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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Boy and girl share a bedroom…How?

When we returned to Poland after having our 3rd baby in the US, we returned to a boy room and a girl room and a parent room.  Problem:  girl room belonged to girl 8 years older than infant.  Therefore, the adorable boy room had to go and become combo room.  He was only 2, and didn’t know any better—so it made my job easier.  

Over the time we’ve since been returned to Poland, I have slowly begun the transition into cute yet manly all at the same time.  

Most of the time, the combination of frills and macho overlap, but, in the end, the identities of both stand out.  

The key was going with a main theme.  I love Paris.  Hence:  Theme Paris.  I also love vintage.  So we went with the theme of vintage bikes and Paris.  Red bike for Maxwell.  Green bike for Josephine.  

When they were smaller—both in cribs, they each had a half of the room.  The half of the room that was decorated for them.  Now that they are bigger, however, they share a bunk bed —- and, although their halves are divided, life meshes everything together into one adorable whole.  As it should.  

Here are some fun photos showing how to make a bedroom for your boy and girl work as parts of a whole.  Enjoy!


First up…their names and bikes.  I should add, for their beds I went with a black (mainly) theme since there wasn’t a lot of red and green comforters I liked.  Obviously this is Josephine’s name, bike, and bed.

Here are photos of Max’s name and bike—but now that he and Josephine are out of cribs, his bed is the bottom bunk (or is it?):



Next, I chose one more decoration per room side.  Max, however, also ended up with the photo board on his side.  I’m sure you’ll be able to see which is Josephine’s and then the others are Max’s:




The door was fun, too.  When Max was born, our then 6-year-old made him a humongous poster that we have never taken down.  So front-side of door belongs to Max.  Back to Josephine.  Hers is an Elsa Anna poster (I didn’t take a photo because we all know Frozen—smile and wink).  Here is Max’s side of the door:

In the end, however, their two lives mesh into one.

Barbie and Robot stand united:


Mrs. Potato head becomes Star Wars warrior…defender of pink kitchenette:


Masked Minion and Princess Kitty guard the window:


And my favorite photo of them all…

Two hearts that still beat as one.  Even as they sleep!  

And while I know they won’t share a bed or a room forever, these precious moments and years that they do, I pray connect them as best friends for a lifetime!  

Don’t force Sunday school on the three year old…

Look.  Let’s get real.  The title should actually read:  don’t subject your screaming 3-year-old on the Sunday school teacher.

I’m right, right?  Can I get a holy Amen in here (Whoa, now…that was a little too loud. Smile wink smile).

But, in all honesty, my three year old fled and panicked today and did not want to be left in the huge Sunday school room alone.  So I did what I needed, I scooped her up, plopped her on my lap, and sat through church with her while I got to give her a million unappreciated kisses (as she loudly proclaimed in the service to Stop Kissing Her), cuddle her in my arms, hold and dance with her in worship, and take communion with her on my hip.  

And she was happy.  And I was happy.  And the Sunday school teachers were most likely ecstatic.  

Best of all????

These lovely selfies she took during the sermon time (insert scary laughter from evil selfie).

Praise Jesus???

The Midnight Bullfrog!

Seriously.  I was having so much fun hanging out at a friend’s house that it was just before midnight when I gathered my 3 and 5 year old kiddos up and stuffed them in the van for the ride home.  We barely made it out of the neighborhood when I saw the BEST thing I could have ever seen…a humongous bullfrog hopping across the road in front of me!

I pulled the car over, put on my hazards, and then took off after the bullfrog in the dead of night.  

A car came around the corner.  I don’t think they knew what to do.  Stop and help the lady and the van or just watch as I chased this bullfrog down the street?  Apparently they figured I was not in need of assistance as I grabbed the bullfrog and let out a loud whoop of delight.  So they continued driving on. By this time I’m slightly far away from the van with my kids (bullfrogs are FAST little buggers), so I begin a quick trot back to them—a proud trot.  An “I am an accomplished mom because I have captured a bullfrog.  I am a bullfrog capturer,” type of trot!  

