About La Mother Tongue

La Mother Tongue is my medium to share the joys and challenges of being a new parent as well as to share how we make a conscious effort in our daily life to bring baby up bilingual.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mi Madre is un Language Nerdo

When our pediatra wrote in her medical records at the 15-month check-up that Sofía was trilingual, Español, English, and Sign, my heart sank. I sooo wanted my pediatra to be omnipotent, but I guess that I will have to suffice with the fact she knows pediatric medicine the best and language acquisition will have to be left to me. Don’t get me wrong, I would love for Sofía to be trilingual, but right now at best, she is monolingual (Español) with a speckle of bilingualism and hopes for complete and true bilingualism to follow. I suppose I am more along the spectrum of a linguistical purist. Over the past month, more people than I can count have asked me if we were raising Sofía to be bilingual. (Very few people can wrap their heads around Sign Language so they don’t even consider it to be any part of the equation.) I tell them that technically, we are raising a monolingual because we only speak to Sofía en Español. The English will come as she becomes more social with her friends and so I’m not worried about it. (Usually I don’t have to spew out my resume to dispel ignorant remarks about ESOL [English speakers of Other Languages], because I think the matter-of-factness in my voice shuns them off at the get-go;  but I have had to.   But on the whole, really, my experience with the general population has been that people covet the ability to be truly bilingual.)
So this recent influx of questions caused me to evaluate and analyze Sofía’s language abilities; both oral/signing production and listening/signing comprehension. But over the weekend, two people asked me if she understands English as well. My answer is no. Really all our interaction with Sofía is en Español and not in English except for a few words or phrases which just feel better in English. Every-now-and-then, I read her books to her in English instead of en Español, but not regularly. Sofía hears English when we are with our friends and neighbors and in public places she often will hear both languages. What does Sofía understand in English: I don’t know. As a language teacher I am cognizant of the controlled language input, it is the uncontrolled that I’m not sure about. Sofía loves and I stress LOVES to watch her Baby Signing Times DVDs. She only watches them about twice a week at best. The presentation is in English with signed vocabulary. Since Sofía picks up all the signs, I can only assume that she has also picked up the English vocabulary for the words as well. We know she knows the words en Español. What English she has picked up from her environment, I’m not sure. Still not enough for me to declare that we are raising Sofía to be bilingual, not yet anyway.
Prior to the English inquiry, I made an effort to test Sofía’s oral comprehension. I asked her various questions formulated in ways that I know are appropriate for her developmental abilities: yes or no questions, Where is _____? , What sound does the _____ make?, What is this? and Which shirt do you want to wear? I also gave her commands such as: Bring me your shoes. Shut the door. Give the gato a kiss. Some of her responses are oral (en Español) (about 14 words) and some of them are signed (about 30 words) and some of them are gestures like pointing. She has some words that she knows how to say and sign, but usually picks one or the other to communicate with and will not use both. I was surprised at how much she really knows. I knew that she would get the things we see or do every day, but I was shocked to see how she could identify or answer questions about things that we do NOT see or do every day. It was nice to see living proof of language acquisition theories and approaches. It really does pay-off to create a language-rich environment--to talk, read, interact and narrate EVERTYHING you do all day long—in either language or both! I also again see that language acquisition applies to Sign Language. Unfortunately I can’t keep up with her in Sign Language because I’m not fluent in it, but at least it gives this now 17-month-old a tool to communicate with her parents before she is developmentally able to do it orally. Now I suppose I have to test her English comprehension, but this will take a lot longer, so I guess you will have to check back with me to see what the results are!! Nothing like a linguistic cliff hanger for us Language Nerdos!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gracias del Corazón

We obviously have been teaching Sofía to say “gracias” at the appropriate times: when someone gives her something, when she asks for something and receives it, etc… Usually we have to tell her to say “gracias” and she usually just signs it. Sometimes she actually says the word, “gracias”, but this has only been a few times. Last week, for the first time, I noticed that her friend Marnix handed her a toy teléfono and Sofía signed “gracias” WITHOUT me telling her to!! From then on, she has signed “gracias” on her own many times without me reminding her. Moi- the Linguistic Nerdo has been so focused on the word “gracias” that it never occurred to me that she would learn the concept of WHEN to use it. If I didn't know it before, I know it now:  We really do teach by example! 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Viaje en Avión

