Good Vibrations

Do you hate your alarm clock in the morning?  You do have an alarm clock, right? Do not tell me you are one of those people who just wake up by some natural biorhythm everyday, because honestly, I don't want to hear about it.  I am not a morning person.  Never have been, never will be.

I love the snooze button.  

I have to set my alarm early enough to allow myself to hit the snooze button at least three times.  

Yes, it seems stupid and counterproductive, but betting that I will get up the first time is a guaranteed losing bet.

Not all of the alarm clocks in my house are set to the radio, or some now quite irritating chime on my phone.  That doesn't work if you are Deaf, and since James is and still has to get up to work everyday, he has a special alarm clock.  

It vibrates.  

It looks like a regular alarm clock, but it has a small attachment that is placed under the mattress and when it goes off... well HELLO MAMA IT IS TIME TO WAKE UP!  

It also has a snooze button, so the same temptations of staying under the covers just a little longer are there.  

Which brings me to a funny story.  

Last weekend we went out of town and my mom came along.  We stayed at a friend's house who is Deaf, but was not home that weekend.  

She ended up in a bed with a vibrating alarm... that unbeknownst to us was set.... for 4:30 am.  Yikes!!  My poor mom couldn't figure out what was going on or how to shut it off... and when she thought she had it shut off... it turns out it was just the snooze button.  

Seriously... a new alarm clock, the darkness of 4:30am!  I would be grasping and hitting any button I could! Bless her heart!  Lucky she was such a good sport about it.... better than I would have been. 

So, anyone out there ready to try a vibrating alarm?


A Bilingual/Bicultural Household

My household is a Bilingual/Bicultural household.  James is Deaf and we use American Sign Language (ASL)to communicate.  I knew ASL before I met him, I was working as a sign language interpreter before we met.  Now, we have two children and it is incredibly important to us that both of our children are able to directly communicate with their father.  

I do not want to spend the rest of my life interpreting for them and we both want our children to be able to connect with their father in a personal and direct way.

While it may seem natural or an easy thing, there really is quite a bit to think about. 

First, language acquisition occurs with more than one language model present.  The more the better, actually.  But James is the only deaf person in the family.  I sign and a couple of James' family members sign as well, but not fluently.  Plus, where we live, it isn't always easy to surround ourselves with native signers.  So we try to make extra efforts to sign with the kids. 

Labeling is not the same as communicating.  Learning the signs for some nouns is a great way to begin language development, but we want more than just naming nouns, we want our children to carry on a conversation, to express emotions and feelings, to be able to ask questions (and have Daddy help with homework down the line and not just Mommy).

Children are different.  I know this seems like a lightening bolt of insight to say, but it is true.  :)  My daughter has incredible language skills.  She paid attention to what was going on even when she was int he incubator at the hospital in the NICU.  She started signing before she spoke and for quite awhile she had far more signs than spoken words.  And we loved it.  The family wanted to see her "do baby tricks" a.k.a. make her sign something.  It didn't work quite like that, if she had a purpose she would sign like crazy.  Now she has a larger spoken vocabulary than sign, but she uses both quite well.  She chooses when she wants to say something or sign something.  And she says ridiculous things sometimes that I am amazed she knows at this age.  She cracks me up.

My son, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have the propensity to language that my daughter does.  Not that he isn't intelligent, it's just that my daughter seems to have a gift in language and my son doesn't have that same level of a gift.  His strogest gifts are elsewhere.  So it has been more challenging to develop the bilingual skills in him that my daughter has and Daddy has had to work harder to communicate with our son, than with our daughter.  My son has learnd the art of pointing and of dragging or pushing Daddy in the direction he wants to convey his message.  He understands much, much more than he expresses. 

So my children are different.  One boy, one girl, maybe there are gender differences.  First child vs. second child.  Certainly I do not sign as much with the two of them when Daddy is not around because it gets a little more hectic and efficiency wins out more often than I wish.  I love each of my children dearly and would not trade them for the world, but I would be lying if I said that I devoted as much individual time to my son as I did my daughter when she was born and the only child.  It is physically impossible to do so.  All of these details are factors that effect my children, their development and their bilingual acquisition.  No matter the speed of which they acquire these skills, this will be an ongoing struggle in our home and something that we will be intentionally thinking about and changing how we do things in our home to keep that acquistion going throughout our lives. 

Being a bilingual household is something that we value, that makes us unique as a family...that makes us "us" and though we know the kids will not always see this uniqueness as a positive thing...we hope that as they grow into adulthood we help them to embrace this part of their identity.  That they are the blending of two beautiful languages, two beautiful cultures and the blending of two people who love them more than life itself. 

How I Learned American Sign Language

When I was in elementary school, my aunt took a Signed Exact English (S.E.E.) 
class in college and I was fascinated by it.  I thought this was sign language. 
(In a later post, I plan to explain some of the the differences between ASL and SEE) I would borrow her bright yellow dictionary and teach myself signs.  
It wasn't the best hobby since I didn't really have anyone to practice with,
basically I was talking to myself... which I guess worked out since I actually do 
talk to myself quite a bit.  It's how I process things.... but, I digress. All to say 
that this was an on again, off again interest for me, until I was in high school.  As I pondered what my future career would be, interests that I had, where to 
go to college, etc., I realized that I was still drawn to sign language and wanted to pursue a field that required learning to talk with my hands. 
I found a local community class that was offered and loved it.  It felt like it 
just fit.  I have always "talked" with my hands, but now they were finally saying something!  I was eager to start learning as much as I could.  I found a couple of volunteer opportunities and jumped in feet first.  Once I found out there
was a career in interpreting, I knew that was what I wanted to do. It took 
some searching, but I found a few colleges with Interpreter Training Programs and set off to pursue my goals.  
There are many complexities about "sign language" that I plan to discuss more in future posts, but the bottom line is that learning ASL is learning a foreign 
language and requires the commitment and time required to learn as much as any other spoken language such as Spanish or German.  I spent many hours, 
practicing, studying, volunteering, and spending time in the community to be with native ASL users. 
It has taken years, many mistakes and hard work to be the language user that I am.  I am still a second-language user, not a native user.  That means that I will always be learning new things about American Sign Language as a 
language and how to use in in native-like ways. I love the beauty of this 
three-dimensional language.  I love how it becomes a picture in the air that 
looks like art or poetry in it's most perfect forms. 
Becoming bilingual has not always been an easy rode.  There are days I have 
been down on myself, there are days that I have questioned myself, 
but it has also provided a richness to my life that I wouldn't trade for the 
world.  Looking at another language requires looking at another culture, 
and looking at another culture requires a broadening of mind and ideas.  It has 
allowed me to see life in a different perspective and to look at my own culture and discover more about me.  For me, being bilingual is a journey in 


31 Days a New Adventure for Me

My first attempt at 31 days:

My life...it's pretty crazy sometimes. 

I know... so what... who isn't... just sometimes my crazy might come in a little different forms. 

My house is a bilingual house.

My husband is Deaf.

Our children are hearing.

We use American Sign Language (ASL) in our house.

We do things a little differently.

Life presents different opportunities for us.

Life presents different challenges for us. 

My plan is to share those opportunities and challenges with you in a series I am calling: 

Signs of Home