Mi Cumple

felizcumple-note

Today is my birthday. Carlos whispered “Feliz cumpleaños, birthday girl,” to me before kissing me on the forehead and going to work. I smiled and went back to sleep. When I awoke, I found that little note you see above, and minutes later he texted me a video of Pedro Infante singing “Las Mañanitas.”

Honestly, I usually try to lay low on my birthday – the more quietly it passes, the better. Of course, my family and friends never let that happen. Upon opening my email this morning there were even more birthday wishes, and even my gringo family sends them in Spanish these days. My father sent me a birthday song from Dora the Explorer and my maternal grandmother sent me a mariachi e-greeting.

So, since it’s a losing battle, this year I’m choosing to embrace my birthday. After all, I’m 35 years old today, and it doesn’t feel half as bad as I thought it would. Turning thirty was semi-traumatic, so anything short of a complete emotional breakdown is progress worthy of being noted.

This time of year always comes with thoughts about what I haven’t yet achieved and the fact that I still don’t know for sure exactly where I’m going in life. Thirty-year-old-me freaked out about these exact thoughts, but thirty-five-year-old-me shrugs and says, “¿Y qué?” … It isn’t that I’m apathetic about my goals, but I’m more accepting of the fact that they won’t always happen on my timetable, and some of them won’t happen at all – That’s okay because there’s something else I discovered; in life you will achieve and experience things that you never even set out to achieve or experience in the first place, and more often than not, those are the things you’ll end up cherishing more than anything on your list of “things to accomplish.”

“Oye abre tus ojos, mira hacia arriba,
Disfruta las cosas buenas que tiene la vida,
Abre tus ojos mira hacia arriba,
Disfruta las cosas buenas que tiene la vida.

Un descanso en el camino, una botella de vino,
Un suspiro, una mirada, una alegre carcajada,
Una cara en el espejo, un amigo, un buen consejo,
Un viaje en barco velero aunque no llegues rimero,
Un caballito cerrero que no corra por dinero,
Un palmar, un riachuelo, un pedacito de cielo.

Mira bien alrededor y verás las cosas buenas,
Que la vida es un amor, olvídate de tus penas.
Oye abre tus ojos, mira hacia arriba,
Disfruta las cosas buenas que tiene la vida,
Abre tus ojos mira hacia arriba,
Disfruta las cosas buenas que tiene la vida.

Una playa, un cumpleaños,
Un buen recuerdo de antaño,
Un olor a yerbabuena, una conversación amena,
Un romance que ha nacido que te roba los sentidos,
Un parque lleno de niños, un bellísimo cariño,
Un lágrima, un momento que sea todo sentimiento,
Una música muy bella, un perfume, una estrella.

Mira bien alrededor y verás las cosas buenas,
Que la vida es un amor, olvídate de tus penas.

Oye abre tus ojos, mira hacia arriba,
Disfruta las cosas buenas que tiene la vida,
Abre tus ojos mira hacia arriba,
Disfruta las cosas buenas que tiene la vida.”

- “Oye Abre Tus Ojos” by Wilfrido Vargas

Regalitos de México

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

El fin de semana pasado pasamos un tiempo super bellísimo con unos amigos que visitaron Washington D.C. desde México, (¡y por eso no escribí mi entrada de Spanish Friday!) Los amigos que nos visitaron fueron nuestra querida amiga, Sue, que ya conociamos por unos años por internet y Skype pero nunca cara a cara, y también su esposo, Toño.

Otro día quiero contar más sobre su visita porque tengo mucho que quiero decir, (todavía es díficil para mi poner en palabras la felicidad que esta visita nos dio) – entonces, por ahora sólo los regalitos que nos trajeron les voy a enseñar.

