From Ukraine With Love

When I wrote the book My Heart’s at Home, I wrote about 12 roles that home plays in our life. One of those roles is “Home as a Cultural Center.”

Growing up our family had many international friendships. When we lived on the Indiana University campus during my preschool years, we had apartment neighbors from many different countries. One of my favorites was “Grandma Rosa,” a woman from Cuba who spoke not one word of English but managed to communicate to us little ones through her touch and her smile.

My father, then a teacher and principal, introduced us to an exchange teacher from Japan when I was in grade school. In high school, my family hosted an exchange student from France.

Now as a mother, I’ve tried to give our kids the same experiences. That’s why when we received a call in April asking us if we wanted to host a 14-year-old boy from Ukraine, Mark and I said yes!

Vladik (on the far left in the picture below) arrived less than 48 hours before we left on our family vacation, so I’m delayed in introducing him to all of you.

Vladik’s father, Dima, was our driver in Moscow when we adopted Kolya almost 7 years ago. His Aunt Larisa assists with Russian/American adoptions, including ours. So when Larisa wanted to give her nephew a taste of the United States, she began to look for a family–specifically one with boys–who could host him for a couple of months.

We’re so glad we got to be that family!

Wednesday’s Words of Encouragement: Turning Sibling Rivalry Into Sibling Revelry

by Jill Savage

adapted from My Hearts at Home
Do you ever feel like your house feels more like a boxing arena than a home?  Do you tire of the arguing and fighting that happens between your children?  If so you may need to do what the Savage family had to do.  We made a decision to turn sibling rivalry into sibling revelry.   
In his book Keep The Siblings, Lose The Rivalry, author Todd Cartmell tells us there are three reasons we have sibling rivalry:
            Reason #3: You have more than one child.
            Reason #2: Your children live in the same house.
            Reason #1: Your children’s living-together skills are still developing.
            There’s not too much a parent can do about numbers 2 and 3, but some intentional strategy in approaching reason number 1 is what we found helpful in turning sibling rivalry into sibling revelry.
o       Strategy #1:  Play Together
            Every child longs to belong.  When families intentionally spend time together they increase the family bond, ultimately helping each family member feel they are a part of something bigger than themselves. 
o       Strategy #2: Connect Individually
            Children won’t vie for your attention if they know they have it already.  Make each child feel like an only child by taking the kids out on dates with one or both parents, taking them school shopping by themselves, or spending time laying on their bed at night talking.
o       Strategy #3: Set Clear Standards and Expectations
            Most of the time, kids will rise to the standard that is set.  When we deal with misbehavior it is often because the child is looking for the boundary line.  Let your family know that sibling respect is the standard in your family.  We call family meetings to set standards, call everyone back to a standard that is slipping, or brainstorm ways we can encourage one another.
o       Strategy #4: Model and Teach Healthy Conflict Resolution Skills
            If Joey and Suzie see mom and dad yell and scream at one another in conflict, you can almost bet the two siblings will handle conflict the same way.  If you and your spouse don’t resolve conflict with healthy communication skills, seek out help in developing conflict management skills that will take your marriage the distance and foster healthy family relationships. 
            Yes, kids will be kids.  They will argue and disagree.  But they don’t have to be disrespectful when they do.  A strategy to change rivalry to revelry helps keep our home an emotionally safe place to be.   

Open Heart, Open Home

Two years ago we had the opportunity to share our home with a young man from Poland. Daniel stayed with us for about a month and simply became a member of the family.

This past week he came again for five days. We loved the time spent with him. We continue to help him with his English and he blesses us with his cooking and his conversation.

He is my Polish son and he says that I am his American mother.

In my book, My Hearts at Home, I talk about the value of home being a cultural center. In an effort to help our kids understand the world around them, we have to bring the world to them in whatever ways we can.

Hosting Daniel, and then last year his brother Irek, did that for my kids.

Exploring our son, Kolya’s, Russian heritage is another way we do that.

And sponsoring a Compassion child is yet a third way Mark and I intentionally make our home a cultural center.

What about you? How do you make your home a cultural center?