there's that 100th time that sneaks up on you when you're feeling prideful and unaware. 

You see, I'm on a journey to be a peaceful, kind, and joyful person. I'm on a journey to let my thankfulness drown out negativity. But it's a journey, and I'm not at the destination, yet. Is anyone, ever? 

So what's the trick? How does a person stay calm in the face of chaos and stress? There's prayer, and Bible study, and constant thanks giving. There are deep breaths, and Enya, and yoga. Those things work 99 times, but what about 100? 

What are your methods
for maintaining calm in a chaotic, stressful, and urgent situation?

4.23.2014

spanish with baby at mealtime

Speaking a second language with your child or children requires commitment and discipline. Often times I find myself slipping into English without realizing what I'm doing, or not saying anything because I can't find the words fast enough.


Mealtimes, however, seem to be one of the easiest times to stay in the target language. I have taught enough food units and ordered at enough restaurants in Spanish-speaking countries to have a pretty good grasp on food vocabulary. Pippa is an engaged learner, because she is obsessed with eating (why bother learning the pincer grasp when you can shove handfuls of food in your mouth?) Mostly our mealtimes consist of her signing "más" to me, and me responding, "¿Quieres más plátano/manzana/zanahoria/Cheerios/queso/pavo/etc?" I did have to look up the wording for phrases like "One at a time!" and "Ok - but only one more handful." (I've ended up on: uno a la vez! and solo un puñado más.)

I also discovered this amazing children's song to learn the different items and utensils in the kitchen using a little dance - and I can't say I didn't learn a word or two from this little ditty. I also catch myself singing it when I'm not even around Pippa, which some would consider to be embarrassing.

Finally, in an effort to counteract the unfortunate music with questionable moral lessons Pippa so often hears coming from her parents' iPhones, I have decided to start teaching her mealtime prayers - or at least modeling them for her. I dug up my Catecismo Menor de Martín Lutero to find a suitable prayer. I liked the one I found so much, I decided to replace the common table prayer I use in English with Luther's version. Here it is in Spanish and English:

Before the meal - asking a blessing:

Los ojos de todos esperan a ti que tú les des su comida a su tiempo. Abres tu mano y con tu buena voluntad satisfaces a todos los seres vivos. 
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. 

Señor Dios, Padre Celestial: Bendícenos y bendice estos tus dones, que de tu gran bondad recibimos. Por Jesucristo, nuestro Señor. Amén.
Lord God, Heavenly Father: Bless us and these your gifts, which we take from your bountiful goodness. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

After the meal - returning thanks:

Den gracias al Señor, porque él es bueno; porque su amor es eterno. 
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Te damos gracias, Señor Dios Padre, por Jesucristo, nuestro Señor, por todos sus beneficios.
We thank you, Lord God, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for all your gifts.

¡Buen provecho!



4.18.2014

semana santa + la pascua


This is my first Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter with a child.

Sadly, one of my first thoughts about that was: am I supposed to get her an Easter basket? Oh I know! I'll put candy in her basket, and since she's only 10 months old, I'll eat the candy! Perfect.

Easter baskets are a fun tradition - when we are able to make it to my parents' for Easter, we still get them! The Easter bunny knows we adults like our Essie nail polish, fun socks, and yes candy. No eggs in my basket, though, plz. (Gag)

However, Easter baskets are not what we are celebrating this week.

- - -

In a quest to see if I could watch some TV shows in Spanish on Netflix, I stumbled across the mini series The Bible. I immediately added it to my queue and started watching it last night.

In the very first episode, God requires of Abraham a sacrifice - the very son he has waited decades to receive, the very son who was to be the beginning of Abraham's descendants - as numerous as the stars. Abraham, fully trusting in God, but understandable angry and sad, takes his son with him up the side of a mountain to offer a sacrifice to God. His young son, wide eyed and naive, looks quizzically at his father: where's the sacrifice? The Lord will provide, Abraham answers.

As Abraham ties up his own son, his own long-awaited and very loved son, you can see the anguish on his face, along with his stubborn trust in his God. The Lord will provide.

I had to look away as he raised his knife to the sky. I know how the story ends. I know God provides a young ram caught in a bush nearby, so Isaac can live. I know all this. But I had to look away because I have a daughter now. Up until know, my knowledge of the love for a child was hypothetical. The protective instinct and the all-consuming desire to keep them safe and happy was an acknowledged fact but not a feeling. When I pictured God asking me to do the very same thing he asked of Abraham, I knew I would have failed God's test of faith. I found myself getting angry - how could God ask such a thing of faithful Abraham, who had proved himself time and time again? How could he?

He could because God did the same thing. The Lord did provide a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. The Lord not only sacrificed his only beloved Son in one of the most painful executions the world has ever known, but he turned his face away and abandoned Jesus, just when Jesus needed him most. If my flawed love for my own daughter is fierce and strong, the God of heaven and earth's perfect love for his only son is incomprehensible. It is deeper and wider and stronger than any love we could have. And God sacrificed his son. Jesus begged for his fate to be taken from him, begged so hard drops of sweat turned to blood. And God's answer was no. You must die, Jesus, so the ungrateful people I have created can live.

