Monday, March 23, 2015

Words! Parole! Words! Parole!

Spring day singing

I may be a poet, but my son is better than I am at finding rhyming sounds and combining words in surprising ways. Right now "Elmo," "apple" and "elbow" are getting mixed up in his mind. When he says short sentences like, "eat Elmo," I giggle at the idea and rejoice in his playing with language. 

Children learn extensively from their peers. Our bambino started daycare in December and a combination of the interaction with peers and the developmental stage he's in, he's had bursts of new words. This morning, he surprised me by pointing at the door and shouting, "door!" (He also surprised me by slamming it shut, but... that's something else.)

Toddlers are hard to understand and so I'm only mostly sure that he hasn't said any words in Italian yet. He can point at objects and body parts when I name them in Italian, but he doesn't repeat the words or sounds. There are many myths about bilingual children, including that they learn to speak more slowly. From his actions and spoken language in English, he shows that he understands more words every day, rather than very few. 

Each new word seems to give him a sense of power. Since he could first ask for cheese and then find cheese on his plate, he is visually thrilled by what words can do. I look forward to hearing him not only name things, but describe his more complicated thoughts. 

Toddlers reach linguistic milestones (and every other milestone) at different paces and in different ways. Talk regularly with your kids, even "parentese" conversations that help them to hear and experiment with sounds, reads lots of books to them while pointing at the pictures and discussing the book, and sing, sing, sing. Model correct language use, including vocabulary and grammar, rather than correcting them. 

As for my poems, I'll try to follow his example of surprise and sound relationships between words. I've found my new muse. 

Click through for earlier posts related to bilingualism.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Planning Ahead (or, "Previous Pregnant Panic")

As tax day approaches, I remember being pregnant in 2013 and organizing our tax documents in what is now the baby's room. It seemed to me that if I didn't do everything - everything - before the baby arrived, I'd never get it done. I wanted to organize the documents for my taxes for the last year and the following 18, even though I (mostly) understood the impossibility of it all.

I couldn't imagine having time to do anything once the baby was here. If I could have showered in advance to knock that off of my list, I would have.

My mental do-list was long and varied, including: Finish my poetry manuscript and submit, food shop for every panty item we might ever need and grade papers for classes that weren't yet open for registration. As it turned out, our son arrived three weeks early and so many things were left unfinished the moment he arrived. And we all made it through unharmed.

The morning I went into labor, my husband installed the car seat and I put the last item - socks - into the hospital bag. Maybe we somehow knew the moment was coming or maybe that Saturday was just the time we had. I didn't know that the next evening some poetry friends had organized a small shower for me. I was sad to have missed that celebration, as well as finishing our son's room quietly at midday, without the bustle of visitors and a constantly hungry baby.

We had diapers, a crib, car seat and some infant clothes when he arrived in the dry world. While these were the basic necessities and could ask for help if needed more, I was panicked. What would our son, a then-stranger growing inside of me, think of this unprepared woman placed in charge of him?

It turns out he liked and likes me, unprepared and prepared. And I am quite smitten with him.

Our son turns two in three months and the winter, along with the incessant colds and snow days, has melted away. I've showered most days and not only finished a manuscript, but started to submit it for publication. I have a crazy long to-do list and try to work ahead, just in case something unexpected comes up (as it often does,) but I also try to be here in the moment.

Our taxes are organized and there are growing piles on my desk, but yesterday my son and I played peekaboo under a blanket-fort when he was home from daycare. Today, the piles are still there and the sky hasn't fallen. He's back in daycare, so we couldn't play peekaboo today and I can work through those piles. I'm glad to have spent the (available) time together, even if I did glance at my desk a few times.

I'm hopeful about the spring and having some time to catch up, work ahead and spend more time playing outside with our son. Playing when the sun is shining, regardless of what has or hasn't been done yet.

I try to remember that it will all get done. And when some things don't, I embrace my inner Jersey girl: fuggedaboutit!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Gearing up for National Poetry Month!

National Poetry month is almost here! Over on my writing coach blog, Chloe Yelena Miller,  I'll be hosting guest writers on the subject of poetry throughout the month. A couple of those posts will be about writing as a parent and I'll be sure to share some links here, too.

Not having the time to take an in-person class, I've signed up for a MOOC hosted by Stanford and led by the amazing poet Eavan Boland, Ten Premodern Poems by Women. If you're interested in MOOCs and looking for another course, University of Pennsylvania's MOOC Modern & Contemporary American Poetry will be starting again in September. With videos, online discussion and more, these courses are a great (free, low stress) way to keep up with your study of poetry. The weekly assignments help you to integrate poetry into your everyday life. Perfect for the busy mamma!

For more ways to celebrate, check out the Academy of American Poets' website