Listen to your children when they talk about their bodies…

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“Adelyne, what is your greatest fear right now,” I asked my 11-year-old over a private Italian dinner we were eating, just the two of us, following the EEG she just had in Poznan, Poland.

“My biggest fear,” she repeated the question.

“Yes, with all that has been going on in your life, what is your current greatest fear,” I wanted to hear the heart of my daughter, and I had her alone, no little brothers or sisters to distract her.  Just Ada and Momma.  Together.

“The fear of being afraid,” she replied.

It makes tears come into my eyes right now.

If there is one thing we want to do as parents, it is to protect our children.  To be their stalwarts.  To be their walls.  To be their protections.  To be their everything.

And then you realize you can’t.

Unless you lock your child in a bubble, never letting them escape the house, you will quickly come to realize that you cannot be your child’s everything.

With the very act of living, they will experience many different joys and pains.

And sometimes, in that living, they experience very scary moments.

A little over a month ago, my daughter experienced at school what she describes as a heart attack.  She then spent the next three days in a foreign hospital, hooked up to heart monitors and enduring multiple blood draws and tests to see what is going on with her body.

Then, not even 3 weeks after that, she experienced what is described as seizure-like behaviors before slipping in and out of semi-consciousness.  Once again, at school.

This daughter of mine.  It’s not that she is completely fearless—but, out of EVERYONE I know in the world, she is the bravest kid that I know.  She has traveled the world. She has surfed.  She has crossed borders.  She has been surrounded by machine guns on territory where we literally have NO voice.  And she hasn’t even batted an eye.

So for her to say that her biggest fear is fear itself, makes me, as her mom, sad.  The freedom for her to live a life of great adventure is the greatest gift I wish to give her.  And now she is wondering if she will be okay to ride her bike.  Or swim.  Or paddle board.

Will she surf again?

Can she jump off a mountain like she plans in February?

Can she jump out of an airplane, like she tells us she’ll do at 18?

Afraid of being afraid.

It’s a life-changer, for sure.

And I hold her hand and tell her that we are doing everything we can to eliminate a bunch of scary stuff in hopes that we find out she is perfectly healthy and just had some bad stuff happen to her for reasons unknown.

But that doesn’t erase what happened.  And it doesn’t change the fact that now she may not live quite as carefree.

And I need to listen to her.  I need to listen to her body.  I need to listen when she speaks.  Because she is the one living inside of her body, and she knows how it feels and needs to be able to communicate that to me.

A childhood friend of mine recently watched her son go through his third concussion.  And, with that concussion, his entire life changed.  Now, together, they are realizing that life has a different journey than the one he was walking.  And it is something he must do to remain healthy and able.

She listened to her son.  Now together they are fighting for his best life.

Here is his recent news interview, telling his story:  http://www.azfamily.com/story/36611797/chandler-hs-senior-quits-football-due-to-concussion

Here is a second story on concussions and high school sports:  http://www.azfamily.com/story/36162154/concussion-study-reveals-most-valley-parents-will-let-kids-play-football

Here is another childhood friend, Dr. Javier Cardenas, speaking of concussions and how to identify one in your child, as well as an App that can be used to teach children about concussions:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHm4RPFgwEM

In the end, all we can do is live and teach our children to do so, as well.  But, in living, we also need to stop and listen.  What is our body telling us?  What is our children’s bodies telling them?

Growing up, we learn that if you ever catch on fire, you are to do three things:  Stop; Drop; Roll.

I find myself in this same position with my daughter:

Stop.  How are you feeling?

Drop.  Let’s stop everything to figure out why you feel the way you do.

And Roll.  Let’s put out this “fire” in your life, so you can go on to live your best life possible.

It may be with a little more hesitation than before.  But it’s still living.

And, in the end, that’s what counts the most!

 

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Infertility and Adoption

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There is absolutely nothing that makes “no sense” (even using a double negative to write my point) more than vicious commenters on news stories in regards to someone that is suffering through infertility and then horrible commenters writing about one’s need to not have their own biological children because there are children in the world waiting for adoption.

