Category: baby

L’arrivée du petit

Happy Belated New 2008

More Door Openings

I’ve added recent photos from my FlickR account to the RSS feed, so if you read me via email updates or RSS you should now get photos when I update them as well. We spent Christmas in Marrakech, and most of the recent photos were taken there.

Unfortunately, Yasmina’s grandmother Ginette – who lives in Rabat – had a series of strokes on Boxing Day (the 26th) which put a rather different perspective on our festive season. Yasmina’s aunt, who we were staying with, rushed to Rabat to be at her mother’s bedside. We had to stay because the logistics of all going to Rabat, especially with Nathan with a nasty flu infection, were not easily resolved. Our host got back to Marrakech a couple of days later, and even though we were all very tired but we went out for a day in the mountains south of Marrakech to see the ski slopes on Mount Oukaimeden.

Sadly it doesn’t look like my grandmother-in-law is improving. She’s 82 years old, so the prognosis is quite bleak. Yasmina is flying back to Morocco tomorrow, so I’ll be on my own until Saturday looking after him in the morning and at night. It will be the first time I’m all alone looking after Nathan, so wish me luck, and spare a prayer for Mamie Ginette.

Playing on the Slide

Playing on the Slide in the Park

Nathan loves the park close to home, where he can play on the slide, a rocking horse on a spring, and a sort of spinning top. Even now with the colder weather, it’s great to get out and watch him run around and climb up to the top of the slide. I thought the cold colours and his being wrapped up, along with red, yellow, green and blue (primary colours of light & paints together) made it a nice snap.

In other news, astronomy has now reached a level of precision where no less than five planets have been discovered in another solar system around 55 Cancri. One of them is in the habitable zone – a planet that could be a twin of Earth.

China have successfully launched their lunar probe and it has already successfully positioned itself to orbit the moon. A few more maneuvers are needed before it is in fully operational orbit.

I think it’s a fascinating time, with space exploration back in the news and lunar landings likely to happen in the next ten to fifteen years. Nathan might live a childhood full of awe of space and thoughts of other worlds, a bit like growing up in the sixties?

Causing Trouble with a Broom

Nathan loves brushes and brooms, especially when he gets hold of them and starts walking around. Watch as he walks around and babbles away. He gives himself a bit of a surprise at the end of the video… you can’t be too careful with a long broomstick if you’re not watching what you’re doing.

This video was filmed at the end of January this year. He can get himself into even bigger trouble now!

Market in Marrakech

Spice Stall at a Marrakech Market (Souk)

We took Nathan to Marrakech at the end of May, to see the new house that Yasmina’s Aunt & Uncle have built there. He’s been to Morocco before but this time was different because he’s 19 months old, so he runs around and is generally harder to keep up with. He’s in his new blue pushchair – the nice red Mclaren pushchair he had was stolen shortly before we left :-(.

I was last in Marrakech around 2002; I first went there in 1999. That first visit, eight years ago, was to the south of Marrakech too – the Ourika valley. Today, the road out south of Morocco to that valley is unrecognisable compared to 1999. There’s been a high level of development with new roads, housing and infrastructure. The house we visited is just off that road, in the Palmeraie region near a golf course. For part of the journey from central Marrakech you go along about 2 miles of road (the Boulevard Mohammed VI, named after the current king who has encouraged development in Marrakech – a key region for tourism) with a central strip of well cultivated and tended gardens with walkways. Even late at night you can see families walking in the gardens – even though there’s a road either side it’s quite a wide central part – and there are fountains, benches and lawns. Before, this area was just a concrete and bitumen track, waste land and a few palm trees.

The main market and central plaza – Djmaa el Fna – hasn’t changed much though. Still the same snake charmers, Gnaoua musicians, and traditional water sellers, etc. as back then, but this time they had eager children to ply their wooden snakes and toys to, so brushing them off was more of a challenge. Let’s just say it helps to be with Moroccans and to speak a bit of the language yourself. I still had to dig into my pockets to get balloons for the children though – Nathan’s cousin Mina (on the right) and two of her friends (the youngest is also pictured) from London were there and they weren’t going home empty handed.

