Monday, September 14, 2015

The Power of the Novice (and learning along with them!)

My last post took us into our new Chinese adventure, and bedtime tonight provides yet another story down this path. As I mentioned, Kaya just started learning Chinese at school (and will learn through 4th grade), with two 50 minute sessions per week. The focus is mostly on culture, with some focus on the sounds and basic words. Being the language teacher that I am, the format had me wondering how much she'd really get from 50 minutes back to back two days a week. With this, I sat down in front of my computer and put a bunch of Chinese books on hold at the library -- those with CDs of course, as I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing in the language. This cluelessness has actually felt like a huge asset, as Kaya knows with great certainty, that I, like she, am a true beginner, and I'm just realizing now, as I write this, that this novice position is allowing me to model for her. I think it's actually working...

Last week, she hated Chinese. Ok, maybe not hate, but the dislike has been strong and voiced. The first week, she came home expressing frustration that her Chinese teacher is really hard to understand. Once they started playing games in class, she seemed a bit happier about her experience, but there has still been a general aversion to the experience. Tonight, however, we started in on our 3rd chinese book, and I began to sense quite a different vibe.

When I brought this particular book up to her bed tonight, I didn't announce that it was a Chinese book. I think she knew, but I can't be sure. It's one of those that has the English version starting at one end of the book, and the Chinese at the other end. So, in the middle, they meet, with the rest of the pages upside down. We read the English side first, with no real intention on my part to listen to the Chinese on CD. It was late and she needs the sleep. But when we got to the end, and she'd clearly enjoyed the story and seemed eager for more, I asked her if she wanted to listen to the CD. "Willst du," [Do you?] she asked me, with curiosity. As much as I was aware that this was a true opportunity to model excitement for the language, it was my heart that really answered the question. "Ja!" [Yes!] I told her, enthusiastically. She wasn't yet convinced. She thinks Chinese sounds like baby language, and seems quite annoyed by this. Maybe it was my super stellar Chinese impression...I have always gotten a kick out of pretending that I'm fluent (and I promise you, it's likely an insult to those who do, unintentionally, of course!) --but something kicked in for her, and she was suddenly warming up to the idea of diving into some Chinese tonight.

While we were listening, I noticed her "following" the characters along with the Chinese sounds (probably in the wrong direction, I realize, since I have no idea what I'm doing and I modeled left to right!). I also noticed her testing out some of the sounds a few times, as I had done a couple times after I'd begun to recognize individual sounds...particularly those that get repeated a lot. By the end, she was clearly into it, even if she wouldn't admit it. By the end, she was asking me if I would be learning together with her, so that "eines Tages wir koennten zusammen auf Chinesisch sprechen!" [one day we'd be able to speak together in Chinese!].

How cool would that be?!

I'm feeling motivated. I've been down this road before, both with Chinese and up because I knew I'd never be moving there. But now, I have a different motivation to learn: together with our daughter. And that feels incredibly exciting, on so many levels...

If you have any resources to recommend for us on our Chinese learning adventure, please share them below. We're eager for great titles, games, songs, and other (optimally screen-free) resources that can help us connect to the language and each other!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Shoe, Schuh, or Shu? (OR...'On the road to Trilingual')

Lately - as in, the past 6 months and then some - it's been a lot easier for me to think about writing than it has been for me to sit down and do it. Not so much because I don't want to --because I still love the process so dearly-- but because I've finally slowed down enough in life such that it doesn't feel like I'm always trying to pack it all in. My mom would be so proud...I can't tell you how many times, how many conversations she tried to have with me around this topic. "Tams, you always try to do too much," she'd tell me, nearing a panic attack just from watching my spastic tendencies. But at the time, it's what energized me...or so I thought. Now, ironically, I get more life energy from slowing down. That's all to say that I've been more present and parenting more, which has left me much less time to write, particularly after a summer with lots of Kaya-time.

But alas...I wanted to sit down tonight and write because I think about Kaya growing up, just having started 1st grade at our dream K-8 Waldorf-inspired charter, and realize that what seems normal and everyday now won't always seem that way. And so I want to capture a few moments while they're fresh in the name of reminiscing later. This being a language and parenting blog, for the most part, I'll focus on the story today from Chinese class. 

