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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

I didn’t have pregnancy brain. I’ve always been like that.

A few months ago I read an article about pregnancy brain and all those weird things pregnancy makes woman do. Forgetfulness, confusion, mood swings. They say it’s the hormones, as usual.

My mother told me that when she was pregnant with me, she suddenly couldn’t understand my father’s jokes. Not that it’s something unusual. Many people don’t understand my father’s jokes. But my mother, a brilliant woman with a huge sense of humour, she of all people should understand my father’s jokes, and she didn’t. I think she wasn’t happy about this.

When I got pregnant, my sense of humour didn’t suddenly disappear. Neither did my brain. I felt fantastic. I got married in my 30th week, had passed an exam somewhat earlier, and spent a big part of my pregnancy on the train between Hamburg and Delft. I basically felt very much alert and alive.

I even felt much better than usual because usually my blood pressure is really low, and then it got normal when I was pregnant. So no more dizziness, no more grumpiness in the morning. Also, no food withdrawal syndrome which was great for everybody involved. I had sort of a nesting instinct which presented as a baking instinct. But pregnancy brain? No. But I gave this some thought and I found my explanation.

See, my whole childhood was full of people running after me and shouting: “Hey, Olga, you forgot your sweater/shoes/bag. One day you’re going to lose your head”. I didn’t have anything to say about losing my belongings. But I was quick to point out that as my head is attached to the rest of my body, I can’t really lose it.

 I forget my stuff on trains and planes. My mind is so busy thinking that it doesn’t pay attention to boring things like my clothes or shoes. Also, I quickly get confused over the simplest things. Two people talk to me at once? I am confused. A sudden change of plans? I am confused. I have too much to do? I am confused.  

Taking this into account, I now understand why I didn’t get the pregnancy brain. If I were even more forgetful and confused when pregnant, I would pose a danger to myself and to my unborn baby. To keep us both alive, my organism takes the other direction. I’m telling you, people, I could stay in a perpetual state of 4-7 months pregnant, that’s how great I felt. When I had my exam, I was very alert and answered all the questions, even the ones I wasn’t prepared for. I am sure it was my pregnancy that made it so.    

I found the explanation for pregnancy brain interesting. It’s because your mind is so preoccupied with being pregnant and then with the baby that it shuts off everything else. The article said it’s exactly this brain that makes you a better mother. If this is true, I have been an awesome mother my whole life.  
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Monday, 16 April 2012

How important is being consistent in raising multilingual children?

If you are interested in multilingualism, you have probably read tons of clever books that always stress the importance of sticking to the chosen method of multilingualism. For example, if the parents use the OPOL method (One Person, One Language), they should be very consistent in keeping these languages apart. This is theory, this is what the books say.  How does this theory stand in real life? Oh well...

I try to be as consistent as possible. I speak Polish with my children regardless of place or situation. I agree with Elke Montanari, who said in an interview that Polish is a cool language so we shouldn't be ashamed to speak it on the streets. In fact, nobody should be ashamed of their language. I remind members of my family to stick to one language- for example, if my father says something to K. in German, I ask him to speak Polish.

But imagine that we have a guest who only speaks Dutch. So, the question arises: how should I behave? What language should I speak to my child? Here, different families have found different solutions. Some address their child in Dutch. The guests then feels included in the conversation, and the child learns to be polite and respect other cultures.

Other families- like ours- stick to their own language, but they translate for the guests what they have said to their children. This approach has advantages as well. The child sees that he has no reason to be ashamed of his culture. The guest, on the other hand feels included, but at the same time he can learn something about other cultures, and tell the family about his own. Other decide to talk to their children in their language, without translating. This is fine as well, because the child usually understands the guest and is able to talk Dutch to him. 

The truth is that most of what you do in such a situation depends on the child's age, the parents's approach to multilingualism and the guest himself, as well as many other aspects. My point was to show that there are situations in which you don't have to be consistent. Such values as hospitality or politeness are just as important as multilingualism. When I ask K. to say: „please”, „thank you”, „good morning”, „goodbye” and she has to say it to a Dutch person, she should say: „dank u vel”, not „dziękuję”. It's as simple as that.

Another thing that usually invokes negative opinions is mixing languages. I know many families who do just that. And what happens? Nothing much. The child learns that mom speaks Russian, but sometimes she speaks German.

Other parents mix languages when speaking to each other but never with their children. Won't the children be confused? They shouldn't. Multilingual children learn very quickly with whom they are allowed to mix languages. When speaking to other multilinguals, they will mix. With monolinguals- they won't. The way the children see it, the main point of having a conversation is effective communication, and in which language it happens is not important. The important thing is to make yourselves understood, and to do it fast.

Furthermore, each language has words that can't be translated into other languages. In Polish there is no word for: „Consultatiebureau”, nor is there one in English. It is a place where you take your child to have their baby well checks and vaccinations, but it means something different from just going to see a pediatrician.

How to behave then? Translate these words? Sometimes, this is possible. But sometimes, it isn't. Because in English you can say: "I am taking my child to see a doctor for a check-up",  but how about words like „gezellig”, or „Schadenfreude”, that can't be translated? But dropping a word in another language is not such a big problem, really.

K. hears songs in all three langauges she speaks, and in English on top of that. At the beginning, I said  „this is daddy's song”, or „this is a song from your daycare” and I stuck to Polish.  I have now changed my approached and sing songs in German, Dutch and English. This way K. learns that I don't find these languages strange, and it made me learn some new songs.

Sometimes, being overly consistent can be detrimental to the child's multilingualism. Just like always paying attention to what the child eats, how she walks or how she speaks, paying too much attention to multilingualism can make the child reluctant to speaking their many languages, in other word, it can totally backfire.

