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­Lollipop, Lollipop, O, Lolli, Lolli, Lolli, Lollipop

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Today I am full of admiration for this word. Not the Serbian word lizalica, which is quite a plain, unoriginal word. Too plain, too common. This is not to say that my native language is deficient in any way – I love my native language. But in this specific area, more specifically in the case of this specific word, the signifier for this specific object, English offers so much more – this full, round, fun, even sexy word lollipop!

OK, before Andrei got to be two or so and before people started giving him lollipops, I hardly ever used the word lollipop, hardly ever even thought of it. Simply, I had no place for lollipops in my life. Then, here and there, someone would give Andrei a lollipop. I was not happy about it. I didn’t mind Andrei’s indulging in chocolate every once in a while, especially dark chocolate, but lollipops, really? Until this day I haven’t checked the nutritional facts or ingredients label for a lollipop (they have one, right?), but I am pretty sure lollipops are not the healthiest food around… At least some food coloring must be involved… and a ton of sugar. So I choose to dislike lollipops. However, Andrei loves them, so they have found a place in my life. Read more…

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The Poop Talk

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

This came right when my husband and I decided we were not going to potty-train our son at all. Why bother? When he is ready, he will let us know, we thought, and then we will offer some gentle encouragement if Andrei seems to need it. But we decided we were going to let him be the leader in this area (life itself will offer enough pressure, why add to it?). And, yes, in the meantime, we are just going to deal with…well, you know, quite unpleasant sights, smells, and substances.

But one morning last week Andrei sat on the potty that’s been collecting dust in a bathroom corner for over a year and he did it. Both things.

OK, it took some time. A lot of time. First, he just sat on the potty. I started scavenging my mind for information. What did I read about potty-training? Honestly, not much. I skimmed through some checklist when Andrei was eighteen months old. Does he have a vocabulary for both “things”? The answer was No then, but of course, it’s a resounding Yes now. Can he sit still for ten minutes or so? I was not sure about that then or now. At times, I’d say, for much longer than that. When he chooses to do so. Can he pull his pants down and up? When he chooses to focus and invest his energy in the project of dressing himself, but how often does that happen? Then I remembered what one of my neighbors who has older kids told me some time ago, Read him books when he is on the potty. This sounded like a good, concrete solution for the moment.

Andrei, hoces mama da ti cita knjigu? (Would you like Mommy to read you a book?), I said.

Sure, Andrei responded, delight on his face.

I brought Andrei’s favorite books, Andrei picked one, and I started reading it. It was the same as when we would sit in the purple chair in the living-room, which is our “reading location,” or cuddle up in Andrei’s bed. I read, we stopped to look at the pictures, talked about them, just like we always do. We finished the first book. And then the second one. And then the third one. Andrei requested another book. I brought one more book from his room. Of course, after each book, I gently suggested we should call it quits, trying hard to sound like I was just offering a suggestion, but it was really up to Andrei to decide. Each time Andrei decided No, he didn’t want to get off the potty, he wanted to read more books.

Finally, maybe a half an hour after the “session” started, I convinced Andrei to get off the potty. He did. He stood up and we both looked into the potty. Pee-pees were there! OK, I am not ready for this, I thought. But I knew I needed to acknowledge his success so I clapped my hands, I laughed, I made multiple happy noises, I sang a few lines. I picked up Andrei and gave him a big hug. Read more…

February Carnival on Bilingualism

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Some interesting articles on bilingualism/multilingualism and biculturalism/multiculturalism are now available at http://perogiesandgyoza.blogspot.com/2012/02/february-blogging-carnival-on.html. Two of my posts (Why Do I Switch from Serbian to English? and  Why I Need Non-Serbian-Speaking People Around me to Continue to Speak Serbian to My Son) are included.

Toys and Beyond

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Toys. What kid doesn’t like toys, these plastic things that most of the time look kind of cheap, but make our children so happy while giving them a chance to learn, understand, own? I get it. I remember my mother looking for places in our not-so-big apartment to store my toys, all of which, of course, I wanted to keep. Now, I am in the same position. I keep coming up with the ideas about how to preserve my sanity while allowing Andrei to build his world. So I keep moving Andrei’s stuff from this box to that box, from downstairs to upstairs, from upstairs to downstairs.

And as much as I respect Andrei’s love of toys, I respect even more  his budding imagination that allows him to see beauty and a function so different from the intended one in so many non-toy objects. Needless to say, dealing with his tendency to “play” with so many non-toys that I actually frequently need, makes my life even more challenging, our house messier, and me less sane than the abundance of toys does.