Here is Sofía on her first viaje en avión, trip in an airplane! My husband had business in California so we decided to tag along and make it a little family vacation. Sofía had never been en un avión before. We didn’t really know what to expect, but she was really good. She did have some weak moments but considering that we woke her up three hours early to go to the aeropuerto and then she went without a nap and was hungry, it was ok. We hauled the car seat on the avión which meant that we had to get some stroller thing to move it around the aeropuerto. When we touched ground at LAX, my husband swore up and down that we wouldn’t take that thing again. It was quite a pain and didn’t leave Sofía with much room, but she was safe!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wierd Toddler Behavior II

Well, this isn’t a WEIRD toddler behavior but one I don’t like. Sofía has started to hit or slap when she can’t have her way. The problem is that I don’t know where she learned it from. We don’t slap her or hit her bottom or even pretend to slap her or the table in front of her. We don’t even have to stop ourselves….not once…NEVER, NUNCA, JAMÁS! How can I possibly justify spanking a 16 month old? And how could I ever think that spanking her would teach her to not spank or hit others? The closest thing to a “slap” that I think she has been exposed to is Fulanito, the gato, moving his paw to play with her—it kind of looks like he is hitting her with his paw, no claws out. My husband thinks it is an instinct. I don’t know and haven’t researched it either. I don’t like it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Can This Really Be Starting ALREADY?

The other day, I was dressing Sofía and she looked at the camisa I wanted to put on her and she started to fuss. It seemed like she didn’t like the camisa, but I thought I was imagining it. Then when I slipped the camisa on her head and before I could pass her arms through the holes, she had whipped it off her head, all the while throwing a little bit of a fit. I looked at her and asked her if she liked the camisa. She shook her head “No.” I thought maybe she didn’t understand me, so I tried the whole process again. The same thing happened. I then pulled out a purple camisa and asked her which camisa she liked. She pointed to the purple camisa. To my PURE amazement, she let me put the purple camisa over head easily. I was dumbfounded! Can a 16 month old really be in to la moda, fashion, ALREADY? I thought she just didn’t really care….but HA…alas; she is a Mini-Me!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


There are two things that I miss about life Pre-Sofía. Pre-Sofía, I used to get up at 4:30 AM every day to do work and hacer ejercicio before getting ready for work. I loved my time. I felt good, it was and still is the perfect hour for me because my creative juices flowed and I got a lot of work done. I am pretty much useless in the evening, so doubly good. The day after we brought Sofía home from the hospital, I thought I was supposed to continue my regular rutina and I got up just the same. I mean, really what was I thinking? Anyway, now that Sofía sleeps through the night, I have been trying to get back into an early rutina to run in the mornings. I have been able to get up and go to my Muscle-UP classes at 6 AM, but still need the running part and I just don’t have the same gusto as I used to Pre-Sofía. Some days I can get up and some days I can’t! The second thing I miss Pre-Sofía is a set of manicured nails. I also used to manicure my nails in the mornings too…so I REALLY miss that gusto. There are few things that make me feel like my normal, 20-pounds-less, self than a nice set of nails! Post-Sofía, then I think—NAILS??? Seriously? Who cares? I have an adorable baby that I made in my own Easy-Bake-Oven! I’ll take Post to Pre any day!

Monday, June 21, 2010

La Cédula

We decided that it is important to get Sofía an Identification Card with the Departamento de Vehículos Motorizados. This way, we have an ID for Sofía for when we travel on domestic flights, but most importantly, there is a picture and other identifying information available to whatever agency may need it should, God forbid, something happen to her. They don’t fingerprint, but I will save that info for another post. So I took Sofía today to get hers. It was a fiasco. She doesn’t feel well because her top molars are coming in. The internet said that the wait at the Departamento de Vehículos Motorizados was only 9 minutes. It took us half an hour standing in line just to get a number to GET IN, so that we could stand in another line. Sofía was restless (like everyone else) and it was closing in on her naptime. I reached in the diaper bag for some toys and there were none! We finally get to the first ticket Nazi and he is surprised at how young Sofía is and wanting an ID. He is not foreign, by the way, and says, “Oh she is 16 months old and you have another one on the way!” Refraining myself from colorful comebacks, I let it go with just an, “Oh, not yet!”. He couldn’t leave it there…. “Oh, I thought you were pregnant.” Well no duh….would you have said it if you didn’t? Still I didn’t hear an apology. Whatever. We go to wait again. Much easier this time because I can sit and Sofía can move around. I go to pull out my phone because it has some games for her…aaaaaaahhhhh, I left it in the car!!! ¿Seriously? Do I really have neural connections in my brain? Ok, so we manage, we take the picture, pay, get everything put away and the clerk tells me that they will mail out the ID. Bummer. I of course want it NOW. That is fine, I wanted it before we went on our trip, but oh well. (I could have waited instead of bringing her TODAY???)