¡Y qué regalos más lindos nos trajeron! …

muyinteresante

Estas revistas en español se llaman “Muy Interesante” y con mucha razón porque son muy interesantes, (¡como dice Sue!) Ya pasé horas leyéndolas con mi hijo menor. Las revistas “Muy Interesante” son buenísimas para empezar conversaciones sobre cosas de que usualmente no hablamos y para aprender vocabulario más técnico y científico.

superman-spanish

También nos trajeron un cómic y es muy divertido leer porque los ruidos son bien diferentes cuando pelean los personajes.

gallo-bowl-mexico

Un gallo de Oaxaca para el guacamole de Carlos.

mexican-spoons

Cucharas pintadas a mano, (las voy a colgar en la pared en vez de cocinar con ellas porque son demasiado bonitas.)

mexican-spoon-handles

Y…

pinata-earrings

¡aretes de Guadalajara diseñados como piñatas! Lo mejor es que todos los regalos (además de las revistas), apoyan a los artesanos en México.

Veo estos regalos cada día y mientras yo ya extraño a Sue y Toño, me siento muy, pero muy, agradecida por nuestra amistad.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Last weekend we spent an amazingly beautiful time with some friends who were visiting Washington D.C. from Mexico, (and that’s why I didn’t write my Spanish Friday post!) The friends that visited us were our dear friend, Sue, who we’ve known through the internet and Skype for a few years, but had never met face-to-face, and her husband, Toño.

Another day I want to tell more about their visit because I have a lot I want to say, (it’s still difficult for me to put in words the happiness their visit gave us) – so, for now I’ll just show you the gifts that they brought.

And what beautiful gifts they brought!

These magazines in Spanish are called “Muy Interesante” and with good reason – they’re very interesting, (as Sue says!) I’ve already spent hours reading these with my younger son. The “Muy Interesante” magazines are fantastic for starting conversations about things we usually wouldn’t talk about and for learning more technical and scientific vocabulary.

They also brought us a comic book which is really amusing to read because the sounds are really different when the characters fight.

A rooster [bowl] from Oaxaca for Carlos’s guacamole.

Spoons painted by hand, (I’m going to hang them on the wall because they’re too pretty to damage.)

And…

earrings from Guadalajara designed like piñatas! The best thing is that all of the gifts, (except the magazines), support artisans in Mexico.

I see these gifts each day and while I already miss Sue and Toño, I feel very, very, thankful for our friendship.

5 Lecciones de Chico

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Tener un perro como mascota es una cosa bella por muchas razónes, pero una de ellas es que tienes la oportunidad de aprender muchas lecciones, y las lecciones son mucho más profundas que puedes imaginar. Aquí hay cinco lecciones que he aprendido de mi perro, Chico.

chicomeditate

LECCIÓN 1: Mientras que el ejercicio diario es necesario, es igual de necesario dormir y descansar.

chicoweird

LECCIÓN 2: Sé tú mismo, no importa lo extraño que eres.

chicotamal

LECCIÓN 3: Ten metas. Llegará unos y a otros no, eso está bien, pero nunca sabrás si no lo intentas.

chicocarlos

LECCIÓN 4: Pasa tiempo con las personas que amas … (incluso si está viendo a Chavito del 8 y eso no es lo que quieres hacer.)

chicosunnydays

LECCIÓN 5: Apreciar las cosas pequeñas, como un parche perfecto de la luz del sol, y disfrútalas al máximo sin preocuparte por el pasado o el futuro. Este momento es lo único que está garantizado.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Having a dog as a pet is a beautiful thing for many reasons, but one of them is that you have the opportunity to learn many lessons, and the lessons are much more profound than you can imagine. Here are five lessons I’ve learned from my dog, Chico.

LESSON 1: While daily exercise is necessary, it’s equally necessary to sleep and rest.
LESSON 2: Be yourself, no matter how weird you are.
LESSON 3: Have goals. You’ll reach some, others you won’t, this is okay, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.
LESSON 4: Spend time with the people you love, (even if they’re watching Chavito del 8 and that isn’t what you want to do.)
LESSON 5: Appreciate the little things, like a perfect patch of sunlight, and enjoy them to the fullest without worrying about the past or future. This moment is the only one that is guaranteed.

Shania Twain, Mexican-style

rogelio-martinez

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

En mi carro tenemos una suscripción gratuita de 3 meses de radio por satélite. Honestamente, la mayoría de las estaciones no me gustan pero hay una que sí me gusta mucho, especialmente porque el tipo de música que tocan, (regional mexicano) no está disponible aquí en las estaciones de radio regulares.

