Redescovering Elmo

🎵Happy happy dance, dance🎵
🎵Happy happy dance, dance🎵
🎵When we learn something new🎵
🎵We do the happy dance, dance🎵

Are you familiar with this song? you may or may not, depending basically on the fact of having children (who once were or are toddlers) and also if English is your mother tongue or you know the language and of course, if you like Sesame Street. Anyway, as for my case, today, a couple of hours ago, I learned it. It is so catchy that it felt it were the proper lines to start writing this and also to give some context to what I am going to share. If you want you can listen to the song right here.

So this is how we got there: I was on Youtube on my cell phone and came across a video that I wanted to watch but since it was a bit long I felt like watching it on the TV instead, however, once the app was opened on the TV screen, my daughter who was right there saw Elmo under the suggested videos part and started saying “Elmo, Elmo, Elmo” and that’s how the plan changed. Three days away from hitting the twos, the no screen time policy before that age has been broken a bit in the last couple of months (3 times to be exact including today) but with total awareness, you know, content worthy and accurate for her age and in our company/presence, not all by herself to be randomly hypnotized. So yes, I was more than happy to please her because A) It was kind of my goal to make her fall in love with Elmo and it’s cute and nice, plus not difficult at all, to see that I succeeded on that; funny thing though, it seems that any cartoon with the eyes popped out (big, white and round) to her is Elmo, I mean she sometimes points and calls Elmo to some drawings on her books and B) Well it pleases me to have in this furry red pal one of the best and sweetest props to enhance the minority language.

And there we were watching a video of 2 hours length, a collection of who knows how many episodes of Elmo’s world and to me, the mom, a rediscovery of this beloved sweet character. You see, some months ago I watched on Netflix this documentary about the man who gives the voice to Elmo and it was inspiring and touching, especially because I remember him telling that the moment in which Elmo became so big and popular was when the Tickle Me Elmo toy was out in the market… I was priviliged enough to get one of those as a child and it was a very cherished toy to me. That was sort of my only relationship with Elmo, I mean I knew it was a character from Sesame Street but I didn’t really get to watch him on TV since the version of the show that was delivered in Colombia through the magic box back in those days was Plaza Sesamo -in Spanish and shooted on Mexico- so the characters, at least the main I remember were Pancho and Lola, no Elmo whatsoever. Then, many years later, when I was in college, I walked past a store who had exibited an Elmo plush toy, just like that, no batteries, no tickle but sweet and pretty, it made me connect with that beloved toy of my childhood, one that as you may guess, I don’t remember what happened with him after all those years, yet the evoking of this memory made me want to have the red guy back in my life so I bought the toy to be a pretty ornament in my bed.

Pic taken around 1998 from what I can remember.

I guess I came to meet Elmo’s voice as a grown up to Youtube videos of Sesame Street. Finding the one of the lullaby sung to Elmo by Andrea Bocelli was so touching to me, then I also remember the one with Juanes and the song Muévete although, to be honest, what thrilled me at that time was seeing that the artist of whom I was a big fan was being part on such a beloved TV show. There was a friend from college, Cata, with whom I was able to share the love for Elmo… also a little piece of memory related to this pal. Flash forward to 2020, half way through pandemic, I’m married and have a toddler daughter about 1 and a half year old. In one of the visits to my mom’s my daughter discovered that Elmo in what used to be my room and it came to me the idea of inherite the toy to her and pass on her the love for the guy… so we took Elmo with us.

And now here we are, Salomé is about to turn 2 years old and today I discovered that there’s a TV show called Elmo’s world, clearly aimed to toddlers like Salo… it’s sweet to see how it teaches different stuff to the children and in the perfect dose: I mean the length of the episodes and how they are built, also that song at the end of every episode to celebrate what “we” (Elmo and the children watching) learned… it’s like the best way to bring it to an end and get into children’s and parent’s minds… and bodies, of course since it’s also an invitation to dance and because lately Salomé has been with the musical mode super activated she was quick to start moving to the song and I was marvelled with all the process -about half an hour of minority language exposition to a TV show she enjoys and that made her dance every time the song was on-. So it was really nice to me to rediscover Elmo from the adult/parent point of view that is able to grasp a lot more of the meaning: for instance, I love the fact of seeing this Smarty friend of Elmo as a friendly way to embrace/introduce technology as part of the show (like in real life, of course) and to show children part of the content that they can learn about related to the subject of every episode… so clever and sweet indeed.