Oh well. Did I mention that Sofía was tired, cranky, teething and being a brat? I get home, put her down for her nap and put the paperwork away. I want to scream!!!! I filled out the application form at home before going to the Departamento de Vehículos Motorizados, so I know I didn’t make any mistakes. I was so distracted with Ms. Busy Body that I didn’t verbally make sure that the clerk input the correct information. And there it was…..it will be the first of many errors that Sofia faces on her formal documents because we decided to not hyphenate her last name. The receipt for the transaction lists her second last name as her LAST NAME and clumps her middle and last last-name together as her middle names. Let me explain. In many countries, not just Latin America, children receive their father’s last name and their mother’s last name and in that order. Sofía’s name reads like this: Sofía Magdalena Father Mother. If one needs to shorten the last names, the mother’s is always dropped (What a surprise!) On her receipt, it reads: LAST NAME: Mother FIRST NAME Sofía MIDDLE NAME: Magdalena Father. I want to SCREAM!!
(Foto is curtousy of VADMV website--hopt that is OK1)

¡Feliz Día del Padre!

Sofía trotted into breakfast this morning with her regalos for el Día del Padre. (I wish I had my camara to record it!). One of her regalos was a cool Pink shirt (for her to wear all day) that said, I "love" Daddy. Sofía thinks that her Papi is the best Papi in the world. He sneaks in her room in the morning to see her if she is sleeping before he leaves. He calls her on the phone to say “hola” a few times a day. He rushes home to see her in the evening and spends ALL his time with her until she goes to sleep. She is so excited to see him all day long on the weekends that sometimes she can’t take her naps. Papi cooks the best food for Sofía too—none of that box or pre-made business from the frozen section. Papi reads books every night to Sofía and makes up his own stories out of the pictures in order to keep Sofía more interested. When Sofía wakes up in the middle of the night, only Papi can calm her down so that she can go back to sleep. ¡Feliz Día del Padre para el mejor Padre del Mundo!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pampers- DÍA TRES

Día Tres has also been a rash free día for Sofía in her new Pampers pañales with Dry Max. I recently read on Pampers Facebook wall and then did my own research, that Pampers was able to make the new Dry Max much thinner by increasing the amount of absorbent gel and eliminating the bulk material. Sounds to me like there is more gel and more contact of the gel with the skin. Could this combination be a problem for some children? I don’t know….that’s not my department! Ask me about language acquisition! Ha ha ha!! Although Sofía has had no problems, (Gracias a Díos!), if I had been polled ahead of time, I would have choosen to have less skin contact with less gel. The new Dry Max pañal is absorbent and thin, but between the two pañales, I really liked the old one better. It is not enough to cause me to change to another brand, but if I could choose between with Dry Max and without, I would choose without. The two reasons are the following: I thought that the old pañales were really thin to being with. I liked the combination of the bulk with the gel. I know this sounds strange, but here is why. With the new Dry Max, although it is absorbent, not leaky, and dry to the skin, one can notice the coagulation of the liquid much easier with the Dry Max. I don’t like this. That is why I feel like I need to change Sofía every two hours. I equate it with a maxi pad, which I only wore after I gave birth because well, you know, you CAN’T use tampons! You are dry, there are no leaks, but you can feel the heaviness of the gathering of liquid and feel the need to change more frequently. One thing that I do notice with the Dry Max and let’s say thinner, more absorbent maxi pads are that although you are not touching the liquid directly that has been absorbed, there is some kind of barrier that is formed that causes more moisture to form, allowing less breathing to take place. I don’t know if the extra bulk took care of this issue or not, but this is what I notice with Sofía. Es la vida….DÍA TRES has been without incident also!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pampers- Día DOS

We are trying very hard to keep all the other factors in Sofía’s life the same as before we started using the new Pampers pañales with Dry Max so that we can really see how the pañales are affecting her. So we are not introducing any new foods, changing any detergents, etc… Today we continued to change her about every two hours as it was noticeable that her pañal needed a fresh-up. Like I remarked on Día Uno, one could notice the pañal was wet, but it was never “full” or exploding. There were no rashes today either. So we are dos por dos—¡Gracias a Díos!

