Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Nana Incarnate (& the Nanaphone Revisited)

Last night, at the dinner table with Estella, Geoff and I, Kaya let us in on some of those curious questions that  children begin to develop about life, and it's unavoidable opposite:

Kaya: (directed at Geoff) Did you have a mama when you were younger?
Geoff: Yeah.

Very eager to know if she knew who it was, I busted right in with a follow-up, naturally in German. Fortunately, she's allowing this from me, lately, with no unpleasant screeches or screams.

Me: Weisst du, wer seine Mama ist? [Do you know who his mama is?]
Kaya: Nein...
Me: Grahms.

Kaya didn't say much in response, acting neither surprised nor interested. Naturally, I was very curious to know if she knew who my mom was.

Me: Weisst du, wer meine Mama war? [Do you know who my mom was?]

I really didn't expect her to know this, either, since she sees Grahms every day and hasn't seen Nana in years (which is likely why, since she has a relationship with Grahms that she never had with Nana). But, after pausing a moment, Kaya responds, huge smile forming on her lips.

Kaya: Nana...
Me: Ja, genau! [Yeah, exactly!]

After about a minute, and quite out of the blue, Kaya shifts the focus.

Kaya: Warum ist Nana gestorben? [Why did Nana die?]

I have to admit, I was quite surprised by this question. Though we've talked a bit about Kahlua's death, our dog whom we had to put down last year, death hasn't been much of a topic at all, despite the fact that Nana died nearly 3 years ago. It's not that we've avoided the topic--she defiitely knows that Nana died, and we talk about her on a very regular basis. But on the whole, Kaya hasn't been very interested in the topic. I guess it's about that time, though (she's also got a new friend in her school who has been very interested in the concept lately, too).

The exact response we gave her--something along the lines of Nana being very sick, the kind of sickness that you don't just wake up with and die from overnight, and the fact that everybody dies one day--was less meaningful to me than what she said a few minutes into the conversation, once again, a bit out of the blue. I was so taken aback by the insightfulness of the comment, as well as the delight on her face as she said this, pointing at all of us and towards herself, that I laughed aloud, falling in love with her all over again:

Kaya: Vielleicht wird es andere Leute mit unseren Namen sein, nachdem wir gestorben sind. [Maybe there will be other people with our same names after we're gone...!]

Where did this come from?! Did they talk about this in school (which I somehow doubt!)?
My mom was such a believer in reincarnation.
And I chose Kaya's initials, KL, in honor of my mom, Karen Lasnover.

While I've never been one with strong beliefs around reincarnation, this is one of many experiences that definitely leaves me thinking, once again, about my mom's passing so soon after Kaya was coming into her own in this world. Having Kaya as a part of my life, especially as she gets older, leaves me feeling so close to my mom, so connected in a way I never imagined possible.

Yesterday morning was no exception, in fact, now that I reflect on the experience we had soon after getting out of bed. I was clearly annoyed with Kensa, our dog, after letting her out, then in, then out again, attempting to get her to stop barking at the neighbors. After a few minutes of this, Kaya looks at me lovingly, and calmly and inquisitively asks me, "Mama, warum bist du so frustriert?" [Mama, why are you so frustrated?]

Here I was, feeilng so frustrated with an innocent, well-intentioned, loving beast, understandably wanting to protect her space and her family, and my 4 year old calls me out in the most compassionate way I can imagine possible.  I was floored. And so grateful.

Taking her in my arms, and into my lap on the couch, I cradled her close and thanked her. "Danke, Baby. Danke, dass du mich gefragt hast. Das ist wirklich eine gute Frage. Warum bin ich so frustriert?" [Thank you, Baby. Thank you for asking me that. That's a really good question. Why AM I so frustrated?]

It's a bit hard to explain, how meaningful this is to me, but what Kaya did for me--gently bringing the light of awareness to my actions--is what I've been working towards for a long time. Being able to be mindful of my way, and then to hold this way of being with compassion and love, is what I know to be my path to peace. And here, my four year old, my loving mom in spirit, was able to model this for me.

