I'd Like to Introduce You

Ever experience painful leg cramps? 

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I would wake up in the middle of the night, crying out with searing pain.  I hadn’t had these type of episodes since high school basketball, so I wanted to check in with my midwife.

Sitting in the examination room, I mentioned to her that I’d be experiencing painful Charley horses. 

“What?” my husband sputtered, almost laughing. “What is a Charley horse?”

“Leg cramp,” I informed him matter of factly. 

He openly laughed.  “Why don’t you just call them leg cramps?  Why Charley’s horse?”

The midwife and I looked at each other.  “I don’t know,” we each admitted.  “That’s just how you call them.”

“Charley horse…” he spoke the phrase to himself, smiling and shaking his head, and committing it to memory.

He had a similar reaction when the midwife and I began to discuss “Braxton Hicks” contractions, or more simply, false contractions.

“I don’t understand why everything has to have a first and last name in English” he told me.

It was only a few weeks later that we were sitting in our neighborhood civic league meeting and neighbors were discussing someone in the community who was stealing rain gutters.  But how do you transport stolen gutters?  A neighbor piped up, “I saw a man on Meldon Ave. rolling a Herbie Curbie down the street.”

Before he could utter a word, I leaned over and whispered, “Trash can” to which my husband nearly burst into laughter.

“Of course it is,” he said.

When you truly listen to English and try to imagine yourself as a second language learner, it is fascinating and oftentimes comical.  I can’t believe how many times Billy has pointed out to me words that sound similar that I never noticed or phrases who’s meanings are completely indescernable unless you “just know.” 

Do you have other examples?  Nouns with proper names for no reason?  Tricky words or expressions?

Can We Give Our Child the World?

When I found out I was pregnant, I did what I think a lot of people do…

I went out and bought a book. 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting?  Nope.

I immediately purchased 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual ChildMy husband speaks Spanish, as does his family, and I speak English… as does my family.  So I wanted our child to speak both. 

I tore through the book.  The author introduced me to the concept of One Parent, One Language, “OPOL” to the insiders.  Basically, her strong suggestion involved me speaking solely in English (no problem) and my husband speaking solely in Spanish… somewhat of a problem.

My very mature response was…  “I change my mind.”

 I don’t want my daughter to be learn Spanish.  I don’t want my husband and child having a secret language that I don’t understand. 

Very mature, right?

Ultimately, I acknowledged that I could not and would not deny my daughter the opportunity to connect with her heritage and to enjoy relationships with her family in Guatemala.

So we’re trying it.  And It’s harder than I thought it would be.

Though I did preemptively worry about how we would have  “family conversations” with two languages in the air, I already see how we are defaulting to English all the time.  Thankfully, right now my husband  stays home with her, so she is gaining a foundation of Spanish.  But I continue to fret about which language she’s hearing more.

It’s the beginning of our journey as a bicultural family, and I’m excited to see where it leads.

Has your family tried the OPOL method?  How has it worked having conversations as a family when one parent is monolingual?  I’d love to hear the joys and challenges you’ve experienced.

Who's on 1st? She's on 2nd.

I named my daughter Gabriella.  I love the name.  It means “God is my Strength” – a phrase my husband repeated to me over and over during her difficult birth. 

It’s familiar, but not common.  Being named Sarah in the early 80’s made me particularly focused on this requirement.  I often teased my mother that she simply called out in the delivery room, “What are you naming yours?”

It also flows between cultures… or so I thought.   

Not originally drawn to the nickname “Gabby,” I call my baby girl Ella instead.  My sister makes adorable bibs, and her mother-in-law stitched “Ella” onto one of them for us.

When Ella entered her pre-teething drooling stage, my husband would snap the bib around her neck before we went out, hoping to reduce her ever present need for clean clothes.

At that time, we were living in Buenos Aires, and if you know Spanish, you see where this is going...

We are walking our daughter around Buenos Aires wearing a bib that says “Ella,” which means “she” or “her” in Spanish.  Everyone we passed would croon “Ella” as if the purpose of the bib were to shout “I’M A GIRL!”

It’s pretty much the equivalent of me naming my daughter Shelia and calling her “She” for short.  A little odd.  So… when in Latin America, she is Gabriella.  And when in the US… we still call her Ella.  

“She” seems happy either way.

How does your name work in other cultures?  Was a multicultural name something you thought about when naming your kids?

Why "A Life with Subtitles"?

When my husband and I were dating, he gazed lovingly into my eyes and told me that he just felt everything was “falling into pieces.”  Hmmm..  Do you mean falling into place?  Because your tone and words…not matching.   Ah, life in the second language. 

The reality is that our life is in pieces all over the world.  Sweet friends and family in Los Angeles, where Billy and I met and married.  Family across the southeast United States, as well as Guatemala.  And after several months spent in Buenos Aires, Argentina, we recently returned to our home of two years, Atlanta, Georgia.

We are constantly jumping cultures, and we love it, and it’s fun, and it’s hard, and sometimes it’s hilarious.