Both are huge.  Infertility /the want for a biological child.

And adoption.

Both = huge.  One does not erase another.

What does get me, however, are the evil commenters out there making their personal remarks so callously about one person’s real life.

Gabrielle Union is in the process of releasing a memoir, writing that her “body has been a prisoner of trying to get pregnant.”

Here is a woman, Gabrielle Union, that is sharing honestly her struggles with infertility and the suffering and loss that she and her husband have gone through to get to where they want to be, and all I read are the evil people out there spouting statistics on your body, how many eggs you have, how many children need adopting, and everything in between.

As a woman that suffered multiple times through infertility and struggled with adoption, nothing in either case is easy.

First of all, it is absolutely normal and okay for you and your body and your spouse to want a biological child.  THIS DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD PERSON.  This makes you real and human and all the feels in between.

If it was not such a heartbreakingly real thing, then women would not suffer through desperation, depression, and all sorts of medical invasions to become so.

My biological clock really began ticking about 3 years after I was married, nearing 30 years old.  It was very hard to absolutely never prevent a pregnancy and yet watch everyone else have one.  And then another.  And another.

Eventually my body and my tumor (pituitary), must have found a common ground and decided to work together to give us our first sweet miracle.  And, we, of course, give God all the credit — especially in timing, as we were in the process of opening our transition center for homeless and recovering men (The New Life Center).  But it did not take away from the despair that was within me.

That despair made me human.  It made me a woman.  It made me real.

I love adoption.  I have the BEST family members ever because of this beautiful gift.  And they make me happy.

My husband and I have always wanted to adopt and still plan to.

But NONE of that should take away the pain in my very soul that I felt when I was struggling through infertility and wanting more than anything in the world for my body to bear my/our own child.

If you are one of those horrible little people out there that like to comment on the statistics of adoption and wanting children out there, take it to your journal and comment to yourself.

The world knows the statistics and works extremely hard to find people and homes that are open to bringing in children from the United States and all over the world.  And God bless each home that opens for the orphans and abandoned in the world.  God bless them greatly indeed.

If you are one of those horrible little people out there that like to comment on the statistics of the hungry and suffering, take it to your journal and comment there.

There are good and righteous people all over the world finding, feeding, and trying to save these children.  And may God bless them.  Bless them all.

But what you do from the keyboard of your computer in the littleness of your vile mind is build up hatred and unwarranted sentiment towards people that are suffering real pain.

Shouting adoption will never erase the pain of infertility.

Shouting statistics will never eradicate the pulse of a heart of a woman yearning to bear her own children.

Shouting your self-righteous opinions will not change the tears that will flow down infertile women’s cheeks month after month as they realize another chance has passed.

I suffered infertility.

5 years for our first child.

5 years for our second—that we did not get to keep.

And in consecutive years of 12 and 14 years of marriage, God gave us two as I approached 40.

Just as my egg basket became emptier, our home became fuller.

Sometimes in life, infertility does not just strike those that you “deem” waited too long or are “too” late.

Sometimes infertility just strikes.

And that is a very real thing.

The 504 Plan for your allergy kid

The allergy world is scary enough—but even more scary when you are preparing to put your child into school for the first time.

What are your options?  How can you best help your child?  Will the school accommodate you?  If so, how do you go about seeking this help and safety?

Today’s blog over at Allergy to the Max addresses and shares sites that should largely help you answer all of these questions.

Please have a read and make sure to share with your family and friends that also many need a 504 Plan for their children, too!

Source: The 504 Plan for your allergy kid

To new mothers, I have news for you: You will not receive the Mom Award

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I was told last night at dinner by Josephine that she was not going to give me a “Mom Award” if I made her eat her dinner…

I looked at her with eyes of Superman steel, pointed to her seat, told her to get back in it, and that with or without that “Mom Award” I would survive just fine.

She sat back in her chair and told me that she “Doesn’t love Mommy and I wouldn’t get a cookie,” to which I replied, “I will also survive.”