Gato Gato

At 16 months and Sofía doesn’t have a whole lot of words that she says especially if I compare her to her friend Marnix who says a plethora of words. He has too many words for his parents to even count. Sofía will often repeat words that I say, but I don’t really count that as speaking because she isn’t producing language, she is imitating sound. Imitating sound isn’t all that bad, and although important, I can’t really jump for joy that she is “saying” whatever the word is. Right now, her words include: Gato, Nacho, Papi, papa, stinky, nite-nite, galleta, caja, mami, mini-mi (ha ha, I taught her that because she is soooo a Mini version of Me!), gafas, agua, good girl, gracias (only a few times), there may be a few more, but I can’t remember them now. It is interesting because she has signs for almost all these words as well, but will either say the word or use the sign, but never both. Until today that is. Today, we were reading a book and I pointed to the cat and asked her, “Qué es este?”, and she replied, “Gato” and signed gato at the same time. (En Español, “gato” also means the jack you use to lift the car while changing a flat tire!)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pampers- Día UNO

Our family has been a die-hard pampers fan since we tried a cheaper Huggies and it leaked all over. I tried to convince my husband to buy stock in Proctor and Gamble and he thought I was kidding. Lately, there has been much scandal about the new Pampers pañales, diapers, with Dry Max. As many of you may be aware, there are have been many reports of blistery burns and rashes and many angry parents joining together on facebook and anywhere else they can. Up until now, we have managed to avoid using the new pañal, but alas the supply of the old has run dry. I have decided to document my experience with the new pañal to see how it goes.
So yesterday was Día Uno with the new Pampers pañales with Dry Max. First off, I noticed how slim and flimsy the new pañal is. The new is made in a different shade of purple so that you can tell the difference from the old one. (Personally I don’t like the new shade, but really who cares, right?) I suppose I should preface my documentation with the fact that I monitor Sofía’s food intake like a hawk. She is technically underweight, but thriving in every other area both physically and developmentally, so I have learned to not be so paranoid…or am learning! ;) What I do monitor carefully is her liquid consumption. Although she has about 5 wet pañales a day, she, on most days, does not drink even 5 ounces of liquid. The majority of her liquids come from the actual food that she consumes and that counts according to my MD. (She is not dehydrated at least.) Sofía has never had a rash (Gracias a Díos) or a leak of any kind. With the old pañales, we changed Sofía every three hours unless we noticed she was wet beforehand, and although one could notice it wet, it was never “full” or exploding. With the new pañales, we have to change her every two hours. This makes sense because the pañal is considerably thinner than the old. She seems to be equally dry to the touch as the previous pañal, so this is not a problem…just a note to self, that she needs to be changed more frequently. Every time I changed her, I was very careful to inspect if there were any noticeable changes in her skin and there were none-Gracias a Díos! Sofía sleeps with a Pampers Baby Dry pañales during the night and according to the Pampers website, these pañales do not have Dry Max. So Día UNO has been a welcomed uneventful día in the world of Sofía’s new pañales with Dry Max.

La Paleta

Well, I guess it took a hot, sweaty, muggy day for Sofía to really appreciate the joy of a paleta. These are wonderful super mini paletas with some kind of gelatin that help prevent dripping all over the place. Before when Sofía ate them, she enjoyed feeding her Papi and me more than eating them herself. Not today! She didn’t even share with me once!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Las Mañanitas

As I mentioned last week, we celebrated my husband’s prima’s cumpleaños in a Peruvian Restaurante. When the restaurante’s staff brought out the cake and candles, they played several cumpleaños songs. One of the songs was Las Mañanitas. Las Mañanitas is traditionally a Mexican cumpleaños song that is sung in many other Latin American countries. The verses vary by singer and country but the first two stanza seem to be basically the same. Sofía has been bailando, dancing, to every little tune she hears lately. Here she is dancing to Las Mañanitas in the restaurante.

Friday, June 11, 2010

El Patio IV

We are still waiting for my husband to get a break from our busy schedule so that he can build the muralla, a wall, around the patio so that it doesn’t slide away into our backyard. In the meantime, we can play on it, but can’t put heavy things on it like the pool. Sofia and Nacho were taking a break enjoying la brisa!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

El SprayGround

Sofía woke up late this morning, so we were able to skip our morning nap and take a spontaneous trip to a SprayGround. We called up Marnix and his mom and they met us there (with Marnix’s little baby sister too!). I had never heard of a SprayGround before, but the idea sounded great to me!
The park has an area filled with various fountains that spray up out of the ground randomly. The kids love it! Except for Sofía that is. She isn’t in to getting wet unless she herself does it.
She is getting used to wearing her gafas del sol!  Sometimes she even asks for them! ¡Si! That means she said “gafas” today for the first time!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