En la estación hay muchas canciones que ya conozco, y también estoy descubriendo nuevas canciones que me encantan. El otro día ellos tocaban una canción que no conocía, pero sí concocía. Pero, ¿cómo es posible no conocer y conocer a una canción?

Bueno, te digo que fue. La canción empezó y sin pensar, empecé a cantar:

Looks like we made it,
Look how far we’ve come my baby,
We might have took the long way,
We knew we’d get there someday…

Pronto me di cuenta de que yo estaba cantando en inglés y la canción estaba en español. Es que este artista mexicano, Rogelio Martínez, hizo una traducción en español de una canción vieja de Shania Twain. Oigan:

Así que, ahora tengo esta canción bien metida y bien mezclada en mi mente.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

In my car we have a 3-month free subscription to a satellite radio service. Honestly, I don’t like most of the stations but there is one that I do like, especially because the type of music they play (Regional Mexican) isn’t available on the regular radio stations.

On the station there are a lot of songs I know, and I’m also discovering new songs that I love. The other day they played a song that I didn’t know, but I knew. But, how is it possible to not know yet know a song?

Well, I’ll tell you what happened. The song started and without thinking, I began to sing:

Looks like we made it,
Look how far we’ve come my baby,
We might have took the long way,
We knew we’d get there someday…

Soon I realized I was singing in English and the song was in Spanish. It’s that the Mexican singer, Rogelio Martínez, had made a Spanish translation of an old Shania Twain song.

So now I have the song really stuck and really mixed up in my head.

¿Cómo se dice SPORK?

spork

Over the weekend we got some takeout food for dinner. At home, I dumped the bag of sauce packets, napkins and plastic utensils onto the table.

“Hand me one of those forks, please,” Carlos said.
“It’s not a fork,” I said, holding it up.
“Hand me… one of those thingies,” he said.

(Carlos’s English includes the word “thingies” since apparently I say that a lot.)

“It’s called a ‘spork’ – It’s a spoon-fork, see?” I handed the plastic utensil to him.
“Spork, okay,” he said, taking it from me, more eager to eat than to get a vocabulary lesson.

I took a bite of my food and chewed thoughtfully.

“How do you say ‘spork’ in Spanish?” I asked.
“You don’t,” Carlos answered.
“There’s no word for ‘spork’?”
“No.”
“Oh!” I became excited. “Hold on, okay, let’s see… In Spanish, ‘spoon’ is ‘cuchara’ and ‘fork’ is ‘tenedor’ so a spork could be… CUCHADOR!”

I fell in love with the new word immediately.

“You can’t do that,” Carlos said.
“What?”
“You can’t just make words up.”
“I just did! This is a cuchador! And I’m going to go tell the whole internet!”

After dinner I went online and typed “How do you say ‘spork’ in Spanish?” just to make sure Carlos was right, that there wasn’t already a word that existed. To my amusement, Carlos was wrong and there is actually already a word… and it’s ‘cuchador.’ I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t invent a new word, but I’m impressed that my bilingual brain came up with the correct word by putting together what it already knows. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a try!

Raising Bilingual Teens & The 5 Stages of Grief

funny bilingual parenting comic by Latinaish.com

“Tenemos que hablar más …porque… tengo que pensar… por… cada… palabra,” my 15 year old son told me recently in halting Spanish as we walked around the international market. His Spanish is good but far from fluent.

Our 12 year old speaks even less than our 15 year old although he understands everything I say to him and voluntarily plays Club Penguin in Spanish, “just because.” He also switches to Spanish to get my attention. On a daily basis you can hear something like this in our house:

“Mommy, can I have a cookie?… Mommy… Hey, Mommy… Mamá, quiero una galleta.” — to which I finally answer him. Some parents do this on purpose so their children don’t speak English at home, but in my case, sometimes I’m just so focused on what I’m doing that I tune everyone out. Only the jolt of unexpected Spanish is what breaks my concentration.

Despite the fact that Spanish and Spanglish are still spoken on a daily basis in our household, we’ve begun to speak it less and less. I’ve said before that raising bilingual children “takes constant commitment and re-commitment” but it feels like we’ve been hitting pretty hard on the frequency and necessity of re-committing this past year.