First Day of School: Rose Ceremony with her
8th Grade Mentor behind her
Last year, I was torn. Start her at a Spanish Immersion kindergarten, or keep her at the outdoor immersion where she'd been for two years. As it turned out, we did neither, but had her instead at a small in-home kindergarten that our friend started down the street. But now that she's attending her new school, she's started learning Chinese twice a week at school. I may be a lot more excited than she, as she states that she doesn't like it, and that her Chinese teacher is hard to understand...but I'm impressed not only that she's learning already, but that she's coming home to tell me about it. Granted, it's only one word that she shared, but in our friends' car today on the way home from school, she tells me, "Mama, Shu heisst Buch." [Shu means book.] At first, I didn't get it - as simple a statement as it was. Being completely accustomed to her speaking 95% German with me still, I didn't process that 'shu' was a Chinese word. And then, with German being my 3rd language, it took my mind an extra few seconds to process it all, admittedly. 'Shoe' could be in English, or 'Schuh' could be in German, or clearly, 'shu' could be Chinese, too. For her, however, with 2 native languages, adding a 3rd is a completely different experience for her brain. It fascinates me that she can learn Chinese in school in English and then share with me in German what she learned it means in English (or maybe they didn't learn it through words at all, more likely, but with the item itself?). Granted, it's not so much the fact that she can do it, because I recognize that it's not rocket science...but the fact that she has the opportunity to do that, and that she is doing it (vs. keeping the thoughts to herself) is ultra exciting to me! 

In college, I took a Spanish-German translation course, and I remember how much effort it was for my brain to go directly from language 2 to 3, and back. In my early days of classwork, I had to use English as the middle language, serving as a bridge. But Kaya, with similar comfort levels in both English and German...does she need a bridge language? I would assume not. Maybe it's for this reason, among others, that it's easier to learn additional languages once you've already learned two.

Anyway, I'm still pretty fascinated to think about this, and while she may not be excited about the prospect of learning a 3rd language, I'm excited enough for both of us. I'm wishing she had it more than 2 days a week, back to back, but guess who's gonna go check out some Chinese books and resources at the library...

(Quick language update: As I mentioned above, Kaya still speaks to me primarily in German, throwing in plenty of English words than she doesn't know the German for...or doesn't want to give her brain time to grab over the English version. When she does this, if I know the word, I'll either repeat it back in German or will respond using the German word, which she then quickly assimilates into her end of the conversation. I have noticed that I've been using quite a bit more English with her -- definitely 1-3 sentences when i'm upset, before reverting back to German, and I'm almost always add English when friends are around so they can be more involved in our conversation. Sometimes, I say the German first, other times, the English. And every once in a while, I'll just say the English. She still feels a year or so younger to me when she speaks German...a phenomenon I've noticed for the past many years with her German. She speaks more slowly in German and it takes her longer to access some words...though if she's feeling patient, she will. She still seems very committed and interested in speaking German with's clearly our language together, and while we haven't discussed it in a while, it's clear to me that there's security and connection in that for her.)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Simplicity & Accountability by my 6 Yr Old

There are really so many other things I need to be catching up with this amazing online course that I'm taking, or finishing my new website. BUT...blogging feels a bit like an old security blanket, and when the post starts writing itself in my head, I know it's time to make the time to sit down, relax, and peck out a story or two.

This afternoon, on our way home from gymnastics, Kaya and I were discussing whether we'd go to the grocery store. Neither of us is so fond of the activity, so there is generally plenty of reason, and resistance from us both, to avoid it. But, as I shared with her, my contact lenses can only water themselves for so long, and our cow is about to run it seemed there was no avoiding a trip this time.

So, after her initial squawking about not wanting to go, she adamantly proclaims, "Dann ich werde ein Treat bekommen!" [Then, I'm going to get a treat!] (and for those non-German speakers out there, I might add that 'treat' is not a German word, but serves to represent the influx of mixing that we're seeing lately). The key terms here are "adamantly proclaims". This is no excited tone of eagerness at the idea that the treat might actually materialize in her hands at the store. To the contrary, she was quite clear what would be happening and who would be making it happen.