I couldn't be more proud.
And in awe.

The following video gives a little flavor of Nana in our life these days. Tante Lena came for a visit--one of my mom's closest friends--and asked Kaya if she still had the Nanaphone. Naturally, we had to "call" her. While it certainly won't win Best Picture, or Most Exciting Movie of the Year (nor any awards for Cinematography), it does let you in a bit to the wonders of the Nanaphone (even if Kaya tends to be more shy this time around, while she normally has full conversations with Nana on the phone 'by herself'). Enjoy! (and THANKS, Lena, for this enjoying Nana with us in that wonderful way!)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Preschool Quandary: Trilingual or Trees?

Once again, I'm feeling inspired after my run in the park. Tryon is so beautiful, especially on bright mornings like this one, sun shining through the trees, brightening the buds bursting from the trees. It's definitely that time of year, where new life begins to emerge, where new questions arise, where we begin to look to the future, wondering what life will look like down the road a bit.

For us, and for many of you out there, too, the end of winter earmarks a time for school decisions. Will we stay here? Will we start afresh? What will be best for my child and for us as a family?

I definitely have all of these questions, and then some, racing through my head lately--and being on my run this morning, in the amazingly beautiful park where I could continue to have my child go to school 4 days a week, provided no reprieve from the chatter. Somehow, though, the intensity of the thoughts felt more calming out there. That should be my answer right there, really...

When I think back to last year, to a similar time of school decisions, I find it kind of comical that I'm sitting in this place again, wondering, after having finally settled last year. I think this is why some of my German friends, raised in the GDR, preferred some of the simplicities that Communism offered--with so many choices, it really can be overwhelming at times. This is not to say, dear universe, that I'm wishing for my choices to be taken away. I know that there are many out there with no choices, and I am incredibly grateful for what I do get to choose. I'm just acknowledging the overwhelm I feel at times. It's important to recognize it so I can move beyond it to a choice.

So anyway, in just a few days, the Mother Earth School wants us to sign our contracts if we want to return for next year. And similar to last year, I've recently heard about another preschool that is closer to our house, Wildwood Nature School, which has me wondering about the 'better' choice. It has Spanish, this new school, AND a focus on nature. The assistant teacher speaks 90% Spanish with the kids, which could mean up to 15 hours a week of 3rd language input for Kaya. Not enough for her to start speaking it anytime soon, but over time, certainly enough time for passive bilingualism.

As a trilingual German, Spanish and English speaker, this is certainly exciting, this prospect. Starting her with Spanish at around the age of 5 was something we've continued to consider, esp. since the 3rd language starts at that age (and goes until 6ish). This could be our opening. This could be our time to really sink our teeth into this opportunity and pave the path for a trilingual future for our daughter. With the added bonus that she'd get outdoor time, too...

My husband often talks about the 'gray areas', reminding me that something may not be as black and white as I tend to think it is. Even now, my auto pilot is wanting to assess whether he's 'right' (and thus, I'm 'wrong')--which school will be 'better'. Will she be outside 'enough'? Is consistency that important? What is the power of place-based education that can't be measured? If we don't jump on this Spanish opportunity in this 3rd language window, is the door closed? Of course not, even I know that. But what is it about this fear of mine that keeps arising? What is it about being a parent that has us only wanting the best for our children, wanting to open doors for their lives, wanting happiness for them, and ease of life?

Instinct, I suppose.
It's damn strong.

When I first sat down to write, I actually felt pretty strongly, almost clear, in fact, that Mother Earth is where I want Kaya next year. In the car on the way to school this morning, she says to me, in that sweet little Kaya voice, "Mama, kann ich bei meiner Schule bleiben?" [Mama, can I stay at my school?] After clarifying that I understood her correctly, I was dying to shout out, Of course you can, my love, of course! I want to give you everything you want, I want only the best for you, I want you to be happy. Of course you can stay there, if that's what you want!! What is it about this analytical mind that seeks the answers, seeks to find what will, in fact make her happy and healthy, and support our family in what is most important (and affordable) to us? We act like we know, at least I do, like if just analyze enough, if I gather enough information, I'll figure it out, I'll know the answer and can make my choices from there.