The mass explained to anyone who don’t remember…

During this quarantine there was an idea that came once to my mind and sort of hit me: part of this bilingual journey with my baby it’s going to be re-learning my faith but now in my second language, the one that it’s aimed to be my daughter’s mother tongue (along with Spanish). Funny thing, the realization came thanks to a little teddy bear that was given to us as a present for our daughter on the baby shower… it is one of those that you press and inside of it there’s a device that plays a sound once its pressed, it used to be a cute silly message like the sound of a kiss and then “I love you” but then it evolved to longer recordings such as the prayer of My guardian angel recordered in the sweet voice of a boy plus a nice, warm, cute background music but, of course in Spanish. So now my baby girl came across that teddy and really enjoyed the recording, I mean she focused and pay attention to it. So to me it was like… “wait a minute! how do I say this in English?! I learned it in Spanish and it’s the only way I know!” OMG, Google, save my life… gosh and there’s a lot to learn in English about my faith (Catholic), the My guardian angel prayer it’s just a sweet light beginning.

But… hey! maybe this is something good. I love my religion. Yes it was inheritated, no I didn’t choose it. But to me it’s bound to two key elements that gives it a solid foundation: family and school… I mean although I’m Catholic because of my parents, I feel anchored to my religion mostly because I see it as the biggest gift my grandpa left us. My grandpa Tobias as an example of a man of faith who passed on his believings to his children and instilled in them and spirit of togetherness regardless the fact of being children of two different mothers. This is my way to define it as someone who didn’t witness that but is part of the legacy… I just love how close we are inspite of time and distance… brothers, sisters, uncle, aunts, cousins… and I love how my aunt Hilda, my aunt Luz and my uncle Guillermo are examples of Catholics who lives their faith in an active way… since the regular Catholic, at least in Colombia is just someone who rarely goes to mass and sort of tend to forget about God or just talk to him occasionally to say thanks or pray for something (ask for). From what I’ve seen in my household while growing up and around me, beyond this part of the family that to me is a good example, I believe that is sort of a flaw from most Catholic people the lack of knowledge and disconecction with the Bible, the Word of God and usually a forgotten book. But here is the thing, the way I see it now as an adult woman who is about to raise her child under Catholic religion: the flaws in her faith are not a reason to walk away (convert to a “better” or just different one) but to streghten its roots. Also I’m very fond of my religion because it meant a lot to me through basic, elementary and high school, I mean those 12 years in the same institution, studying with De La Salle Brothers, belonging to pastoral, finding some refuge in this group and somehow, for a needing heart to feel filled by His presence and guided by some key people it’s something I will value forever. So yeah I just can’t and won’t ever walk away but just want to know better my faith as well as The Word of God that doesn’t really belong to any religion in particular, it’s is just THE truth, HIS truth. Because I wanna know for the better what I’m going to teach my daughter and I also really wanna learn all what God teaches in this key escential book that I don’t want it to be just a decorative element in my home… besides I sort of take pride (it motivates me) on the fact that I bought it’s bilingual version as a commitment to God and to my daughter for our bilingual journey, faith included. Still the book in the drawer doesn’t do much if not taken to action (study, read it, learn, self educate, internalice the teachings and live by them). Gotta confess that as much as I love my school and it’s foundations of faith, the Bible to me during those years was a book to be took only for religion class and do some kind of assingment with it. What I remember the most of it, actually, was the fact that my mom wrote a little inscription on the first page like… saying that Bible (Dios habla hoy version) belonged to me and it was a gift from my parents, she probably signed it on behalf of both of them, in my mind it’s not what it exactly said but the way that page looked and her handwriting, they should’ve bought it when I started 2nd grade… I wish it still were at my parent’s library but I guess it somehow got lost through time.

