Feeding the Ducks: British and Brazilian Culture

duck life

Mummy and daddy ducks (katdaned)

What do you do with a toddler on an afternoon when you have got nothing planned, but your pride and joy is going stir crazy in the house?  The weather probably isn’t good enough to slap on shorts and T-shirts and just play outside in the garden, but it isn’t absolutely tipping it down or below zero either.

In the UK the answer is pretty easy: get some stale bread and go and feed the ducks at the local pond.  And it isn’t just ducks, but also geese and swans who just love the taste of stale bread.

It was one of the great pleasures of our recent trip back home, and one we indulged in quite a bit.  Our son, Mr. T, not only had a whale of a time with the ducks, he also found muddy puddles to fall over in, sticks to walk with, stones to throw in streams and, on one special occasion, even a few fairground rides to play on.

We were happy because an hour or two outside calms everyone down and helps to burn off some of that excess energy every two-year-old has and so make sleep a bit easier in the evening.  Apart from having some bread to hand, it didn’t require any forward planning and there is almost nothing quite like watching a child gain enormous pleasure from jumping up and down in a muddy puddle.

Luckily, Mr T is still too young to wonder what the male and female ducks were getting up to as they made all that noise in the bushes, but it brought a smile to my face.

For us, there was also a whole host of language learning opportunities.  This was where Mr. T learned to shout out ‘Muddy puddle!’ tell the ducks to ‘Stay in the water!’  and practise some imperatives as he ordered his nana to follow him wherever he wanted to go.

Gaggle of ducks, waiting for bread.

No gaggles of ducks in Brazil (Wikipedia)


But now we are back in Brazil and, unfortunately, there just isn’t the same culture of going to the park and feeding the ducks.  There are a few parks near us with water birds, but I have never seen anyone bringing their own bread, so I don’t feel right doing it.

Maybe people don’t feed ducks here because it is bad for their diet.  Or perhaps the ducks wouldn’t eat the bread because they wouldn’t have a clue what we were doing.   Or is there a possibility that it could upset some precarious ecosystem between the ducks and who knows what?  Or is it just the fact that they have different water birds down here?

Whatever the reason, feeding the ducks is something that both my son and I are missing.  But then again, it is just another reason to plan the next trip back to Birmingham.


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Music Is Our Religion: 8 Great Songs to Play to a Toddler

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix  by Luiz Fernando Reis CC BY 2.0

The great Jimi Hendrix is widely quoted as saying that ‘music is my religion’ and it could quite easily apply to our family as well.  Despite not being able to play an instrument or hold a note, I have always loved music.  My wife is considerably more talented than me, which isn’t saying much, and we have both sought to use music with our son right from a very young age.

Now that Mr. T is 2 ½ it seems he has developed his own musical tastes and is very happy to sing his songs on the toilet, in the supermarket or in the car.  Unfortunately, he seems to have inherited his both his father’s enthusiasm for music as well as his lack of talent, but that never stopped me so why should it stop him?

Here, then, is the Top 8 (it was originally 5, but since I decided to write this his choice has expanded) of Mr. T’s favourite songs that he knows how to sing/shout at least part of.  There is no Jimi Hendrix yet, but just give me some time and I’ll sort that one out.

1 – Hello Goodbye by The Beatles

This started a while ago when we were teaching him how to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.  The tune just popped into my head and I started singing it to him.  He quickly repeated me and so I went to find it on youtube.  When Mr. T watches it now he waves ant John and Paul when they wave to him.  It is by far his favourite song and when we are in the car he will often demand that we play it.

When we were in the UK my mother took Mr. T to the supermarket.  All the way around the supermarket he just sang various bits of the song at the top of his voice.  Apparently, even the most disgruntled of shoppers had a smile on their faces as they went by.

2 – Yellow Submarine by The Beatles

We have a series of books called Amazing Machines by Tony Mitton.  One of the books is called Super Submarines, and of course the submarine in question is yellow.  After about the 50th reading of this book I grew so bored I just sang the song as I turned the pages, and it was a great hit.

When I got the video on youtube I discovered that it could almost have been designed for kids.  The illustrations are so vivid with lots of fish and other creatures swimming in front of the screen that Mr. T delights in counting and naming everything that he sees.