Macleay Trail in Forest Park on our hike with Arletta yesterday
As I get older, though, or perhaps just better able to go inward while simultaneously feeling more connected with my surroundings, I find that it's actually not all about gathering info or analyzing. While I was running this morning, I felt clear that I wanted Kaya to continue to be immersed in nature 4 days a week. I ran past two school groups in the park, groups that go out into nature perhaps once a week (if that), and felt grateful that Kaya is out there 11 hours a week, really experiencing the forest, the garden, the spring, even the cold winter (from her warm woolens and rain gear!). But I feel this fear of declaration, like I do when I know I need to eat less sugar, but don't want others to see my weakness when I cave. It's like the pregnancy thing, too...this theme keeps arising: I want both, really, sometimes more in some moments than others. Sometimes, I want her to be at a school that is closer to our house, one that can open the Spanish door earlier than if we start her in Waldorf in 1st grade. Sometimes, I'm shocked that I would want anything other than what we have right now, which is working wonderfully, beautifully, creating a child who teaches her cousin (as she did with Arletta in Forest Park yesterday) about buds, about how you have to be careful with them, touching them gently instead of breaking them off the tree.

On Friday night, as I was researching Waldorf education, I grew teary-eyed. Line after line, clip after clip, I realized with my whole soul that Waldorf is the direction I want for Kaya.  Why then, do I even consider pulling her out of this Waldorf inspired, forest-farm, outdoor immersion program that we love?!

Because of the drive? Because of the Spanish? Because of the money?

Oh, dear mind of mine, go back outside, into the woods and find your answer.
It is there, in your heart and in those buds.

You know it is.
You just need to believe...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

And it feels damn good!

Kaya & Gabriel, in front of the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle
As I was running through the beautiful Tryon Creek State Park this morning, sun shining through the trees with a magical glow on the moss-lined trunks, it hit me (as I ran past the mama with her toddler in the owl hat!) that our once-baby is now a kid. I think it became official yesterday when she used the word "totally" for the first time ever--something about little ones using such slang makes them seem so much older. Geoff had just gotten home from work and she was incredibly excited to show him her tricks on the pull-up bar. No, no, don't worry...I'm not about to tell you that she can "totally do a pull-up" (though that would be totally epic)...but the scene was nearly as impressive with the amount of energy she was emanating and the words that were falling from her lips. "I can todawy weach it, Dada!" she shouted, excitedly, realizing she no longer needs a stool. I couldn't help but smile. My kid just said "totawy", and she's barely 4. (It made her seem even older when she started calling him "Dad" later that night, asking him, "Are you gonna stay in bed all night, Dad? Get up and play with me!")

There have been a number of moments over the past month, in fact, that have had me sitting back in smiles--and I finally made the efforts to record them on my phone so they'd be ready for this moment, right now, when I'm finally ready to share them with you, my wonderful little blogging community.

About 3 weeks ago, as we were driving in the car on the way to Geoff's office, she asked me, out the blue, "Werde ich immer Deutsch sprechen?" [Will I always speak German?] I couldn't believe she was thinking in such a manner, wondering so philosophically whether, in her future, she'd always speak this non-community language. Granted, it's possible that she wonders the same thing about English, but somehow, I doubt that: she's very clear at this point, that German is somewhat of an anomaly for her, for us, in our many communities of English speakers.
For me, the even-better part of our conversation came after my simple response to her. I let her know that I hoped she would, and then asked her, despite my slight fear of hearing the opposite, whether she wanted to always speak German in her life. Her response, in part just the tone of it, left me reeling in smiles. "Ja!"

