Archive for the ‘Language skills’ Category

Signs of winter in Ottawa

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Reid and I took our car to the dealership for routine maintenance to have the snow tires put on this morning. When I mentioned yesterday that I had to complete this errand, Reid was insistent that she accompany me. I don’t remember any particularly enjoyable time spent in the waiting room at the car dealership but maybe I’m forgetting something. In any case, I couldn’t see the harm in Reid and coming and so she did. She was interested in why we drove into the building, why the service guy asked the questions he did and how toasty warm some parts of the garage were. She asked a bunch of other questions, too, but mostly I didn’t have the answers. Putting on snow tires is definitely a sign of impending winter, regardless of the date on the calendar.

As we walked the few blocks to her school, Reid noticed a fire hydrant with a bar on it. As I explained that the bar helped the city workers to find and dig out the fire hydrant after the snow plow had passed, Reid’s eyes started to sparkle. She has been talking about the snow banks we had two years ago – when she was able to sit in the branches of our tree – for a while and the hydrant bar made the link for her.

Who gets to name countries?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Reid asked a tough question last night: Who gets to name the countries. Ken tried to claim that it was him and claimed that he gave Panama its name in tribute to a Van Halen song. Reid didn’t believe him, though, and asked me what the real answer was. I told her that the original bosses of a country (which is how we explain politicians, the “biggest boss” where Ken and I work, etc.) got to pick the name. Ken and I snarked a bit about “dead, white men” under our breath but didn’t expose Reid to our cynicism.

Reid next asked about “Canada”. Ken was (not) helpfully telling me about the native word “kanata” and how it meant villages as I was trying to tell Reid the very same thing. I told him that I’d seen the relevant Canadian Heritage Minute, thank-you-very-much. I don’t know how accurate it is, the story never came up in any of the courses I took for my BA in Canadian Studies and History. Still, it was a good story and it satisfied Reid.

Reid asked how I knew this and Ken said, “Mama knows everything.” Reid responded with, “You don’t know everything, right, Mama? You don’t know when Jesus came out of Mary’s belly.” I agreed that Reid was right – I don’t know exactly when Jesus came out of Mary’s belly but added that we celebrate Jesus’ birthday on December 25th. (I’m not sure how or why Reid is aware that Christmas Day is probably not the exact day but there you go, she knows.)

I told Ken that I don’t know where these questions come from but I do worry sometimes about what the next question will be.

Camps Songs 2.0

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Reid has been at camp two days and this is what she had to share (once she’d coached me a bit):

Me: Hey, Reidie.
Reid: Hey, what?
Me: Hey, Reidie.
Reid: Hey, what?
Me: Show us how you disco.
Reid: First, I slide. (Slide arms out)
Then, I bat my eyes. (Motion with hands on either side of head like exaggerated blinking)
Then, I do the Freak. (Think John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever with his arm in the air.)
Then, I do the Super Freak. (Arm in the air again, this time the hand turning a circle with the pointer finger extended)
Me: D-I-S-C-O. That is how we disco.

Sometimes Ken or I got to do the disco part. Reid was so obviously proud of us when we got the words and actions right that I felt a bit insulted. How can she think we’re dumb and uncool when she is only 5? I thought that we had a couple more years of being taken seriously.

By the way, Google tells me that this is a variation of a cheerleading call. Who knew?

Playing baby

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Reid has been refining how we “play baby” over the last while. Fortunately for my sanity, the baby – almost exclusively Reid – no longer cries as much as it used to do. I don’t know that I ever convinced her that she didn’t cry all that much as a baby or if she just tired of it. Either way, I’m glad the baby babbles more than she cries.

But we don’t start with a babbling baby anymore. We start with Reid curled into a ball and nestled against me because she is a baby in my belly. Given what a tall, almost 5-year-old she is – not to mention that I’m am somewhat vertically challenged – her head is on my chest and her feet are at my knees. While the baby is in my belly, I wonder aloud about whether I’ll have a girl or boy. I say, truthfully, that I hope that I have a girl so that I can call her “Reid Elizabeth”, just like I dreamed of doing since I was a teenage girl, Danielle and Shea’s age.

At a certain point, but not before I’ve said my part about hoping for a girl, Reid turns herself upside-down. She announces that she is in the birthing position and I should go to sleep. For reasons that I’m not clear on, Reid is convinced that babies are born while the mamas are asleep. Every now and again, I explain that mamas are usually awake when babies come, that mamas push the babies out of their bodies. We need to find a book that shows body parts because I’m not sure that I’m doing a good job explaining things. At least she knows about the birthing position, at least.