It has also lead to a bit of creativity on Mr. T’s part as he is no longer content to just sing ‘We all live in a yellow submarine,’  apparently, I live in blue submarine, his mother lives in a pink submarine and his doe doe (granddad) and nana live in a green submarine.

3 – Blitzkreig Pop by The Ramones

The affection for this song was born at the beach during the summer.  We were getting ready to leave the house and I just blurted out ‘Hey ho, let’s go’.  The walk to the beach consisted of the whole family just repeating this refrain ad nauseam.  I still haven’t been able to correct his pronunciation of ‘Ramones’ yet, but it will happen one day.

4 – Paradise City by Guns ‘n’ Roses

On our last trip to the UK I was in the car with my mother and Mr. T in the back.  I was talking about something or other with my mum and, at the same time, Paradise City was playing on the radio.  To be honest, I wasn’t paying any attention to Mr. T and very little to the song, when all of a sudden a little voice popped up from the back seat singing ‘Take me home’ and I realised he was enjoying the song.  One of the few examples of him finding his own music rather than being introduced to it, and it shows impeccably good taste.

5 – What Does a Fox Say? By Ylvis

I can’t figure out if this is a brilliant parody of modern music, or itself an example of how crap a lot of stuff is.  I am siding with the last interpretation, but my son would probably say it is the height of excellence.  I showed him the video when it first came out and he didn’t seem to be that interested, but recently he will just randomly shout out ‘What a fox say?’ for no apparent reason.

6 – Happy by Pharell Williams

Ok, so this song has been almost everywhere in the last few months, so much so that it was starting to get slightly annoying.  That was until Mr. T heard it one day and just started to sing the word ‘Happy!’ over and over again.  Even better is that he seems to mean it as well as he always has a huge grin on his face as he sings it.  I can’t help but smile now whenever I hear it.

7 – Love Me Do by The Beatles

It would seem that Mr. T is growing up to be a big Beatles fan.  I was saying ‘I love you’ one night as he was going to and he repeated after me.  I said it again, and so did he.  I realised at the time that he was probably doing it just to be able to stay awake an extra few minutes, but this was one occasion when I didn’t mind.  After a few repetitions of ‘I love you’ I started singing ‘Love Me DO’ but it didn’t get much of a reaction.  A few days later I found the song on youtube and now he will start singing the chorus whenever anybody says they love him.

8 – One More Time by Daft Punk

Mr T’s catchphrase over the past couple of months has been ‘one more’.  If he wants to watch more Peppa Pig, he’ll look at you with the cutest face ever, hold up one finger and say in a very determined voice that would almost truck no disagreement, ‘One more, ok daddy!?’  The first few times I actually fell for this ploy as I thought he really only wanted more, but I think you can probably guess what happened after that one more.  So the other week I found this on my iPod and played it for him.  He was a bit confused to start with, and then he heard the refrain ‘one more time’ and loved it.  He tries to sing the rest of the chorus as well, but he slightly mangles the words.


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Where Do You Come From?

Multicultural Kids Blogs

It is with great pleasure that I am the host of this month’s Multicultural Kids Blogs Carnival.  The theme this month is ‘Where do you come from?’ which can be a tricky question for lots of people to answer in this modern world.  But as many brighter people than me have said, how can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been?

When I decided on this topic, I had no idea what sort of replies I would get, but I was sure there would be a wide variety.  My own contribution comes at the end, along with two others, in a poem.  I also had posts that are primarily photographic, posts that identify a particular place and others that are far more vague about a geographical home.  Then there are others that see home in the languages they speak, or the mix of races and cultures that they come from.

But the first post, ‘Is “Where Are You From” A Relevant Question?‘ comes from Kampuchea Crossings and questions the who validity of the question in the first place, and some of the loaded assumptions that come with it.


In ‘Where Are You From?  A Loaded Question‘ we hear about why it is so hard for Pragmatic Mom to give an easy answer.  Her post is worth checking out if only for some of the great photos.

Trilingual Mama provides a vivid description of her childhood in a Latin American family living in the USA.  She then goes on to look out how the addition of a husband from yet another culture has affected her children.  ‘Watered Down Hispanics‘ is a wonderful post with some brilliant family photos.

Family in Finland has a post from the eyes of her 4-year-old daughter about how she feels calling Finland her home for the last 4 months in ‘My Name Is Malika Afif-Watt.  Where Am I From?‘  There are some great photos in this collection, often involving lots of snow!