El Pasaporte

Today, my husband and I took Sofía to the post office and applied for her pasaporte! We don’t have any particular trip planned, but we want to have it so that we CAN plan! My husband had to hold Sofía up against the backdrop because they didn’t have a chair high enough for her! The total process took less than 15 minutes!  Venice, Madrid, Lima, Bayahibe...here we come!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

La Cuchara

As I explained earlier, on Sunday, we celebrated my husband’s cousin’s birthday at a Peruvian restaurante. We decided to make her cupcakes. She is going into her second year at University and plays on the Field Hockey Team, so we made little hockey sticks out of fondant and wrote her jersey number on them. They weren’t perfect, but they were cute and she seemed to be really appreciative our efforts.

There was also a cake for her and the waitress brought out plates and cucharas, spoons, for the cake. In my experience in Latin America, again, not sure about España basically because I can’t remember, desserts are eaten with a cuchara and not a fork. I know this must also happen in many other countries as well because we when we went to Sofía’s friend’s birthday, the Polish mother gave us cucharas to eat our cake. In our house, when we remember our roots and don’t succumb to our environment, we serve our cake with cucharas, but sometimes we just plain ole forget!

Monday, June 7, 2010

La Prima

On Sunday, we celebrated my husband’s cousin’s birthday at a Peruvian restaurante. This made me start thinking about the relationships within families. In my family growing up, we didn’t make distinctions between blood relative or not. If my cousin married someone, that person was also considered to be a cousin. I wonder how many people do that within their own families or if a distinction is always made. In Latin America (I can’t say for sure in España), some relationship names are somewhat different than in English. Let me explain. In English, in the USA anyway, we refer to the children of our cousins as our “second cousins”. So the prima, Mary Alicia, whose birthday we celebrated, is Sofía’s second cousin because she is my husband’s first cousin (the daughter of his uncle). In the majority of Latin America they do not use this term. Mary Alicia would be called Sofía’s tia, aunt, en Español, and Sofía would be called Mary Alicia’s niece, sobrina. Now if you think about it, it kind of makes sense especially back in the “olden days”. Most people’s cousins were of the same age, so when each had children, the age difference was more like that of los tíos, aunts and uncles, than of a cousin. Now things don’t necessarily work that way because women are older when they have their children or continue having children up to a much older age than before, thus creating a larger disparity between cousins’ ages. So tying this up into language and culture, technically we should teach Sofía to call Mary Alicia her “tía”, but we don’t. Shame on us! Both my husband and I have adapted to the US traditional custom of using second and first cousins. What we MUST do is teach Sofía the difference between the two concepts so that she understands how it is all interrelated. Maybe my readers in España can tell us how they do it?

Friday, June 4, 2010

La Cocina

An idea popped into my head and I couldn’t get rid of it. I decided that Sofía needed a play kitchen, a cocina. I of course didn’t want to pay full price for something that I know she won’t play with ALL THE TIME, so I turned to Craigslist. My husband, for whatever reason, is not a fan of purchasing used items unless it is a baby grand piano that we have been coveting. Since I am not bothered by used items and see much worth for our checkbook as well as the environment, we really have to make BIG compromises on things….which isn’t a problem. I decided that I would only buy la cocina if it was $20 or less. I did find one that included dishes and pots and pans. It was located near my sister’s house and since she was coming to visit, I asked her to pick it up for her favorite niece! Sofía was fascinated with la cocina! She played with la cocina for 20 minutes straight (without the pans) and didn’t look up at me once! The next day, la Abuela was watching her while I ran some errands and what I saw when I came home amazed me. Sofía was playing with all the pans and dishes and utensils. She was cooking and eating her food and sharing with la Abuela and when I came in, she fed me too! It was so amazing to watch her play something that I have never seen her play before! But then again, she never had the tools to play with them either! ¡Viva Craigslist!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

¡Mi Primer Picnic!

The people who organize our music class held a picnic for all the participants. It was a “bring your own food etc”… picnic. Sofía and I went with things that she could eat but would not make her sticky or attractive to bees and a big blanket. Hacía CALOR! Sofía ended up with rosy cheeks and wet clothes because of the heat. But she enjoyed seeing all the people, especially meeting Profesora Mariana’s mamá and abuela! Oh, and Sofía insisted on bringing her stuffed gato, Paco. Paco was a big hit with many other little ones! I think her Primer Picnic was a hit!