Kaya is also showing a decent amount of curiosity around German grammar, too. Granted, it may not be sourced from that part of her brain, but as a language teacher, it makes me quite happy to hear her wonder about the difference between 'du' and 'dich' and why we use one over the other. This happened at the table, as we were eating lunch, on the same day that she expressed her excitement about always speaking German. Though the exact context escapes me, at one point she said, "Ich und dich," [I and you (the object pronoun instead of the subject pronoun)], to which I responded, inquisitively, "Ich und du?" This clearly triggered her curiosity (much preferred to her frustration, which has happened at times, too), as she then asked me, "Warum sagen wir du und nicht dich?" [Why do we say 'you' (subject pronoun) and not you (object pronoun)?]

On a similar grammar note, I have to share how impressed I was that, at times, she is using the proper case for her pronouns (one of the biggest challenges in German is knowing which case to use when, not to mention which pronouns belong to which case). Granted, this isn't a memorization, I realize, nor really a learning's mostly just a matter of her knowing from the inside out, which is right, because it sounds right. So, in some ways, this triumph is a little skip-hop celebration that my grammar has been proper enough for her to hear me and learn. We were leaving our friends' house after a play date, talking about how much fun we had had playing with Marek and Heather. "Du hast nicht gepielt," [You didn't play,] she made sure to point out. "Du hast gesprochen." [You talked.] She paused momentarily, and then continued to point out her observation. "Du hast zu Marek und mir gesprochen." [You talked to Marek and me.] As I type this, I can actually almost hear my sister squeal, for this error is one that she loves to correct in English, especially of me, because I've made it plenty. It's so tempting to use 'I' in that context, "you talked to Marek and I", when in fact, 'I' is the object of the preposition, so it needs to be in the dative case: me. And in German: mir. I'm sure that my sister, and even my Dad, will be so happy to hear that Kaya's German is accurate enough (in this case!) to hold her own.

Kaya is becoming more exact in her general usage of German, as well. She's asking more often how to say particular words as opposed to just throwing in an English substitute--a huge difference over our Christmas time spike in code-switching. This morning at breakfast, for example, she asked me, "Heisst 'waste' verschwenden?" [Does 'waste' mean 'verschwenden'?] We had just had a conversation about not wasting food, about the importance of putting in your bowl just the amount that you think you can eat, so as not to waste it. About 5 minutes later, she came up with that question. And on the same day as our play date with Marek, she corrected me on my usage of 'bunnies' over 'Hasen'. Referring to the snack that she got to eat at his house, I asked her if she liked the "Chocolate Chip Bunnies", to which she immediately said, "ja" and after a few minutes, let me know quite matter of fact that it's "chocolate chip Hasen, nicht Chocolate Chip Bunnies, Mama. Sie heissen Hasen auf Deutsch." [Chocolate chip Hasen, not Chocolate Chip Bunnies, Mama. They are called Hasen in German.]  Later that day, she began to wonder about the other kind of Bunnies, asking me, "Was heisst 'Cheddow' auf Deutsch?" [What's cheddar called in German?] I told her that cheddar is a type of cheese, but that I don't know exactly what it's called in German, to which she clearly let me know that, "Du musst Cheddar Hasen sagen, Mama, nicht Cheddar Bunnies." [You have to say Cheddar Hasen, mama, not Cheddar Bunnies.]

And to wrap up our story telling for the day, I'll share this last little anecdote that speaks further to Kaya's recent passion and curiosity surrounding the nuance and accuracy of language usage. We were, once again, in the car (maybe it's time to start taking the bus more!!?), after a late night sleepover with her cousin, Arletta. Kaya sneezed, to which I automatically said, "Bless you!" I knew it was Kaya, and I must have been deep in my own thoughts, for I normally would have said, "Gesundheit". Kaya caught my slip, of course, and with a big smile on her face, announced, "Das war mich, Mama!...Du hast das in English gesagt." [That was me (object pronoun instead of subject pronoun), mama!...You said that in English." 