And just as I go to open the passenger back door to show my triumphant capture, the bullfrog squirted (urine—yuck) ALL OVER ME!  My hands.  My arms.  My legs.  The bullfrog pee was running down my leg.  I kid you not.  And, as the bullfrog’s number 1 was covering me in disgusting wetness, all I could do in that moment was hold this midnight bullfrog high in the air and proclaim, “Look what I caught for you, children!”  

The kids?!  

They squealed and laughed and just thought that a mom covered in froggy pee-pee was the BEST gift anyone in the world could have given them.  I don’t even think they even saw the bullfrog through their laughter.  

As I finally released the bullfrog in the greenway for its freedom, I returned to the car to hear Max, my 5-year-old say, “I thought you caught me a present.  I didn’t know you were going to bring me pee.” 

Neither did I, Max.  Neither did I.

But, in the end, sometimes laughter is the best present after all!  

Your teenager’s brain. Fantastic listen!


So I thought I was crazy.  After all, my daughter is only 11…but it turns out I am not crazy—my daughter is changing from my small little girl into a budding teen.  And the amazing changes that take place in the teen’s brain are astonishing!

I wish I listened to this podcast last year when she was just 10 to help me prepare for this new phase of her life.  Perhaps I would have helped her enter it with more patience.  But better late than never, right?!

I hope this podcast helps each of you, as well, as it speaks of all of those crazy changes taking place in their brains—all the pruning going on.

Seriously…we just had a melt-down crying battle over hair on Monday.  I didn’t listen to this until Tuesday—MAN!  It would have really helped me as Mommy on Monday had I known a few of these reasons behind her reactions and how I aggravated it instead of helping her through it.

Anyhow, I guess what I’m really saying is this:  if you have a boy or girl either entering their teen years or are SMACK in the middle of them, this podcast will help you be a better and more understanding parent!

Enjoy the listen and be encouraged!

Xo B

http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/focus-on-the-family/listen/understanding-your-teens-brain-i-597872.html

Dzien Matki — Mother’s Day in Poland

I am pretty sure I just ate candy my son gave me from his grubby fingers—and I am not sure the last time he washed his hands.  Or went to the bathroom and forgot to wash his hands.  I am actually gagging a little bit right now.  Really.  My stomach is not feeling so well.  Hashtag “truemom”.  EATING NASTY GERMS FROM GRUBBY DIRTY FINGERS.  Sigh.

Therefore, let’s just say that I am VERY VERY VERY happy to be celebrating the upcoming day about ME in Poland.  Dzien Matki.  May 26th.  Mother’s Day.

In Poland, Mother’s Day is the same day year after year after year.  Kind-of like Women’s Day, Wigilia, your birthday, your anniversary, New Year’s … MOTHER’S DAY!  It is set in stone and NEVER GOES AWAY!

Kind of like our kids, eh????!!!! (smile and wink)

Anyhow, this upcoming Mother’s Day I think that I am going to set expectations for my kids:

  1.  I am going to expect for them to make me frustrated.
  2. I am going to expect for them to make a mess.
  3. I am going to expect for them to NOT leave me in peace when I have to pee OR merely pick up the phone—EVEN THOUGH, moments before, they had forgotten about the very existence of me.
  4. I am going to expect for them to cry over their hair styles or crust.  YES—the crust on their bread.
  5. I am going to expect for them to have a small accident in their underpants—just enough so that they will not want to wear the same pair and not enough to make a mess on the floor.  The in between stage of wet.  Enough, however, where they will then declare that they must STRIP NAKED and be.  For the rest of the day.
  6. I am going to expect for my toddler to wake me at 3am.  Or 5am.  Or 6am.  And not at all appreciate that they day is about ME!
  7. I am going to expect for the pre-teen (nastolatek) to give me grief.  I don’t know about what.  About the volume of my voice or the fact that SHE CANNOT WEAR MY SHOES.
  8. I am going to expect for them to fight and argue about the 1 block.  On the floor.  When there are 1 million and 12 other blocks right next to the 1 block.  And there are 500,000 of those 1 million and 12 blocks that are exactly the same as the 1 block that they are rowing over.
  9. I am going to expect them to stub their toes, blacken their eyes, break their teeth, or scrape their knees.  I know this because it will happen.  My three year old currently has a black eye and a huge forehead mark from tripping onto the training wheel bike tire and also falling on the side of the trampoline.  All in a day’s work.  So I am going to expect a trip to the hospital, a broken bone, or a bandaged knee.  It will happen.
  10. And, lastly, I am going to expect a gazillion times over for them to tell me that they “Love me the most!”  And fight over it.  And cuddle me.  And then fight over cuddling me.  And then fight once again about who loves Momma the most.  Because it will happen.  I expect it.

