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!

 

 

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The Original Michelangelo David Versus MY DAVID!

Look, I completely recommend seeing the original David.  There is absolutely nothing like it in the world.

Here is what you need to know:

It is located at the university—who knows where?  On some side street with no line, whatsoever, to get in.  And you will get very lost trying to walk to it.  But you can make it (we did!).  And it was worth every wrong turn.

And, as utterly amazing the sculpture is, I am not quite sure that it is as well mastered or divine as my very own David—my David that appeared out of nowhere to me yesterday while I was taking one of only TWO potty breaks that I actually had from the entire day.  Seriously, folks…one of two!

And here my David comes sauntering in (because of course I MUST take my potty breaks with the door open since I have two toddlers at home), completely naked.  (He can go from dressed to naked in about 3 seconds flat) And full of becoming his very own masterpiece.  Because, of course, as ALL LIFE WITH TODDLERS HAS IT, he was coloring with markers (washable, don’t worry), while I was finally sitting on the porcelain throne for ONLY the second time for the entire day.

My DAVID!  My Masterpiece!

And, I must admit, as divine as I believe the original Michelangelo to be, I think my David may be just as super awesome!

So, of course, after I got off the potty—you know—time’s up for dear ol’ mom, I decided to do my own photoshoot taking similar pictures like I took of the original David in Florence.

Except this David is a Brooke and Richard Masterpiece of God, who battled his own Giant (not Goliath but yet his Goliath of impending death), and now resides not at  Galleria dell’Accademia in Italy but in #villagelife Poland.

You scroll through the photos and decide which David is the greater masterpiece (and, if you choose the original, perhaps don’t tell this momma).

Enjoy!

Let’s begin with the right hand of David that is holding the stone that is used to defeat the Giant Goliath:

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And now the marker that is held in the right hand of my very own David used to defeat the sanity of mom (notice how it is even a homemade Crayola marker):

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Next up!  The torso of the original David and his glance and piercing eyes, lightly holding the sling that was used to fight Goliath casually slung over his left shoulder:

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And now my Masterpiece David, with his young and youthful toddler belly body (full of like 5 bowls of homemade chicken noodle soup) and his left arm up—holding nothing but air (just because I told him to).  Notice my masterpiece is even glancing off to the left:

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Lastly, or at least what I will display on my page, the feet of Michelangelo’s David.  Seriously.  This young sculptor was truly an amazing artist, as the feet were even carved to perfection (out of marble):

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But, as perfectly as they are carved out of marble, I still think that I find my Masterpiece to be just as perfectly carved.  Here are his feet:

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And, of course, while I am sitting at the table type-typing this away, two of my greatest Masterpieces given to me by God, are mere feet away, at the window, creating a cherry-tree robot and a meow-meow (in their vivid imaginations, of course) on what was just moments ago very clean windows.

But, hey!  Who needs windows when I have walking, living, talking, breathing, statue Masterpieces to fill my home?

Not me!

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  Psalm 139:14

 

Don’t Ever Help the Local Teens When You’re Traveling on a Foreign Bus

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Oh my.  I am seriously crying over here.  I was reminded yesterday that my sister, the MOST helpful woman you will ever meet, was inspired on our recent trip to Italy (#sisterchick style) to help the local teenage boys out…on the bus…at the top of her voice.

Here is how the story goes…

We were on the Pisa city bus just, very apparently, not making our way to the Leaning Tower…So there we were.  Hanging out.  Watching the city pass us by, while the locals hopped on and off.  Pushing stop buttons when wanting to exit and stamping tickets when boarding.

We knew we had to get back to the train station—so, you know, we had to basically ride the loop out.

This gave us OODLES of time to get really really really like super really bus savvy.  I mean, we were riding it for like an hour—so we did have it figured out.

Stop button meant people wanted off.  Tickets punched meant people would be riding.

The thing is…the bus was so busy that we were all scattered throughout.  From front to back—dragging our ridiculously heavy suitcases with us—carry-on luggage—and lots and lots of sweat from our over-stuffed train ride to get to Pisa from Florence (but that’s another story).

