How we bilingual: Part 3

Over the next bit of time, I will be sharing specific blog posts and bloggers who have helped validate what I am already doing or that have great ideas that we will be incorporating it into our great bilingual family experiment! Check out previous posts below:

Things I wish I Knew before… offers a blog post with three key lessons on raising bilingual. Some lessons overlap Fake Flamenco’s Five tips, and I love the resources she provides: a website, Multilingual Parenting, and articles on the benefits of raising bilingually. Below are I Wish I Knew’s three key lessons and my take-aways:

Be persistent and consistent. Over at I Wish I Knew, they practice One Parent One Language (OPOL). It’s exactly what it says: one parent speaks one language and the other parent speaks another. This method seemed the best for us, although we did not start off right away.

Why? Because I was hesitant at feeling rude toward or excluding others if I did this (My sister and I used to do this all the time when we wanted to exclude our parents from conversation). Chouchou and I had the shortest conversation ever about it, and he basically gave me carte blanche (the go ahead to do as I please) so that MC learns French.

That was a big weight lifted, and we started at once with the OPOL. I Wish I Knew warned at the awkwardness of this, and I concur – it was uncomfortable transitioning into speaking French only with Mon Cœur (MC), but we have made a habit of it, and the people we encounter in our daily lives have come to understand me as that crazy American lady who insists on speaking French to her kid. Oui, c’est moi (yes, that’s me). Smile.

There are times however when I switch into English, and of course, if MC gives me a book in English to read, I read that in English to her. Overall, though I speak to her in French and in order to stay consistent, we begin with French as soon as we wake up in the morning.

Relax your expectations – There were many points that were made about relaxing expectations. Some expectations were never even in my realm of thought, such as expectations of perfection of the language grammar and pronunciation (perhaps because I know my grammar and pronunciation are less than perfect!). The points which really resounded with me were:

Don’t think that your mastery of the language is necessary – I did worry at first since my grammar is less than perfect – did I use the subjunctive appropriately just then? Wait, should I be using the plus-que-parfait or imparfait? Any other question involving tenses of verbs or combinations of tenses, it’s popped into my mind and I’ve worried about teaching MC something wrong.

Instead of worrying about doing it all wrong, I’ve considered this an opportunity. I am learning more about the language through new vocabulary daily as I find gaps, and revisiting grammar points as I realize I need a refresher.

Don’t feel like everything you say to them has to be in that language. Let’s be honest. English is my first language – it’s more natural and the thought process is more fluid if I speak to MC in English. Inevitably there will be some switching from French to English. There are words that I don’t know in French, and I’ve begun making lists around the house of words to look up later, so I can use them next time. Words I looked up today? Panda bear (un panda), polar bear (un ours polaire), elf (un lutin). Apparently, I already knew two of the three words in French, I just didn’t know I knew them.

Don’t require that every word has to be in your language. In other words, it’s okay if your child doesn’t speak 100% in your language. MC rarely answers me in French, she mostly answers me in English. However I know she understands, and for right now, that’s enough for me. She will “parrot” like my level one ELs in school would – I provide a simple phrase, and she repeats it. For example, I tell her every morning, every evening, and every time I leave her Je t’aime (I love you) and she will repeat back to me t’aime (love you).

Talk a lot and repeat yourself. I Wish I Knew’s last lesson is one I have to keep reminding myself. Sometimes in the morning, I enjoy the quiet drive. It’s nice and calm. I hate to talk just to talk, and the introvert in me keeps me quiet most times. So I have to remind myself to talk a lot – I try to describe what I’m doing, talk about what we are going to do that day, point out things I see (the moon, a horse, a school bus, etc) and when all else fails, I turn the radio on and sing along.

Are you raising bilingually, too? What are some lessons you’ve learned? Share them in the comments section!


On being strong…

Everybody keeps telling me that I am strong. I don’t feel it, especially right now. When somebody tells me that, I can’t help but feel like an imposter. It’s not me, I’m not strong.

I just don’t see any other option other than getting out of bed every day, and trying to be productive. It’s a part of the way I was raised. Sometimes I would feel sick in the mornings before school. I’d say, “Mohhhm, I’m sick.” I’d make sure to sound really pathetic, too. Mom never skipped a beat. She’d say, “Erin, you have to get up. Get up and ready and you’ll start feeling better.” Along the lines of the saying, “Get up, dress up, show up, never give up.”

Most of the time I would feel better, because I would stop marinating in those icky sick feelings. I’d get up and life would be a distraction from those bleh feelings. I try to do that now, too, and most of the time it works… Sometimes I find myself wallowing in self-pity though, and I have to stop it. I have to remind myself – get up, dress up, show up, never give up.

I don’t feel strong, especially right now. Why especially right now?

It’s the holiday season – everything is merry and bright.

