Roast chicken and vegetables.
It's pretty common practice, when a friend has a new baby, to bring over a meal to help out. What about when a friend has two new babies? What if they're not babies, exactly, but regular preschoolers with preferences and demands and attention-spans and large reserves of energy? What if those preschoolers are fluent in a language that isn't English? What then?
Well, I mean, I don't know. But my friend has additions to her family, so the boys and I trundled over there yesterday with a roast chicken dinner in an aluminum pan for them. (It's the easiest thing. If you're making one chicken dinner, it's almost no extra effort to make two. Much easier than a casserole, in my opinion.)
Those kids are adorable. My boys were very into them. Josh and Alex were quite concerned about the no-English thing, so they decided to do their part--they spent most of the visit pointing to various things and naming them. Josh focused on the more utilitarian: "This is a book! Can you say 'cupcake'? 'Dog'? 'Bathroom'?" Alex tried a didactic approach: "Here is a dinosaur. They are extinct. That means there aren't any alive anymore, so you don't have to worry about them." Actually, now that I think about it, Eli's method might have been the most effective: He grabbed all their toys, one by one, and yelled, "That's my [goat, tractor, stroller, purse]!!!"
To me, despite the obvious differences, it seems shockingly similar to bringing home a newborn. Whenever we brought home a new baby it was always completely disorienting, almost like living in someone else's house. (When we brought Josh home, because he was our firstborn, it was like living in someone else's house where you had agreed to take care of their pet giraffe--which is to say, I spent a lot of time secretly wondering if I hadn't ruined my life by taking on this huge and bizarre commitment.) It took a couple of months (or, in Josh's case, like six) until the new baby became part of the routine, fitting into the landscape of the home. And then, of course, we couldn't even imagine living without them.
So a chicken dinner and an hour of entertaining mayhem with the boys seems like a pretty small contribution, but I'm willing to do what I can. At least I know of some people who will provide free English lessons of questionable method and effectiveness.