And in the midst of the bus chaos and complete separation we hear from somewhere in the middle a LOUD and TALL REDHEAD shouting in her best Italian #@$&%!

The bustling, overcrowded, LOUD bus comes to a complete moment of silence===and we, the traveling #sisterchicks, all look towards Darby (my sister) and stare.  Mouths open.

What did she just yell?????

Whatever it was, it brought Italy to a standstill.

No one…foreign or otherwise…knew what to do.

And then we hear her, “I am just trying to help stop the bus.”

All of us, however, came to the conclusion that whatever word the teenage boys were shouting on the bus was probably, very likely, absolutely without a doubt, we are sure of it…not the word STOP!

What word was it?

Well, considering it was teenage boys yelling it…let’s just say it was probably a very naughty word that my sister would most likely punish her own teenagers for saying 😉

Yes, here she was, in a foreign country, yelling it at the top of her lungs!

#$%!@##$#!

Needless to say—the bus did stop.

Talking that is.

Not in motion.

It kept rolling…

Much like our laughter to this day.

Oh, dear friends, wherever you go, if there are teenage boys shouting, keep this in mind…

Don’t repeat what they are saying…ESPECIALLY if it is in a foreign language.

And on a bus!

***

photo credit:  Laura Hocknell; photo caption:  Perspective;  photo subject:  DARBY the bus yeller!!!!!

 

#sisterchicks and what we learned traveling through Italy!

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“Prego, Madam!  What do you want?  Why do you knock on the door???  IT IS CLOSED!”

An angry Italian woman yelled at my sister as we peered through the only money exchange in site.

Rule number 1:

Italy takes naps…And don’t mess with them.

***

“Brooke, what are you looking at?  That man over there???”

“Yes!” I answered.  

Holy cow, ladies.  Italy is like the land of red carpet.  George Clooney has nothing on these cobble-stone walkers!

Needless to say, cameras come out—click, click, click!

Rule number two:

Be prepared for MANY Italian masterpieces—and not all of them are centuries old or made of marble.

***

“Brooke, is this the water taxi we take back?”  

I look at the scrolling monitor, the platform, the time—and, being the European live-r, answer with confidence, “YES!  It is.  Run!”

We jump on the rocking water taxi in just enough time to be shoved, trampled, and smothered before the chain goes on and the boat pushes off…Our day in Venice is over, and all we have to do now is find the RIGHT bus off of the island and back to our hotel.

What should have been a 15 minute boat ride, however, later turned into a full-circle 1-hour water taxi ride where I REFUSED to ask for directions, because, you know, I KNOW how to live in Europe.

When we came to our original take-off platform, I swallowed my very big pride and asked the woman manning the boat if and when we would get off on our platform—

She chuckled, told us to jump off, and run to the next platform…

Where we then had no money nor tickets, ducked under the railing and hoped beyond measure that the next boat would take us home.

Well—relatively home since we still had a bus and walk in front of us.

It did—and we even ended the night with homemade spaghetti to boot.

Not bad for my ego, eh?

Rule number 3:

Don’t EVER go with Brooke when it comes to directions

***

I need to sanitize my entire body!

My sister-in-law proclaimed after our lively, full, smell-ful bus ride to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, where I—ONCE AGAIN—put us on the wrong public transportation.  A one-hour tour around the extremely lovely city of Pisa with a girlfriend nearby manning the GPS saying, “Wait, we should be at the Leaning Tower in 7 minutes…” The bus proceeds to turn left…”No, wait…now 11 minutes!”  The bus turns right “No, now 15 minutes…”

Yes.  We took a loop bus around the city and didn’t see a scant drop of the Leaning Tower until we arrived BACK at the train station and decided to take a taxi from there.

Which took approximately 4 minutes to the Leaning Tower and only cost $12 Euro for 6 of us.

BUT…we did get to see the otherwise lovely city of PISA—trampled by bus-goers and smothered by no ventilation and holding on for dear, careening life as the bus driver drove like a cowboy.

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Rule number 4:

Remember Rule #3!