We are too, when we watch Mon Cœur (MC) experience the season. This year it’s been a lot of fun watching her help decorate the Christmas tree, sing along with songs, and dance to the music. She jingles the bell ornaments on the tree, demands Frosty the Snowman to play on the radio, and picks Christmas vinyls to pop in. She has helped send Christmas cards out, decorate cookies, and wrap gifts. Seeing the joy and happiness in her eyes makes my heart swell.

And then, flick of a switch, I remember what should be. I go to get the Christmas tree out of the closet and I see the swing, broken down into pieces, the one we had set up in the corner in anticipation of Millie’s homecoming. Or I see a child that is about the age Millie would be – seven months this December. And here begins the slide. I have to grab hold of something, someone, some thought and try to pull myself out. I try to be grateful for what I have. Sometimes I catch myself, and sometimes I slide.

I am finally realizing how little control I have.

I am a Type A, “I’ve got a plan and solution for everything” person. I like being in control, and I can’t stand to not have power over what I am doing. That’s why the stillbirth continues to rock me so much- we were totally prepared for everything except for what really happened. Not only did we lose our daughter, I realized I had no control. Even so, I sometimes still find myself focusing on the what if’s and how I think I could have controlled it. But it’s done. There’s no changing history. All we can do is look forward to another pregnancy and a different, happier outcome.

Even in the wake of realizing what was happening, we were mentally planning another pregnancy. We knew we would try again, we wanted to bounce back and not let this get us down.

Now that we are, I am playing a monthly numbers game – entering data and making sure that we are taking every opportunity. Despite these efforts, we are unable to control our destiny. Every month I wonder…will we or won’t we be? And even though we’ve only just started, I feel this despair every month when I realize that we were unsuccessful.

My body (and heart and mind) continue to be in flux.

Although I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight, my body is not the same shape it once was. I haven’t made a large effort either. Since we are trying again, it doesn’t make too much sense to me to work on toning up.

I continue to look down at my belly and it reminds me of about the 15-18 week one I once had. It’s strange to feel almost a shame for the shape that my current body holds. When I was pregnant with MC and Millie, and even post pregnancy with MC, I felt a pride and beauty in this same shape. I had accomplished something. Now I see it and I am reminded of failure.

I know that as soon as I stop trying to be in control, I’ll stop stressing, and then everything will fall into place. It’s easier said than done, though. All around me life continues to move on, and sometimes I can’t help but feel that I am stuck in neutral.

As life goes on, those who had births around the same time I delivered Millie, their babies are turning six, seven, eight months old now. I see pictures each month of them with a new numerical sticker or I get the chance to visit with and hold them. I can’t help but wonder what Millie would look like now, what milestones she would be accomplishing, or the foods she would be trying and how she would react to them.

We have friends and family who are expecting again. I am happy for them all, and despite my joy for them, it is difficult to outwardly express that joy. Or to express that joy without feeling a little sadness for our situation. I know the anticipation and happiness that we felt up until the last moment. I know the joy of people’s voices when we talked about what was to come, and the happiness in their voices when they answered their phones before I gave the bad news.

In writing all of this out, I’ve been able to sort some thoughts and come up with the following mantra: You do you. Don’t compare – just do your best. Be proud of everything you’ve accomplished. If I continue to remember this and to be grateful for what I have, perhaps I can bring my stress level down and perhaps move out of neutral.

I’ll leave you with the quote below, which I always had displayed in my classroom and which I carry in my heart.

The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.

–Phil Jackson

In the end, I’ve realized: I am strong thanks to my team. I am so blessed by my team that keeps me going. I am surrounded by the strength of many which gives me the courage and tenacity to face each new day.

What makes you strong?


This past week Mon Cœur and I stepped back into our old-normal and I have lots to be thankful for. Looking back through my planner, I am so grateful for:

  • Time taken for self care and a little pampering at the hair salon, with MC on my lap. MC was her exceptionally lovely self and snuggled in my lap while I got my hair cut. The ladies spoiled her and my stylist was so very patient while MC wriggled as she was trying to cut my hair.
  • Meeting up with friends at the library and catching up. Getting some baby snug time in with their eight month old. Reading books and playing in the children’s area with MC and Chouchou. Finding a fabulous book that would help MC understand the concept of bowling before we went birthday bowling.
  • Getting old friends together to celebrate Chouchou’s birthday at the bowling alley.
  • Mon Cœur for her unrelenting curiosity, energy, and love. I can’t help but smile when she puts a record on and starts to dance.
  • My Chouchou for always being there and helping. For his optimism when I need it most.
  • My maman (mom) for always being a shoulder to lean on and for helping me see the positives in things.
  • For colleagues past and present who have reached out. They have allowed me to see the contributions I’ve made, even when I was too wrapped up in the moment to see it myself.

Trying to stay grateful so that we don’t marinade in the “what should be.” That’s just how we’ve got to roll.

How we bilingual: Part 2

Over the next bit of time (notice the indefinite quantity of time – there are so many quality bilingual bloggers out there), I will be sharing specific blog posts and bloggers who have helped validate what I am already doing or that have great ideas that we will be incorporating it into our great bilingual family experiment! Check out previous posts below:

Five tips for raising bilingual: Fake Flamenco’s post I enjoy reading Rebecca’s posts – they are witty and informed, and always teach me something. Her Five tips post encouraged me to commit and find a routine and rhythm that works for me.


