Wednesday, March 24 2021

the haunce, the golden era of playtime, and dutch with famke

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Congratulations on crossing the halfway threshold of the work week. Now let's get to work having a meandering personal conversation via written text, shall we?

What a beautiful morning we have here. This lovely cool rain has been blowing through our area all week, and it has made me absolutely addicted to leaving the windows open in our house. It just feels so good to finally feel some humidity and moisture in my lungs. And it's making the house just so perfectly cozy. As I'm writing this in our living room, check out how Ziggy got herself set up.

2021 03 24 ziggy

The big comfy chair in the living room is one of her regular napping spots. This morning, I glanced over at her while I was cleaning up the kitchen. Her head was on the arm rest. She was asleep, but her eye lids were open. Her eyes rolled back into her head like a ghoul, and just the tip of her tongue was hanging out of her mouth.

Ziggy is asleep here. Ollie and Marissa are asleep upstairs. The only people awake right now are Rodney and I. From behind his cracked door, Rodney politely asked me if he could take a potty break. He prefers to ask, no matter how many times I remind Rodney that he can leave his room to go potty without explicit permission. He's kind of like Red from The Shawshank Redemption. Forty years I've been asking permission to piss. I can't squeeze a drop without say-so. Terrible thing, to live in fear. That movie quote would probably resonate with Rodney on some level.

I give Rodney credit, though. Our toilet has this little quirk where if you don't lift the handle after it flushes, the water will keep running. So whenever Rodney peed, I'd have to run upstairs to fix the handle anyway. But one day I decided to take a stab at explaining it to him.

"See this dude?" I showed him. "After you flush, can you just move the handle back up? Otherwise the water keeps running."

Rodney nodded. After that single demonstration, I never heard the toilet run again after he used it. Don't estimate what kids can adapt to, right?

Sip. How about you? Do you need to know any hacks and workarounds for using the toilet in your house? And more importantly, how did your Tuesday go?

I had a pretty busy work day. Timer, work, coffee, repeat - pretty much all day. Every now and then I'd emerge from my room to walk around and stretch my legs. In the dining room, Marissa was working at the table watching the boys play. We both stopped to observe them on the rug. Rodney was building a tower, and Miles was clacking two big LEGO bricks together.

"I love watching them play," said Marissa. "This is like the golden era of playtime."

Overlooking them was Rodney's big green dinosaur Hauncy. The Haunce. The Hauncinator. The Haunce-machine. Hauncy has become our family's mascot. He's the one member of our tribe who is above reproach and immune to teasing. Something about his thin little smile, smooth head, and big bouncy green body that gives him such a calming presence. To add to his charm, Rodney's "Hauncy voice" sounds kind of like a young Jimmy Stewart.

Yesterday Rodney made a pen for Hauncy. Those little white k'nex pieces are his cookies.

2021 03 24 haunce

Look at this absolute legend. The Huance. Just chilling in his pen, eating cookies. That green dinosaur is one magnificent bastard.

The work day rolled right into cooking dinner, which rolled right into a hockey game. The Hawks played the Panthers. We got an early lead and barely clung onto it until the final seconds of the game. Forget that the Panthers were missing their best player - Hawks win.

The game ended with twenty minutes to spare before my first real Dutch conversation. One of Marissa's Instagram friends is a native Dutch speaker, and when she heard that I was trying to learn she kindly offered to do a zoom chat with me. I didn't want to come on too strong, so I just greeted her in English. "HaAAlo, Famke," I waved. My halo was an uncertain tone stuck between Dutch and English.

"So would you like to switch to Dutch now?" she asked.

"Oh I'm not ready yet," I laughed. "Let's do some warm-up first just so I can get comfortable."

Famke agreed. We spent a few minutes just repeating phrases back and forth. I focused on the phrases that have been giving me trouble in Duolingo. It turns out that I have been saying my numbers just fine. On Famke's authority, my eenentwintig, tweentwintig, drientwintig was perfectly recognizable.

"I think you could handle a simple conversation - let's try it," she goaded.

I braced in my chair like I was on an airplane about to take off. In Dutch, Famke asked how long I had been learning, what I did for work, and what the weather was like around us. I nodded along to the words I understood, and keying off the deer in headlights look on my face, Famke Englishified the words that I missed. At some points in the conversation, she anguished to find words that were on my level.

Thanks to Famke, I learned a lot about the way I've been learning Dutch. If you were to show me a Dutch word on a flash card, I could define it, pronounce it, and give some other conjugations of it. But in a conversation, all that went out the window, and I felt as if I only had access to about a dozen words. It was challenging learning new words without seeing them spelled out on a phone screen. I felt like a child, repeating the phrases back to Famke just like they sounded to me. There were a few moments where I repeated a phrase thinking it was a totally novel word in my vocabulary, but after Famke spelled it out I realized it was just two little words I knew said together fluidly.

"So is it finding the words, or putting them together?" she asked.

"I don't know," I laughed. "I know words, but none of them are helpful. I feel like I just have airplane, woman, jail, and couch flying around in my head."

My favorite moment in the conversation was when I got a nod of approval for the way I dropped verschilliende, which means "various". "I like saying verschilliende," I chuckled. "It makes me feel very Dutch."

It was a wonderful time. I had my doubts about my readiness to try a real conversation with a native speaker, but I think "ready" and "not ready" is a poor way to frame the exercise. It's all just learning, and no matter where you are at it's always nourishing and enlightening to try.

"Als je Nederlands... spreken... jij moet graag... " I stuttered. "Uh, hoe zeg je confused?"

Famke shrugged. "What are you trying to say?"

"I was trying to say - If you are going to speak Dutch, you have to enjoy being confused," I laughed.

Check out famkeatwork on Instagram. Her stuff is awesome. Thanks for stopping by today, have a great Wednesday everyone.