Everyday miracles…

appleThe magic of Spring seems to have extended itself to my children. Whilst outside sticky buds have burst open pushing forth vibrant green leaves, and little splashes of colour are popping up where before there was only brown earth, inside I am noticing lots of small changes and developmental leaps in the boys.

JJ is becoming more independent, rejecting offers of help with dressing himself, becoming a bit of a whizz on a tablet and soaking up information like a little sponge (just in time for starting school come September – first choice and we’re in – huzzah!). At four years and 8 months he helps me by keeping an eye on his little brother and alerting me to any potential dangers. Meanwhile EJ has suddenly, after a couple of months of silence and nonsense baby babble, started saying recognisable words. This is probably the most exciting development for me as, at nearly 21 months, I was beginning to feel a bit anxious. For a while it was either ‘yea’, ‘noooo!’ or ‘yay!’, all of a sudden he is very clearly saying ‘mummy’, ‘daddy’, ‘thank you’, ‘hello’, ‘tea’, ‘cheese’ (those two are possibly interchangeable!) and then, this morning, and very clearly, ‘apple’.

I realise this is hardly earth shattering but it brought back a memory of when JJ and his friends were at the same stage. I remember one of my friend’s little boy’s first words was ‘apple’, and it was a bit like his party piece for a while, thrilling us all no less than a clever magician’s illusion could have done, proving to us in no uncertain terms that there is such a thing as an everyday miracle.

For a long time I persuaded and cajoled JJ to re-enact this feat of language by repeating the word ‘apple’ over and over – those two distinct syllables hanging in the air like a misremembered incantation.

For some reason when language did finally come to JJ it came with gutteral ferocity: anyone would have thought that he was being brought up in some Kaiser’s regime or Arabic sheikh’s desert caravan the amount of sounds that emanated from the very back of his throat. Of course that wore off eventually but there is still the odd reminder of that strange vocal phase.

As a lover of language and the vast  vocabulary available to the English speaking world I have been guilty (perhaps somewhat mischieviously) of trying to implant words and phrases from the more high-fallutin’ end of the scale. There was a short period where I attempted to pass on two words I like to live by: ‘deferred gratification’ – sod patience! And for a while he dropped ‘furred gatty cation’ randomly and without purpose, into a conversation, but, let’s face it, there is always going to be more magic in that first ‘apple’ than anything that follows…

PS – this post was brought to you by a confirmed PC user.

PPS – for more random thoughts on the miracle of language acquisition please see my previous post here.

I’m linking this post to Magic Moments over at the Oliver’s Madhouse for obvious reasons!

Never accept a negative label…

plodding donkey

OK so I recently read this post by Mummy Tries and I wanted to comment but, you know, do you ever read a blog post and feel that your comment would be inappropriate without a prolonged explanation? Well that’s how I felt. So instead I thought I’d just mention it here.

(Just as a precursor to these thoughts I should mention the fact that I come at this perspective from the point of view of a deep thinker who loves words and language and loves to analyze and deconstruct meaning. I studied literature at degree level and that included literary theory which encompasses the writer perspective and the reader perspective for pinpointing meaning so I am well aware that this is only my take on what was written).

The post argues that most people fall into one of two categories which are called ‘doers’ or ‘plodders’. There is a very balanced argument which says positive things about both categories (and, in fact, this is primarily a post about being inspired by others), but I can’t help but be a bit dismayed by the terminology. ‘Doer’ to me, has very positive connotations, yet ‘Plodder’ has quite negative ones. ‘Doer’ says: ‘get up and go; ‘energy’; ‘creativity’; ‘can do attitude’. ‘Plodder’ says: ‘drab’; ‘lumbering’; ‘uninspired’. Even Wikipedia points out that “Plod or P.C.Plod is a British slang term used to refer to a police officer, particularly one slow-witted or dull”.