Mater Cars 2

Ain’t no need to watch where I’m going, just need to know where I’ve been.’

(All around) The Americas

Rio de Janeiro is the home of the upcoming World Cup final and Olympics and has a reputation for being a wonderful and happy city.  Although, as A Path of Light points out, in Happiness as Priority, being happy isn’t necessarily a good thing.

The Tiger Tales hails from another country famous for its happiness and music, but there is a lot more to Trinidad and Tobago than just ‘calypso, the steel pan and limbo’ as we find out in ‘#Sweet TnT: the country of my birth.’

Another story about a bewildering family tree comes from Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes.  She embraces the questions, and the random guesses, from various people as a way to take in pride in who she is and pass this on to her son in ‘Are You Native American, Mexican or Indian?

(More or less) Europe

The European Mama has two answers to the question: a short one and a long one.  The long answer is complicated, but much more interesting and offers insights into her identity and that or her family in ‘I’m From Europe.  Where Are You From?

A post from Multilingual Parenting goes right to the heart of the matter by asking, and answering the question ‘Bilingual! Bicultural! Do You Know Where I Am Coming From?‘  In seeking to answer the question for herself, she shows how the answer can change quite dramatically over time.

The Piri-Piri Lexicon wonders aloud about her own sense of belonging, and also about how her kids are going to answer the question ‘Where Are You From?

Happy Muslim Mama has obviously done a lot of thinking on this very subject with three posts all dealing with her ideas: ‘Five Brothers from the Land of Five Rivers‘, ‘Identity, Language and Going Back Home‘ and finally ‘Roots and Branches – a British Punjabi Genealogy‘.

Homeschool Ways is very proud of her country of birth and in her post ‘Where Am I From? Romania‘ she gives us a a quick run down on language, technology and a burning desire to be in the news.

Where are you from?None of the Above

Ay yo, Be a Father still has a while to go before directly addressing the question of where his son comes from, but has already found that, with the help of reading, they are on the right lines in his post ‘Which Box Will He Check?

Instead of being from one particular place, one answer to the question might be that you come from every place, or in other words, you are a global citizen.  All Done Monkey considers this possible answer and what implications it might have for children in ‘What Is a Global Citizen?

Expat Since Birth finds it impossible to say where, geographically, she is from.  Instead, she finds it much easier to think about the languages she speaks and she wrote in her very first post called ‘My Home Are My Languages.’


An Irish Eco Dude In Brazil doesn’t give us any definite answers, but his evocative poem seems to suggest that is the ‘Journeys‘ we are on to find the answers that are as important as the answers themselves.

To almost finish we have two great minds which think alike because they have written poems inspired by George Ella Lyon.  First of all is Mother Tongues Blog with ‘I Am From‘ and then my own version called ‘Where I’m From.

And finally, La Cité des Vents offers us a round-up, if not a conclusion, to our quest to find out ‘Where Are You From?


You can find much more information about Multicultural Kid Blogs, including past and present blogging carnivals by going to their site and having a mooch around.  There are great articles on a variety of subjects, as well as what promises to be an excellent series of posts on the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil and its effects on children.


And I leave you with a bit of  Elvis Presley singing ‘Where Do You Come From?’


Where I’m From

028-13 WMPTE 380Y CRW380C

I ‘drove’ one of these when I was a kid

Last week I went to João Pessoa in the north-east of Brazil for the Braz Tesol conference.  It is a conference that draws together English language teachers from all over Brazil, as well as attracting people from different parts of the world.

One of the best plenaries that I went to was given by J.J. Wilson on the subject of teacher development.  One of the activities we did was called ‘Where I’m from’ with the intention of showing that our origins can have a profound effect on our teaching, training and everything else we do in life.

I loved the activity so much because in such a short time I was able to articulate some of the major influences in my life.  And so, instead of leaving it gather dust in some forgotten notepad that I know I’ll never pick up again, I thought I’d share it here.

Where I’m From

I am from parks, mud and bi-polar trees

I am from cobs, bostin, and the outdoor

I am from paper rounds, dog walks and 3-hour bus rides

I am from the Bull Ring with its Rotunda, treks around the Lickeys and lost sporting causes

I am from Cadbury’s and Ansell’s and fading memories of Leyland.