Once I joined in the assertion game that she was playing, letting her know which reality she would actually experience under the current circumstances of tone and expectation, we were able to move on to the point that I'm actually trying to get to in this story. She gets the point, changes her tone, and as if by magic, I begin to create my own storyville dreamland of our grocery adventure. I see the pint of chocolate ice cream in my hand, feeling the chill on my skin, wondering which flavor I would choose. Milk, saline solution, cream. Yes, indeed - if she's going to get a treat, then guess who else is, too. "Ich will auch ein Treat," [I want a treat,too] I tell her, choosing somewhat hesitantly to let her in on my dreamland a bit. It felt a bit cathartic, I must say: I've been avoiding processed sugar for nearly 2 months now, doing pretty 'well' despite the urges at times, and it felt good to just be honest about what I really wanted...and give a little window into what I was thinking. I wasn't sure how she'd respond, despite her awareness of my no-sugar adventure. I guess I figured she'd be so involved in her own treatville dreamland that she'd be completely oblivious to mine.

But alas, I was wrong. Instead of letting me continue to bask in the details of what flavor chocolate I'd choose and exactly how I'd go about breaking this personal agreement I'd made with myself (and my husband), she stops me in my tracks. "Aber du wirst kein Treat bekommen, weil du kein Zucker isst..." [But you won't buy a treat because you're not eating sugar.]

I feel like I'd just been caught by my 6 year old with my hand in the cookie jar (after having just called her into the kitchen). The silence rang loudly in my ears after she spoke, until doubt kicked in to clarify. "Ein Treat oder kein Treat," ['A' treat or 'no' treat?] I ask her, checking to be sure that I'd really been caught. There was no mistaking it, however. She called me out. My mind begins to scan for possibilities. What might I say that could counter the point she'd just made?

"Yeah, I know but today I feel extra sad so I'm going to eat."
"That's true, but it's OK to break self-agreements when things don't go well."
"I know honey, but I don't feel like it anymore."

I couldn't do it. There was nothing I could say or do that felt solid enough for me to stand behind...except for sticking to what I'd agreed to and letting her point ring true: I'm not eating sugar, so I'm not going to get a treat.

Sure there was a part of me, that small voice, that wanted to tell her Big voice, that I would do whatever the hell I wanted. That I can have a bad day and eat chocolate when I want. That no child of mine is going to tell me what to do. But my Big voice knows better. She knows when to heed advice from those who thrive on structure. And she knows that there's nobody that I'm really responsible to except myself...regardless of who says what in which car.

So, to the future Kaya who will read this one day, thank you.
To the Kaya who asks me before falling asleep, "Fuhlst du dich besser, Mama?" [Do you feel better, Mama?]
Thank you for being my rock, in more ways than one, for guiding and supporting me --once again-- to be the person that I strive to be in our world.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Little Lessons in Simplicity and Climate

This afternoon, as we were searching for our favorite photos of her 'through the ages', Kaya asked me why we chose her name. I started with the simple answer, the one she happened to know already: "Wir wollten einen K Namen finden, nach Nana." [We wanted a K name as a way to honor Nana.] The rest of the answer, I'm a little embarrassed to admit, necessitated a little internet consult. Granted, the fact that my friend's dog was named Caillou, and Geoff had a friend whose dog was named Kaya, is pretty simple. But...we didn't name our daughter after their dogs--as much as we liked the names. It was what we discovered through some very brief research that really sealed the deal.

So, as I dipped into the internet in hopes of a quick answer, I found this excellent--but complicated--article that had me feeling quite connected to the power of the hoaky as that may sound. Yes, I know that we named her Kaya, and for some of you, this might not sound surprising in the slightest...but it still has me feeling in awe of what is really possible in this life.

As this article explains, there are three Kayas, and "these three Kayas are actually aspects of enlightened being. They are the Buddha reflected in three different ways in order to help sentient beings." And, for those of you with little to no experience with Buddhism, Buddha means 'awakened or fully realized one' in Sanskrit.

