Sunday, January 17, 2010

Liana loves rhymes.

Well, she doesn’t quite get the concept of rhymes. But she knows she loves them. We’ve done the “Jack and Jill went up a hill. Look! Jill and hill rhyme” stuff. Fox and box rhyme. Pat and sat rhyme. She loves it, and is currently searching for examples of rhyming words all around her.

But she also seems to think that any words that contain the same sounds rhyme. For the past couple of weeks, she has pointed out, for example, various words starting with the SH sound, and exclaiming that they rhyme. I nod, and point out that the beginning of the words sounds the same, and that we call that alliteration. “Can you say alliteration?” I go on to explain that rhyming is when the end of the words sounds the same. She rolls her eyes, or sometimes even stamps her foot in frustration, and proclaims “Well I think they rhyme!”

Another day:

“Mommy! Person and purple! They rhyme!”

Wow Liana! Person and purple both start with the “per” sound, and they both start with the letter P. Want to find other words that start with the letter P?

“But they RHYME!”

Earlier this week, rhymes took on a new life of their own.

“Mommy! Mouse and cheese! They rhyme!”

“Liana, mouse and cheese go together, because a mouse likes to eat cheese. But they don’t sound the same, so we don’t call that a rhyme. Mouse rhymes with house. Cheese rhymes with please.”

My explanations have been met with frustration on her part. Which of course, is the last thing I want to do. She is finding connections. Thinking. Reasoning. I want to encourage this thoughtful exploration of the world around her.

But when I say that a pair of words don’t rhyme, she folds her arms, stamps a foot, turns away from me in frustration and says “Well I think they rhyme!”

I think I missed the memo on how to deal with this aspect of parenting….

Sleep and bedtime continue to be high drama at home. So the other night when she got out of bed and came barreling into the living room to announce in a loud, animated voice:

“Mommy! Pato and shoe! They rhyme!”

I responded with a cold and cranky instruction to return to bed.

But she was very excited. She kept repeating it. “Pato” waving her left arm with palm facing up, “shoe!” waving her right arm with palm facing up. “See? They rhyme.”

“Liana. It is time to go to bed. I want to see your head on that pillow.”

“Pato! Shoe! See?”

“Liana. Pato and shoe don’t rhyme. And you need to be in bed so that you get enough sleep so that you don’t get sick and so you have lots of energy at school tomorrow, right?”

As I am escorting her back to the bedroom, she tries one more time. “But if I say saaaa pato they do rhyme! They do!”

And then I realized. Saaaa pato. Zapato. Zapato is shoe in Spanish.

When she was a baby, and spoke more Spanish than English, she called her shoes “patos.” In the past year or so, she has rejected Spanish almost completely. But clearly a lot of it is still there.

What amazing things are going on in this little girl’s brain.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

So we bid farewell to the 00’s. The decade in which I became a mom. The decade in which I became an orphan.

The momentous events of the decade will always be classified in my mind into three categories. Before my dad died. Before my mom died. After I adopted Liana. There was a painfully blurry time in the middle of my adoption process in which I was dealing with my mom’s sudden, unexpected death, and unexpected bureaucratic delays in my ability to complete my adoption. But that time will forever remain an uncategorizable blur in my mind.

I rang in the year 2000 on a suburban driveway in Cabo Rojo Puerto Rico, in what seems like another lifetime. The pre-teen boys who were setting off firecrackers in that driveway had never heard of ipods or blogs or youtube or social networking. And neither had I. No one, other than my father, talked about global warming. He was also obsessed with the dangers of religious fundamentalism. My sweet gentle father lived long enough to see some of his bizarre and quirky fears become part of the mainstream consciousness.

September 11 will be the defining moment of the decade for most. Then there was the blackout. The president who was not elected by the majority of voters. The wars here and there. Both of my parents died during the Bush years. I mourn that they did not live to see the election that was to follow. My daughter may be a tween the last year of the Obama administration. Maybe not. But maybe.

The ouster of Aristide in Haiti went almost unnoticed by the mainstream. As did the comically failed ouster of Chavez in Venezuela. Weapons of mass destruction failed to materialize. Genocide on Darfur got some attention.

On a personal note, the decade started as my beloved Adult Education Program (affectionately know my thousands as “The English School”) was deemed to fall outside of my agency’s strategic plan. But I fought hard for the program’s survival. My mom was begging me to send off resumes. My staff kept asking me if they should be sending off their resumes, and I kept answering honestly “I’m not sending off mine.” We did more than survive. A decade later, we are thriving. We serve 650-700 adult immigrants per day, as a proud program of the Queens Community House.

I lost two peers. Alexandra and Abby. Amazing women who died ridiculously young.

I lived in Guatemala for two months. Liana and I spent our days in the company of humming birds under the shadow of volcanoes spewing ash and smoke, speaking Spanish together while those around us often spoke in Mayan languages that may not survive a generation or two. Then we came home together to live in the nation’s most diverse zip code, surrounded by more languages than even I can name.

I became a mom. Later in life than most. Baby bottles replaced pool cues. Late nights in bars were replaced by early morning trips to museums and zoos. Kim Stanley Robinson was replaced by nostalgic Dr. Seuss and colorful board books with soft and bumpy things to touch. Early morning phone chats with mom were replaced with frantic attempts to create morning routines involving putting on socks and getting out the door with a dry diaper. Extensive potty training rituals replaced gaming. Ridiculously long work hours gave way to “learning how to delegate.” And a full night’s sleep became a thing of the past.

The decade ahead, I imagine, will be filled with dance and music and art and star gazing and chapter books. And the incomparable joy of watching beautiful Liana grow and learn and experience the world around her. Holograms? Check points at which we need to show our national ID cards? Space Tourism? I think the next decade will offer a small window of opportunity to bring Liana to see glaciers while they are still grand, and coral reefs before they are bleached beyond repair. Perhaps the Obama years will usher in a renaissance of sorts. Or perhaps the damage is already so deep that the decline of the empire in inevitable.

The one thing I can predict with certainty is that any predictions I make here today will look ridiculously naïve a decade from now.