There have been different moments in my life in which I’ve been thirsty of God, like wanting to know more about him or knowing him better. Pastoral to me was like my first rock, that faded away once school was over, then college years passed and by the end of them Youth For Christ came and it gave me like a year and a half or so of enhaced spirit in faith. Another opportunity to continue growing in God until I felt that the mission/pursuit was fulfilled/finished: the thirst ceased, my faith was streghtened. Bounding with a Cristhian youth group to me was never a possibility for conversion, I was just walking with open arms into the learning without doubting of the faith I profess. Then I moved on with my life and walked away.

I would say that the thirst it’s over because my soul is full but now it is my brain or just my rational part the one who wants to know more and it’s pointing saying something like “hey! there’s still a lot we yet don’t know or probably don’t fully understand (like weak memories from childhood, what I learned during catechesis before receiving my First Communion) and we have a baby growing up to learn right from us and it wouldn’t be good to be full of gaps in what we intend to teach. That plus the language thing: what we know and what we don’t has to be learned or relearned in English, so… as plenty of time as we may have, it seems like the task is huge and we better get going” (me and myself talking as I write or just me and my counsciousness thinking out loud in written form).

So that is the thing, I’m counciously choosing to become an adult completely aware of her faith and willing to grasp to the fulliest its meaning as well as the meaning of the World of God, so much to learn from that book, can’t be ignored or shouldn’t be, especially not if the plan is to pass it on to my daughter. Today a couple of factors came to inspire this writing, they made me feel this urging need to write that couldn’t be postponed, so here I am.

Last but not least, the reason of the title… you wouldn’t guess I think, I mean to me was an unexpected finding: Maria Montessori, Montessori method, familiar with the name and the term? I hope you do since I won’t lecture about it right now but quick summary a woman who became famous for her ideas on how to raise a child, her method claims for the child independency = settle things around the house for him/her to be able to do it by him/herself. Like bed to the floor so he can get up and down with no help, toys to his reach and other kind of stuff. I don’t know much but got a general idea (btw I’m about to buy a learning tower for my daughter and I’m so excited about it but anyway, let’s not digress). The thing is that today I was on an online class with someone who is an expert on the subject and she mentioned that Maria Montessori was Catholic and that at the beginning her ideas were sort of framed by her faith. And I was like “wait, what?” if that was so I need to make a research. So I discovered this book of hers, The mass explained to children and as I was reading and enjoying the Amazon preview it was like “wow! amazing” but also hey! I don’t know any of this, I think I wanna keep reading = buy it as a way of learning what it explains and eventually being able to tell it to my daughter besides this could be a good way to start undestanding my faith in English… terms and eveything, you know. It threw me back to my days of catechesis. Some good memories come from that… like how seriously I took the process (I really wanted to learn, I was just 10), I perfectly remember Chave (a special and beloved Sister -noon-) saying to the whole class that I was the one who was better prepared to receive de Holly Communion, and I remember a guy (teacher, he was young) called Javier, sort of urging us to stop kissing our finger thumb right after crossing ourselves (ha! that was something I had to look up on the translator) since it was something women used to do long time ago but because they were holding the crucifix in their hands, so there was no reason for us to do that. He said that on the last day of rehearsal, that one in which we all went dressed without uniforms but in casual clothes. But did they teach us what this book is saying? probably not, still is never too late for learning. Also I think of Father Toro, the one who got my husband and me married and our daughter baptized, a very special man to my husband (like a dad) and someone very wise who could throw a lot of light into this new thirst, now cognitive of mine: to learn what I don’t know and to relearn what I do but in English, to streghten my knowledge of Catholic faith, to get closer to the Word of God. This is my goal for me and my baby.