While this may not sound like much to the average reader just bumping into this post willy-nilly, for those of you who recall what I just shared yesterday in my post about my Embodied Buddha-Mama, I'm thinking you may see what I'm getting at. But just in case, let me spell it out a little further.

Today served as another representation of the simplicity that Kaya offers for my life. Despite our arsenal to fight the bugs ruminating in the surrounding air (Vitamin D, Airborne, Elderberry Syrup, Gypsy Cold Care tea, water, rest...), Kaya caught a little something and had to miss out on school and a family birthday party. She wasn't all that sick, though (arsenal!?), and was in pretty high spirits for most of the day. I told her that even though she had to miss school and a party tonight, we could still have a really fun day, and do something to celebrate. Last week, we'd talked about the idea of going to a bead store on her birthday, and I thought for sure she'd be all over it. When I brought it up, she liked the idea, but made sure to let me know that she wanted to relax first, spend time snuggling on the couch with me, and then possibly head out in the afternoon. Surely it made a difference that Auntie Sara's gifts arrived in the mail, but once afternoon rolled around, Kaya was quite eager to keep it simple and stay home.

Clearly, she enjoyed the ice cream...
Similarly, I gave her the option to do whatever she wanted for dinner. Eat out at her favorite restaurant, head for ice cream afterwards, or stay home and choose our meal. Mac n' cheese and ice cream at home was the clear choice. "Bist du sicher, das du nicht zum Eisgeschaeft gehen willst?" [Are you sure you don't want to go get ice cream?] I asked her, surprised, once again, at the simplicity and clarity of her choice. "Ja, Mama, Ich bin sicher. Ich will dass Dada zum Geschaeft geht und Eis nach Hause bringt."[I'm sure, Mama. I want Dada to go to the store and bring ice cream home.]

This all has me wondering...Is Kaya as she is because we named her as such...or was I informed by something bigger in choosing her name?

The first Kaya, or the Dharmakaya according to that same article quoted above, is "the embodiment of wisdom". It's the wisdom to know the value in staying home to rest even when it would be way more fun to go the bead shop, or have a sleep over on your birthday. It's the wisdom to perceive when is too much. In greater detail, as I understand it, the Dharmakaya is the wisdom to be aware of subjective and objective phenomenon and recognize that each is dependent upon the other, as we all are upon each other. Perhaps I'm seeing this aspect in our lil' Kaya in our much more snuggly she's become with me over the years. I remember when she was quite content to have her own space, in her own bed, at at a minimum, at an arm's length from me in our bed. Even these days, she'll often ask me to give her some space when she needs it.

The second Kaya is referred to as the Sambhogakaya, and in its simplest explanation, "this spontaneous radiance of unceasing clarity is the meaning of the Sanskrit term...". Those of you who know Kaya can likely relate to the significance of this. Our daughter is the furthest thing from wishy-washy. She's clear. She knows what she wants. The red sweatshirt. The salmon burger. Three more songs. Mac n' cheese and store-bought ice cream." 'Sam' means perfect, 'bhoga' means enjoyment and kaya is roughly translated as body. Thus 'the body of perfect enjoyment' is the radiant wisdom aspect of our original nature." No doubt on my part that our Kaya is a little embodiment of perfect enjoyment.

The third Kaya, or the Nirmanakaya, and refers to something that is "manifest in form", but is a form that is for everyone. There are other forms that just appear to highly enlightened beings. I'm grateful that our Kaya is available for all of us, especially for me, to remind me how I want to live and what will make the biggest difference for her life. As it's described further, this aspect or kaya of Buddha is also called the 'artisan emanation'. "These appear as objects of art and the artists who make them for the benefit of all sentient beings..[...]...Beautiful inspired works of art which bring clarity, peace, joy and something special which seems to touch the heart center, are all known as artisan emanations."