I am from rain, mist, wind, radiators and ice inside windows.

I am from unliked tea, cottage pie, chips and vinegar and red sauce.

I am from the bog, a huge kitchen table, badly-understood locals, a range and even more rain.

I am from books, education, paper rounds, politics and strong women.


J.J. Wilson was inspired to create this class from an original poem by George Ella Lyon,  You can find the poem here or listen to her reading the poem below taken from youtube (from 45 seconds).  Also on youtube, there are countless variations on the theme as many other people have sought to write their own poems about where they are from.

This post is my part of the Multicultural Kids Blogging Carnival for the month of May.  It is my pleasure to host the blog this month and it will be live on this blog from Thursday, May 15th.  For more information on this carnival, all the other carnivals and lots more about raising multicultural kids click on the image below.

Multicultural Kids Blogs

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Hitting the RIght Note for Little Hearts that Matter


Little Hearts MatterMusic is very important in our family.  I can’t play an instrument to save my life, and my singing voice is even worse, but I have always been around music, including being a roadie for my friends’ band, The Sherbet, when I was a teenager.  I realise that the main reason I was a roadie was probably the fact that I was one of the only ones with access to a car, but still.

My wife learnt the piano as a kid and, although she doesn’t really have the time to play anymore, can still play the odd tune every now and again.  She has an old electric keyboard that was gathering dust in the attic until I decided to drag it down one day and see how Mr. T would take to it.  Once again, it was a decision that showed just what a great dad I am.

He enjoys nothing more than banging away at the keys and making an unholy racket.  He seems to think he is the next Beethoven, and even copies his other by looking at the sheet music before slamming down on as many notes as possible.

He expects others to appreciate his efforts.  If we are not paying attention to him, which is difficult now that he knows where the volume button is, he will shout at me ‘daddy, dance!’  And then I have to shuffle around the living room as if it were the Stone Roses themselves playing live just for me.

The best thing about it, though, is the pre-recorded tunes that are on the keyboard.  The first tune in the program is the theme from the Star Wars films.  I haven’t shown him the film yet, and I won’t for a few years yet, but I am hopeful that when he does get around to watching to them the tune will be so ingrained in his memory that he will instantly love the film.

Unpaid Promotion for a Very Good Cause

My friends from The Sherbet will be playing a reunion gig at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath, Birmingham on May 30th.  It will be a sort of collective 40th birthday celebration as well as a way to raise money for Little Hearts Matter, a charity that helps babies born with heart problems.  If you are in the area you could do a lot worse than get along and check them out. It is bound to be a good night and it is for a good cause (the charity, not the 40th birthdays).  I wish I were back in Brum for it, but maybe I’ll be there for the 50th birthday celebrations.


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Potty Trained: His Uncle’s Nephew

The Potty Training Years 1988–1992

It was much easier than this (Wikipedia)

Potty training was a breeze.  We waited until the summer, about 3 months ago, because both I and Mrs. Head of the Heard would both be around to lead the training.  We were prepared for a long haul, but within a couple of days we had basically cracked it.  Obviously there was, and still is, the occasional accident, but it was all pretty much a painless transition.

There have been two interesting things to come out of the whole process.  The first happened quite quickly and we have no idea where it came from.

When Mr. T asks to do a wee wee he is quite happy to have other people in the bathroom.  When he has to do a poo poo, though, he has always been adamant that he be left alone.  He started by saying ‘Daddy, tai’ which is his version of the Portuguese word ‘sai’ which can be translated as ‘get out’.  This has now developed so that in English he says ‘Daddy, go away, me do poo poo.’  I always leave the room with a smile on my face, but I just don’t understand where he learnt the need for privacy at such a moment.

The other thing that he has developed is the length of time he now takes sitting on his potty.  He demands to have a book to read, or if there is no book he will sing a song, usually The Beatles ‘Hello Goodbye’.  Again, I don’t know where this behaviour has come from as neither his mother nor I spend more time on the toilet than is absolutely necessary.

There is only person we know who does spend some quality time sitting on the throne is his uncle Nano who is quite happy to take his iPad with him and disappear for hours on end.  But as his uncle lives in Sao Paulo and we live in Curitiba, I fail to see how he could have been a direct influence.  Maybe it’s just in the genes and Mr. T truly is his uncle’s nephew.

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