And number 10 makes up for 1-9.

As I expect it should.

So, you see, Mother’s Day in Poland is really no different than Mother’s Day anywhere else in the world.  If you come from a dirt floor or a mansion that touches the sky, being MOM is full of a million and one expectations that always start with DISASTER…But that one moment (#10) will make up for all of the tornadoes that will come in and hijack your day.

In the end, however, you don’t mind.  Because it’s a nice feeling.  Being mom.

But NOT eating the grubby food from their fingers.  Leave that behind on Dzien Matki.  I am pretty sure that is not a nice feeling.

Not at all.

Happy Mother’s Day from Poland to YOU!

Becoming Diaper Free…Finally??? A potty blog for parents!

josephine favorite

Okay—I have an 11-year old.  She is diaper free.

Max is nearly 5.  He is diaper free.

Josephine is approaching 3 and 1/2.   As of last night, she is officially diaper free!

That’s old.  You may state.

That’s okay.  Another may add.

To both and each their own.

My little 3 year old is hilarious.  She has been advanced in walking and talking and eating and singing and bravery and living…

And not in pooping.  On the potty.

So much so that she would go for up and past 10 days, sometimes, without plopping a single drop.

One time, her constipation actually made her sick.  The doctor said—she just needs to poop.  Are you giving her anything to help her poop?

We were.  We had tried everything.  Foods, drinks, medicines…Bribery.  Tears.  Pulling out our hair.  And she still refused to poop.

Finally we had to goose the girl with a very uncomfortable czopek before she produced the results we needed — and her body immediately began to recover and heal.

Well—finally we were diaper free for pee and since she only pooped every 3-11 days, she would just tell us when she had to go.  Easy peasy pudding and pie…

Then our last pull-up disappeared one evening and we were too lazy to run to the store for more.

Josephine cried.

We cried.  (Ours, however, tears of ka-ching in our pockets—NO MORE DIAPER MONEY NEEDED)

And we refused to run and buy her a diaper.  Even when she had to potty.

Which, in our lives, was actually a really freaky thing.  We didn’t want her to be constipated.  We did not want her in pain.  We did not want to have to take her to the doctor or give her another czopek (glycerin tablet up the pupa).  We just wanted our little gal to be free.

Several days have passed since her last poopy—nerves were beginning in my mommy heart when last night—around 1am, I heard her cry out.

“Mommy, I need to pee!”

I ran into her room, raced her into the bathroom, and there she did.  HER FIRST EVER POOPY on the potty.

We immediately woke up daddy.  I am not sure he was as thrilled due to the insanely late hour of night—AND TODAY SHE RECEIVED A KINDER EGG!

A surprise for her surprise.

My friends.  If your children are a lot like my Josephine and have severe trouble pooping on the potty, please know that you are not alone.

It is a VERY hard road to walk down.

To some, it may seem like just a poop.  But to those of us in the situation, it is more that just a poop.  It is the health and well-being of our child…as well as sanity of our souls.

Give yourself a break.  Give your child a break.  And endure with great patience/pain and pray for the poop.

It’s okay to pray for the poop…

Just like it’s okay to cry when diapers are no longer in the budget 😉