She knew she was not winning any battle with her words, so she sat.

Mom Award?  That’s right, I’ll give it to myself.

The three year old sat, ate, and even climbed in my lap for books, where she promptly snuggled up and went to sleep.

In Mom’s arms.

Josephine may not have awarded me the Mom Award last night, but, you see, we did not become moms for awards.  We became moms to raise little people right.  To be their moms.  Not their buddies.  Not their friends.  Not the coolest person on the block.

Now, mind you, our block only has 3 houses, so I just may be the coolest person on the block (smile and wink in exaggeration, of course).  But you get the point.

So, if your children do not award you the “Mom Award,” don’t run to your room crying.

Don’t beg them for it.

Don’t bring them the paper to make you the Gold Star to go on top.

Just accept it.

They’ll cuddle into your arms later, no matter what.

Because, even award-less, you are still their safest place.

And that is award enough for me.

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Free hint: When I am not using personal photos or photos my husband took, I use the site Pixabay where you will find copyright-free images.  Check it out.  I hope it will prove to be a useful site to you, too.

Your windowsill is important in Poland

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Your windows are your eyes to your world.  But a windowsill, in Poland, is so much more than that.

For example, when you move into a new home or apartment, in Poland, your windowsill becomes your welcoming table.

In fact, you throw a party BASED around your windowsill.  The party is even named after your windowsill.  It is called a parapetowka.  And this is what is involved:  welcoming drinks and snacks and more welcoming drinks.

What do I mean by welcoming drinks?  Well, in Poland, that generally means vodka.  I mean, it is Poland, right?!

If you are not big drinkers, no worries.  Set up juice on your windowsill and partner it with some salty sticks (or pretzels) and perhaps some cookies, too.

The entire point of the party is not the food, anyhow, it is the welcoming of your friends into your home.  Your new place where you will reside.

In fact, oftentimes, especially in the past, the parapetowka was when there wasn’t even a drop of furniture in the home.  Literally, no furniture.

You sat on the floor.  You had your snacks. You drank your drinks.  And you visited, with your friends, in your new home.

As uncomfortable as that may sound, when you are surrounded by friends, it completely makes up for the lack of cushions.

You are with those important to you in your home. Home is where the heart is. Hence your windowsills are the eyes to your heart, where, at your parapetowka, you see those most important to your heart and home.

***

How important is your windowsill in your life?  Does it hold any special meaning to you?  What about any other traditions that may help make your move into a new place a home?  I look forward to hearing back from you!

Is Duolingo the right fit for you while learning the Polish language?

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When learning a new language, you learn a few things:

  1. How to pull out your hair
  2. How to bury your head in the sand
  3. How to become mute
  4. How to increase headaches
  5. How to increase tears

Yes, my friends, learning a new language, especially when you are no longer a child, is a humbling experience.

Most people go into learning a language with confidence, after all, we are all relatively intelligent human beings.  Capable.  Motivated.

There is not a lot that we are unable to do.  Or is there?

And then there is the new language.

It gets you in the gut each and every time.

Polish is the Rocky of the language world.  Just when you think you are “knocking” it down with one swift learning moment followed by another, it hops back up and bears a right hook across your jaw.  You’re down, yet again!

Yes, my friends.  Learning Polish is that brutal.

Which brings us to today’s question: Is Duolingo the right fit for you?

I have completed Duolingo in Polish for foreigners.  It goes to Level 12, and it was a grueling road to get there.  For me.  A mom of three that lives daily in Poland.  But I persevered and made it to the end, making sure that I did not just score enough to pass.  Oh no!  I made sure that I scored perfection on each category before moving on to the next.

This made me realize two very important things:

  1. Polish is hard
  2. Polish is hard even with Duolingo

Would I recommend Duolingo as your method for learning Polish?  I would say that depends on your current understanding of the Polish language.  If you have zero to very little understand of the Polish language, Duolingo may not be the appropriate starting place for you, as there are not appropriate explanations for words, conjugations, or endings of any sort.  Plus the Polish cases.  Oh those cases (shakes head slowly and sadly).

