25 June 2011

No other words in the world

A propos of yesterday's post on toddler words, I just came across a George Oppen poem written to a newborn, part of which reads:

....Sara, little seed,
Little violent, diligent seed. Come let us look at the world
Glittering: this seed will speak,
Max, words! There will be no other words in the world
But those our children speak. What will she make of a world
Do you suppose, Max, of which she is made.

From "Sara in Her Father's Arms" by George Oppen

24 June 2011

From Barcelona

After the exhausting solo overseas trip with little G., a two-hour trip to Barcelona (light on the luggage and an extra helping of hands in the form of grandparents) was a breeze. We flew here Wednesday morning and are luxuriating in the actual summer weather, after a solid week of drizzly gray days requiring layers and umbrellas. Having M's parents around, though, was a treat: not only did they watch and entertain the tyke, they also cooked and shopped and tidied our garden and assembled huge furniture (those super-tall Ikea PAX wardrobes are no joke) and hung curtains and accompanied us on yet another epic Ikea trip and generally were very, very helpful.

With their help, too, we have managed to begin the weaning process in earnest; Gabriel hasn't nursed during the day in almost two weeks, with the exception of the airplane. Night weaning will be another stage, but we'll wait to establish the daytime thing first. I'm a little bit sad about it but also eager to experience the possibilities accompanying the fact of a child no longer requiring my body as sustenance: I can be away from him for longer than a few hours! I can wear a dress! Someday, maybe, we'll be able to hire a babysitter and go out on an actual nighttime grown-up date! We're already seeing the effects on mealtimes: over the past few days he's shown unprecedented hearty interest in his food....lentils and fish and eggs and yogurt and peaches oh my!

As always, arriving in Barcelona makes me deeply joyful. There's something about this place that makes me breathe easier--the light, the warm air, the simple delicious food, the plazas full of people, the smell of sea, the familiar, the new. I love getting back to our little nest, too, the welcoming spines of books, neighbors happy to see us, the breeze on the balcony, our big bed, Catalan TV, the round dining room table worn smooth with age. Work has begun on the elevator, at long last, so the days of hauling child+stroller+bags+shopping are numbered (even if that number be large, given the sluggishness with which all building projects take place in Spain--the building residents approved the elevator ONLY, what, three or four years ago?). Over time I'll remember the faults of this place too, but I take it, warts and all.

I'm heartily enjoying watching toddler Gabriel interact with his two cousins and aunt and uncle here, and seeing how his Catalan language acquisition develops more quickly when he is immersed here. His language exploded right at 15 months--at his May checkup in the US I could list maybe a dozen words (mama, dada, no, all done, panda [his stuffed lovey], woof, dog, nigh-nigh, bye-bye, knee, moo, and I'm probably forgetting a couple) and then over the next days he proved me wrong by easily doubling that number. It's been cool to see him modulate his vowels: "knee," for instance, began as "knay" and when I repeated it I could hear him try "knay-ee" until it morphed into "knee," although he still says "knay" sometimes. "Moo" also is often "mohhhh," which I find adorable. I repeat it correctly, though, and he says "mohhh-ooo." With gusto. His early words were also, funnily, spoken in a softer, higher-pitched voice...he'd be babbling along in a lower register and very carefully, precisely say "nigh-nigh" in his sweet upper register. Too cute.

So far, his English vocabulary dominates, but he's always said "Hola" along with "Hi" (I walked downstairs this morning at our in-laws' house and said a general "Hola" and Gabriel was the only one who piped up with his tiny, bright "HOLA!") and "bye-bye" along with "adeu." To that he's added, in recent days, "gràcies" and "ja está" (all done), "sí!" and "iaia" (grandma), "va" (come on, or go) and "té" (here you go, used when handing off an object). In general these days, he repeats words at surprising moments, so you are caught off guard and charmed to death when he suddenly decides to echo, quite adorably, "tomato" or "cake" or "uh-oh!" He's pleased as punch, too, of course, so there is all around beaming and repeating of words. I've also witnessed him easily sliding between languages--the aforementioned "va" appeared when he was saying his favorite "Go, go, go!" (always used to refer to cars, sounds a bit like "doh, doh, doh!") and I translated it for his relatives here, at which moment he immediately picked that up and said "Va, va!"

We'll see what happens when we throw a Flemish daycare into the mix! (Enrolling in said daycare is priority number one when we get back to Belgium.)

Anyway, being fascinated as I am by developmental psychology/neuroscience AND languages, I am bound to get geeked out by this and prattle on about it on my blog (which also serves as something of a record for posterity given that Gabriel's baby book remains sadly, woefully blank). Apologies if I'm one of THOSE moms.

16 June 2011

From Leuven

Hallo from our new Flemish digs! Gabriel and I have been here in for just over two weeks now, and there's so much to write about...packing up our lives into a single carload, driving to Boston, the overseas plane trip alone with an energetic toddler and a staggering amount of luggage, long days alone with said energetic AND jet-lagged toddler in an almost entirely empty house while M. finished his dissertation proposal and worked full time (let's just say that we've taken a whole lot of walks), an epic (EPIC! or should I say EPICLÖRP) trip to IKEA, the pleasures of being back in Europe, the frustrations of being back in Europe, the joys of exploring our new town.

So far we're really super happy with our choice to live in Leuven instead of Brussels this go-round...it's a city of the size that we love (see: Oxford, Salzburg), a college town with a nice student vibe, just really beautiful with some amazing architecture and the exquisite beguinage right around the corner from us. We're also really happy with the location of the house--I love that we're within short walking distance of pretty much anything in the center, and that I can easily grab the stroller and go get what we need (well, if it weren't for the obstacle-course construction zone that is our street). Plus, our little backyard backs onto a park, so things are quiet and pleasant and perfect for a toddler running around. And hopefully the fact that we HAVE a backyard (with roses! strawberries! a magnolia tree!) will combat gray-skies fatigue. I'm excited to learn Dutch and really settle into a life that feels connected to the place we've landed--Brussels always felt so anonymous and international, everybody there temporarily. So far M. has made some good contacts with the University and I'm planning to do the same.

Today my parents-in-law arrived to help us out, which is why I am even able to write this... These days little G. is always begging (=whining, crying, clawing) to be in my lap if I'm typing and if he's in my lap he's either pulling on my arms or hitting keys which is about as productive as it sounds. So computer time requires sneaking behind his back during the short-attention-span play periods. Ah, the magic of grandparents to engage the attentions of a child. For the week they're here (and the following week, while we're back at home in Barcelona) I am planning to actually get some work done on thesis revisions and get that thing done!

Goody! The sofa guy just came and not only was the delivery truck able to pull up to the front door (you never know where the gigantic holes or massive construction vehicles will be on our street on any given day), the sofa fit just fine through the doorway (my two worries concerning sofa delivery). It looks great and now our living room actually has a piece of furniture in it!

Oh I know--In parting I'll show you the little polyvore scheme I had fun putting together this weekend while M. took Gabriel to the park to let me hang out in bed until embarrassingly late. We had just done our Ikea trip the day before so I was trying to see how the living room would all fit together. I think if you click it you can see my comments? Maybe?

Leuven Living Room