I just have to do it, stick with it, and forgive myself the silly grammar mistakes that I will make. And commit to continuing my language learning by looking up new words that never existed in my vocabulary before this bilingual adventure. New words this week: Christmas wreath (une couronne de Noël), reindeer (un renne), and jingle bell (une clochette).

Start early. 

I began speaking with MC exclusively in French when it was just us, while I was in my third trimester with Millie. I thought that was the best time, as Millie would hear in utero, and of course MC would still be soaking up the language. At first I was worried to exclude my Chouchou when speaking French to MC in front of him, so we spoke it only when it was just us. Then we had our life crumble before us and I reverted into English only and survival mode. Now we are back on track with MC at only 2 years old. She is absorbing the language, and I can already see the rewards in speaking French to her again. Even when she responds in English instead of French, she shows me she understands. Every night at dinner I ask her « Tu veux du lait ou de l’eau ? » (Do you want milk or water?), to which she always responds, “Milk, please.” I sometimes have to remind her to say please, so I’ll simply say « S’il te plaît. » and she will repeat in English, “Please.” I say bisou (kiss) and she puckers up!

Make a routine. 

I have made a conscious decision to speak with MC starting from the time she gets up until she goes to bed. I still have to switch to English sometimes for certain words or to clarify, but the majority is in French. If I don’t start first thing, I tend to not keep up with it. It all starts with a « Bonjour Mon Cœur.  Tu as bien dormi ? » (Good morning my heart, did you sleep well?). I have slightly modified this approach, when we aren’t just conversing or playing, and when I am truly trying to get MC to do something, I have been speaking in English so that she understands, and so that I don’t stumble on my French. The English flows more naturally, giving me more authority over a situation – she knows I’m being serious.

Create Community. 

We connected with a friend who runs a bilingual daycare and I began volunteering there, so MC had a place to go speak French with other students. We stay in touch with friends and colleagues near and far who love to video call and talk to MC. I attended an open house at the Alliance Française with MC, and need to join, as they have great events and an awesome resource room. She’s a little young yet for the classes they do for kids, but we could both benefit by accessing the wonderful books, games and activities they have available to members in their offices. At story time I found other parents who spoke a heritage language with their kids. Other world language/ESOL colleagues offer their experiences and insight into raising their children bilingually. My community is a mix of people I can connect with and discuss raising bilingual as well as opportunities for MC to play with other kids who speak French.


Right now, MC’s favorite thing to do is sing and that’s been a great entertainer in the car. We’ve sung bilingual versions of the ABCs and Old MacDonald (Dans la ferme de Mathurin) as well as comptines and other chansons. Other favorites are equally easy to incorporate French conversation, such as art and talking about what we are making; nature walks and talking about what we see; and playing matching games and thinking out loud to find matches.


It’s been proven that being grateful helps cultivate happiness. I have tried to continue being grateful and although I will mention my gratitude for things here and there, with the onset of the holiday season it has been difficult to keep positive all day, every day. Sometimes it’s hard to remember one thing that makes my heart sing, that makes me happy or thankful in a day. And I know that’s on me, because there are plenty of things that happen in a day, I’m just not taking the time to express my thanks and happiness.

Everything that I had planned- Christmas photo cards with our family, Millie’s first Christmas, decorating the tree as a family of four- none of these are happening as planned. This time last year we were sharing the good news of Millie. Now we are navigating our first holiday without her.

We decorated the tree the other night and while we kept a smile for MC, Chouchou and I both expressed our sorrow for what is not. MC caught us in a teary conversation at one point, to which she promptly sat in Choucou’s lap, touched her hand to his cheek and in all seriousness and caring said, “You not feel well? You miss Millie?”

Chouchou and I have discussed our feelings about grief at the holiday season. He doesn’t want to be melancholy every Christmas season. I agree. But, I told him, this is our first holiday season since our stillbirth, and we have to allow ourselves the space and time to grieve. We just have to watch ourselves and not allow it to consume us.

Sometimes I feel like it does, like I get stuck in this cycle and can’t find the exit sign…I miss Millie and that makes me sad, and then I get incredibly upset that there are things in this world that I am simply not in control of. I have to learn to let it go, and that is extremely hard for me to do.

We took our Christmas photo yesterday morning and for the love of mistletoe, I couldn’t get all of us to smile at the same time. Well, genuinely smile. Chouchou and I went back and forth whether to write a letter or not and then how to sign it. We finally decided to just sign it with our family name and no letter.

For all of those things that make me feel helpless, sad, and upset, there are many things for which to be grateful:

  • Unseasonably warm days
  • Changes of pace
  • Family – for their love, patience, and honesty
  • Friends – for their love and patience
  • Christmas cards from near and far reminding us we are loved
  • Texts from those near and far who are thinking of us at this time of year