I think the heart of my dismay lies in the feeling that, certainly lately, I would probably fall into the ‘Plodder’ category as I feel that I am generally reading or observing the creative and inspired projects of others yet not finding the time or energy to jump into the fray and come alive with projects of my own. At the same time I feel it’s a bit unfair that someone may now label me a ‘plodder’. I was trained in journalism (a long time ago!) so I know how useful labels can be in rounding out a written article and summarising contained ideas (and I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say I never do it myself). Look at parenting – nowadays we have ‘Helicopter Parents’, ‘Snowplough Parents’, ‘Attachment Parenting’, etc, etc. But really, as a human being it would be nigh on impossible to fall within such a rigid and defined category on an ongoing basis without ever doing something completely contrary (even to a deeply felt and consciously crafted way of life).

I was out Christmas shopping today (which I loved!) and a quick glance around Lakeland got me quite excited about what I could be doing for Christmas next year. Home-crafted gifts are a fab idea and definitely include a big dollop of love which bought presents don’t have. I love the idea of pressies in jars (and have a good friend who sells Christmas cookie mix in a jar and mulling syrup in a lovely glass bottle – both of which I will be sampling!). Its also a great way to keep it natural and (maybe even slightly) reduce your carbon footprint… I just discovered this page which shows some absolutely adorable ways to use Kilner jars. (I’m particularly loving the idea of brandied cherries or cocktail syrup which can be used as the base to create Mojitos, Margaritas and Mint Juleps as well as home-made sweeties, snow globes and pot pourri).

I’ll also be Elf on the Shelfing next year (EJ will be going on 2 and a half), and it is my intention to learn how to create some home-made bunting and cushion covers as well as some little crochet projects like flowers, handbag charms or something like this adorable fox stash basket:

crochet fox

I have no idea whether I’ll be any good at any of these things but I think I would enjoy doing them.

I may feel like I have very little energy or time right now, but I know that organisation and planning ahead are key to being productive and timely (especially with regards gifts) and that is my goal for 2014.

Sometimes you can be a dreamer and a planner and a thinker and even a writer, but anyone who is content to be classified as a plodder must be someone with very limited horizons (in my honest and humble opinion!).

On the miracle of language acquisition

look-whos-talking

About ten years ago I decided I was fed up of my job and quite fancied a career change. I had a bit of a brainstorm and came up with these options: horticulture; curatorship; TEFL. As I quickly realised I couldn’t tell my hydroponics from my hydromatics (is that even a word or did I just get that from Grease?), my knowledge of art history pretty much extended to some fictionalised Vermeer antics (Girl with a Pearl Earring) and a little bit of Bruegel (Headlong – by Michael Frayn – well worth a read by the way!) it didn’t take long to realise that a little evening class in the joys of teaching the English language to foreigners was in order.

To cut a long story short, this didn’t really pan out for me as a career either (this could have had something to do with a room full of Italian teenagers and my ever so slight lack of any sort of authoritative presence…). However, what I did gain from this experience was a newfound respect for anyone who takes on the beast commonly known as the English Language. My course alerted me to the fact that English is by far the most complicated language in terms of both grammatical structure and massive vocabulary. It is also a living language to boot so this year’s ‘new’ word “selfie” is equally, if not more relevant to a 15 year old Japanese school girl than how to figure out why on earth we insist on a big red car and not a red big car. Its little rules like this that we aren’t even aware of because, lucky old us, we soaked up this information completely unconciously between the ages of two and four.

According to experts the brain circuits associated with language are more flexible before the age of four, offering a possible explanation for why young children are good at learning foreign languages. A study by King’s College London and Brown University tracked the distribution of myelin (a type of cell) through the brain. From the age of four, it was found to become more fixed. I find this absolutely fascinating and kind of wish that I’d done as the Japanese do and got JJ studying Spanish and French as a toddler (I believe the Japanese prefer English – it is the international language of business after all and what self-respecting toddler draws a blank on that all important conference call to Nebraska?).

At the moment I’m finding the nuances of language acquisition coming to life every day as JJ comes out with something not quite right gramatically (“we was in the garden” – “were, JJ, were”) or just not quite right – for instance, last weekend in the garden centre: “Mummy, they’ve got pineapples on the Christmas tree”, me (after a good long look) “Hmm, I think you mean pine cones JJ…”

I’ve just had the sneakiest peak at the related articles I’ve chosen to highlight below and I’m absolutely loving this exploration of what makes English unique, bizarre, evolutionary, and hilarious! To be continued…

 

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