Saturday, October 24, 2009

France 2 - USA 1

In the global soccer match that is Juliette’s language learning, sometimes I feel that France is «winning ». There are days it seems she uses more French words, picked up at Tata’s, and it makes my American heart wince a little. Of course, I know she must learn French to survive here and go to school and communicate with her grandparents. It’s all perfectly natural and necessary. But I just keep hoping English will have a big spot in her world.

Remi and I always wondered what it would be like to have a bilingual child. Everyone says by about age 3 kids can switch quite easily between both languages. And that you just need to speak consistently one language to them (one parent speaks his or her native language). We sometimes cheat on this as Remi likes to say some things in English to her and sometimes she requests her favorite French nursery rhyme song to me by making the hand motions that go to it.

Now at fifteen months she seems to learn new words every week, and I can’t help but keeping a mental scorecard of French vs. English. Lately she’s been saying, “Papa, il est …” which means, “Papa, he is…”. No doubt this is what Tata tells her when she says papa ten times in a row. Then there’s “dodo”, the child-like way of saying “dormir” or sleep. When she started saying this around bedtime I realized there was no easy English equivalent. So I began telling her it was time for ni-night, and she seems to have picked this up. I think French has so many child-transformed words that roll easily off the tongue, like “dodo.” Then there’s “lolo” for “lait” or milk. Maybe it’s slightly easier to pronounce when you’re learning. And English with its Germanic roots has some harsher edges.

And the French also seem to be beating the Yanks with their “bravo”, the word the use when they clap or to say something is well done. I suppose the English equivalent of clapping while saying “yeah” seems less emphatic. Juliette’s version at the moment is “a-vo” which you can see her saying to herself in this video as she stands up (then falls). At least in the past she understood me when I said “yeah” and would start clapping herself.

I am quite proud to say one of her first real words was “wa-wa” for water. When Tata hears this she thinks she’s saying “à boire” or “to drink” so she encourages this transformation. Again, it’s only logical that Juliette speaks French with French people. Now at home if she says “à boire” I just say “wa-wa” instead. I must refrain myself from subjective comments like “mommy says “wawa” or she might think it’s a kind of war between the languages. And she’s all over the word “cookie”. In the middle of lunch or snack time she’ll just stop eating her yogurt and start saying “cookie” (or sometimes it’s more like “cat-ki”, her word for cat) in an optimistic questioning tone. It has gotten to the point that if I want to say this word to someone else I spell it or she might start asking for one.

One thing I can say is that everyone has been very positive about the bilingual approach we’re using with Juliette. Even Remi’s mom likes to show off her English vocabulary now. Just the other weekend she was proud to announce that “On mange du ‘duck’” (We’re eating duck). And my side of the family likes to throw in the odd French word, too. As the pediatrician said, at any rate, English will literally be her “langue maternelle” (mother tongue) and he also added (a bit sappily) “le langage du coeur” (the heart’s language)- since it’s the one she’ll associate with her relationship with me. I suppose I can live with that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Shakira Part Two

After her first boppy dance to the Latino singer, here we see that Juliette has definitely been practicing.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

You only live once, and other cheesy expressions

I'm generally the type of person who hears these expressions then blissfully ignores them. Or I understand them briefly when I see a report about someone who narrowly escaped death, then just forget them and keep on living my mudane worry-filled existence. But my sister is helping me to really live this type of expression. At least for one night or week, however you want to look at it.

She and I are going to see Muse (British sometimes moody rockers) in concert in a city near me. Never mind that the concert is officially sold out and we've bought very over-priced semi-official tickets from a seemingly respectable web site. As she said, we're still paying less than she would have in Atlanta where they're opening for U2. And most importantly, we're going to get to see each other for a week. I've put in for time off. Hopefully I won't have to work non-stop every day.

And I'm thinking that by late October I'm really going to need a break. This week's been tougher than usual, resembling a real work week with longer days. I've spent less time with JuJu who's been showing her headstrong tendencies quite a bit. Maybe she's mad at me for seeing her less? The days are getting shorter, light-wise, and Remi will be working harder as All Saints' Day approaches.

So here's to remembering that life's not a dress reheasal. And it's short too so you better eat dessert first...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Conversations with a toddler

Catching up on videos from about a month ago. In the first one she's talking about "Cat-cat" or "Cat-ki". Now when I show her this video she answers the question of what a cat says with "mu-now." Pretty much all animals are "catki" at the moment. When Remi's mom showed her a cow in a field this weekend, Juliette cried out happily, "Catki!" She does know that dogs say "woo-woo" however.

Then you've got a strange sound she was making that sounds more like a wail than a word. But she sure had a lot to say about it. Prizes for anyone who can translate this one.

This is not a test

A few weeks ago I erred on the side of caution for Juliette’s low-grade fever. But on a recent Sunday at midnight we got the real thing: 39°C or about 102°F. Juliette was crying hysterically and hot to the touch. I knew right away that this time it was not a practice drill. I felt like a fireman who was hearing his first alarm bell and forced to put his training to work. What was it Dr. Spock said to do to treat fever? A bath to cool them down, rub them down with a washcloth? I settled with taking off her heavy pajamas and wrapping her in the sheet on the bed as Remi gave her some milk to calm her down.

She always looks so much more vulnerable stripped down to her diaper, like a baby bird just hatched and still in her egg shell. She was even more pitiful crying with her raspy voice and turning her head from side to side. I went to fetch Dr. Spock and the French guide I had too. Neither mentioned baths but Spock was for the washcloth method. So I rubbed her down while she drank. Then it was a dose of Doliprane, the equivalent of Tylenol, and lots of rocking and soothing to get her calmed down. She finally started drifting off so I put her back in her crib in a lighter pajama set. But she woke again at 2 and 3:30 and her breathing was a bit wheezy.

Luckily for us I already had a scheduled check-up with the pediatrician at 8:30 the next morning. Juliette’s guardian angel must have been watching out for us. We took her in and the doctor could tell quite quickly that she had a type of laryngitis that made her voice crack and wheeze like a seal barking. Apparently it’s called fake croup and can be serious if they get too many secretions in the throat that can block breathing. He recommended we get her started on her meds as quickly as possible but that as the fever wasn’t too bad now she could still go to the sitter’s.

So it was off to find a pharmacy. I knew my current and former neighborhood ones were closed Monday mornings so we set out to find one that was open. I was the first customer at the modern one near Tata Marie’s house. I emerged with cortisone and amoxicillin and advice from that pharmacist that the baths for the fevers weren’t necessary. I mixed up the antibiotics- here they often come in a powder and you must add water to a certain line in the bottle and shake it up. Juliette took it fairly well considering the stuff must taste pretty vile. I felt bad about putting her at Tata’s when she was obviously still in pain, and I knew I could have cancelled my classes. I told Tata to text me if she got worse.

But the meds started doing their thing pretty quickly. After a few days of feeling puny and coughing a bit, she was back to her “JuJu the Explorer” self. Only then Remi and I got our share of the cold. Call it the double whammy of caring for a sick child!