A numbed talent…

As I’m about to share this and the title came to me thanks to a quick exchange with my bestie of adult-mom life, the parable of talents popped in my mind. She said that the talent of baking had always been inside of me, so… yeah, maybe it has but that seed had never been poured and it seemed to be wasted since nothing ever grew out of it until now. But… why an useless seed and when was it planted? I’m happy to say that I can tell exactly when that happened, it is a blurry memory but still it got imprinted on me: I was like 10 and went to visit a friend of grandma with her and my mom. That woman baked a chocolate cake right in front of me. She showed me how to do it, I don’t remember how involved I was in the process but I can recall that she was very kind and happy to show me her art. I remember that yummy seductive smell of the chocolate being baked and the moment of putting the cake into the oven, one of those old ones that were white. I also remember a bit of the entrance hall and the moment we walked away and waved good bye while the fantastic baker waved back standing at her door. She planted on me the seed.

However, growing up with certain commodities like a lady in charge of cooking and housekeeping, I never really had the necessity to jump into the kitchen and till recently you could say about me that I didn’t know how to cook. Why? Well because the lady who helps is still at my mom’s and I usually spent most of the day there, while my husband is at work. Cooking to me is something that I rarely do and usually on special occasions with recipes from the internet. The knowledge I got from my mom or what she basically taught me, as a child, you know, in those pre-teen years, was: to make rice and cook chicken (boiled in water with garlic, onion and tomato). But the practice of those two things wasn’t so often.

Then, I’m not sure whether it was during my last years of college or after that, I start to really get engaged watching cooking programs such as Cake Boss, Cupcake Wars, Hell’s Kitchen, Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped, among others but the first two were the ones that I loved the most. It really amazed me the creativity that was put on those cupcakes, to decorated them after a theme related with an event where the winner of the contest will have a fantastic showcase with a thousand cupcakes all of them perfectly decorated and with different amazing flavors. And then, you got Buddy Valastro doing the craziest, biggest, personalized, fantastic cakes. It left me open-mouthed over and over again. So now I was a lady who didn’t know how to cook but enjoyed watching cooking programs on the TV and was willing to jump into the kitchen whenever the opportunity came (to me just special occasions as I mentioned before).

Because of Buddy I started to pay for getting personalized cakes done for the birthday of my loved ones, it was like my biggest bet and I really liked to leave them fascinated with this little surprise. And at the same time I cooked for them, usually dinner, following a recipe. Well, last year was my mom 60th birthday and that was a bit different, a higher “bet” that included a big number of family plus some friends at a restaurant and a beautiful cake with some photos printed around from different times of my mom’s life including her childhood years and a cake topper representing her holding my baby, her grandchild. Everyone loved the whole concept. It was really beautiful.

But also, last year, a couple of months before my mom’s birthday I met Sarah, my baking master brilliant friend of whom I wrote before and the one who pointed out that the talent for baking had always been inside me. So when she told me she loved baking I thought it was my opportunity to learn by her side. Sarah let me do all the steps of the different yummy things we baked during the year as our friendship evolved: cinnamon rolls, chocolate chips cookies and my husband’s birthday cake. However, although she has a great disposition to teach, it is really hard to keep it all in your memory for trying to do it on your own next time, yet she passed me the cookies recipe and now that I’ve gained confidence I may give it a try. Cooking/baking with Sarah is more about getting engaged in the process and sharing together, our hearts, senses and minds focuses in that instead of the real teaching/learning process.

This year our first baking project was supposed to be my baby’s birthday cake. I wanted a birthday smash cake photo session since she was just turning one. But, sadly, Sarah had a family emergency that made her flight to the US with her husband and children. They spent almost a month over there. So although I wasn’t able to count with her, I decided to dare to do it all by myself. And so the baking seed/talent started finally to be poured and sprout some roots… -maybe even grow a tiny stalk, cause still has a lot more to grow-. I decided to go with this recipe that I found online and went to buy all the ingredients and the stuff needed to bake like the pan, the thing to put the frosting in and decorate the cake, the thing that goes on the tip of that among others. I don’t know the words of this stuff in English and at the moment I can’t access the translator. Still I like to recognize my lack of knowledge of this and how in spite of not knowing many words in English related to bake and cooking, I really like to follow recipes in this, my second language, is like and extra reason to get excited and feel challenged cause there’s this cognitive process going on while at the same time focusing in doing the cake.