Being consistent is important. But, so is understanding other points of view and being flexible to adapt to new situations and challenges.
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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

I have plans...

I wrote this in November. And I do get melancholic in November. Good to see that my plans haven't changed since then. Hopefully, some of them are on their way to being realized.

Somehow I get melancholic at this time of year. On one hand, I have thousands of ideas for blog posts, and my life in general. But then I remind myself that I have children and that with children, you have other plans.Plans, like: where will they go to school? How will I keep them busy the whole day when we're all at home together? When is the next baby well check? When and where are the playgroups? And so on. 

But I have plans. Big and little plans. Some of them can be realized when you have children. Others can't. That makes me sad. Other, on the other hand, are just perfect when you have children!  So this is a little list of my plans: 

-     Make music: I am pretty musical and I can even sing a little bit. But my voice needs a lot of training, and I don't know any of the theory. I want to learn to play the keyboard. I took piano lessons when I was small, but hated my teacher, so I stopped. And now I regret it. Singing lessons wouldn't be bad, either. Oh, and sheet music which is at the moment the bane of my existence because I can't read it. And not everything can be played by ear! Also, I want to learn to read sheet music!

-       Learn a new language: I actually solved this one when I started learning Dutch. I love learning languages! But I would like to speak even more of them! For example, Russian is beautiful! I love watching Bollywood films; maybe I should learn Hindi. How about Chinese? But at the moment, I have other priorities; not to forget my Polish; continue speaking German; work on my English. And then, I really should learn some more French if I have the time. And, of course, there is always Dutch. Not easy with so many languages. Oh, and does the fact that I read a book on html count?

-     Travel: we wanted to go to New York. We actually never went on a honeymoon, what with me being very pregnant. But then I saw the two stripes on a pregnancy test again, the first sign of Julia's existence. So, New York was out of the question. But we did go other places, Spain, Malta, France, Great Britain. Not bad, either!

-       Read - have always read a lot, but it has become really difficult. But I want to read. I love to read. But now, I don't read so much as I used to, for obvious reasons. But it doesn't matter. You just can't have too many books.And I don't care what genres I am reading. I am very tolerant when it comes to books. 

-      Write- this blog and the articles I am writing for the EgoDziecka website, they're just so much fun. I want to continue writing this blog, and then write some more.

-    Cook- new recipes, new dishes, new ingredients. I am so curious about new foods out there! There are so many things I haven't tried yet. Luckily, I can buy so many nice things in the Netherlands, I am excited!  

Your plans? With or without children?
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Thursday, 5 April 2012

A totally subjective guide to restaurants in Delft

Months ago, I promised you a guide to the various good restaurants in Delft. Somehow, I wrote this guide, and then could not find it. Nevertheless, I wrote it again and here it is. There are so many interesting places you can have a delicious meal at that I decided to divide this post into two parts. I will describe restaurants in the first part, and then the next part will be dedicated to cafes and bars. Also, I was lucky to try out different restaurants in other Dutch cities, and I will write about them, too! 

Eetcafe Restaurant Roos- my personal favourite. This little gem is hidden in plain sight on the Delft Marketsquare. It serves Persian cuisine at reasonable prices. The service is extremely nice and they have a very positive attitude towards children. This restaurant is run by a Persian family who also happen to own the souvenir shop close to the restaurant. Not only do the meals taste amazing, but they look good as well. I usually go for one of the stew- type meals (like Khoreshte ghormesabzi), whereas my husband chooses something more meaty, maybe one of their meny kababs. All main dishes are served with rice, saffron rice, and a salad. We usually also order kashke bademjan, a wonderful starter of eggplant with spices, served with bread. Yummy! Don’t forget to order Persian tea and you will be delighted!

Maharani- another restaurant that I love. I love it so much that last year I celebrated my birthday there. They serve Indian food which I particularly love. The waiters know us and always greet us when we come, commenting on how much the children have grown since they last saw them. The food is delicious. No, the food is perfect. While this isn't a place we visit often because the children don’t have a lot of space to run, we always enjoy it when we do eat there. With every main dish you order, you get a vegetarian dish for free. We have tried different kinds of curries, with all types of meat and I would really recommend all we have tried. I suppose that whatever you choose will be delicious! They also have a large variety of sweet and salty lassis to choose from. Try the different breads: naans, chapatis, parathas, and more!

Popocatepetl, also known as the “Popo”. This name sends my German-speaking husband and myself into fits of laughter. No, not the full name. The short name, Popo. See, in German Popo means “bum”. But if you just forget that, the Popo is a place to remember if you want to eat out and take your kids with you. Last time we went there, the servers pampered Klara, brought her crayons to draw and took her for little walks so we could eat in peace. At the Popo, I also ate something that was not only extremely satisfying but also very easy to make at home: tortilla chips with melted cheese, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and some guacamole on the side. This, ladies and gentlemen, is perfect comfort food. After that, I started to make it at home when I really didn’t feel like making a proper dinner. Yes, it’s yummy but never as good as at the Popo.

Stromboli and San Marco are Italian restaurants and both are worth mentioning. I think I prefer Stromboli for 2 reasons: it is located directly on the Market Square in Delft, and the children can play outside while you eat. Also, the quality of the food is slightly better. San Marco, on the other hand, comes in a close second and offers a bigger choice of different types of pizza. Going to either one, you will be satisfied.

I wanted to give Fusha a excellent review, but sadly, Fusha is no more :(. Neither is Silly Thai which I included in a former version of this post. If you know good restaurants, please share them in the comments, or on my facebook page:

Stay tuned for cafes, pubs and smaller restaurants! 
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