***

Should we go see the original Masterpiece David or are we okay with the copy????  We all kind-of wondered…

But, HEY…In Florence, so close to a Michelangelo Masterpiece, we decided we better put on our walking shoes and try to make a way…

BEST DECISION EVER!

And, along the way, we got distracted by lovely shopping, open marketplaces, amazing architecture, and couple Dutch college kids that proceeded to point us in the WAY WRONG direction to the David.  Thankfully, we asked a few other joggers for a second opinion…

Where we made it.

I was in awe.

From his feet to his piercing eyes—Michelangelo’s David was probably one of the most magnificent man-made creations I have ever seen.  And I have lived in Europe a long time, have seen beautiful cathedrals and divine paintings.  I have even dined next to original Monet’s …

Upon leaving the university which houses the David, I bought my parents an awesome Florence reconstructed book and what I thought was the most decent (not showing all body parts of David) bookmark…

Upon my sister returning home and giving my parents the gifts, her 11-year-old son flips the bookmark over where David is fully revealed and proclaims, “WELL!  That is highly inappropriate!”

Hahahahahaha!

Gotta love kids!

Which brings me to my final rule of this #sisterchicksposting…

Rule number 5:

See the David…even in all his glory!  It’s a must.  From the gentle way that David is holding the stone in his right hand, to the way the sling is draped over his back…

From the way his feet lead to his legs and the muscles of youthful strength are perfectly carved …

To the way that his eyes are glancing to the left…

To know that a young 26-year-old man carved this masterpiece out of ONE piece of marble…centuries ago in the days when today’s technology did not exist.

SEE THE DAVID!

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And, spend way more time in Florence than we did.  It is worth every single drop of your time and days!

***

Well, we #sisterchicks finished our trip strong (the luggage at the cheap airport I’ll address another day)…

And we had a blast.

I can’t wait until these #sisterchicks abandon their husbands and children again where we will then head to ROME!

OR THE WORLD!

Because traveling with #sisterchicks is well worth every drop of time and energy.

Just remember to never follow my directions!

 

Don’t travel with toddlers. Ever.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a new mother.  Or perhaps it’s because I never travel—especially long distances.  But I learned my lesson.  And I learned it good.

It’s 2am and I am up.  And my toddler is up.  And I don’t foresee sleep in either of our futures.  At least sleep at night.

This is why I write this warning.

Don’t travel with toddlers.  Ever!

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***

Now, on the facetious side of it all—

I am not a new mother.  I have 3 kids, and my oldest (now 9 years of age) was lugged on an airplane crossing state lines at 3 weeks and crossing an entire continent and ocean and half another continent at 6 weeks.  She has since then been on 4 continents (which is 1 more than I have been to as her 39-year-old mother).

My middle—the current toddler that is wide eyed and not so cute at 2am (smile and wink) has been in 4 countries in his 3 years and 2 months of life.  3 of those countries he has traveled to via plane.  Only one via car—and that was to be whisked to an emergency room in Germany.

My youngest—my baby—she’s traveled a couple cross-Atlantic flights with me since 5 months of age.

And my recommendation stands:  Don’t travel with toddlers.  Ever.

Seriously.

Sleeping solutions used to pour down his throat?

Nope.  No good.

Keeping the devil (I mean angel) up all day so he’ll sleep all night?

Fail.

Bribery?

Threatening?

TV?

Nothing puts the kid to sleep.

Not even mommy’s weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And so I lug on—sleepless.  Wild-eyed.  Crying.

Worse than the toddler.

Leaving my husband to pick up all pieces of the house—and the three kids.  And the three dogs.  And the water turtle.  And the chameleon.

And the dishes.  And the laundry.  And the mess the little toddler tornados make every other second.

Wait.

Perhaps this isn’t so bad after all—for me?

A little late night TV to myself.  A little late-night snacking.  A little mid-morning nap.  A little no-cleaning????

And a hubby that runs ragged after everything appreciating me more and more with each passing moment.

I was wrong.  I take it back.

Travel with toddlers.

And then use them as your excuse to stay up late.  Sleep in.  And do nothing!

It’s like living the Mother’s Day Every Day dream, my friends!

Bon voyage!  And don’t forget the baby!