So how did the cake go? Well, first at all I gotta say that I left out some ingredients that I didn’t consider necessary for my baby (no cinnamon, no nutmeg, no sugar, no milk and no vanilla extract). The cake went really nice and it grew pretty (curvy) thanks to the baking powder. However the amounts of the recipe fell short for the size of pan I had bought. So the next day I did it again with double quantity of everything. This time it also went well but I didn’t think of the fact that the cake was going to grow inside of the oven and since the pan was full when I put it in, the batter outgrew. But anyway still was beautiful and my husband helped me to cut out the curvy top so to get a flat one ready to be covered with the frosting. That part was a real failure: I completely failed on my first attempt to do the frosting. I started by whiping the butter with the electric mixer but, silly me, the butter wasn’t soft so it got stuck and it was really hard, almost imposible, to take it off, well it finally did came off but with water and soap in the sink and ready to go to waste… actually the wire sponge had to be thrown away. Then I added the cream cheese that although it’s great for its consistency, I didn’t really liked it for its salty flavor. My idea for the frosting was it to taste like carrot. But the carrots I used weren’t enough and they weren’t really minced and with all the juicy flavor but just thin strips that with the cream chease and the purple coloring turned into a weird brown mix… it didn’t tasted bad since I ended up covering the cream cheese with banana (I didn’t want to use sugar) but it’s appearance was not nice and I preferred not to use it. The next morning it was the day before Salo’s birthday and I remember that Laura, my neighbor and friend who lives in the next door, likes to cook and had a time in which she sold cupcakes, so I texted her and she was able to help me out with the covering. We started from cero, I gave in with the sugar, she helped me a lot and it all went well. Using the pastry bag (ok, now I used the translator) was really hard for me, I’m kind of clumpsy so Laura was in charge of decorating while I helped to prepare the mix under her direction. So finally, with her help, the cake ended up looking like this and it was perfect for my baby girl and the photo session.

Sarah and her family came back to Colombia on the first days of February, and my grandma was also here. It was very important for me that both of them tasted the cake so I did it once again and they both liked it. However I noticed that it was a bit dry although they didn’t say me anything. This second cake was without covering, but the opportunity to make the third one came when my childhood friends and me agreed to gather on Sunday to celebrate Tavo’s birthday. So I decided to bring the cake and repeat the recipe with all the ingredients and no restriction. It was absolutelly delicious. In the process of doing the batter I came to the realization that the reason why it had been too dry before was because the recipe says on cup of oatmeal into the blender and I was getting the whole cup of pulverized oatmeal so it was a bigger ammount, added to the two cups of flour. It felt nice to realize of this by myself and to correct this part when pulverizing the oatmeal. For the frosting, I chose blue coloring since is my bestie’s favorite color. And this time it went perfect by following the recipe, starting with a soft butter that didn’t got stuck into the mixer. So my third attempt was the real perfect one, my friends loved it and I really felt happy and proud of myself. The numbed talent woke up and it’s ready to roar. This year I’ll be making several cakes for my loved ones and I hope to keep improving little by little and try different things, recipes and flavours. Maybe attempting to emulate that marvelous chocolate smell (cake) that I remember although I was told that with chocolate is a bit harder, but hey, why not give it a try?

My friend Sarah and her family

This is something I meant to write about a couple of months ago but I sort of forgot it. Today, however, I got a new inspiration to address this topic (¡finally!). But before getting into it, I want to make a minor parentheses: I still haven’t figured out how to manage the use of languages (English and Spanish) in this blog, I just think that choosing one or the other is something that flows, according to the topic, in that way you can say that contents are exclusive to just one of the languages I use, meaning that the content it’s never the same except for the intro post. However there may be cases like this one in which actually I do want to share the content in English and in Spanish, yet one thing I’ve realized it’s that is NOT good at all to just translate from one language to the other… I mean I like to think in English but also I can think in Spanish as well as write so, why make the Spanish version of what I wrote in English just a piece translated and therefore kind of soulless, hole, and sometimes weird since expressions usually are not the same and what seems natural in what language doesn’t seem so in the other? Therefore my commitment is to genuinely write in both languages, separetely, whenever I want to share in English and in Spanish, and not make just a clon of the English post in Spanish. That said, now I’ll continue with the subject of today.

