Friday, March 02, 2007

Mad Chopstick Skillz

Last night, our Vietnamese friends, the T~ family, invited us over for Chicken Pho. My sister's family was also invited, so, there were 5 children from my sister's family, my two children, and the child of the T~ family, so, eight children all together.

Most of the kids ate pizza, rather than Pho, except for Lana and my sister's older daughters. The kids were all eating in the kitchen and the adults were eating in the dining room. I walked into the kitchen to check on Lana and Gabe, when I heard the most hysterical thing come out of my 12-year-old niece's mouth. "Hey, Aunt Gretchen, check out my mad chopsticking skillz!"

This sent me into a fit of giggles. My niece, for one, is extremely tiny for 12. (She was born 10 weeks prematurely, and her height has never really caught up, so she is only a bit taller than Gabriel). She's thin and petite, so, to see her being "gangster" with her bowl of Vietnamese noodles the size of her head, it was just...too...funny.

She actually is impressively adroit with her chopsticks. So, perhaps it is okay to say that she does, in fact, have mad chopsticking skillz. :-)

Once again, Lana was in heaven with the Vietnamese food, but, refused to speak to the T~ family. She was so shy that she actually WHISPERED to me in Vietnamese and English. HONESTLY! The one time when she could really get her point across and she was not going to let anyone who might understand her hear what she had to say.

One of our friends did tell me that she was contributing to the children's conversation upstairs. She said the kids were talking about school, and Lana piped up and said, in Vietnamese, "I go to school!" We were impressed that she understood what the conversation was about, even if she wasn't ready to really to speak in English, that she is understanding so much.

By the end of the evening, she was responding to questions to her in Vietnamese by shaking her head or nodding her head. (Considering that one of the questions was "do you want a cup of Coca-cola?" I'm not surprised.)

It was a lovely evening and delicious food, but, here is a friendly piece of advice - Don't drink a big glass of iced Vietnamese coffee at 8:30 at night. You will be up FOREVER.
Changing gears here...

Lana threw me for a loop on Tuesday with her use of the word "Brother."

She was home from school (still sick from the fiasco that sent us to the hospital on Sunday). We were looking at pictures and trying to decide which pictures to put in collage-type frame, when she picked up a picture of Gabriel and said, "Ga-bri-el!" And I said, "yes, that's your brother, Gabriel."

"Brother!" she said, happily, pointing at other photos of Gabe and saying, "Brother! Brother! Brother!" I was proud of her for learning a new English word and I gave her a "high five". (She high fives everyone right now. EVERYONE. She tried to high five the check-out girl at the grocery the other day.)

Then, all of the sudden, she dug threw a stack of pictures from our trip to Vietnam, until she came to a photo of several children at the orphanage. She pointed to a child named S~, the child who had been fostered in the same foster home as her, and, in all seriousness, looked at me and said his name in Vietnamese and then said, "Brother."

I looked at her completely stunned. "Brother," she said again, pointing at S~. "Brother mo? Brother mo?" She took my face in her hands and said it again, "Brother mo?"

"Mo" means "where" in Vietnamese.


I felt like someone had poored ice water down my spine. It has been weeks since she said S~'s name (admittedly, she did ask about him in Vietnam, and on one occasion vomited when he and his new parents got out of the agency's van to go to their hotel.)

I would venture a guess that she has not mentioned S~ since we left Vietnam, but, it was clear, Tuesday, that his absence was weighing on her. Where is my brother? Where is my brother?

It is at moments like those, it occurs to me how much this child has lost. And I do not have the ability to tell her, "S~ is with his new family in Chicago" because "Chicago" means nothing to her. Ultimately, I pulled out a photo of S~'s parents and I said, "S~ co Mommy" and "S~ co Daddy". *

She looked at the photos of S~ new parents (thank God I have pictures of them at least) for a second and shook her head. Then she picked up a different photo of Gabriel and she hasn't brought up S~ since. I don't honestly know what to think about the whole conversation, except that it makes me sad to think she has been wondering what happened to her foster brother, and it never occured to me to tell her where he had gone.


*I believe that "co" is a possessive marker in Vietnamese, based on Lana's speech - i.e. if she picks up her socks or her shoes, she says, 'Lana co sock" or "Lana co shoe". Even though she refers to herself as Lana, and uses the correct English word for shoe and sock, she hasn't discovered the "'s" that word mark those items as "hers" i.e. Lana's sock, Lana's shoe.


Blogger S. said...

Your niece sounds adorable with the chopsticks~how great you have Vietnamese friends in your area...we really need to move to the big city.

Lana's English seems to coming along well. My heart goes out to both of you for what she has lost, but she has gained a brother for forever in Gabriel.

Friday, March 02, 2007 3:22:00 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

So many things Lana is learning... It's good she was able to ask you about her foster brother before he becomes a distant sad memory. Maybe someday your two families could get together? I think it would be so great for Zeeb to have a VN connection like that.

ps... I'm back on Blogger, for now.

Friday, March 02, 2007 3:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Mom2One said...

Awwwww. Are you far from Chicago? It would be great if she and her foster brother could see each other from time to time.

I'm new to your blog, but Lana sounds like a sweetheart. <3

Saturday, March 03, 2007 7:28:00 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Even if Lana does not want to converse with your Vietnamese friends, I think it's really wonderful that she has a connection with her first language. She will eventually appreciate that...although she probably already does, she's just not ready to embrace it quite yet.

Saturday, March 03, 2007 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can you take her to Chicago, and include her first brother in your family in some way? then she would not have lost this brother...

Saturday, March 03, 2007 2:25:00 PM  
Blogger Perpetual Procrastinator said...

Everyone should have mad chopsticking skillz.

It seems Lana is picking up at least the ability to understand spoke English quite quickly! It's just a matter of time before she'll be chattering away with you. Just make sure she learns all the Canadian words in that book I sent, eh? lol...

Sunday, March 04, 2007 3:08:00 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Poor Peanut, wonder how long she has been wondering about her foster brother's whereabouts? I think it is a big step forward for her to not only grasp the concept of the English word "brother" but to ask you where her foster brother is....(I think I just ended a sentence with a proposition...and if I wasn't so lazy I would rephrase the question, but I am only on my first cup of coffee will have to forgive my caffiene deprived brain)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"co" means "to have", so she's saying lana has her socks, lana has her shoes, etc. Also, "anh", which translates to english as brother, could also be used to address any older male within a certain age range older than the speaker.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007 12:31:00 AM  

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