For the record, this is the first time that I've ever learned any of this in such depth. When we chose her name, I knew that it had something to do with the three bodies of wisdom in Buddhism. I'm not Buddhist, but certainly resonate strongly with its principles. And I liked the sound of the name. I'd always had K-names for my dogs (Kensa, Kahlua, and Kess!), and while I didn't want to name my daughter Karen, I really wanted the mom-connection in there somehow.

But here's the part of the story that really gets me.

A few years after Kaya was born, at my mom's memorial I believe, someone asked me what Kaya's name meant. Still fuzzy on the definition (and also aware that there are many of them), I decided to go searching again. As an avid climate activist, someone whose primary motivation in life is to secure the well-being and health of all life on this planet, I was shocked to discover this definition:

The Kaya identity is an equation relation factors that determine the level of human impact on climate, in the form of emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. 

What is the connection between our children and the lives we seek to lead?

I know that I continue to learn everyday from our little Kaya, and am continually impressed with not only what she has to offer, but the outer reaches of what is possible when we stay open and aware and committed to our deepest purpose.

My Embodied Buddha-Mama

Tomorrow, my baby turns 6.
Jan. 22, 2015

When I share that with some people in my life, they can't believe it's happened so quickly. For me, however, I couldn't have asked time to move in more perfect rhythm.

I feel fortunate that I've been able to stay home with her all these years, working part time as teacher, tutor, and now "climate coach", part-time as mama (or is mama a full time gig?!). I never saw myself doing the stay-at-home mama thing--which, I realize as I write it, is really quite a silly term. I never 'stayed at home'. We went out. We go out. But I digress... Being able to be such a huge part of Kaya's childhood has and continues to bring me great joy--and from what I'm realizing, makes time feel a hell of a lot a good way.

And were she elsewhere, who knows what would have happened with her German...
Which brings me back to the general subject of this here blog on bilingualism.

Damn, it feels great to be 'back'. I've missed writing, I've missed being here, on my own blog. I see that more than 1000 people visit here every month now, and where am I?! Dying to be back, I can say that. While I make no promises, the desire lives strong...I want this for Kaya as she grows older. I keep meaning to publish all of these posts into a book for her--there are those amazing companies that exist that do that. And it saddens me to think of all of the amazing details that haven't been captured for her future.

I'll do my best, however, to fill in some holes in my upcoming posts so I can get back to writing from the present.

Tonight, as I was at a Social Action Gathering for my Citizens' Climate Lobby chapter, one of my friends asked me how our little button was doing. "I couldn't be more in love," I told her, feeling the melting in my heart. "She's my little buddha-mama," I continued. "It's like she's my mom and Buddha embodied in one, guiding me to live life as it's meant to be lived..."

And with that, I shared the story about last week, when Kaya told me (still speaking with me in German these days) that she really wanted to have a sleepover with her friends, Eli and Jacob. When I mentioned this to their mom, she was really into it, and we bounced some ideas around. That night, at dinner, I proposed the idea to Kaya that the boys come over for a sleepover after her birthday party at the gymnastics gym. They could come to our family potluck dinner and then just stay. I was shocked--and incredibly impressed--when she responded with a, "Mama, ich glaube das koennte zu viel sein..." [Mama, I think that could be too much.]

Did you hear that, Mom? Where you left off, Kaya is picking up for you, guiding me to slow down and pack in less...

A few days later, proving that I clearly hadn't yet learned my lesson, Kaya asks me to fill her in on our plan for the day. (This is normal. Kaya loves a plan. She finds great security in the structure and expectation of knowing what's coming down the shoot.) So, I proceed to tell her:
Play date with Scout. Brunch with Michael. Playdate with Eli and Jacob. Buy ballet shoes. Head home.
"Mama, das ist zu viel. Ich glaube, wir sollten nicht so viel machen." [Mama, that's too much. I don't think we should do so much.] she proceeds to tell me, both hesitantly and confidently. Of course it is, I realize in retrospect. But the last thing I expected was to hear it from her. What surprised me even more was what followed. When I proposed that we shorten her play date with her best friend, Scout, and pick up her ballet slipper before brunch instead of after, she went for it. She lives for play dates with Scout. Yet, clearly, stronger for her is her need for balance and calm, her strong sense for what is too much.