When I was re-reading the book of Barbara Zurer Pearson, Raising a bilingual child, I came to the part in which she emphasizes how useful is to have community support to foster the minority language (mL) in children. This is basically so that the child feels the real necessity to communicate in the minority language beyond his/her home, that’s why going to a school in the mL could be very useful and if not possible then would be good to try to look for other options like playdates group in the mL among others. So I was about to give birth, like just some weeks before my due date when I decided to look for and find that kind of support because, regardless the level of bilingualism that the future kindergarten and school of my daughter could be, clearly kids will talk among them in Spanish since it is the majority language (ML), then for my case, schooling could be a good support but falls short. That way, after doing an intense online research of something alike to playdates in English, I discovered this club called American Women Club Bogota and I was very excited when I found them. Sadly some days after paying for the anual membership fee and an interview with the president I was sort of kicked out and my money refunded since I’m not an foreign living here in Bogota nor have any ties with the U.S which is a requirement according to their bylaws.

Ok, big disappoinment but there was no choice other than accept it. Yet, one day, when my daughter was just one month and some days old, something completely different (although a bit related), fantastic and a giant blessing happened: I was out in the bike with Tobby when a woman with three young children noticed the cuteness of my dog while he goes with me in the basket of the bike. So I stopped and let them pet him, realized they were talking in English, and told to my dog “Tobby, say hi”, then Sarah said “Oh he is bilingual” to which I replied “Well, I am” and that’s how our friendship started.

Sara is from the United States, she is married and has 4 beautiful children. The oldest, Emma, is 13 and at the moment Sarah, her kids and me met she wasn’t there but some steps ahead with Cali, their dog… she then came to see why her family had lacked behind and I also met her that day. So, since we are not just friends but also neighbors, we have been sharing back and forth and it has been amazing. The first time she came to visit and we had coffee. The second time I went to her house and, since she is a great baker, she taught me, or at least guide me through the process of how to make cinnamon rolls. The third time, just a couple of days after the baking, she gave us a big surprise, it was so nice from her: since I had told her it was my mom’s birthday, she baked some cookies on behalf of my daughter as a present to her grandma. They looked really beautiful and were so yummy. When she brought them, she came with Bella, her second daughter who I believe is 11.

My mom was “killed” by this lovely surprise.

The fourth time was something more casual/spontaneous: we just went together to the vet with our dogs, she asked me to please help her in case she could have any difficulty communicating with the vet or understanding what he said to her. There’s more to tell but this is not just to summarize what we have done so far, this is about what it means to both of us the fact of having run into each other’s life and becoming friends. The day we met, we exchanged phone numbers and although it was kind of a short interaction, right after that, I continued cycling all in excitement because of the joy of her friendship and what it could mean: someone to constantly talk in English to, a neighbor, a friend and a family with four children, maybe a bit older for my daughter (could they really play together? I don’t know) but still friends to share with and make her have the necessity to communicate in English. These are, in general, my reasons to be grateful for having Sarah as my friend, but beyond that is really beautiful to see how enriching and pleasant is every time we share together, that we are both kind and nice to each other (maybe Sarah much more than me), ready to lend a hand if needed, etc., it is really a very beautiful friendship.

Sarah and her family went to the US for vacations and came back at the beginning of this month. Last Monday they invited us to their house to have dinner, Sarah cooked and we had a lovely evening. We were two families sharing together since grandma, Miguel and of course Salomé went with me, we really had a nice time and it was good to be able to meet David, Sarah’s husband who so far I hadn’t really talked to except for some quick hellos on the baking day before he left for a meeting. Could you believe they brought some lovely clothes for Salomé from The States? What a generous kind act from them! Really unexpected (although she told me and show me way too much in advance since the purchases were made by her mom long before they travel for vacations) and at first she left me very surprised and a bit ashamed, now as our friendship has grown those feelings disappeared to be replaced by a huge gratitude.