You see, in my experience bilingual parenting, unlike most things you practice, does not get easier. In fact, I would argue that bilingual parenting only gets more and more difficult the older your children get.

Think about it – when your children are very young, one of the first questions they learn and repeat ad nauseam is, “What’s that?” … For parents raising bilingual children, even if the target language isn’t your native language, things start out pretty easy.

“What’s that?”
– Una manzana.
“What’s that?”
– El color verde.
“What’s that?”
– La luna.
“What’s that?”
– Un gato.

What a sense of accomplishment! You’re doing it! You’re really doing it! You’re raising a bilingual child!

Of course, the reality is that the older your child gets, the more complex his questions. Apple, green, moon, and cat are part of your vocabulary and now your child’s – no problem, but how do you answer:

“Where do babies come from?”
“What’s the difference between a Republican and a Democrat?”
“Why don’t birds get electrocuted when they sit on power lines?”
“How come it looks like the moon follows me when we drive in the car?”
“What’s endosymbiosis?”
“What exactly is a black hole?”
“What does ‘birth control’ mean?”
“Can you explain antidisestablishmentarianism?”
“If ‘X’ equals 32.4 and a train is traveling at 68 miles per hour…”

Nevermind answering those questions in Spanish – I may need Google’s help, (and a few aspirin) just to answer them in my native language! Apple, green, moon and cat will no longer be sufficient.

As a parent attempting to raise bilingual children, making mistakes along the way, and having setbacks, you often tell yourself, “It’s okay, there’s still time” – and yet, that time does run out, which is what you face as a parent of teenagers.

So, this is where we stand at the moment. We keep trying and will fight to the end to raise bilingual children, but I am at a point where I’m forced to accept that unless I drop them off in El Salvador for the next couple years, they most likely will not be native speaker fluent.

If your children are tweens or teens, you may be beginning to go through “the five stages of grief” if their Spanish isn’t as perfect as you had hoped. For me, it went something like this:

1. Denial – My kids are totally bilingual! They’re doing great!
2. Anger – Why aren’t they replying in Spanish! Whose fault is this?!
3. Bargaining – If they can just speak Spanish really well, not even perfectly, I’ll be happy.
4. Depression – This is my fault. I’m a failure as a parent.
5. Acceptance – I’ve done my best and will continue to try my hardest. All the effort has been worth it, and I’m okay with the result even if it falls short of perfection.

Just know that wherever you’re at on this bilingual parenting journey, you’re not alone, and like any other aspect of parenting, you’re not always going to get things exactly right.

Most importantly of all, don’t give up.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”
– Elbert Hubbard

Noticias en Caliche

mas-sv

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Recientemente Carlos me introdujo a un sitio salvadoreño de noticias que se llama MAS.SV. La ventaja de leer MAS.SV no es sólo saber de eventos actuales en El Salvador y en todo el mundo – también es aprender vocabulario salvadoreño porque el sitio está escrito en “caliche” (el dialecto de El Salvador.) Son bien divertidos los titulares:

• Roban cel y luego se toman fotos cuando estaban haciendo picardías
• Conocé a Chantel Jeffries, la chica que iba con Justin Bieber cuando lo enchucharon
• Abunda la cochinada

También hay artículos chistosos y interesantes como, Pueblos españoles con nombres graciosos y Didga, el gato skater que causa furor en la web. Chécalo y diviértete!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Carlos recently introduced me to a Salvadoran news website called MAS.SV. The advantage of reading it is not just knowing current events in El Salvador and around the world, but learning Salvadoran vocabulary because the site is written in “caliche” (Salvadoran slang.) The headlines are really funny:

[I'll try my best to translate the Salvadoran slang words.]

• Roban cel y luego se toman fotos cuando estaban haciendo picardías
(They stole a cellphone then took photos when they were “messing around” (sexual connotation.)

• Conocé a Chantel Jeffries, la chica que iba con Justin Bieber cuando lo enchucharon
(Meet Chantel Jeffries, the girl who was with Justin Bieber when they “got him/arrested him/put him in handcuffs.”)

• Abunda la cochinada
(“Dirtiness” abounds)

There are also humorous and interesting articles like Spanish towns with funny names and Didga, the skater cat causing excitement on the web. Check it out and enjoy!