Are you loving this, Mom?!

So, with this in mind, I'll keep this post brief and let these sweet stories be my re-entry into my blogging universe. I do promise another post very shortly. I'm eager to set the scene, to lay the stage for where we're at with our German and the latest language development on the horizon...and perhaps even create some bridges for those of you who do share my deep concern for the futures we are creating for our littles.

So good to be back. Please 'stop in' and say hi, if you would. And if you're willing, follow me here (or on Twitter, if you have a concern about Climate Change!).  I think of SO many of you when I write, those of you who have written me on email, and in comments, and have played SUCH a huge role in my journey as non-native bilingual mama, and I feel very grateful for you in this community. While we span the globe, we remain connected.

Despite my most recent silence, I feel that...and I hope you do, too!

In loving community,

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Adding a Third Language at 5?

As I walked in the door this evening, I saw it on the floor. There was no mistaking it, with the return address from PORTLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Enrollment and Transfer Center. We'd been waiting for weeks to hear if we'd make the lottery for the Dual Spanish Immersion Program at our neighborhood school, and alas, we found out:

We made the cut (!!!??!?!?!?!$&!!@%$^$%^!).

For me, just hours from the news, my heart swims with emotions--excitement, fear, relief, curiosity, eagerness--and my mind swirls with thoughts. Can we trust an immersion program in it's first year at a school? What will adding a third language do to her non-community language (German)? What happens if we end up getting into our 'dream school' part way through the year--and then we don't like it?

When Geoff and I were on the fence about whether we wanted any more children, we agreed that we didn't want to make the decision based on fear (I'm afraid she'll feel alone in the world if she doesn't have any siblings...). Instead, we wanted to make a decision based on inspiration, based on the song of our heart beneath the fear.  Naturally, we want to do the same with this decision, too--a good reminder for me right now, as my mind spins and my stomach tries to talk me into a chocolate smoothie. There's nothing like chocolate ice cream to make everything feel easier in the moment.

So, then, what would my heart say if it could talk?
What would I hear if I listened?

I would love for Kaya to learn Spanish. As I told her tonight, it was the first language that I learned in school, the one I learned before German. The idea of my daughter knowing the same languages that I do leaves me with a cozy feeling.

And my brain is saying the following, too. Naturally, Spanish is a much more useful language to know than German, so there's that. But even if she's only in this Dual Immersion program for a year or less, a program which is conducted 90% in Spanish and 10% in English, I can imagine that the learning opportunity would only be beneficial. Right?

A month ago, we thought we had this school thing all figured out. After having discovered that we were 63rd on the wait list at the school that had me in tears of joy on curriculum night, we decided that we'd enroll Kaya for next year at her current school--a continuing Kindergarten class at her outdoor immersion forest farm preschool (Waldorf inspired). I met with her teacher, talked to the director, and felt great about the decision. And then, Kaya told me one night that she didn't want to go to school there next year. She was ready to be inside more, done with being so muddy and wet, and eager to learn to write--a much cuter, longer tale than I'm sharing now, but curt to stick to the point. She was also tired of being in the car so much, about 25 minutes each direction. And so, wanting to honor our daughter's wishes, we gave it some good thought, and decided to consider other options, optimally closer to home.  

And so here we sit...with three enticing neighborhood options in our laps:
1. Traditional kindergarten option at our local public school, which is rumored to be a good program now (after years of being one of the worst in the city) [$ free]
2. Dual Spanish immersion in that same school: 1 classroom, 1st year, non-existent reputation at this school but solid at others [$ free]
3. Local Waldorf kindergarten with about 6 children, with my friend, in her home [$ the same amount we'd put away for her college if we chose a free option]

Something tells me that you understand my quandary.
I bet you even understand why I'm craving chocolate...

Clearly, I don't have an answer. But what I do know is that I'd love your input. While I've finally learned that I need to get quiet and seek within for my answer, I also feel strongly that data would feel good right now. Are there legitimate fears I can put to rest? Are there valid considerations to weigh on?