One more unexpected thing was that on Monday night we were saying our goodbyes when Sara brought out of the kitchen a couple of to-go dishes with leftovers from the dinner for Miguel, my husband, to take them as his lunch for the next day at work. See, “leftovers” is one of those words that clashes in my brain when translated to Spanish. The expression “las sobras de la comida” doesn’t sound nice. “Sobras” is what you leave in the plate and don’t eat, what usually would be thrown away or given to the dog, at least in the countryside. But in this case we are talking about the food that no one served, tasted or ate and it’s perfectly normal to have food from dinner as lunch for the next day at work.

So today Salomé and me went back to her house to return her the dishes. One more spontaneous encounter but I really loved it. Today I got to share a bit more with her two younger children: JJ, a boy of 7 or 8 years old and Holly, a sweet little girl who just turned 5. We ended up playing a game of guessing what was the miniature toy they had in their hands over and over again since apparently they have tons of them, different kind of objects and food. Holly not just held them, one by one in her hands but also wrapped them and hid them inside of a ball of Play-Doh. Besides and before this, when we just arrived, she gave us a little bracelet she had done by herself for Salomé. Yes, she touched my heart. That special present and how she constantly looked and caressed my daughter during the first minutes of the visit was really beautiful.

Thanks, Dear God for allowing that first encounter between Sarah and me to happen so that we were able to create this beautiful enriching friendship. We are both very grateful to have found each other.

“Sing a lot to them”

That was the advice an expert mom -mother of four, the oldest 18, the youngest I think is 4- gave to me. Actually she is our godmother from marriage and she was just checking how was I doing after a couples of weeks or so with my newborn, when my husband was already back to work. Those words stuck with me but it is one of those things that although you don’t put inmediately into action, eventually you do it like an spontaneous act that little by little sort of becomes a routine or at least something that you do often to your baby… you sing to him/her a lot.

Now this innate resource plays an extra special role when it comes to raising your child bilingual. I mean it is not just about soothing them with your voice in a melodic tone or making them happy (smile at you) but also putting your efforts into planting on them the seed of bilingualism and pouring water constantly so that they get familiarized with the minority language and not just the one the majority speaks.

Another great tool for this goal of raising your son/daughter bilingual, I think is a pretty obvious one but still it’s worth to mention, are books = children books in the minority language and since I love to read and I’m kind of a nerd on the subject, I’ve already gathered quite a number, at least “enough” for this baby stage. It’s pretty easy to fall in love with those children books in English even if I don’t know them from my childhood: they are cute, they are colorful, bright, lovely… they captive you as a reading parent.

Dr. Seuss wasn’t part of my childhood, but I have some books written by him to read to my daughter. However the same thing does NOT happen with songs. I do NEED them to be from my childhood to feel them close to heart and worth to be sung to my baby girl, I need this to feel as something natural and that wouldn’t happen if I go on youtube to search for children songs in English and then try to learn them, that would just feel weird and fake. So I just want to share what this singing part has been like for me so far and also tell something I did a couple of hours ago.

To be brief, I’ve invented two songs for my baby girl, one it was just a line when she was a few days old. Then, like two months laters or so, I came up with another line. I have no idea where the melody for that came from (if already exists or not) but anyway it’s a very cherished song from my repertoire. The other one that I conceive it’s pretty simple and goes with the melody of a song I learned in Spanish when I was a child. And I have two more that although I didn’t create them still make me happy and proud, you see, they are my own translated version of two endearing childhood songs in Spanish.