Reflecting on all this positivity, all this excitement and passion in our recent past, has me quite happy, I have to say. Despite the various errors we both tend to make; the struggles in those moments where I'd much rather just yell or go off in English when I think I might lose it; or those words that i hate saying because I can hear the brutal american 'r' of my non-native accent...we've done it. No matter what happens from here, no matter how many more mountains we summit and valleys we fall into it, we made it through some major resistance, to the point that, this is OUR language. This is her mother tongue, the is the language in which she connects with her mama--and me with her--and mistakes and struggles aside, we're doing it.

And it feels damn good!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Four, and Still Fluent...(whoohooooo!)

Kaya hitching a ride at her 4th Birthday Party, Jan.22
I'm writing this post merely to break my streak of silence. For about a week, about 3 weeks ago, I was on fire with topics to address, most of them having everything to do with the amazing sentences flowing out of Kaya's mouth. And for some reason, I'm not exactly sure why, I didn't take the time to sit down a share them. And now, when I'm feeling inspired to write again (mostly because I just looked at the page-views of my site and can't beLIEVE how many visitors I had last month--738!!), I can think not only of none of those topics (how's that for a double negative?!), but can't even recall the specifics of her cute Kaya-ism that she shared this morning on our way to school. Something along the lines of, "Gampa kann 'nein' sagen in Deutsch!...und Gams kann 'Auto Essen' sagen...!" [Grampa can say 'nein' (no) in German, and Gramms can say, "Car Food".] All of this said with this HUGE grin on her face, and this cute, high tone in her voice, like one of silly disbelief and simultaneous matter-of-fact. And I'm getting this visual of her arms out, palms up, twisting wrist, as she tends to do when she's sharing something with us that is very interesting to her. So cute, I gotta get it on video.

Alternative Cakeless Candle Ceremony...
And to these few details I'll add: I love 4. I've always loved the even-ness of the number, the cool shape of the numeral, even the sound of the word, but what I didn't know in my past is how much I'd would truly enjoy the snuggle time, the love that she has for mama, the giggles, the endless curiosity ("Warum haben manche Maenner Haare?" [Why do some men have hair?]--our Geoff is bald), and her amazing ability and tendency to switch back and forth between her two languages, as if that's just the way life is (because it is). With four comes a massive decrease in tantrums, at least in intensity and length, and this wondrous ability to reason. It's really so very wonderful. It's crazy how we saw this huge shift right about the time of her birthday (Jan.22). One would think these phases would happen gradually, and surely for some they do, but our experience has been one of "all of a sudden"s--wham. bam. different kid. 

As a snapshot, she continues to love her school experience, an outdoor immersion forest farm preschool, and will now run through the forest after school as opposed to kerplunking herself at my feet, crying. Her favorite day continues to be "Millet Tag" [Millet Day], as she loves to go to Gramms and Grampas to spend the night on Wednesdays (she'll often tell me on Wed. mornings, "Ich werde dich vermissen, wenn ich bei Gamms un Gampa bin. Aber ich habe sie auch lieb." [I'll miss you when I am at Gramms and Grampa's. But I love them, too. ] She is now willingly speaking German with Estella again (her 16 year old host sister from Germany), and shows no signs of resistance (speaking German) with me. At times, she'll throw in an English word when she can't think of the German--like the other day, after school, as she was attempting to explain the process of candle making and didn't have the words for 'wax', 'holes', or 'leaves' (it seemed more like a context thing, however, because she does know the word for leaves, and holes, actually).

My eyes are getting dry. It's late enough to end this.
So, my dear friends all over the world--I noticed 3 of you from Egypt this week!!, not to mention, all of you readers in Mexico (15), Germany (9), China(8), Sweden (7), Russia (5), Taiwan (5), Spain (4), and Poland (4), and 32 more from our lil' old US of A. Thank you, everyone. I do love this community, and am happy to have 'broken the spell'.

Sleep well!
Schlaft gut!
Que duermen bien!