As always, I love being on this journey with you--while I haven't had much time to branch out into the blogging world lately, I love that you come here, as it really makes a difference to feel so in community. This video of my new-found source of inspiration makes me think of us--singing our song together, from all over the world, each in our own beautiful place--and simultaneously reminds me to search within, and listen.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

When Eating, Wash a What?

Last year, I went to this really amazing retreat led by Chozen Bays, a Buddhist mindfulness teacher who is also an M.D. It had such an impact on my life at the time, changing not only the way that I ate, but more importantly, my entire relationship with food. While I've slipped back into some of my tendencies to wolf down my dinner and do all sorts of things while eating (including thinking...), the principles still permeate our lives, and very clearly trickle down into Kaya's world as well.

Most recently, she and I were sitting at the table, eating breakfast before school. In the middle of our table, in and around the rocks surrounding a candle, live our Mindful Eating Reminder & Encouragement Cards--a small stack of cards on a ring that Chozen made to support us in our daily lives after the retreat. From this mini deck, Kaya, Geoff and I will often choose a card that serves as a reminder or inspiration for how to eat more mindfully. It's quite a fun game, actually, as we always choose them randomly, and there's never an obligation to participate. So, on this particular morning, I picked up the deck and randomly flipped it open to a card. We both laughed, as it landed on the same card that had come up for me multiple times in the last 4 days:

When Eating, Just Eat.

Clearly, a sign from the universe that I need to be a hell of a lot more present when I'm eating.

So, there I am, determined this time to hone in and be present. I look at the rocks, chewing my cheerios, swallowing my milk, noticing the multitude of textures and flavors in my mouth. And then, Kaya makes a noise that I can't even begin to explain with text. She was wearing her felted owl around her neck (which her teacher at school gifted her for her birthday), and apparently, she'd dripped some milk on his head. Being my mother's daughter, hearing her concerns about souring milk echoing in my head, I gently reach over, grab her owl from his nest, and assure her that all will be well. Nothing a little water can't cure. As I return from the sink, and sit back into my seat, Kaya says something that left me laughing incessantly:

Mama, du hast nicht gehort zu der Karte. Du hast "When eating, just wash a owl!" [Mama, you didn't listen to the card. You did "When eating, just wash a owl!"]

I couldn't believe how tuned in she was, to the card, to me, to the whole concept--and how she brought it all together into this cute little mixed-language statement. And perhaps, the part that had me laughing the hardest was how it sounded when she said 'a owl'. As you may recall, I come from quite the grammar-nazi family--the language nuances were drilled deep, including the types of indefinite pronouns that need to be used before nouns starting with vowels ('an' vs.'a'). So, while it's hard to explain why I found that so funny, and that I certainly wasn't laughing at my daughter for using the 'wrong' article, it added to the hilarity of the whole situation. I laughed so hard, and for so long, that Kaya kept looking at me sideways, saying nothing but "Mom!", pleading me to stop and wondering why I found it so funny.

One day, maybe I'll share more about the 7 types of hungers about which Chozen teaches (Eye Hunger, Mouth Hunger, Nose Hunger, Stomach Hunger, Heart Hunger, Body Hunger, Mind Hunger), as they are pretty fascinating and have definitely made a huge difference in our family. In fact, soon after I came home from the weekend retreat last year, and had taught Geoff and Kaya about the different types, Kaya made a comment one day at the table in which she told me, quite matter of fact, "Mama, ich habe viel Augenhunger in Moment!" [Mama, I have a lot of eye hunger right now!]  This is after days on end of whining to Geoff and I about her desire to eat: "Ich wiw Essen, aber ich hab' kein Hunger!" [I want to eat, but I'm not hungry!]. She would get very angry, screaming and sometimes crying because we'd tell her that we like her to eat when she's hungry because it's healthier, as opposed to just eating for other reasons (it looks good, smells good, seems good, feels good, etc).

There's another retreat coming up in early June, and while I would so love to go to another one and deepen my practice, I couldn't be happier that Geoff has chosen to go instead. I'm quite curious and excited to feel the ripple effects from a different perspective...