But at the same time, there is always that magic moment, when I am maybe more open or simply in a really good, playful mood, when I forget that this object that Andrei is holding is something I will need  just a little later when it will be completely impossible for me to find it, but in that magic moment when I witness Andrei’s genuine admiration of an otherwise very boring object, I decide to simply forget the boring reality and follow Andrei…

* Syringe is such a perfect flute, specially designed for the little hands, just the right size.

* My glasses as well. Maybe a flute, or a horn, or even better, a trombone.

* Mop, with that yellow squashy head and a long, lean body, is so exciting to carry around. Our mop went on multiple car rides with us.

* Broom – have you ever taken a walk dragging a broom behind you (and didn’t feel like a witch)? I guess you could say the broom is your friend and you are taking her for a walk. Read more…

Why I Need Non-Serbian-Speaking People Around me to Continue to Speak Serbian to My Son

February 16, 2012 1 comment

January is over, we are in the month no. 2, February. I haven’t defined my feelings towards February yet, but I know I enjoyed every moment of January. Maybe for the first time in my life. It was cold, deadly cold on some days. I hate the cold, but not necessary when I am in the warm room, and when I know that I don’t have to step outside. That there is nowhere I have to go. Everything I have to do I can do in/from the warmth of my house.

OK, Andrei and I ventured out quite a few times. We went as far as The Franklin Institute a few times, and we took walks here and there. Occasionally very short ones. Maybe five minutes or ten minutes at the most. Sometimes our plan (or mine) was to stay out only a few minutes , maybe to walk to the end of the block and back, but we ended up taking this long walk that both Andrei and I utterly enjoyed. The cold air around us and the vapor of our freezing breaths looked wondrous, the comradeship with the few people we passed comforting. 

But the truth was it was our choice, not the need that dragged us out of the house. We didn’t have to do it. We could have just stayed in and continued to do what we were doing day in day out: listen to music; make our own music (drums, xylophone, half-broken toy piano, flute recorder, castanets, shakers, tambourines, and of course, can openers, my glasses, whatever might look or sound like a possible musical instrument); read books; paint; make jewelry and animals out of play dough;  do puzzles; have a “picnic” on the kitchen floor; and whatever else we were doing all month.

And the fact that we didn’t have to go anywhere, that we were able to just stay in our cocoon for days on end (Hmm, can I remember when was the last time I stuck my nose outside), oh, that fact that we didn’t have to go out into the cold made all the difference in the world. We played, and played, and played, and then when Andrei napped I did some work and then wrote story after story, and it was the most beautiful January I have experienced in my life – the fact that I had the chance to stay in all thirty-one days of January made this the best January ever.

All this being said, you would have expected me to have gotten a lot of Serbian in all that time Andrei and I spent away from other people.  That would sound logical, wouldn’t it? But, I did very poorly in that respect. Very, very poorly. Yes, I spoke some Serbian to him, of course, I made some effort. But I diverged from Serbian way too often, and I was not disciplined enough to make the effort of going back to it. After all, I was hibernating, and discipline and hibernation don’t go together. So, as the result,  I noticed a slight decline in Andrei’s efforts, in his willingness to repeat my Serbian sentences, and I noticed a different expression on his face when confronted with a lot of Serbian – bewilderment instead of pure openness and fascination.

A few times I acknowledged the fact I was not doing enough, but it didn’t feel like I had energy to do something about it then. For God’s sake, I was hibernating. I couldn’t do much, I could only let go. And I did. Then February came, and it’s still pretty cold, but there is more sun, quite a few days so far that at least looked good, spring-like, we go out more, we are at times surrounded with people speaking English, and I feel  Andrei and I are back on track. Once again, Serbian is a big part of our day.

Now, here is the big question:  Why didn’t we (or rather I) take advantage of all that time I spent with Andrei alone, with very little interference of English? I can’t say. The only thing I can say is this: For the exact same reason for which I was never able to take advantage of those long summers when I was a University of Belgrade student, when I was expected to study all summer long, the entire July and August, to memorize thousands of pages of dry facts and possibly be ready in early September to spit them out into the faces of my incompetent professors. Well, what happened if I acted on my first impulse to simply lock myself in my apartment and study all day long? Nothing. Literally. I had this enormous burden on my shoulders, thousands of pages of dry facts that I knew I had to somehow put into my head, but hours would just go by and I did everything else but study. I read entire novels in a matter of days, I listened to music and stared at the sky, and I felt trapped, ridden with guilt, and powerless as I would glance at the clock every now and then and see how many hours have gone by.

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