Being back in the market – albeit briefly, since there were five adults and four children all trailing around together – was nice. You can see pictured the spice stall we stopped off at for the girls to pick up Henna (for hair colour and temporary tatoos), fresh mint (for tea) and Kohl (used for makeup).

It feels like I spent a lot of the holiday telling children off – of Moroccan and French mothers respectively – in English. There’s a swimming pool in the garden and so they needed to be told to put shoes on when they got out, to keep their heads covered, to make sure they were suntan lotioned before going out in the sun and after swimming. Since the other children there are schooled in England, I suppose English is more of a language of “authority” than the French they hear at home. Or perhaps not… but it worked.

Now I’m back, refreshed, and already after a small amount of time back at work I’m eagerly waiting for the next holiday to arrive.

Bringing up Bilingual

Nathan in a plastic box

I speak English to Nathan as much as possible, while his Mummy speaks French. Obviously, outside the house he’ll hear mostly French except for visits to anglophone friends. He’s now nearly 16 months old, and babbling away in a language which is comprehsible only to him. The more I think about it, the harder it gets to know what the best way might be to help him be bilingual.

French shouldn’t be an issue, living here. I’d love for him to hear more English though, as I don’t see enough of him to have him hear English a lot. I avoid the television, but when it’s on it’s generally in French – we only have Sky News as an English option anyway. There are a couple of children’s cartoons on old VHS tapes though, and a few baby books in English. Reading and writing (a long way off perhaps, but time does fly) will probably be best done in French in the first instance, so as not to confuse him with the English alphabet (which sounds different, though the letters are the same).

I haven’t taken the plunge and read any books on bilinguism yet, for fear of finding out just how wrong I am about things. Should I worry? Perhaps not, but it’s harder than you’d think to stick to your native tongue when your work day is mostly in French, at least when speaking. Writing email and reading English online all day is one thing, but coming home and forcing yourself to speak English when others around you don’t understand it can feel awfully rude. I lose touch with my fluency in English when speaking too… which can be very frustrating. It’s like when you’re lost for a word, and you can’t change the subject until you’ve found it. But it’s worse when you know you can express the same concept in a language which isn’t even your own!

I’ve heard stories of children rejecting the language that isn’t spoken everywhere around them, and of children who happily pick up three or more languages. In any case the effort will be worth it… the alternative would be terribly sad. One day Nathan could turn around to me and say “je ne veux pas parler anglais, papa”…

Happy Birthday Nathan!

Nathan is one today! He was spoilt with presents – a musical caterpillar, super clothes, a “little people” bus and Noah’s ark, and lots of kisses :-D.

He shares his birthday with his cousin Mina, and he had a party in Paris at his Aunt & Uncles’ place. He didn’t blow out his candle, maybe next birthday he’ll have grown up enough to understand the candle blowing ritual…

Nathan Stars on YouTube

YouTube is a community based site where anyone can upload video and share them with friends and other members of the site. Since I don’t have a whole lot of bandwidth available for this site, it’s a great way to allow you all to see video of Nathan.

October 14th will be his first birthday, so it’s a good time to see just how he’s progressed since he was born.

The video was taken with my digital camera, and then converted to a format convenient for YouTube using VirtualDub, a free tool to edit and convert video. The problem with digital cameras is that they’re generally not as good at making the most of light conditions – not having the complex electronics for shooting video like camcorders have. With VirtualDub, I can post-process the images and improve levels (lighting) and sound. Digital camera films often suffer from noise too (graininess) so I cleaned this up using a filter in the software. Since the original was at 640×480 and the YouTube version is at 320×240 I have effectively discarded 3/4 of the original information, but the quality improvement given the filters makes it easier on the eye. Let me know what you think.