Cross-cultural family, life, and ministry.  Guatemalan dad.  US mom.  Guatemalan American daughter.  Living in an African American neighborhood in Atlanta.  It’s real.  It’s messy.

And I imagine we are not alone.  Others have navigated the tricky immigration system as they have applied for an alien relative, like I did for my husband.  Others have feared deportation and be exploited along the way.  Others have tried to raise bicultural, bilingual kids.  Other couples have tried to do ministry together while trading the Bible and the baby back and forth.  And others have tried to figure out how to serve, live generously, and celebrate the story of Christ in all the environments where they find themselves.

So I am sharing our story in hopes that it encourages you in yours.  And I’d love to hear yours, too! 

I started watching movies with subtitles when I was in college.  Most of my friends spoke English as a second language, so they preferred it.  But now I usually choose this method of movie-watching regardless.  I find it more enjoyable, and you don’t realize how much you miss when you’re watching movies like everybody else. 

Stories are richer with subtitles. 

Can you relate? 

Snot Sucker Spirituality

“Hold the baby upright. Squirt one spray into each nostril.  Next, lay the baby down for a minute with head lower than body.  This allows the saltwater to loosen the thick secretions and stimulates baby to sneeze them to the front of the nose, where you are waiting to grab the thck stuff with your trusty nasal aspirator (veteran nose cleaners call this gadget their snot snatcher).  Expect your baby to protest this intrusion into his nose.”  (The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two by Dr. and Mrs. Sears, p665)

I love the last line, “Expect your baby to protest this intrusion into his nose.” It sounds like maybe Gabriella is supposed to hold up her hand to in silent objection or sit down after its over to write a furious letter to the editor.  
How does this really play out?

She lays on my lap with her head at my knees.  I hold onto her hands, at first so she doesn’t push off my stomach onto the floor, but as Billy approaches her nose, it’s to restrain her hands from assaulting him.  

He grabs her head to try and steady it.  She arches her back and kicks her feet furiously, all the while screaming in violent anger.  She aims her kicks at my C-section scar to express that the experiences are similar.

She twists and turns and eventually, determinedly, my husband suctions the bothersome mucus from her nose.  Of course, now she’s crying so hard she’s creating significantly more snot, so we keep sucking.  

“We’re trying to help you!” I feebly assure her over the shrieks of protest to her torture. 

And in all the chaos, I hear that still small voice.  “See any similarities?  I have a plan for your life, and I have your best interest at heart.  Still, you accuse me of being mean, shoving a sucker up your nose for no reason at all except to laugh at your pain.”

I pick up my daughter, nose finally clear, while she continues to whimper, scream, and wave her arms maniacally, hitting me over and over again.

“See?” the voice continues.  “You and I always end up stalled because you stay so angry at the snot sucking you don’t see the bigger picture.  Sometimes I have to do things you don’t like because it’s the best thing for you.  Trust me.”

One of my least favorite things of becoming a parent is the never-ending sermon illustrations that pour out of the child and convict me of my baby-like tendencies in faith.  As if to add injury to insult, the next time my daughter starts struggling to breathe, my husband, as though reading my silent thoughts, looks at her and says, “I can help you with that.  Will you let me?”

What about you... what sermon illustrations has your life illustrated lately?  Which ones keep presenting themselves over and over?

Is that a dog in your purse and a baby in your backpack?

No.  I am not Paris Hilton… for so many reasons… but definitely my 40 pound golden retriever would not fit in my biggest of purses, and I’m already carrying enough as it is.  I’ve got a baby.
In all our married life, I’m not sure Billy and I ever made a plan to see a movie.  No, we’d mention it might be nice to go to the theater, check the times online, realize one’s starting in 12 minutes, and immediately evacuate the house with me shouting, “If we’re going to go on a date, I would’ve liked to change out of this hoodie!” 

Once pregnant, we imagined our life post-baby, and hoped the little one would slide right into our lifestyle, even though the movies would probably be ‘out’ for a little while.  We often talked easily about how we planned to strap her in a backpack and keep on moving. 

Backpack Baby, we called her. 

And unfortunately, maybe we did sometimes imagine her as an accessory like Miss Hilton’s pup.  For those of you who’ve had a kid for more than ten minutes, you know how wrong we were, and we’re slowly learning how to reach a happy compromise of on-the-go spontaneity and the get-ready-for-bed-at-7 routine.

But as Ella has crossed her seven month mark, I also recognize that she’s spent a lot of time traveling, in and out of backpacks.  If I math it up correctly, she’s been on 8  flights (including two 10-hour international red-eyes); ridden in our car, friends’ cars, rental cars and taxis; and traveled on trains, subways, buses, boats, a raft, and a golf cart.  I'm not even joking when I say she's ridden on the back of a bicycle and been pushed in a stroller by her dad on roller blades.   

No wonder the girl doesn’t like to sit still!

What are we missing?  Gondola?  Covered wagon?  What crazy trips have you taken with your infant?  What compromises in your lifestyle have you found you’ve had to make for a baby?
A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.