This, therefore, is what I would rather recommend: If you are looking to learn Polish from the beginning, yet you do not have any classes offered near you, I would rather suggest starting with the costly but efficient Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur.  Both programs offer Polish for beginners and are quite renowned with languages.

If you have a base of Polish, however, and are not really wanting to spend money at the moment on learning a language, then I highly recommend stretching your brain to FULL capacity with the Polish language through the program of Duolingo.  You will feel like a rubber band ready to snap, but, hey!  When has a little humiliation and brain drain ever REALLY killed someone, right?  (smile, wink, and actually cry)

In any and every case, there are plenty of studies out there in the world that encourage language learning as a way to preserve your mental health.  Which, seems like an oxymoron to me:  losing your mind studying Polish to preserve your overall mental faculties.  Who am I to analyze this reasoning?

After all, I’m no psychologist.

Just a mom.  Living in a foreign country.  Telling you to go for it!

Learn Polish.  Even if Duolingo is your only route to get your there!

Good luck…

You’ll need it!

5 tips to help your child feel at home in a foreign country

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We have 3 children: Adelyne, 11 years; Maxwell, 5 years; and Josephine 3 years. All of them are American Passport holders but Polish residents.

This is what we, Richard and Brooke Nungesser, as foreigners abroad, have learned about living and raising children in a country that is outside of our passport country.

1.  Make sure that your child speaks the language

We were told that the best way for our children to learn the language is enroll them in the public schools. We did that with Adelyne. She entered kindergarten with limited Polish and made friends the first day of school. And, so, with our children we apply the method of full immersion.

Today, Adelyne is fluent in Polish, is starting the 6th grade, and last year (in 5th grade) was the class president. She is never at home because she is daily with the friends in her neighborhood and community. Best of all, she has no hesitancy to go anywhere in Poland (For example: shop, cinema, park, post office) because Poland is her home through life and language.

2.  Be your child’s advocate for social hour

We were extremely active in soliciting play dates and building community around Adelyne. We wanted to make sure that, even if  language was difficult, she would feel loved and accepted by the people that she spent the majority of her life with here in Poland.

Our oldest has an entire community of friends and parents that are her extended family.  Although her aunts and uncles may be in the United States, she has an entire village of aunts and uncles in Poland (ciotki i wujkowie). It is a gift, giving your child family in a faraway land.

3.  Teach your child to have pride in country of residence

One of the most important things you can do is teach your children about the country where you reside. It is one of the most vital parts of helping your child understand and care about your country of residence:  knowing the country. What are important dates, events, traditions, foods, festivals?

Not only is it important but fun.

Therefore, go ahead and participate in the parades and traditions of the country. As an added bonus, dress them in the country’s colors, of course!

4.  Be adventurous

Absolutely teach your child to explore! It is a vital part of life: exploration. And, being in a foreign country gives you an opportunity to do something so few have the privilege of doing: exploring while “close” to home. Your home abroad, of course.

Find out what places, cities, national monuments or mountains are in your country of residence.

Once you have compiled a list of places you would like to visit, make sure to take time with your family putting them in order of importance to you. Then take a look at your calendar and mark the dates for your explorations.

Lastly, if you do not have to take car to get there, find the local bus, streetcar, or trains that travel to those destinations and relax on your journey. After all, the train is always more fun!

5.  Open your home

Just as important it is for your child to explore other cultures, invite your local village to come into your home and life and explore the life of your culture, too. Make your customary foods and invite them to help you celebrate your home country’s holidays.

Bring diversity to your village, teaching your child that while it is important to celebrate the country of residence, it’s also important to celebrate heritage! And everyone will be better because of it.

In fact, we have made it a point to open our home to our daughter’s classmates and the community, including the parents. We host annual parties and barbecues at our home, and the children wait for these events each year.

Doing this has really expanded not only our daughter’s community but ours, as well, and has made us feel completely at home.

Which is what this is all about, a home away from home!