Usually when commercial songs have their version in more than one language like some Enrique Iglesias or Andrea Bocelli’s songs, the lyrics never say exactly the same, they are never literal translations because it is more important that the pace of the music is kept and if a translated sentence it’s just too long to fit into the music or maybe it doesn’t rhyme, the whole song would be spoiled, so they have to think a way to “fix it” or make it work. Well I’m not a musician but an enthusiastic mom who doesn’t care about rhyme and one way or another manage to make her own version of those literal translated childhood songs to fit into the melody. What I love the most is that this happens spontaneously, and I feel I’m doing right, this feels close to heart and with all my love for my daughter to foster her bilingual ability. Btw, these two songs are Sami el heladero and Mi carita redondita, if you don’t know the latter I can tell you that it goes with the same melody of Oh my darling Clementine but it says a completely different thing.

I want to keep a record of these songs to my daughter, for her to remember and for me so that I don’t forget them. What I did was to start writing those songs in a unused notebook that now has a reason to be. But it wasn’t just writing the songs, like only the lyrics and period, it was at the same time, kind of following Adam’s suggestion of writing letters for the future to your kids. So I started the notebook addressing to my daughter and explaining to her the brief story of each song. Although for now there are just four songs = four pages of the notebook plus the one of the presentantion, (you know like saying what the notebook is about, kind of a very short introduction), I put all my heart in it and felt very happy doing it. Besides I realized that if I’m writing in English to my girl for her to read this in the future it’s because I’m counting on her to be bilingual and I’m confident that she will be able to understand what I wrote to her and she will really appreciate it.

So… yeah, that was pretty much what I wanted to share in this post and maybe also allow a glimpse into what that notebook looks like so far…


What this blog is about…

I’m a new -rookie- mom, born, raised and living in Bogota, Colombia. I became bilingual through life and thanks to my mom who stirred in me at a very young age the love for the language; our mother tongue as well as community language is Spanish.

A couple of years ago I ended up watching a TED talk that put in my mind the idea of raising our -I’m married- future kids bilinguals, so the online research = reading more about it on Google, took me to the book Raising a bilingual child by Barbara Zurer Pearson. I had already heard/read about the OPOL method but wanted to know more about it, you know, the internet sometimes is just like the surface and books still posess a great source of wisdom, so I ordered it from Amazon.

I finished the book on March 30th, 2018 but when I got pregnant -the test came out positive on June 8th-, I knew I wanted to re-read the book to pay closer attention and take notes. The reasons to be or become bilingual are different but usually it has to do with 1) a matter of culture/inheritance = parents are native speakers of two different languages 2) job and educational opportunities -if the person decides to be bilingual, will learn the second language by filtering through the first, this would be an utilitarian purpose-. 3) Family lives in a country where the majority language is different from the one they speak so the whole family, by immersing into the community, little by little learns the new language. However, there’s a 4th reason, it’s my case and at the same time matches one of the examples referred in Barbara’s book:

So yes, this is me. It is not about better life opportunities, it’s about grasping the world with two perspectives at the same time and being able to access and enjoy content that may not be available in your native language. The world is much wider when you are bilingual and realizing that my children can learn both languages at the same time instead of filtering one through the other -second language acquisition- to me was a huge discovery that really enlightened me and made me very excited.

The task/project may not be easy since people at my beloved country, Colombia, myself included are native Spanish speakers, that’s the language I talk with my family and friends… some of us may be bilingual -full English proficiency- but it’s kind of silly and pointless to speak to each other in English when our mother tongue is Spanish; my husband on the other hand, doesn’t know the language, and my mom didn’t need to use it anymore so her knowledge and skill to speak has grown weak. However, Adam Beck, author of the blog Bilingual Monkeys, the forum Bilingual Zoo and this book that I’m just starting to read, sets an example of success in raising their kids bilinguals in a country -Japan- where English is the minority language, of course there will be hurdles to overcome along the path, -he also writes about that- but hey, if he could do it why wouldn’t I?

This blog is mainly to share my experience on raising my daughter (2 months old) bilingual as well as telling stories/anecdotes related to the subject… or not -there may be stories just about motherhood, at least I have one in mind, so far, that is related to my father (R.I.P.) but it will be for later.