I am still awaiting the birth of my newest grandson. Thankfully, this harrowing pregnancy, with issues starting at 21 weeks and my arrival at 26 weeks, is now a pretty normal pregnancy that is over 38 weeks. The wait is almost over to see this baby boy and my Texas Adventure will come to an end! I have been away from Minot for over 12 weeks and have missed family and friends a lot; however, my life has been forever enriched with lessons learned about – myself (and my marriage), my son and his family, language learning, and the Mexican culture. I have made new friends! I have also had a few adventures, within my Texas adventure, including a weekend with a ‘forever friend’ in Honey Grove (thanks, Marilyn!), a trip to the zoo, the Stockyards (thanks, Cherie), and giving out burritos from the back of a car (thanks, Lissu!). The best adventure is yet to come – the birth!
Sitting at the dinner table, I hear conversations in both Spanish and English. It is not unusual for the children (remember they are just 2 and 3 years old!) to know the after dinner plans before I do. A shriek from them could mean there is ice cream for dessert or we are going to the park, OR there will be an evening of lawn mowing! I learned to not take my cue from their exuberance as I may not share in their enthusiasm for the activity.
I daily, sometimes hourly, teach English for students ages from 2 years old to over 60. The dog is also bilingual in understanding commands. Even the housekeeper, Lissu’, who comes every few weeks, meets with me separately to learn English. Her conversational English is very good! For her, it is best for us to start our session carrying on a conversation about normal things, like how her week has went or a story from her past, and then she reads from a children’s book (of course, I chose “A Cabin by the Lake”!).
The first time I met with her, I was struck with the ‘disconnect’ between correctly reading English words and yet not understanding them until she translated English into Spanish! When she read the sentence correctly, I assumed she knew what the words meant. Wrong! Reading the first few sentences of the Introduction where it mentions ‘piglets’, she said “Oh, I know what those are.” She had watched Winnie the Pooh (with Piglet) videos with her children in Mexico. Lissu’ was my first friend in Texas and I am so thrilled she opened up and shared a piece of her life with me!
Along with constantly talking with the youngsters at home, I also started working with Gyovanna’s mother, Maritza, who lives at Jeff and Gyovanna’s house, helping her with English. Maritza knows many English words and has had several English classes. What worked best for teaching her was to work on common phrases like, “I am going upstairs to change my clothes.” As long as the word doesn’t contain a “W”, we are good!
Learning a new language is tough at any age, but it does get more difficult (and frustrating) as we get older. One evening, We were having ‘class’ at the kitchen table and there was a word that she was having difficulty pronouncing. I would pronounce it – she would pronounce it – on and on. Finally, from the laundry room, when she could stand it no more, her frustrated daughter, Gyovanna, shouted, “Mama’, it is ________”. Maritza then insisted I try to learn one phrase in Spanish – which I am terrible at. Shortly after she would pronounce it, I would try several times until my own son, Jeffrey, shouted the correct pronunciation in my direction shaking his head. We then decided to continue our lessons away from the younger generation!
Grasping sarcasm and slang has been amazing to hear from the children. One morning, I was helping strap the boys in their car seats and noticed that each of them had brought a pool ‘noodle’ in the van with them. I just looked at Liam and said “Really???”. “Really? This is a good idea, in a van, and you both won’t be clunking people on the head with these?” He giggled and his big brown eyes danced with glee. Later that evening, he was telling his Dad about it and said “Really?” with perfect diction and tone. The 2 year old now says, “Really?” perfectly with a mocking, sarcastic tone. Really!
If I drove down a poor section of Dallas, I would see the uneducated and poor. Many would be gathered around a boom box with loud crazy music and I would see that they certainly don’t dress like I do. It would be a shame if people, from other countries, came to visit Dallas and saw these people and assumed that all Americans are like this. They would fail to know and understand the bright, educated, well dressed, middle and upper class Americans that make up much of the U.S. I know that Mexico’s poor and uneducated come to the U.S. for a better life. What a shame it is if Americans judged all of Mexico by their experience with a few uneducated and poor Mexicans!
In this household, there has been a ration of 5 adults to just 2 children. This has presented a few challenges over the past few months. It also has caused the 3 year old to ask,”Who is my family?” His mommy explained it wonderfully and confirmed that we are all family and connected and are there for him, but his actual family is his mommy, daddy, brother and new baby. The rest of us will eventually leave, at some point! But we will always come back to visit! Interestingly, all 5 of us have, at least once, shared the sentiment of, ”I wish everyone would just leave!” We are all glad we stayed!
On that same note, I am amazed at the grace and patience with which Gyovanna endures three grandparents seeing hour by hour, her parenting, housekeeping, and almost every other aspect of her life. It is difficult enough to parent children without being in a fish bowl (or glass house) with every move being watched. Sometimes, advice has slipped out without being asked for and she takes this in stride too. Jeff, of course, is in the same situation but is not home as much! He also has done well enduring us! I tried to play outside with the kids to give the others a break!
I have been able to share pieces of ‘me’ with Liam and Jace—faith, music, books, nature, and the library. One night when the electricity went out, Liam woke up and was still awake at 11:00 p.m., so I took him outside to see the bright full moon and the twinkling stars. With his 7:30 p.m. bedtime, he rarely gets to see the moon and stars! Many days, we were able to go on walks and I showed Liam and Jace the difference between birds—a noisy Gackle and the cooing of the Mourning Dove! We also saw how bunnies nibble on grass and shrubs and birds peck at the ground for worms. It was a great time to show them how God made the animals all different just like he makes us all different. Liam was disappointed with lots of rain, day after day, until I asked him how the animals would take a bath or get a drink!
Liam (and sometimes Jace) would be humming a children’s song and so I would start singing it. He would look at me strange as, of course, my English words were not the words he was used to. He would then learn most of the English words. Sometimes he sang in Spanish and I would sing in English but at least we were singing the same tune!
We read lots of books including favorites like “Llama, Llama, Red Pajama” and “Goodnight Moon”. These books became ‘jumping off points’ for talking about colors, counting, manners, and them telling me different things. I found that if someone just ‘reads’ a book, or puts a puzzle together, and doesn’t use that time to talk about ‘more than the words or pictures’, they are missing some pretty precious moments! Of course, I wanted them to see the awesome library I went to ‘work’ at every Friday. There is a fantastic park on the same grounds so it worked out one morning to play at the park, and then visit the library!
I’m sure many things I have heard, saw, learned, taught and felt will be pondered for a long time. But for now, with just a week or so left, I know I will miss (in no particular order):
- Grocery shopping and cooking with Gyovanna – Costco and Winco are favorites
- Great Mexican food made by Gyovanna and her parents
- Eating frozen yogurt from Sweet Frog with little sticky faces and hands while watching Veggie Tales from the little table and chairs
- Walks to the park
- Getting to be a part of the daily lives of Jeff’s family and spending time with ‘my little boy’ who is now a daddy, along with getting to know Gyovanna, who now takes care of him
- Sitting outside in March and April with warm temps
- Reciting Thomas the Train names and remembering that not every blue train is Thomas
- Showering, while stepping over rubber ducks, trains and plastic bowls, in the kids bathroom
- Seeing little fingers under the bathroom door and hearing ‘Grandma, are you in there?”
- Sharing a loveseat with a large dog (Rhodesian Ridgeback), when kids are in bed
- Watching FOX News, UFC fights, Scorpion, and seasons of the Flash and Heroes with Jeff and Gyovanna
And for these, and the many other experiences with friends and family over the past few months, my life has truly been enriched! Thank you all!