Little video game addict

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

On Friday night Reid played a Clifford the Big Red Dog Phonics game for ages. I don’t what made her decide that she wanted to do so but she asked and I got her set up. Until now, Reid has required either Ken or me to sit with her while she played. Mostly, Ken was the one who helped her as I get motion sick from many of the games. But last night, she required only instructions from across the room and Ken and I managed some couple time while the sun was shining. I thought it was a pretty good thing. I miss Reid’s babyhood sometimes but there are clear benefits to her getting older.

At bedtime, though, it started to become clear that we might have a video game addict on our hands. Reid was talking about playing Clifford again before soccer. “Umm, no,” said I, the mean mama. Reid was amazed and outraged. The lure of planting our vegetable garden and reading stories was lost on her. Of course, come Saturday, we did plant our garden and Reid many stories and Reid enjoyed them. But when I was making supper, she asked again for Clifford. I think she has played enough to memorize all of the 3-letter words that are used in the game. I’m going to show her Reader Rabbit next and see what she thinks. As long as she doesn’t insist on Dora the Exlplorer, I’ll let the video games slide for a bit.

Any recommedations for other games worth trying out?

Slang Saturday

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

I made pancakes for breakfast today and Reid announced that she wanted to make hers into a sandwich. Thanks to Aunt Karin’s influence, this sort of thing is acceptable as long as no syrup is involved. Blame it on her and San Diego. My response was, “Fill your boots.” Reid asked, surprised, “What the heck?” While Ken tried not to laugh out loud, I explained to Reid that I meant that she should go ahead, like she had boots and she should use them. It’s an army thing I picked up when I worked for National Defence.

I was a bit surprised by Reid’s comment – for at least an hour – until I heard myself use the same expression when speaking with Grandma Joyce. It could’ve been worse. Ken has taught me some bad words over the years.

French just sounds more romantic

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

One day when I dropped Reid off at school a boy whose name I don’t know looked up and said, “Bonjour, ma belle.” In English that’s literally, “Hello, my beautiful one” but more like “Hello, sweetie.” It certainly is different from the short, “Hi,” that Reid usually offers. It’s a difference in the nature of the languages and the way we perceive them. Who is more emblematic of childhood romance than Pepe le Pew, after all? Having grownup hearing English almost exclusively, French still seems a bit exotic after 14 years (!) here in the nation’s capital. I remind myself that the francophone kids aren’t necessarily smarter because they can already speak French while I’m still working on it. I can definitely speak English better than them. Of course, it’s likely that Reid will soon speak French better than me – her accent is already better than mine – but that won’t bother me. I hope.

Toddle not waddle

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Reid likes to play baby, as I’ve mentioned. If she is the baby, she is an infant with remarkable verbal skills (to allow her to tell me how she wants to be parented or what sounds/movements mean). If I am the baby, I have to be a toddler since Reid can’t carry me. Just recently, I was walking down the hall in the midst of a game of “baby” and Reid called out, “Waddle! You’re a baby.” Now, I’ve got lots of self-confidence and a decent body image but I just couldn’t agree to waddling. I turned and corrected Reid, “It’s toddle, with a ‘t’. Like little kids are toddlers.” I can keep my knees locked to mimic a toddler’s gait but I can’t handle Reid commenting on my waddle. Even a mama has her limits.

Accurate translation but …

Friday, March 27th, 2009

I walked into the living room on Saturday afternoon to see Reid grinning her “I’m trouble with a capital ‘T’”. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me that she was telling Ken how to say, ‘”I peed in my pants,” in French. She had the right words in the right order and, as always, her accent was great. I had to ask her if she thought Ken would ever need to know that phrase. Reid turned up the power on her grin and assured me that it was the sort of thing her dad might need. She should focus on “Where is the bathroom?” and “May I have some of that [cheese/bread/candy/etc.]? But there would be much fewer giggles if she did, I suppose.

When I make this sound

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

For the last few months (I started writing this on November 4) Reid has been playing with sounds and meanings. She will put a couple of sounds together and then say, “That means …” I have chalked it up to her learning French at school, though I’ve also read that 4 year olds love to make up words in general. Most recently, Reid has incorporated hand signals and body movements into her repertoire of things that mean other things. For example, she’ll say “If I do this:” and then she’ll wiggle her body a couple of times and then hold her arms straight up, “it means X. But if I do this:” and she’ll stomp her foot or whatever, “it means Y.” I don’t know if this means Reid will be a linguist but I do know that it requires that we pay good attention when she is talking and signalling.