I always tried to put myself in Jesus' place during Holy Week. The torture he went through for me. This time, I tried to imagine what it felt like for the Father during Holy Week.  This is my first Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter with a child.

- - -

Maybe I'll pick up an Easter basket with some candy for my daughter. She will enjoy that for about ten seconds before a computer charger or remote control captures her attention.

But the real thing I'm excited to share with her this and every Holy Week to come is the incredible immeasurable love her Father in heaven has for her. He would go to any length to make sure she is in heaven with Him someday. Even if that means giving up his only Son for her.

Good thing we know what happens Easter Sunday.

4.14.2014

what's influencing you?


Spring in the midwest always feels like a fresh start. Winter was miserable. We were all trapped indoors. We all got severe cases of SAD. We all changed into our ugliest sweatpants the moment we walked in the door. When one wears sweatpants and the temps are below zero for the 50th day that winter, one simply wants to curl up on the couch with fatty foods and beverages and watch Netflix until one's brain melts. This is a proven scientific correlation.

I find that when I'm in this state of mind, I tend to watch more television and do more internets. (I traversed to the end of the internet and back at least thrice this winter.) When I do the internets and get all my human interaction from characters on television, I become more likely to curse, be negative, snap at my husband, slouch, grind my teeth, and other evils. My desire to be intellectual, kind, thoughtful, and active is 83% lower.

With the coming of spring I find myself walking outside more. Which leads me to peruse our local public library. Which leads me to borrow a stack of 7 books I know I won't be able to get through before the new two week (!?!) due date. (Whose decision was that?) The more books I read, the more books I want to read. When I'm reading books, I'm reminded that I should be (and want to be) reading my Bible, doing personal devotions, and praying more. When I do these things, my desire to be intellectual, kind, thoughtful, and active is 100% higher.

I'm not saying the person I am depends upon the weather. I am saying that the way I act is influenced by what I choose to spend my time doing. Taking the time to start my day with scripture and a prayer that the decisions I make that day be God-pleasing results in a more mindful and service-oriented day. Reading before bed instead of falling asleep to HIMYM results in me reading during the pockets of the next day instead of mindlessly scrolling through dumb websites. These worthy pursuits reach into the other facets of my life, helping me to stay disciplined in my fitness, nutrition, positive thinking, and money decisions.

What we allow into our minds shapes who we are.
What we choose to think about influences what we say and do.
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Each morning anew, spend a few minutes praying that how you spend your day is in service to the one who created you, lived for your, died for you, and rose for you. Let the thing that occupies your attention be a worthy pursuit or lovely thought, not an angry internet comment or discontentment due to something you saw on tv or online. What will influence you today?


4.02.2014

baby linguistics


As a language nerd slash Spanish teacher, I absolutely devour any study I can find about language acquisition. I always looked forward to the day I would have a fresh canvas of my own on whom I could perform language experiments - by that I mean my child.

Pippa is 9 months - almost 10. By this time in her young life, she is losing the innate ability to recognize phonemes (basic units of language) from every language on earth. Her brain is now specializing in phonemes from her native language, English. I don't stress about much as a parent, but I sometimes have mini panic attacks that I'm not speaking enough Spanish to Pippa for her to recognize Spanish phonemes as well.

Turns out I needn't have worried. 

I recently borrowed two books from the library - Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, and How Babies Talk by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Ph.D. and Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, Ph.D. Both contain studies and information about language development in infants and toddlers. One specific study from Nurture Shock blew my mind. Paticia Kuhl did a study where American babies were exposed to native Mandarin speakers for 20 minutes three times a week - and were just as good at recognizing Mandarin phonemes as native-born Chinese infants! (p.202) This is fascinating and game changing information, especially for a non-native speaker like myself who is trying to raise a bilingual baby. Of course, as she gets older, it will be important that she hears a lot of Spanish input from me, but it's a relief to know I didn't ruin my chances because I accidentally or lazily used English half the time.

Now, before I get into this next section, I want to offer a disclaimer. I know that all babies develop at their own rate. I am in no rush for Pippa to hit milestones early. She'll get there when she's ready. And I know it is so important for babies to have time to play and babble independently. I won't be hovering over her and narrating her entire life. However, the following research-based applications from both of these books will make for a fun experiment in language learning with my baby!

1. Try motionese - teaching a new word to baby by moving the object and repeating the word in a sing-song voice.

2. Allow baby to hear new words from multiple sources.

3. Respond with a word or loving touch when baby produces canonical syllables (the combination of a consonant and vowel). This will encourage her that her sounds have meaning to her parents, and will be motivated to produce more.

4. Follow baby's gaze or point and label the object for her. But don't intrude or try to guess what her babbles mean - you could be labeling the wrong object for her! Simply follow baby's lead.

5. If you're hoping for a bilingual child, don't turn to baby DVDs. Babies need to see lips moving to figure out when one word ends and another begins.

And don't worry if your baby seems a little behind in language development - “‘The only thing typical about typical language development was variability.’ ...According  to Tamis-LeMonda, this is especially true for toddlers who spoke late, but still understood a lot of words early,” (Nurture Shock). Sometimes this is because children are shy or don’t quite have the motor control yet.

So relax, enjoy your baby, and have fun teaching some new words!